Newcastle, what's changed and what's remained the same.
I don’t quite know where to start with this one, but it’s not because so much happened in the past couple of weeks that it’s overwhelming or too much to write about. It’s really because they have been quite different to what I expected (first big mistake) and kind of felt I needed. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my stretch in Northumberland, because I really did most of the time – in fact, I’d say any disappointment only stands out because I have a tendency to dwell on what-if’s and specific negatives. So I’m going to try not be too depressing.
My grandparents on mum’s side live in Beadnell (as mentioned previously), but now also own a small flat in Newcastle, mainly to be closer to the hospital. And although the fact that it was in a retirement village was only revealed to me when I arrived, I was so glad to have a place to stay in Newcastle. It’s a cozy two-bedroom flat and, despite having persistent issues with securing any sort of internet connection, I had a fairly relaxing stay there. A major interruption to this was when my grandpa had to be taken to the Northumberland emergency hospital with a collapsed lung, and subsequently admitted for a few days to recover – he was out and breathing better before I even left. With her husband in hospital, my grandma came back to the flat and stayed during this time, using it for it’s main purpose. That Saturday we went out for a lovely Indian meal with one of her old friends and had a drink afterwards. My grandma also used that time to attempt to dissuade me from getting my second tattoo, then giving me looks of disapproval after I had it done.
That entire week did not go the way I initially expected (once again). Breaking my time down, I essentially had seven days of what I had planned to be a tonne of meet and greets, drinking, and some sightseeing. And while not at the quantity I intended, all three were accomplished! I’ve included a little bit of extra context for the week’s events…
Although this was my first time staying in that flat, it was my second time staying in Newcastle. The first being a semester of studying abroad in my second year of uni - a quite bittersweet few months. I met some lovely people during that semester, and was hoping to catch up with them upon my return to the city. But since they had just graduated before my arrival, most already left for home or holidays. Fortunately, one of those classmates remained and we met up for a couple of drinks. She also showed me the luscious nature reserve of Jesmond Dene; beautiful and green before dark, cold and mysterious after dusk. Shortly afterwards, she left for home too.
From my wanderings about Newcastle, it seemed not a lot had changed in the city since my last visit. And at a couple of points this time around, I felt like as if I hadn’t even moved from then and through the two years that had passed since. Once, quite literally, when I unknowingly visited Durham for the second time. I only realised I had been there previously when I reached the cathedral, after a long walk beside the river (a good hour into the afternoon). I enjoyed my brief and sunny time in Durham nevertheless. My trip to the Lake District was unfortunately almost as brief and not at all sunny. I rented a car with my Melbournian compadre, Julian (who I had met up with earlier) and we set off to explore the lakes. It was raining on and off throughout the day, which luckily made for some incredible misty views of the valleys and mountainsides. Lake Windermere is the most popular destination in the district, and even with the downpour it was busy with tourists – the swans were clearly used to it and didn’t mind the bother. I’m sad to say the photographs don’t do any of the day justice.
I was hoping to see more of Julian while we were both in Newcastle, unfortunately he got the flu. I did, however, manage to meet some locals and have a night out “on the toon”. The major enticement of the night was £1 shots, plus the prospect of drinking with new people. We danced, attempted to talk over the music, and certainly drank. And after the club closed, we had a stroll down to the quayside – this brought back a few memories of many a drunk night from my prior visit. By this time, I had begun to sober up a little. The other three weren’t so quick to. And although they were a fun and lovely bunch, there’s always something a little off-putting about being around Geordies who are drunk when you’re not. The hours sitting on a small fake beach chatting away passed by nonetheless, and soon it became easier to stay and wait for the first train back home rather than leave when I felt like falling asleep. By the time I did get into bed it was 6am, and I had to arise only a few hours later for the day’s appointments. But even with the lack of sleep, it was worth venturing out for an interesting and enjoyable night.
My intention was to have similar nights out over the following days, but the already short list of people to meet up with had simply been cut short. No wild Newcastle weekend like I had hoped. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though, as I glided on the high of getting my long-awaited second tattoo. And the rare northern sun did decide to come out when I adventured down to Tynemouth for an afternoon the next day. Most of my time was spent sitting on the beach enjoying the weather and reflecting on the past month, as my trip was almost at an end. Reality hit that I’d be on a plane home within a week, which I was simultaneously glad for and sad about. I had completed most of the adventuring I set out to do and was ready to go home, yet I couldn’t help but feel like I had wasted days and needed to tick more off my to-do list. There was still time left on the clock though, and the next few days were not squandered.
I spent what was essentially the last week of my trip with my uncle, aunt and cousin (Chris). Spectating a game of golf, eating out, meals in, watching TV, having a good laugh; it felt quite like home. One noticeable difference being the fact I hadn’t seen Tim and Fi in two years so there was plenty to catch up on. I don’t think I can emphasise enough how good it is to sit and enjoy a couple of drinks with extended family – I’m repeating myself, I know – but I hardly get the chance so I must enjoy it when I can. Those couple of evenings were no exception. During the last days in Newcastle I also met up with Julian again after he recovered from the flu (this is when we went to the Lake District), and we caught a couple of fantastic films in the cinema. It did rather quickly become time to train back down to London, pack up all my things and head home.
However, I had one last night in London before I left. And although it wasn’t the boozer of an evening that I had imagined, I felt better having made the effort of going out rather than staying in. Once again, I didn’t have any company for the night and found myself befriending the bartenders instead. Most of the next day I dedicated to packing my bags. Even though I hadn’t accumulated an abundance of new luggage, the things I had collected seemed to cause major displacement in my bags. I still managed to stay under the maximum weight limit for baggage check-in at the airport.
I didn’t sleep much on the flight back. In fact, sleeping has been quite difficult since I left. A combination of jet-lag and an uncomfortable doona is my theory.
Last travel thoughts:
- I’m pretty damn lucky I get along well with all my family.
- Newcastle has remained as wild as I remembered from last time.
- It’s difficult to remain without regret, even on such a generally brilliant journey.