NORTHERN SPIRIT

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Thanks and goodbye!

October 6, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

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Well, we’ve have had a great week posting on A Wondrous Place but sadly we have to say goodbye! Before we do, we’d like to thank a few people, and put a question to Hayley Flynn, next week’s curator. So, without further ado, thank you to Chris Meads for inviting us to work together on this project – it’s been both refreshing and challenging to work together. Writers often spend a lot of time slaving away in isolation, so for us to collaborate on a new project was a real joy and of advantage to our own separate writing projects! We’d like to thank Claire Malcolm at New Writing North for suggesting to Chris our coming together on this blog. Jake would like to dedicate his part in this work to the efficiency of the Tyne and Wear Metro system; a railway network which, despite all its flaws and detractors, makes getting to meet up with all the cool people he has met in Newcastle over the past 2 years somewhat less of a chore. Amy would like to thank Tom Cruise. 

We’ve both hugely enjoyed all the other guests’ posts and we’d like to ask Hayley Flynn, next week’s blogger, this: Manchester is often regarded as England’s second city. In what ways do you think it might deserve this title?

We leave you with a little present: a song by The Lake Poets, aka Martin Longstaff – a phenomenal singer-songwriter from Sunderland whose lyrics about trying to find one’s place in the North East in 2012 are a stellar example of the creativity, honesty and verve that are to be found in abundance in this region.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading! 

 

 

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 5

October 5, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize The Forth

The place gets really busy weeknights, weekends, whereas in the week you could read a book undisturbed, and the outdoor rooftop patio is fairy light-strung, and I’ve met many an eye line there, though nothing concrete, no-one who hasn’t upped and moved to London, or gone further north. So this is my place now, and it’s up to others to end up here too, or leave, but just be decisive about it. Right next to the Jazz Café, on Pink Lane, just pick the right corner.

The night that I find him again, I’m with 5 friends, some of whom have brought friends, who’ve bumped into other friends, so that we’re a tricky weave throughout a heave. He’s surprised, too, to find my shoulder, then face, though he shouldn’t be. We’ve inhabited similar spaces for years and those years have sped like a tape recorder high-pitched fast-forward screech.

I ask what he’s been up to and he shrugs like it’s impossible to summarise and I realise I couldn’t start either, to tell him what I did, what I’ve done, between those messages and now. The last five years have been a gorge, not a fast, and I’ve been retaining as much knowledge as possible in case I ever have to leave. I want to remember the plethora of options every night of another bar or show or reading. The feel of the theatre stalls, and the cabaret style candle-lit tables and the walks along banks inland, or at the coast, and the different kinds of light at both. The moments the train pulls across the bridge and everyone picks a side and stares, and the sheltered section of the station and the outside and the Mining Institute Library, stained glass that’s street hidden, and the taxi rank tunnel and the shopping trolley sculpture and the steps, like a cliff edge, the unprecedented steep drop to the Quayside and the Cinema, alley-tucked, with it’s red velvet seats and its coffee stronger than gin, and poster sales, all-night showings and the people I’ve met. Kerry and Jack and John. Hannah and Matt and Tim. And him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was in The Forth after watching ‘Matt Stalker and Fables’ in The Jazz Cafe. I was taking a round back to the lads, looking down, concentrating on the 3 pints in my hands, when I heard a ‘Jake?’

It was Amy. Bloody hell. What had it been? 3, 4 years? More? We hugged, which was awkward, but it’s funny what the body remembers, what it reads like braille from another’s touch: the way her head perches on my shoulder, how my arm fits the small of her back, her perfume. We discussed the usual things: the storms, the last films we’d seen at the Tyneside, how rehearsals were going for her new show. But there were all these questions. All these questions I did and didn’t want to ask:
                                              ?
                                                            ?
                 ,                              ;                                      ?
and, of course,                                ?

 

All these questions, hanging, just out of reach, banging in my head, like doors rattling in drafts, like an itch you can’t scratch.
We said our “Yeah, it was lovely to see you”s, our “Definitely, coffee would be great”s, but I felt like I’d let Amy in on a big secret.
I sat down, took a sip of beer, watched her rejoin her friends. I remembered how we’d discussed film tropes – slow motion kisses in the rain, flipped cars that always landed on their wheels, as long as Jason Statham was driving, that sort of thing – then I remembered her favourite: the one in the bar, where the girl takes her drink in both hands, holds the straw to her mouth and turns, turns just enough to smile at the boy on the other side of the room. I waited, and her head was so far back in laughter, her hand reaching for the arms of others in her group, her head so far back in laughing, loving, living, and her back to me.
I smiled, said, “Next pub, lads?” I was greeted by a unanimous “Aye”, and before I knew it, I was out on Pink Lane, the whole of Newcastle spread out before me.
Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 4

October 4, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Jake Board

Platform 7 at Central Station. A few years ago you could get over there without a ticket. Bloody barriers. Twelve minutes early.

