Personal blog: North

¦ Dialling in from Newcastle ¦

SATURDAY: I flew up here Saturday morning. Spur of the moment decision.  A need to see old friends.  Taxi from the airport into Heaton and abruptly I am walking around the streets where I grew up as a child in the 1970s. It’s raining and it’s cold. Shock to system. I head to my favourite cafe in the North: the Wild Trapeze. A fantastic, profoundly unique little place. Reminds me a little bit of how the Boston Tea Party in Bristol used to be (1998) before it became big and corporate (but still excellent).

First stop is Lone Pine’s place: Pete. Someone I’ve known properly since 2006. Before that he was just a big surly older bloke who lived next door to my parents. Now he’s part of that friendship group that stand-in as family.

He and I took a drive up to Craster. A tiny fishing village on the North East coast. We got a little lost and ended up on a ragged strip of road that connected various coastal hamlets together. Didn’t mind. No rush, no agenda. It was nice to be able to feel free of a schedule or a need to be somewhere.  Eventually got to Craster, parked up and were lucky, got a good table at The Jolly Sailor.  Oh my God. The fishcakes and triple-cooked chips in dripping.  Washed down with a pint of ale.  Fantastic.  Then a walk out along the coast to Dunstanburgh Castle, wind blowing in off the sea tugging at our jackets – but the sun was burning through the stormy clouds.

The Jolly Fisherman Craster - fantastic atmosphere good food and ale with views of the sea

The Jolly Fisherman, Craster

Later, back at Lone Pine’s place.  More food. Two thirds of a litre of whiskey.  And Fury of Dracula (1987). One of the best sessions playing this classic game, ever.  We started 7.30 pm and finished 1 a.m. (I won). So nearly 6 hours playing one game.

SUNDAY. Up early. Mugs of tea and the amazing peas-pudding stottie from The Wild Trapeze. Yummy. Then over to Gateshead to meet up with Richy and Louise.  Richy, he and I have known each other since 1976 when we were both five.  An afternoon helping them with some DIY then a total chill out. Their house is on a slope with vast, expansive views of the river Tyne and the landscape beyond. Incredible actually. The kind of view where you can just sit, in silence, together, supping a drink and observing.  Radio 2 was playing.  Incredibly relaxing.  Later we light a fire in the back garden, drink wine and devour pizza.

MONDAY: I wake up on their sofa. Dawn sunlight burning through the curtains like molten gold. I crack open the curtains and see a cumulus nimbus cloud has landed. Fog on the Tyne. Miles long, 1/4 of a mile high, it fills the valley and drifts slowly.  It’s a moment I will always remember. What a view. Spectacular.

Later, I find myself at the Gateshead Civic Centre whilst Richy runs an errand. We stop for a coffee at their cafe. I buy a muffin. It’s greasy and… tastes fishy. I raise my eyebrows, look at Richy, frown and take another bite. Yup, definitely got a fishy tinge. Looking at the section I have bitten away, the flour mix has a tinge of… green. What the hell? I laugh and show Richy. I declare this is a Cthulhu Mythos Muffin: part blueberry, part Shoggoth.  I am assuming that some colouring (yellow) in the mix has reacted with the berry juice to create the weird colour. As for the fish… I am not wanting to speculate.

TUESDAY: I fly back to Bristol this afternoon. I’ve got a whole morning to myself. So have entrenched myself in a red leather upholstered wingback armchair within the window of the Wild Trapeze. An eclectic mix of paintings face me from the walls – created by the owner and manager, Allan.  1920s style Henry Hall music is playing from what sounds like a gramophone. A baby grand piano sits in a far corner, sunlight pouring through two walls of windows to reflect off the black glossy lacquer.  The coffee here is the best in the north.  In fact, one of the reasons I come up to Newcastle so much is so that I can spend time in the Wild Trapeze.

Best coffee in Newcastle Upon Tyne and one of my favourite cafes in world The Wild Trapeze - photo David J Rodger

Best cafe in Newcastle – image DJR

Newcastle gave me a bubble of time away from Yellow Dawn. I could have worked some more on the novelised version of Shadows of the Quantinex, but decided to put my mind to mapping out a sequel to Dog Eat Dog. Working title: “Dead Dog Bounty“.  Not as easy as I’d hoped but I’ve got a start at least, and an idea of what characters to use.

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