This week I’ve been out for a drink with an old mate of mine… the legend that is Big Nige. He’s been in the area visiting some friends who reside in that lovely theme park to the North of us (I think it’s called Geordieland) so I had to pop up there to meet him and his missus for a Saturday lunchtime drinking session before they headed back to their little love shack in the North West.
Many years ago Big Nige went to University in Smoggyville and so is well acquainted with the North East in general. It’s interesting to see what he makes of the area now after so long away – years ago he was dragged off by the hair (I think he was sporting a pink Mohican at the time) by a young woman who is now his long suffering wife and despite a few visits to nearby Newcastle he hasn’t had the nerve to set foot back in the Teesside area since… the fashion police are still on the lookout for him.
Big Nige drinks real ale… the stronger, darker and sweeter the better, so over a gallon or so of Throbnobs Old Bed Wetter we sat and discussed the old times and the state of the North East now compared to a while ago.
As well travelled fellows ourselves we came to the conclusion
Newcastle is a nice city… there… I’ve said it. Sorry fellow Poolies but it really is. It was a pleasure to wander round the shops and have a choice of bars to visit that weren’t all the same – playing too much loud music and containing not enough furniture like we have in
Newcastle felt clean and safe and the beer was good. The only downside is the bloody awful train service between there and here… last train home at half eight in the evening – it’s just not good enough really is it, especially if you want to see a concert or a show.
Mrs Big Nige also likes Newcastle – she enjoys a drink and prefers the sit down and relax type of bar as well… but she did spend quite a bit of time on Saturday rushing about feeding her shopping habit – I think she needs to book herself into the Priory for some help. Fortunately Mrs Headlander wasn’t in attendance (a prior engagement with a team of engineers to get a new bra constructed from steel girders and Kevlar… or whatever it is these corsetieres use) or Mrs Big Nige would’ve been dragged to all the shops that she couldn’t find on her own.
Sunderland also came in for some good press… It really is a changed place from the olden days. It has good shopping, a brilliant bus station, some good pubs (very important to us this), a fantastic theatre… but a truly crap railway station – the good news is that they’re going to do it up though.
I don’t want to run
Hartlepool down here – ’cause I love the place and I choose to live here but we can improve things just a little bit more can’t we? OK, we’ll never have the shops and services that a big city like
Newcastle can boast but as a town we can nick the best bits and ideas from other places and put them here. We could get a ‘signature’ bridge (It’s coming so we’re told… over Victoria Harbour), Clean the buildings, make landlords look after their business properties (some of the buildings on Church Street are frankly a disgrace and this is supposed to be a street with ‘magnificent architecture’) and develop Seaton Carew… it’s a goldmine waiting to be exploited… but at present there’s no reason for anyone who isn’t local to go there… so they don’t!
I always think that an interesting way to judge a place for yourself is by what 4 pictures you would put on the front of a postcard that you would send to your friends and family. Three of the four sections should be landmarks and the fourth a well-known resident from past or present. Here are my suggestions for the front of the postcards representing a few of the North East’s conurbations:
Newcastle: The Tyne Bridge, The ‘New’ Castle, Grey’s Monument and a picture of George Stephenson.
Bridge, Empire Theatre, The Winter Gardens and a picture of The Venerable Bede.
Hartlepool: The Marina, The Headland, HMS Trincomalee and a picture of our local transvestite, Lawrence, dressed to impress!
I’d visit each of them… wouldn’t you?
Next time Big Nige and Mrs Big Nige are in the area they’ve promised to come and visit me here in Hartlepool so that they can have a look around… he’s looking forward to seeing our (partially) regenerated town and maybe we’ll take a day trip to Middlesbrough where he will be able to revisit all his old local haunts and can laugh and point and see that apart from a few new buildings, nothing’s really changed since 1953!
As soon as I get the dates of his visit I’ll give Camerons a call to put them on alert so that they can get some extra ale brewed. Oh yes… and I’ll let the sewage works know that they might have to work overtime that weekend!