Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 3
In this, part 3 of ‘My Heart In A Hashtag’, we also answer last week’s guest curator Dan Feeney‘s question for us: “I’m a real museum geek, and on my last trip to the North East I didn’t have time to go exploring any museums or galleries. What are your suggestions for the best places to drop into for a bit of a mooch, especially any unexpected gems?”
It’s impossible to gauge, really, how somebody feels, especially when any connection they have is with your username or icon, and emoticons are a half story which people type whilst their actual faces contort entirely different shapes. As a city, I knew nothing when we started, but now it’s the lilt of certain letters, the checkiness of your shirts, the music you listen to which isn’t all that different to mine, but I tie tracks to you and your city and imagine certain scenarios with the succincticity of a music video: in the Charles Grey, the pub overlooking The Monument, watching the charity workers tackle passers-by for their phone numbers, then standing at the top of Grey Street and seeing an entirely different architecture to the one I grew up seeing which was all cobbles and thatch and knockdown-able and, later, waiting for a train to the coast and not picking one place but starting on a beach and walking until we hit another Metro stop or station. This is where our experiences mesh, lap, because I could walk the circumference of the island I’m on; there’s no satisfaction like seeing a location merge with its neighbour.
You are merging with the city and I experience you both through screens, anticipating the up-close with a back mind apprehension, that you both might not be the expected, pieced from maps and Wikipedia and YouTube 3 minute clips and Joe McElderry’s back story. I imagine you with the nerves of an X-Factor contestant awaiting the executioner’s verdict, when I could find at any minute, you are not who you claim. And what would happen to the place, then, if you turn out to be another person entirely from the online photograph that I’ve been building around?
I pack light for the journey to Newcastle, which is six hours straight train from the first stop, no change, and my window seat connection is a landscape shift as I follow the country to its X spot, you mark the spot. And you text as I relay every city to you, and you say you’ll wait, be waiting, like every man in every novel I high school read, and the way I feel about you is so much more tangible than it deserves to be. Because even Skype is easy to fake, every photo is. I wonder what plan I’d have if you weren’t waiting. Would I meander without meaning around the city, take a City Sightseeing bus, its circular route explaining every plaque more than twice? Would I play Maximo Park on my iPod, as I went to each place they mentioned in one of their songs, imagining the potential of every person I saw.
The terrain changes the closer I get, and I wonder if I’ve worn the right footwear. I scroll through pictures you’ve sent in preparation. The Sage elevated over the Tyne. The bridges in a line stretching where the river curves. The steepness and the wet streets, converted railway tunnels and towers. And the Baltic, once something else entirely, a mill, is a regular collection switch. The Great North and the Discovery, the museums we’ll go to and I’ll find what others found before me: things to be loved. The collections, which stretch through basements, are ties to other countries, places yet to go. As I ask about the animals, how you feel about taxidermy, you take my hand. The Library, all angles and glass, and the Settledown Cafe.
“Some things you preserve,” you tell me. “Some things are for keeps.”