Eleven fifty two.

‘The next train to depart from platform nine is the 14.05 Northern service to Carlisle, calling at Gateshead Metro Centre, Wylam, Prudhoe…’

Eleven.

You’ll be somewhere near Chester-le-Street now: that bit where the train screeches over the bridge above Tesco, Penshaw Monument standing vestigial against a backdrop of thick, North Sea Cumulonimbi.

Ten oh three.

I wonder what you’ll be wearing? Your avatar is a close-up of your eye, so that doesn’t give me much to go on. If I squint I swear I can see the outline of you holding the camera reflected in the flash hovering over your iris.

Must stop looking at the clock.

Birtley dog track; Komatsu; the Angel…

Eight forty four.

The Tyne Bridges; platform 7; me…

Seven fifty eight.

I want to go back, to watch your journey in reverse as you make your way down the ladder of the Pennines. Back in the taxi that took you to the station; back through the flat you left, your keys posted through its locked front door. I want to see what decisions took you here – what unfortunate set of circumstances it takes to send a girl four hundred miles up the country to here, to now, to me.

Five thirty three.

I want to see you grow young; watch you in school, with friends I’ll never know and you’ll never see again. I want to see your Dad hold you on his shoulders; the whole world sucked into that moment – me, eyes cupped in hands, pressed against the glass, peering through the porthole of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four thirty seven.

Check for texts. Nothing. ‘Hi Amy, at station now, waiting by WH Smith. See you soon xx’

Three fifty.

‘Train about to pull in, waiting on bridge. What a view! x’

Three ten.

Oh, balls, forgot to brush my teeth. No, it’s alright, don’t be daft, she won’t notice. And anyway, she’s not expecting a kiss. I mean, I’m not even angling for one. Well, I would, but…no, stop it. Stop it.

Two fifteen.

Something’s just pulled in. Loads coming over the footbridge now. Woman in flowery dress; man with briefcase; woman with Scotty dog; man going double denim (bad shout, mate); woman in stilettos (bit early, like, pet); woman in Geography teacher Mac…

One thirty one.

Is that her by Pumpkin? She definitely looks lost. Idiot: everyone looks lost in a train station.

One seventeen.

What if she’s really tall? Fat? (You shallow fool!) A rake?

Fifty.

What if she’s beautiful?

Thirty one.

That’s definitely her train pulling in.

Twenty.

Bloody barrier.

Sixteen.

What if she hates this? The cold; the back lane walls with their smashed glass set in concrete; the way we stare at the bloody river.

Five.

Is there anything more sad than seeing a life unfold in the blank time it takes the digits on a clock face to change?

Zero.

Can someone be real before you’ve even met them?

Durham Station

 

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 3

October 3, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Amy View

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.

The Charles Grey

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.

Grey’s Monument

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.”

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 2

October 2, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize rock

Amy became the reason I wanted to stay, at least for a little while. They say it’s all about the people. Well, we’ve got our mix; just take a walk down King Street on a Friday night. But that’s not her scene, nor mine: bass, synth and roid-rage lads spilling from club doors, all Geordie Shore wannabes, pastiche of a bad pastiche, rattling down streets pocked with Wrigley’s Extra, seagull shit and a confetti of Gregg’s steak bakes. Tell you what, though: I’ve never had a bad night in Shields. There’s beauty in the most unlikely of places. When Amy comes, I’ll show her.

I’ll take her to The Groyne, watch fishing boats trundle in and out the Tyne. Wave at the DFDS ferry, voyaging to Amsterdam. I’ll take her in my arms, make a ‘Jack and Rose: Angels of the North’, spread out, welcoming the world at the very edge of England.

