#22: Experience Some Fog-on-the-Tyne

Perhaps a slightly misleading title! 

This one was a combination of visiting the Quayside (and seeing how it’s changed) with memories of annual trips to the City Hall on my birthday to see the fab group Lindisfarne play (hence reference to ‘Fog on the Tyne’).

The Quayside feels really different since I used to frequent its Sunday market. The market itself is still there, but the stalls are more “arts and crafts than second-hand tapes and pick ‘n’ mix” (as one local I spoke to recently put it). This photo is from around 1974.

Photo courtesy of Peter Loud
Photo courtesy of Peter Loud

The Quayside has been modernised, and a few new buildings and a footbridge added, which you can see clearly in the header image of this post.

The Pitcher & Piano, with Tyne Bridge in the background
The Pitcher & Piano, with Tyne Bridge in the background

There was almost fog on the Tyne in this photo. It was quite drizzly when I took this. And here is the view looking in the opposite direction …

Newcastle Quayside, looking east
Newcastle Quayside, looking east

It’s quite relaxing walking along here; lots of places to sit and admire your surroundings. I even had a run along here during my recent stay (building up to another 50 things challenge of being able to run 5k!)

Now to the music

It was a bit of a ritual to go and see Lindisfarne every Christmas. Here they are on the Tyne … minus the fog 😦

Lindisfarne on the Tyne
Lindisfarne on the Tyne Photo courtesy of The Chronicle

Sadly I’ve not got a photo of one of their concerts – they didn’t have camera phones in those days! But you can get a sense of how much fun we all had from this one …

Lindisfarne in concert, 1995 Photo courtesy of their website
Lindisfarne in concert – probably swaying to Run for Home , 1995. Photo courtesy of their website

I did manage to visit the City Hall, where it all happened, during my recent trip. I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed. It seems a lot smaller (on the outside) than I remember it.

Newcastle City Hall ... what used to be THE venue for live bands
Newcastle City Hall … what used to be THE venue for live bands

Nevertheless, it brought back many happy memories. 🙂

And for those Lindisfarne fans who are reading this … I leave you with some Fog on the Tyne and Run for Home (my favourite). Look out for landmarks such as the Civi Centre in the background of the Run for Home video.

#21: Visit my old schools

I went to 4 schools before going on to Teacher-Training College (Charlotte Mason College, Cumbria) …

  1. Cragside Infants
  2. Cragside Juniors
  3. Heaton Comprehensive (O’Levels)
  4. Gosforth High School (A’Levels)

I’d love to have gone inside them all during my recent trip to the NE, but it’s August, and they’re shut!

I appreciate this post will probably mean nothing to you (unless you went to any of the schools mentioned in it). But hopefully it will elicit fond memories of your old school(s). And perhaps you can add your best/worst memories in the comments section below. 🙂

Cragside Infant School

Cragside Infant Playground

The Infant playground above looks very different to 40+ years ago. There were no circular steps or ramps, or places to sit. I think there were trees around by the railings but not in the middle of the playground. It was quite plain. I don’t remember there being any play equipment or toys outside.

Cragside Junior School

The Juniors adjoined the Infants, in terms of the buildings. I can’t remember whether there was the same Headteacher for both schools. I do remember there were separate playgrounds for girls and boys when I went there. Imagine a short raised kerb area stretching from somewhere around the blue door back towards the bottom edge of the photo. Boys were on the right of that and girls on the left (and ne’er the twain shall meet!)

Old Junior Playground

Best memory …

Playing ‘2-baller’ against the top playground wall when in the Juniors, and doing handstands against it.

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Worst memory …

Accidently trapping a fellow student’s fingers in my desk, as I tried to shut it. These were the old wooden ones with the lift up lids.


Heaton Comprehensive School

Wow! If I hadn’t been there to see it ‘in the flesh’, I’d have thought this was a totally different school, somewhere else. Here’s the Heaton Comprehensive I went to:

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And here it is now from roughly the same angle …

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They must have levelled it and built a totally new building.

