Wednesday 13 June 2018 – Newcastle.
Not a brown ale in sight. The ten minute walk from station to hotel took me past two bars and nothing; no advertising, no ale drinkers, not even the sad relic of a shattered brown bottle in the gutter. So far, Newcastle has been a disappointment.
My view of Newcastle has always been tainted; a city built for and populated by ‘Newkey Brown’ drinkers, dour, gruff/rough northerners, black and white football shirt wearing anti-football thugs, haters of southern softies, the metropolitan liberal elite from London; me for instance.
As is usually the case I was wrong, very wrong. I really enjoyed the 24 hours I spent in Newcastle, it is friendly, welcoming and a lovely city. This sticker I found near the hotel I was staying in didn’t help my original thoughts. I am sure there was some ironic humour there.
I am up in Newcastle on my first official visit to another Cabinet Office location (have I mentioned where I work before? ) There is a large government hub on the outskirts and the team there are doing some interesting development work. It seemed like to a good opportunity to visit them, see what they are doing; and hopefully dispel my ideas of the city.
But first, York.
El and I visited York three years ago (bloody hell, I cannot believe it was that long ago!) and absolutely loved it. One of my key vendors is based in York and with a big project coming up I took the opportunity to visit York as the Newcastle train stopped there. I am very aware that as a civil servant, everything I do, including my salary, is paid for by the citizens of the UK. Taking trips to visit vendors when there is a cost involved is not something I do, though there will be future savings to made after this trip though, so all is good.
I didn’t have a lot of time in York after meeting the vendor. They did buy me lunch, and I had a glass of wine, all under the £25 declaration limit 🙂 There was just time for a short loop walk back to the station. Passing the fort, the minster, and the old cit walls on the way.
The few times we have been to Edinburgh we have passed through Newcastle station and over the River Tyne and the great view of the other magnificent Tyne bridges. I have liked the look of the station and was looking forward to finally being able to get off the train. I was not disappointed; it is a really nice station.
Arriving in town in the late afternoon I went straight to the hotel to dump my bag, passing the above sticker on the way. I was meeting one of my London colleagues for a walk around town before having a beer and burger planning session ahead of tomorrow’s full day of meetings.
Not having a huge amount of time, nor a plan, we started in the centre of town and walked down hill towards the river, passing the now shut, castle on the way. I didn’t know there was a castle here, and know nothing about it all, it was castle-like. Nothing wrong with that at all.
Newcastle is well known for the bridges that cross the River Tyne, individually they are excellent bridges, but the sum of the parts does exceed the components and together they are wonderful, different engineers, different styles, colours and construction. Lovely. There has been massive investment in the river front area and it is a really nice place to stroll, and not full of bars and restaurants for the tourist trade like so many other river and sea front cities. Being able to walk unimpeded by construction and ‘private’ property is a massive bonus, something Sydney could possibly learn from.
Walking back in to the centre of town we found somewhere to eat over a couple of beers, and still no Newcastle Brown Ale in sight.
I was hoping for a little time off after meetings the following day, but in the end it was a rush to the station, though naturally the train back to London was late.