Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Mozeltov It's a blog

When we first mooted the idea of changing cities I thought I would continue my usual habits of watching enough telly to turn me into a walking talking Gruniad type analyst that even has time  to switch on ITV2 to mock Jeremy Kyle once a month. As it happened, since we walked into our new house in Byker on day 4 of being in town, the amount of television I watch has plummeted to levels hitherto only seen in the salons of the people who "don't usually watch telly" but will on occasion fire up the goggle box for a bit of BBC4. The truth is a little closer to watching a lot of Pointless, Look North and endless repeats of Piranha 3d and such equally elevated films in between unpacking boxes and tastefully dropping things in rooms on walls and out of view till it looked like home. As the dust settled and house became our lived in castle we'd never been away from , the realization dawned that the extra time freed up after several weeks and months of form filling, gardening and getting stuck into was now PUB, walking into town to see people, shopping at Malgosia's near the Grainger Market, meeting more people, attending Steve Drayton's record player, PUB saying hello face to face to people we'd only ever talked to on facebook or Skype at the PUB, shlepping into Gateshead to see what all the fuss was about. Finding out that after all the effort of making house a home, we spent way more time out the house than in, we've even added after some searching a perfectly nice Catholic parish in Heaton and the Lit and Phil for that home away from home when all else fails or we need to ask an odd question from some truly odd ( in a good way) people who it seems live at the Lit and Phil in hopes of telling you where the last remaining Edward the 8th post box in the NE is.

You can see how frankly getting any real desire to sit down long enough to write more than a few
words has been like pulling teeth. This blog was, when away from Newcastle, a means to keep myself busy and not thinking of where I was and that if I watched enough telly I might even forget  for a few minutes that I lived in a desolate culture-less suburb of a hell hole thousands of miles away from the closest signs of life. Oh don't get me wrong, Montreal as a city was a great place if you got close enough to the centre of town and the right people, only thing was that  even the right people were moving to Toronto, London and New York as the get up and go had got up and left Montreal behind. It's hard to build a business and a family in a city you're not welcome in. It's hard to keep you're head up if you're spending most of your time dodging fresh shit missiles from the Parti Quebecois and the followers who had learned nothing from the evil that grew out of extreme nationalism in Europe just before WW2. While some of my mates stayed to continue the fight, I took my wife and my dreams to greener pastures where I would be made welcome and my origins would be less important than my contributions. Wow that was dark! But guess what, if I told you the whole truth you wouldn't believe me.

Newcastle had always been the place we wanted to come to as  it was the only location people interested in the cartoon  the wife and I are working on, ever came from. Even now this reasoning has not been a bad call. Since we got here our percentage complete bar has gone from twitching on 40% for years to surging to the hard bits at 75% and 85%. We now have recording studios, cast members and researched scripts, we now have serious contacts for funding and fund-raising. Newcastle is the place to be if you have even the slightest idea of doing something artistic, you want to sing? come here, you want to put on a play? HERE. Hell, even if you stink as a musician and think you can pretend to be a Chicago blues worbler, you can get away with it for a bit. Most importantly, Newcastle and the NE in general is a region where  you might have racism and intolerance, but unlike other places, if you utter such opinions out loud within hearing distance of most people, they will show the way out of town and tell you there's no room for that sort of thing here.  Honestly, I couldn't ask for much better.

So what about the people who said it's a backwater and a shithole? Is Newcastle a shithole? I suppose some bits of it may appear on the surface to be exactly that, and there may in fact be people who've given up on life and hope. It's not all roses and happiness up here. I saw the doctor and he told me I was still a Newcastle fan and short of a miracle it would never get any better on the pitch or in the board room. If I wanted a job, I had choices, some not bad even, but if I really wanted a lot of lolly, I'd have to make my own job. So far we got three and we can see the light at end of the tunnel. We have a government that wants to build businesses and create jobs locally, resources to draw on if we only choose to and more holes in the market to fill if one has eyes to see. While it hasn't been easy by any stretch, we've had help every step of the way, which is a lot more than we can say about years of living in Montreal.

Oh and I know that parts of the city have only in the last 6 months to a year been beautified or
improved from it's previous grim appearance and state, but if you had to ask me again if even under economic duress and occasional bad weather  I still wanted to live here over say London or Toronto or New York, I'd still say yes yes yes a thousand times yes.  If you walk in any direction for 15 minutes there is something interesting to see, hear or eat, most of it inexpensive and sometimes even free.It's a jewel in a crown of glory that is the NE. So much to do, the food is not expensive, and if you stay at home every night it's only because you are tired of life. There is even tonight comedy for £3 a head , quality beer 2 minutes on foot from the house, fab Lebanese 7 minutes from the house and if you feel like walking 10 minutes, an entire central city core full of eateries, clubs and theatres to get distracted in. Last week I went to a Fringe preview show, I'm on exhibit at the Biscuit Factory, getting to share a show in September with a mate at the  Sanctuary Art space in Gateshead look it up, and  there is a list of restaurants and food producers who's only desire is to feed me so I can say something nice about them.

