I’m talking about my poor brolly at least, that took a fair amount of beating in the blustery winds and heavy rains that accompanied my visit down south to Newcastle – a less than perfect backdrop for the famous 7 bridges across the River Tyne.
Newcastle, suspiciously run-down and dreary from the train on a sunny day, looked like an industrial wasteland whose construction was abandoned in the 1800s after the Revolution in the rain and cloudy weather. But a step out from the Central Station and onto Grainger Street where the urban centre begins and the atmosphere as I imagine it would be minus the bad weather, would have been nothing short of electrifying.
Newcastle’s brilliant, as the Brits themselves would say. But now that its FC has been relegated for the next season, I wondered if the thrill’s diminished somewhat, judging from the tragically empty stores selling the club’s gear.
The urban square is confusing at first, and the sheer number of shops, inter-looping shopping malls can drive one crazy. But the river Tyne provides instant navigation access, and soon I found myself trudging across the famous Tyne Bridge while wrestling the high winds and an increasingly flimsy umbrella in the hopes of visiting Baltic, the converted warehouse now a contemporary art gallery sitting at the foot of the Millenium Bridge. Essentially a glassed-up white cube many storeys high overlooking the river and its bridges, the Baltic’s views and its rotating exhibitions of the most famous names in contemporary art left me overwhelmed.
The walk back across the river was equally excruciating and I passed a mix of Geordies (you are either cursed or blessed with that accent, depending on whose perspective you are speaking from) revelling in the rain, or looking plain miserable. From a distance, I saw a man start to strip. A stag-night party looked as though it either started early, or ended really late when a group of males (not men) made the presumably-groom-to-be run around in the wind and rain clad only in black briefs. He returned soaking wet to hoots and cheers and most probably, yet another pint on the house for such bravery.
I boarded an incredibly filthy National Express East Coast train on the way back (coming up from London Kings Cross) where the seats in front of me were taken by American surfer-jocks who yakked non-stop in the Quiet Coach.
They were stunned speechless by the waves of the North Sea hitting the rugged coastline, and expressed it the only way they knew how:
“That’s cool. That’s so cool.”
“I dare you to swim in that!”
Smirking, I simply toed off my shoes, peeled off the wet socks, dried my clammy toes and prayed that my feet smelled bad enough to make them pass out.