19. A Pluck, a Swinging Bridge and a Roller Skating Horse.

Newcastle – Sue standing in a ‘folly’ but a delightful one with sand, changing boxes, deckchairs, fish & chip shop just to the right and all only half a K from Newcastle town centre. Bewt. love it.

T R A D I T I O N A L   H A G G I S

Become a Jolly Swagman and obtain a Sheeps Stomach Bag. Wash and scrape this carefully removing the sheeps ‘Pluck’. That is, the liver, lights (lungs) and heart. Wash the Pluck and soak in cold water, then boil for 1.5 hours. Remove the windpipe and any bits of gristle and skin, then add half a pound of suet and put the lot thru a mincer. Then say a short prayer and mix in two cups of oatmeal previously dried before the fire. Add half a pint of stock the Pluck was boiled in, place in some chopped onion and season with salt and pepper. Knead well with hands. At this point reinforce your faculties with a dram of whisky or sherry. Turn the bag inside out and fill about half full with Pluck mix thus allowing the oatmeal to swell and the bag to shrink. Then put in the remainder of the mix and sew up and place a peg over your nose. Carefully place the bag on a plate in a large pot and boil. Serve with Neeps and Tatties and of course, a dram or two of strong whisky. Arrrggg.

A survey of American tourists, found that 33% thought that a Haggis was a small Scottish animal. Then again, over 50% of those who voted, thought that Donald Trump would make a good president.

Not sad, dispirited nor unhappy to leave Glasgow. Five nights was far too much but we did our best to snoop about and find things and places to love. But the depressing street scapes, the men outside the Inns, the smokers, the ‘rough as’ pavements, the run down facilities all signs of a society that has let things go. Or perhaps theres something else going on. Or just perhaps Glaswegians love its ramshackle, rough edged, untidy look as though its a 19th century tramp that has yet to go to Vinnies to scrounge a new outfit. It badly needs one.

Our room at the Vermont Hotel Newcastle before we spread our junk about. Sorry, my junk.

Hey, we are in First Class on the Choo Choo from Edinburgh to Newcastle Upon Tyne after a 50 minute trip in pauper class from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station to Edinburghs Station. We like this first class bizzo sitting up like Jacki, plenty of leg room, a table set for a tea party, big picture window, window blinds, free food, drinks including G&T (yes please), whisky etc etc. Little pommy piggy boy just there had two helpings of a Chicken, Mushroom, Potato dish with a creamy lemon sauce that he told his mum was, Reely super mum. Spot on. He washed this down with a coke and for desert, a packet of crisps. The train makes no stops, we are First Class after all, as we travel at a smooth pleasant speed thru lovely rolling hills, some pasture where cows have a lie down, crops of cabbages and what looks like broccoli, pass by large and small villages as the train hugs the coast and at times right alongside the sea. Billy Butlin like holiday van parks with neat ‘chocked’ up vans all lined up like fat cream soldiers lay alongside the shoreline ready to repel any foreign vans.

Statue of Lord Earl Grey set on a very very high column with a spiral staircase inside. Birds crap on his head.

By cripes, what a difference between Glasgow and Newcastle Train Stations. Here, at Newcastle, all is neat and tidy and that extends into the outside street as we excitedly hobble along towards the Vermont Hotel, 7 minutes by foot say’s Ms Daisy Trump. With Sue’s wonky knee and my back where L2 has a mind of its own and at the moment has migrated out of position, makes it an 11 minute hike. The Vermont car park has a Rolls parked one side of the entry and a Bentley the other with haphazardly parked about, expensive car owners do not bother about parking in designated bays, are Mercs, BMW’s and Audies. Its eight steps up to the entry and with our heavy suitcases we prop and look at each other for a miracle and down the stairs bounds Jerry Lewis the Bellhop. He babbles on non stop perhaps expected a donation so he can go find Dean Martin. He lifts Sue’s bag as thow it contains feathers leaving Sue and I to lift mine up. We did not donate to his mission.

