When I tell people I’m from Newcastle, it tends to elicit one of two responses: either “you’re far from home!”, or “is it really like Geordie Shore?”. To answer the former, yes, I do know that my pocket of England is hardly the most accessible from the south, although planes, trains and motorway lanes all lead here. For the latter, I’ve never seen Geordie Shore, but my Newcastle includes the Geordies, the shore, and the wild antics.
It’s true, we do love a good time. That’s why Newcastle has hundreds of pubs, clubs, and bars; from a speakeasy buried under the market where M&S was founded, to a four-storey gay club that’s open until sunrise. The signature Newcastle drink – treble vodka, not Brown Ale – inevitably leads to legendary nights racing up and down the cobbled streets, making best friends with the girl next to you in the kebab shop, and posing under the sentinel Earl Grey who watches over the city.
To suggest that this is all Newcastle has to offer would be a disservice. The daytime is filled with tea from a teahouse under the watchful eye of the red brick university, picked out of a folder of flavours. Or walking under the red and gold archway to Chinatown to take a scarlet elevator to dumpling heaven. Or a wander past the ancient city walls, to what remains of Blackfriars, or beyond to the namesake castle and down nearly vertical steps to see those iconic bridges.
From the city centre, a short trip on the metro delivers you to Tynemouth’s ruined priory, abandoned in Henry VIII’s reign, which plays host every year to a music festival that echoes down the coast. Sitting on one of our blue-flag certified beaches, eating fish caught that day and brought to the Fish Quay, you can watch the horizon disappear over the North Sea toward Sweden.
Here at 55 degrees north, we share more with Scandinavia than just latitude. Every year, the city is gifted a Christmas tree by the King of Norway, and a sea of black and white passes it on their way to St James’ Park. The North Sea does not compare to 52,000 people in black and white stripes in their church, roaring our songs so loud that you can make out every word sung in at least 5 Greggs in the immediate vicinity.
My Newcastle is bound by sea and people; strong Tyne air and unmistakably thick accents. I haven’t even mentioned the hidden gems – the vampire rabbit gargoyle which faces the cathedral, the rival cat and dog cafes tucked into Pudding Chare, the ‘blue carpet’ installation outside one of our many art galleries. But what I can mention is that whenever I drive past the Angel of the North, or my flight pivots at St Mary’s Lighthouse, a particular memory crops up from years gone by. A little girl, bundled in a black and white scarf, clutching a hot chocolate in the biting wind, hearing St James’ tannoy play ‘I’m coming home, Newcastle’.