Did I mention I'm in the Biscuit Factory Cafe? Hell yes, and I for the first time in ten years I picked
up my camera because I'm inspired again, my inner eye is excited by what it sees, it's frustrated by the fact that technology hasn't yet caught up with my own vision, but I keep hacking at it  like Jeff Vader  with his wet cafeteria tray. If you stand for a few minutes anywhere in this town and listen you can hear the past, you feel the ghosts of workers streaming out onto the cobbles off the road out the Hoults Yard, I walked out St-James's park with thousands after we won 1-0 and was part of a ritual that had been going on for a hundred years. There is nothing like a single mass of humanity flowing out as one and occupying every square inch of street for blocks around, happy in the joy that our lads had got the job done. I was here when Margaret Thatcher died... I went to a party that night and I wasn't a misfit or a freak for my feelings, it was perfectly normal. I marched against Fascism when the EDL came to town and knew I was on the side that had the population's support, it was in fact that day that I knew I'd made the right choice. On that day all parties in council, all media, all government institutions stood as one with the people to say Racism off our streets.  I was home, I was never ever going to want to leave .

This is not to say that there aren't a few things we can teach Newcastle about! Where to start? Deli food, real deli food, doesn't exist here. We need to open our own place or teach somebody the dark arts of smoked meat, pastrami and how a Reuben is made. Italian is good if you look around  but you need to find a place  where the cook isn't killing everything with hot sauce. I like chilli as much as the next guy  but not in fecking quiche or a nice marinara sauce. Still looking for good Viennese pastry and the French variety but not nearly as dire or impossible as one would think, lots of places springing up like mushrooms in the rain. Most annoying thing food wise here  has to be the massive portions of chips with everything, I suppose asking for a salad or some other less chippy thing would be easy to do but when I have, it only confused the waitresses. Salad, a green and other coloured bowl of stuff that isn't deep fried, I know it exists here, but not everywhere. Ah that asking and speaking up thing is a hard one too. Went to a public house that will remain un named, no let's name it... The Cumberland Arms,  and ordered a pint of the black stuff... it was weak, in fact  it had gone off, but rather than complain, I drank the swill and left for my local , The Free Trade, and complained to Mick the landlord who sympathised with me but wondered why I  hadn't bothered mentioning my deep disappointment to them up the road instead of him, after which he declared that I had in fact not taken all that long to fit in. I wasn't going to argue the point :). Which is not to say my wife and I hadn't retained a bit of Big City WTF you staring at attitude. A while ago a fat charver with enough ink on to be a book, driving a big black chelsea tank tried to run us over on an otherwise empty street( and yes we looked both ways before we crossed) . Dressed like polite latte drinking penniless aristocrats , he never imagined  his foul mouth, massive stomach and black manky t-shirt wasn't going to scare us. My wife ( a posh bird in a fur coat) who was ill at the time, rose up to her full 7 foot tall frame, put on her best Brooklyn FU face and told him to get some specs himself before we called the police. Mr tough guy got back in his tank while his mate laughed at him. Since that incident  we've made the decision that however much we're tempted, we should never try to fit in too much, we're the exotic ones now!

So what's on the cards now for me and the blog? As telly is right out I have now enough places to eat at, culture to absorb, purveyors of cheese, sausage and baked goods as well as festivals and music venues to review, some of them even know know I'm coming, others are blissfully unaware. Either way I promise to do a fair and friendly review if it is warranted. I love this place too much to not be nice to people who are trying to make a go of a proper business. If there's anything wrong, I'll tell you first. That's a refreshing change  isn't it? I want to highlight the good work being done across the board be it food, music or yet another festival or gallery. Newcastle Gateshead and the greater region deserve a good shot in the arm and given the fact the Central government down London way hasn't seen fit to say owt about nowt to anybody about the  desolate North East, I will do in my own way what I can to big up the place I call home. Armed with twitter and a some canny subscriptions I am on my way to spamming myself into never being at home long enough to do more than sleep.

If you have a show, exhibit, preview new eatery etc...... you want to get publicized and you have faith I won't bite you just to be nasty, please get in touch, I yearn to try your food, hear your jokes and see your band play.

Next time eating Polish in Newcastle


Anonymous said...

Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this
blog loading? I'm trying to determine if its a problem on my end or if it's the
blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

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Mietek Padowicz said...

Sorry mate, it's your comp. works well on several of my machines.