Panoramic view of the school from the side, where the carpark and main entrance is now situated.

Best memory …

Playing hockey on the back field; proud to have played for the school 🙂

Worst memory …

The threat of being ‘thrown in the sandpit’ on my first day by the older pupils. It never happened.


Gosforth High School

Finally my last school where I did my A’Levels. (I changed schools because we moved house.)

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This hasn’t changed that much. The circular bit in the centre of the picture wasn’t there, and it was 2 story, not 3.

Best memory …

Biology classes. We had a great teacher (Mr Graham), who  also liked to set us work to do, then pop back into his office, just off the lab, and have a cigarette (that’s what we thought – likely true, but can’t prove it!)

Worst memory …

Failing 2 out of my 3 A’ Levels (passed biology!) Was never going anywhere near the school to re-sit (down to shame and embarrassment!). Looked into going to a local college, but ended up back at Gosforth High. It was just easier, closer, and I knew the routines and the staff.

This was a great trip down memory lane, and I’d recommend this idea too, if you’re doing something similar.

#20: A Trip to Newcastle City Centre

Newcastle Upon Tyne is where I grew up, and I have many fond memories of the city and surrounding areas where I lived for 28 years. This is the first of a few posts which feature places in and around Newcastle – all under the category of “Trip Down Memory Lane”.

I recently spent a few very enjoyable days in the NE, ticking several things off my ’50 Things’ list. The first was to visit the city centre, and revive a few old memories.

#1: Northumberland Street & The Bomb Scare

Northumberland Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Northumberland Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Looks a little quiet, but I was there for around 9am. It got a lot busier an hour later. The shop on the 2nd block on the left – Fenwicks – holds a particularly vivid memory for me. As a child, of about 5yrs old, I was on the top floor (toy department) one Christmas with my mum and gran, when there was a loud alarm sound, like a fire alarm. But there wasn’t a fire … it was a bomb scare.

There were a series of them in Newcastle this particular Christmas, and were often on the news. As you can imagine, due to the time of year, it was very busy in the store and we were herded out – with little panic, as far as I remember – via a set of what seemed to be long corridors.

When we got out on to the street, I remember it was dark. There were police cars, and lots of people on the street. I remember being worried about my gran, because we were initially (or at some point) separated. At least – I couldn’t see her. We were reunited, but I’m not sure at what point. Other things I remember include the bottle green carpet – probably because I did a lot of looking down, as we were guided out of the store.

Fortunately, there was no explosion, and we got home safely.

#2: The Civic Centre & The Purple Snow

Newcastle Civic Centre

I took this picture during my visit. It’s changed very little. However, it’s not a daytime image of it that I particularly remember, it’s a night-time one, like the one below.

© Copyright Stephen Sweeney and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. (This version is slightly cropped along the bottom from the original.)

This is where you now need to use your imagination …

When you look at the photo, imagine the ground surrounding it covered in snow, and there being a brightly coloured and lit Christmas tree in the grounds. The purple ground lighting is reflecting off the snow, making everything very colourful, dramatic and memorable! I used to look forward to this sight every Christmas, but of course, it didn’t always snow in December, despite what people say about the NE weather.

#3: Eldon Square Shopping Centre & The False Teeth

Entrance to Eldon Square Shopping Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne

This is very different from how it used to look! Here’s something close to how I remember it.

Photo courtesy of Steve Ellwood

My first Saturday job was in the Green Market, accessed via both Eldon Square and externally via Clayton Street. It was during this time (whilst in the middle of doing my A’Levels) that I had an unforgettable experience. I must have been about 17.

My Saturday job was at the market stall – St. Andrew’s Newsagents – situated at the bottom of the escalators. I usually worked on the side where they sold pick ‘n’ mix sweets. Here’s a picture I’ve found to set the scene, although under a different owner and slightly before my time there.