Grey Street Newcastle with Lord Earl Grey standing up high on his column.

We were lucky to strike a fairly economical rate at this posh hotel and we are going to make the most of it. Set not far from the River Tyne, adjacent Newcastle Castle Keep and Garth Castle built by William the Conquerors son Robert Curthose in 1080, who built his castle in Timber.

Thats the Vermont Hotel newcastle with a Roller and a Bentley each side of the entry steps. Sue has the left one and I the right.

Thats all gone and was replaced a hundred years later in stone on the orders of King Henry II as those bloody Kilted Maniacs came charging down from the Highlands wearing Sporrans, smelling of Haggis, and chucked wee Cabers at Henry’s Castle. Sadly its mostly fallen down but the Castle Keep and the Barbican are relatively intact. What remains looks spectacular enough and I love nosing around this old history stuff. Des is happy, leave me here God for a decade. And er, a bottle of Jura whisky a week please.

Grey Street Newcastle – all a uphill walk.

Only two nights here in Newcastle on Tyne at the Vermont Hotel an old lady bearing up well, still retaining its dignity with occasional facelifts over the years. But it needs a bit of a botox at the moment. Never mind, Sue and I are off up a steep hill, Grey Street, with at the top, a very high column and way up on top of that is a statue of Lord Earl Grey. Erected in 1838 after middle class business owners campaigned for a statue, raised the money and there it is. They obviously loved the Earl possibly because of reforms, ha ha, he introduced in Parliament. He, the Earl, is no shining light nice man which is why I do not drink Earl Grey tea. Silly is it not? Somebody else ‘up there’, a higher power, agreed with me for in July 1941 in the midst of WWII, lightning struck the statue and the Earls head fell down onto some tram lines badly cracking it and the Earls nose got out of joint.

Dog Jane or Dog Leg Staircase Newcastle. Does this comply with OHS Regs?

A local sculpture’r reshaped and remodelled the head and it was plonked back on top in 1947. I do not know why the statue is on such a high plinth as nobody can see any detail of the statue. When it was erected, and there still is, a 164 step spiral stairway inside the supporting column, and those middle class business men could climb up the 40 metres, 130 feet, to the top where there’s a tiny balcony, and shout to those below that they were having a heart attack.

Compared to Glasgow, the streets here are clean, theres no boofy blokes hanging around outside Inns, in fact there are not too many inns. The Victorian come Georgian period buildings are relatively tidy, walls clean, the sun is shining through the clouds and all is well in our world. Up beyond Lord Greys statue, the land flattens out and we find a bustling shopping precinct, squares with statues, trees, lots of trees, grassed areas, remains of the old Newcastle walled city from centuries ago and its all vibrant and pleasant.

Castle Keep alongside our hotel. Dates from the 15th century.

More so when we find Northumberland Street the shopping mecca to beat all others. A broad mall with all the name shops and those name shops that are kept secret. A square metre of retail space here costs more than anywhere else in the UK apart from London. Its busy, buskers about, bookshops, yes bookshops. We found one in Glasgow, two in the small town of Ullapool and here, first afternoon, we find three. I love it. Castles, ancient rock walls, squares with trees, an Earl who lost his head and bookshops.

Earlier, we watched the Gateshead Millenium Bridge over the River Tyne do its daily act at noon as it somersaults. Opened in 2001 and designed by the very clever architects Wilkinson Eyre and the equally clever structural engineer Gifford, its known locally as the ‘Winking Eye Bridge’. A large arch spans across the River Tyne, set out on an angle with below a pedestrian walkway 8 metres wide and a length of 126 metres ‘bank to river bank’. Designed to allow a small ship or boats up to 25 metres (82foot) tall to pass under when open, and thats now infrequently, it only takes 4.5 minutes to open with energy costs of 3.96 pounds per opening.

Millenium Bridge – an amazing ‘swing bridge – thats the walkway on the right supported by retractable cables from the main arch on the left. Lets small ships pass under on the River Tyne.

