As anyone familiar with me knows, I am a bit of a stationery fiend. The good thing about this is, as a writer, notebooks are a justifiable tool of the trade – my collection is enormous, but none of them go to waste. Also, having a reputation for loving notebooks makes me super easy to buy presents for, and every birthday and Christmas brings a glorious stash (not to count the steady stream of ‘I saw this and thought of you’ gifts from around the globe).

Since returning to Newcastle, I have of course been on the look-out for new stationery shops. Old favourites like Fenwick’s (which now contains a Paperchase concession) and Waterstone’s are still a treasure trove; and I got a great haul in the Scribbler sale. Geeky themed notebooks abound in the Geek Quarter, and I was delighted to discover Blackwell’s glorious stationery department, where my friend had to physically restrain me from buying all the shiny Leuchtturm1917 notebooks. So, in fairness, I am spoiled for choice so far… but if anyone has any tips they’d like to share…


The strange beauty of Byron burgers

I have been in Bryon a couple of times in the last few weeks. I’m not a fan of burgers – a vegetarian with a nut allergy, I can’t get myself excited by a bean pattie or a mushroom – but their halloumi fries are tasty, and there’s no solo dining snobbishness. I eat alone a lot, so resent being relegated to a table by the toilets even in a quiet restaurant: every time I have been to Byron they have been more than happy for me to have one of the window booths, if it’s not busy – ideal for me, as it allows me to people watch *and* read my Kindle.

But it’s a place that will always have a place in my heart, because it’s actually one of the loveliest buildings in the city. Not only does the facade benefit from the architecture for which Grey Street is rightly famous, much of the interior remains. It was an odd fit for the previous incarnation (an H&M that never made convincing use of the old-fashioned space), though to me it will always recall the Waterstones it used to be – back when Newcastle could not only support two branches in the same city, but across the road from one another. I like to think going in there to read is keeping the spirit alive…