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One Saturday, an elderly gentleman came up to order some sweets, then before he could say anything, he started swaying. He didn’t seem drunk, but he didn’t seem right either. I couldn’t get him to speak to me, and I wasn’t sure what to do. Quite soon after this, I noticed I could see his top set of false teeth starting to drop from his mouth. (I couldn’t remember: ‘How to handle old gent losing false teeth’ being part of the training I had when I started the job.) I can remember feeling briefly ‘paralysed’ though, not sure what to do.

He continued swaying, and I called for a colleague who was working on the other side of the stall. Before she arrived, his teeth dropped into one of the pick ‘n’ mix boxes (wrapped sweets, fortunately). I think at this point, my chin hit the floor.

With some help, we managed to get the gentleman on to a chair just inside our stall, and called an ambulance. It was suggested – by either a colleague or member of the public who had stopped to help – that he was probably having an epileptic fit. This was something I’d never seen before. I retrieved his teeth from the sweets, using one of the paper bags that I normally put the 4oz of sweets into. I wrapped them in the paper bag and put them in his pocket.

As we waited for the ambulance, on this busy Saturday morning, we had to keep on serving. We were short staffed, but still managed to keep one eye on the gentleman, who seemed to be recovering. Then the next thing I know, he’d gone! He must have recovered enough to get up and go.

It was just as well that he was able (we hoped) to leave on his own, because the ambulance never arrived.

I remember going home that day hoping he’d got home safely, and wondering if we’d all done our good deed for the day, or whether we should have kept watching him.

[More memories of Newcastle to come in the next post 🙂 ]

#19: Segway Ride

This is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had on 2 wheels! And it’s thanks to my sister-in-law and her husband (another 50th present). It was with Segway Events, at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.

Here’s my first go (you’ll noticed it’s accompanied!)

I wasn’t great with my balance to start with, but we had a great coach who took us through our paces to build our confidence quite quickly.

Here’s a slightly nervous me having a go at manoeuvring around the cones during one of the games we played to build confidence and skills. We were told to smile at the guy taking photos as we passed him, but it wasn’t all that easy. There are a few photos where I’m totally concentrating, and oblivious to the photographer. (This is perhaps a better one!)

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The last team game we played involved going forward to the end of the cones – but crouched on the Segway platform, holding the centre bar! – then come back holding the bar between your legs and doing some kind of ‘dance’ with your arms/hands. Thanks to my (sad to say) teenage years doing the Saturday Night Fever dance at discos, I really went for it, and earned our team 2 points … “for style and speed!”

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Not pretty, but they did say you have to accept that your dignity goes out the window when you do this. They weren’t wrong 😦

And for those John Travolta / Bee Gees fans reading this … here’s the real thing. Enjoy 🙂

After the final game (my team won overall) we went off into the woods to have some free time round a set of tracks. This part could have been longer for me … i.e. the track could have been longer, not the time spent on it. We also had some time in the park grounds, as shown by a more confident me below (you’ll need to choose video #8 – Segway H from the drop down list on the top left corner).

I’d definitely go again, but I’d want to do without the games and get straight into a longer ride through some woods or parkland area.

Another of my 50 things I’d recommend! 🙂

#18: A Microlight Experience

This 50 birthday present was perhaps the most eagerly (and nervously!) anticipated event of my 50 things. I’ve never been up in a microlight before, although I’ve seen them flying around above my house a few times. The present was from my brother-in-law and family, who later admitted they probably wouldn’t do this.

It was arranged through Into The Blue experience gifts, and I flew with Airways Airsports, based at Darley Moor Airfield, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire (which I can now highly recommend).

I think I need to start with a brief statement about the microlight itself. Here’s the flexed-wing version:

Screenshot 2015-08-20 08.34.04

Photo courtesy of Had-Air Airsports

And here’s the fixed-wing version:

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Photo courtesy of video taken from a fixed camera, under the wing of plane, and my husband taking a video at the same time from the background (you can see him behind the fence next to the letter C).

I was expecting (and had booked) the flexed-wing experience, but on the day it was too windy. So rather than not go up at all, and risk not being able to get a suitable date later in the year (their availability combined with mine), I decided to take up their offer of the fixed-wing flight.