As it opens, cables suspended down from the arch to the walkway, move together with that arch as it tilts back at 40 degrees thus raising the walkway. Six hydraulic rams do the work. Its amazing to watch and is a tourist attraction. And I ask myself, when I knew that the design and construct of the bridge cost 35 million AUD’s, why we could not do this in West Oz with our new footbridge across the Swan River so that footy patrons could access the new stadium. That bridge which looks like the Wagyl has come to visit and throw up, cost in excess of 83 million AUD’s, so far. And what does it do. Will tourists come to take its photo. Grr grr

Newcastle is a University town with its twin city Gateshead just there across the River Tyne. Developed around the Roman settlement of Pons Aelius, Newcastle was named after the ‘New Castle’ built by Robert Curthose in 1080. Obviously. And us Aussie’s pinched the name for our Newcastle. The population in 2017 was 295,800 with hundreds of thousands more in the surrounding area.

Millenium Bridge again in fully open position.

Hadrian’s wall used to run by Newcastle and bits and pieces of it are still visible. Hadrian had the wall built to prevent unwanted migration and incursions particularly by those wild haggis eating, bagpipe playing Scots and/or Picts. The Scots and the Picts got tired at times of fighting each other, so they combined forces and set to fighting the Romans although they killed more by giving Roman Housewives the recipe for Haggis.

Newcastle has a Chinatown with a grand entry statement arch all Chinese like in red, silver and green, and we were going there for a spot of dins. But the street is a flop with many shops vacant and those that were not, all looked a bit scungy as though they served up cockroach droppings and nits in their fried rice.

Newcastle has its own Sydney Harbour Bridge this one dated from 1928. Ours was 1932? and a lot bigger.

We do a circuit about, march through an opening in the Old Town stone defensive walls, Im whistling Waltzing Matilda, pass a nice park with big trees, looks bewt, and we stumble into Grainger Markets. Opened in 1835 and set just about in the centre of Newcastle, its in the style of Melbourne’s fresh food Queen Victoria Markets but with a tad more ambience and space to walk. Not to mention style and class. All of earths animals, vegies and produce can be obtained here. As well as nearly all of earths human species strolling about gawking as we are. Later, we find a nice dins at Byron Cafe, a clean tidy big space split up by changes in floor level, cabinets and lots of people sitting with nose bags on. The kitchen staff are just there, their every move and nuance clearly visible as theres no dividing wall into the cookhouse.

A horse on rollerskates outside a Pizza Shop. My brother Snakeboots would just love to have this.

Afterwards, we stroll back down Grey Street, its a bit steep but decide to divert into Saint Nicholas Cathedral part of the Church of England mob. Dating mostly from the 13th to the 15th centuries, it reeks of grand designs on the outside, and basic slab floors, rough dark timbered pews on the inside with fine fretwork in the timber quire stalls, the lectern and the high altar ‘screen’. Theres a large number of notable, well they were once upon a time, people buried under the floor with engraved marble slabs over their lying down cubby house. The oldest memorial in the Cathedral is the ‘effigy’ of the ‘Unknown Knight’. The knight probably served under King Edward I who reined from 1272 to 1307.

Later today we catch a ferry, a big ship I hope, for the overnight sea float to Holland. We are about to enter a foreign country where we will be the foreigners. Arrgg.

Jeese, we love Newcastle and only scratched the surface. Forget Glasgow, come here instead.

Ooroo from Sue 😊 and Des 🤔. 

In our last hours in Newcastle we find this very weird Pub, the Botanicals Rhum Bar. Yes thats a bear in the background. And it was just around the corner from our Vermont Hotel.
Yes thats a tree growing in the Botanicals Rhum Bar Pub. Memorabilia from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries abounds in a crazy mishmash that works and leaves one wandering about gawking.
Here’s a bit more of lovely Newcastle. The building facades are clean.