 

Herd Groyne Lighthouse

 

 

I’ll take her up the Leas to Souter Lighthouse, tell her the urban legend of the man who buried his dog there: its bark still biting throught the rasp of the wind. Try and spook her a bit: tell her how, on foggy nights, I sometimes hear it over the boom of the horn.
I’ll take her up to the old windmill on Cleadon Hills, the place I call the ‘hinge’ of the county, where Mackem rubs shoulders with Geordie.
“Time is like a ‘History’ folder on a computer,” I’ll say, “Nothing ever vanishes for ever; it just gets piled up so that all we see is what’s most recent. Just look at this…” I’ll point to the fields, the trees, the rooftops, splayed out like circuit boards. “Time was, when people would look out over this vista at a sky smudged by industry. Those days are gone, but the river runs on, the land still listens. It’s up to us to choose what it hears.”
“Amy”, I’ll say, “This whole world is spread out in front of us…”
And I’ll leave it hanging, hoping the enigma will seem mysterious, charming – enough that she won’t think of the final scene in Fight Club.
And she’ll take my hand, and she’ll squeeze it, and I’ll know that underneath those contact lenses, underneath her eyes, gleaming like Sprite cans, there’s fragility and hurt and longing.
“It’s beautiful”, she’ll say.

 

Tyneside Cinema

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 1

October 1, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Hashtag

I meet him on a _________ message board, when I have no-one to go with. I want recommends, lists, ideas of what to do alone there. And the responses are quick and his photo repeats down the page, and for every two others, Jake writes a post, to make sure he’s not missed. It’s the furthest I’ve gone to see _________, and Google’s told me some, but I want to go to places I’d regret not going, even if I’d never known about them. I’ll always wish I’d kissed Brad Pitt, despite the probability of it, despite never meeting.

I write out his suggestions in pen, thank him, but then he’s asking questions. Where am I from? What films do I watch? What year was I born? So I question him back. He doesn’t know Vanilla Sky is a remake or that Tom Cruise was married before, or before, or before that. Usually this would be my out. I’m always looking for one.

I reply anyway, because a bookshop keeps you busy but not busy enough, and the trouble with boredom is, you could fuck anyone before finding a single flaw. But perhaps this is what grown up is: finding the flaws and sinking yourself anyway. I ignore nerves, and type, “I used to watch Byker Grove, and I know that’s not only, but you’ve got to admit the iconicity of it is unforgettable.”

I stick a post-it over the laptop webcam, fold it over the lid so that Jake can’t see. Strange, to use a name, and not a pseudonym. But a face would be stranger. His picture’s a bridge, the pound coin one, and he says he’s on it if you squint. But I’m not falling for it. I say, “I’ll see you on it someday, when you take me to it.” He lols and picks a smiley face from a selection which sets off endorphins in me, and panic. Meaning he’s a kind of chronic disease brain reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He asks when I’m coming and I say, “I booked tickets already. Saturday. Nothing planned, ’til the evening,” and he says sure the gig, you’re coming for the gig and I say, “Yeah, just a regular groupie,” and he asks why no-one’s coming with me and I say, “My mum said don’t burn any bridge but I did. I couldn’t help myself. I like to teeter on a relationship’s edge, just when it could spin into another thing entirely.” And Jake says he gets it, but whether he does, I don’t know, because flat text has no intonation and I say, “There’d be no bridge problem in Newcastle, right? There are just so many. I couldn’t screw it up with all of them,” and he tells me which wouldn’t hold a grudge, says he doesn’t.

And between these late conversations, in which we ignore the jobs we go to when we can’t put it off longer, I go on Google Earth, see if I can spot him on Grey Street, in the precincts, at the coast. I check the beach especially because he mentions it, but the faces of those caught are blurred, dragged, or as I almost make out who it is, I realise I know no-one at that postcode, that street, that city, but Jake.

And for a while, Jake is all I know of the place. And I know he’s got an accent but my head won’t play it while I read each line. I’m not sure how to anticipate it, but I’m anticipating; the whole thing’s anticipation. The route finder makes the journey look long and the wish list of things to do while there – galleries, monuments, cinemas, metros – could be erased simply with a single suggestion. If he’s single. Or even if he isn’t.

The third night we speak, I ask if he’ll be there forever and he says he’s not sure. That somewhere’s so ingrained in you sometimes, it’s there wherever you are. I ask where else he’d be but he doesn’t know. I don’t either, because for every new place I try, I miss the first a little more. There’s always one person who, just like the information on an internet profile, the pictures, phone numbers, and updates, is kept forever even when you’ve hit the delete button. Nothing’s ever gone. Even when you think it is.

Grey’s Monument

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061