It was great that they could offer you a video of the experience afterwards, and the photo above is a still from us getting ready for take-off, pre-flight checks taking place.

Strangely, I wasn’t nervous at all to start with – just excited. The pilot was good at making you feel confident about the whole experience anyway, and I had a short talk before getting airborne about what the controls were for, about why this closed cockpit was classed as a microlight (under 1/2 a ton, plus other info I can’t remember!) … and why I shouldn’t touch the pedals at my feet, or the lever just under the front of my seat. It’s dual control, and all I had to do was sit still. Easy.

After we tootled along to the end of the field, and lined up for take off, I was surprised at how quickly we were actually up in the air. I think it was all of 5 seconds from the pilot saying “Ready?” and increasing speed, to us being airborne. I was also quite surprised at how relaxed I felt.

I picked up a landmark (Carsington Reservoir) and soon discovered that’s where we were heading. I was fortunate that we got as far as Matlock Bath, with my home town of Matlock in the background. The views was fab and the weather was great.

Here’s the video!!! It’s about 30 minutes long. It doesn’t quite capture the landing, but there’s another short video on the same page, which you can view.

There was a big bonus for me during this flight, but I’m saving that for a different post! If you watch all the video, you’ll see this happening twice … and there’s a clue in the main photo for this post.

Now having done the fixed-wing microlight, I’d definitely do the flexed-wing version. Apparently it’s like comparing driving in a sports car (fixed-wing) to riding on a motorbike (flexed-wing). Can’t wait!

#17: Be part of an art exhibition

 I’ve always been artistic. Did A’Level at school. It all comes from my dad, who’s a fab artist. Here’s one of his many watercolours adorning the walls of our house.

Seahouses Harbour, Northumberland, UK
Seahouses Harbour, Northumberland, UK

I have to admit to letting my artistic skills go over recent years, and not doing anything with any media other than camera. Like many people these days, I find it easier to use my phone to take photos … probably to the horror of budding and professional photographers reading this!

So the 50 Things at 50 Challenge has given me the opportunity and motivation to get back into art again. Some posts you will see in the future will be the results of me doing art with pastels (and perhaps other media), as sketching some of the local views and doing pictures of our dogs is on my ’50 Things’ list.

For now, though, I wanted to share the outcome of submitting some of my photographs to the #Teacher5aday art exhibition organised by Martyn Reah (through a big initiative on Twitter, which Martyn set up, to improve Teacher wellbeing).

Screenshot 2015-08-01 10.43.23I submitted 5 photos from my week in Whitby (Sandsend) earlier this year. Here they are:

I’ve lumped them together to save space, although they were displayed separately for the exhibition.

I couldn’t get to the exhibition, so Martyn kindly took some photos and sent me this one. You can see my photos on the left stand below. They are in the top left and right corners, then the 3 across the middle. A little difficult to see, which is why I’ve included samples above. But you get the idea.

Screenshot 2015-08-19 12.14.08

Looking forward to sharing my future pastel / sketching efforts later in this blog 🙂

#16: An Evening Out With Live Music

I came to the realisation over Christmas 2014 that I don’t get out enough! More than that – I don’t get to listen to music live. So this became one of my tasks on my 50 Things list. In fact, this is too important to do as a one-off, so will be featured more than once, just different types of music.

So last week we went out with our neighbours to a relatively local pub (or hotel with a gym and bar), had a meal and listened to a band called ‘Saxy‘, which featured 2 female singers and (believe it or not) a saxophonist! All 3 were great.

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‘Saxy’ – 3 piece band, Brampton Manor Hotel, Chesterfield, 24.7.15

They played a range of songs, from Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” to “Rescue Me“. My feet were definitely tapping, and there was a bit of swaying, although I wasn’t letting it all go as much as one chap in the bar, whose hips were swaying and arms were jiggling around! I love it when people don’t feel embarrassed about enjoying themselves like this.

What’s next? I think a bit of jazz (preferably traditional), so if you can recommend anyone in the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire areas, let me know!

50 things to do before I'm 51