After the traditional Saturday shopping, I persuaded myself that I really should make the effort and go to Blyth to see what I could of the Tall Ships Regatta thingy. Sometimes, I really shouldn’t listen to me. This really turned out to be a Bad idea. I got to the Haymarket bus station by about 11:30, and got on a bus, which was pretty damn full, but that was OK. What was less OK was the slight problem that everyone else in a 300 mile radius was also going to Blyth. Only they weren’t on the bus, they were all in cars, and they were all in front of the bus. The result was incredibly slow progress from Whitley Bay onwards, so that what normally takes just over an hour, if the timetable can be believed, took nearly Three Hours. So, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind on arrival. Now sometimes I can deal with crowds of people, and sometimes I find them unbearable, especially when many of the people concerned seem to have a slight issue with looking where they’re going, or with deciding to randomly stop where there’s no room to get around them, and apparently trampling on them is considered rude, so I couldn’t do that.
It didn’t help that the layout of the port meant that views of the tall ships were very restricted (quite apart from all the people in the way), so I didn’t get a lot of photographs to make up for the annoyance (a few good shots would have transformed me from Mr Grumpy to Mr Happy…), so after a look around, I left. Though this was a struggle, as the crowds seemed to have got worse. I managed to get on a bus almost immediately, and that was only moderately delayed getting back to Newcastle. And now I’m home.
Here’s one I did manage to get today:
Wouldn’t get me up there
14:49, 27 August, 2016
 This is an estimate. Possibly exaggerated for effect
If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click through, or you’ll miss an more interesting photo than the one of me, and loads of words about my day off.
Back up a bit today, ho hum, never mind, etc.
Having worked in Birmingham last weekend, I decided to make the most of the long weekend by having an extra day off, which is what I did today.
I was awake at least as early as usual, and once I’d aught up with things, I headed into Gateshead to do some essential tasks:
Renew the travel pass that expired the day I went to Birmingham, so I won’t need to keep buying individual tickets
Pick up my prescription from Boots (I take these pills, you know)
Pour the contents of my penny jar into the machine in Tesco’s
All tasks were completed successfully. The final one was more successful than my best guess – I was hoping for around £100, but it turned out to be £131 after the machine’s commission, which came in handy for my next set of tasks
Well, having got up and out moderately early, something was missing: breakfast. So I went to Frankie & Benny’s, where for a change I had their larger “Pappa Grande” option, which comes with more bacon, and extra sausage, a big potato rosti thingy and a slice of black pudding, which was previously removed from the menu. Oh, and toast is included. It was a big breakfast, and I ate the lot, making lunch unnecessary today. And it seems it’s a good job I went when I did, as the owners of the chain are reported to be planning to close the Gateshead Frankie & Benny’s, which isn’t good at all.
After that, I went to Newcastle for more essential tasks – it was time to buy coffee beans from those nice Pumphreys people in the Grainger Market. And then I needed a haircut. Well, I’ve needed one for about a month, but never seemed to have the chance at lunchtime, and everywhere is too busy at weekends. The cheaper place I usually go to had a lot of people waiting (all seats taken), so I went in search of alternatives. The more expensive place I’ve been to in the past is now appointments only, which doesn’t work for me, so I decided to give Supercuts a try. They’ve been around forever, but for some reason I’ve never been in. They’re strictly walk in, no appointments, and I was told I’d have to wait half an hour. Well, there were seats, the ambient temperature was comfortable, and I had my iPhone with me, so I said that was fine. In the event, my wait was closer to ten minutes.
After a brief discussion, and a quick attack of the clippers, my hair was washed, cut, styled and generally given a good seeing to. Price was a wee bit cheaper than the more expensive place, but quite a lot more than the cheaper place, but they don’t do the washing bit there, being more of a standard barber.
So, err, here’s the hair:
That’ll be me
I came home briefly, picked up my X-T1 and headed out, with no definite plan in mind. I decided it was a bit late in the day to aim for Blyth to see the Tall Ships (maybe tomorrow), so I settled for a short walk along the coast from Tynemouth, and then a bus back to Newcastle, and another one home.
Here’s a view of the old pool at Tynemouth. There is talk of restoration and making use of it again, which would be good. It’s also a view of the beach. It was also a test of Snapheal, one of the MacPhun tools, which I used to remove some humans who got into the shot where I didn’t want them to be. Silly humans.
The old pool
14:05, 26 August, 2016
 Though I did go to be early, so waking up early may be related to that…
 I call it a penny jar, but it gets all my change from 20p coins downwards, so maybe I should rename it
 These things no charge 9.9% commission, which is a bit steep, but I’d rather pay than spend hours sorting, counting and bagging coins, not to mention queuing in the bank several times
 Mine has limits on how many bags they’ll take in a single transaction, and I’d have had loads
 This was either luck, or clever management of expectations
 AKA the Scotty time estimate method
Yes, it seems the manual labour, crawling under desks and other such things in Birmingham has caught up with me. My dodgy shoulder has returned to a state it hasn’t been in for months: it hurts even when I’m not moving. And the rest of me feels worn out and tired. It seems that I really am getting too old for this kind of thing…
Here’s something a bit less shiny from Birmingham:
After breakfast, it was back to the office to finish off a few things – there ended up being enough to do to make it worth leaving it for today rather than trying to squeeze it in to a late finish yesterday, but I was done by about 12:30.
I had hoped to have a proper photographic wander, but the clouds were making the light just a bit too variable for what I was after, so after a break for a sarnie, I got back to the hotel at about 14:00, and then had a relaxed afternoon. Any suggestion that I might have had a nap will, of course, be denied.
After relaxing, I was in the mood for some food, and after toying with the idea of a burger or some such in the hotel, or a visit to Las Iguanas, I went with my first thought – the James Dahl Indian restaurant, which is next to Las Iguanas and around the corner from last night’s venue, Milano.
First impressions were good – it’s a modern, light, spacious restaurant with comfy seating and bright lighting. Staff were all friendly and service was quick and courteous.
My Cobra (large) and poppadoms arrived quickly. The poppadoms were light and crisp and even slightly warm on arrival, and the usual selection of dips were all very tasty indeed.
My onion bhajee turned up as three smaller balls of light, crispy deliciousness. Really good – it’s so easy for bhajis (or bhajees, if you prefer their spelling) to be stodgy, but there was no sign of that here. These came with a side salad, which wasn’t bad either.
For my main course, I went for the House Specials section of the menu and had a chicken garlic chilli masala, which was spicy enough to be interesting rather than hot enough to melt your brain – it tasted just right, anyway. The pilau rice was nicely presented, and the garlic naan was light, soft and with a few crispy bits, and was just about perfect.
The meal ended with a dehydrated hot towel. Well, the waiter came with a small plate with a round white thing on it, then poured hot water on it, which made it expand. Nice touch.
The bill came to just over £30 including service charge, which I thought was pretty good value for the whole experience. And yes, I only had one beer, aren’t I a good boy?
I did get some photos earlier. This one interests me because even when you know, your brain may take a while to work out what it’s seeing:
Well, that was actually a nicely productive day. The things that were misbehaving yesterday have been beaten into submission and are now rolling around with their electronic legs in the air waiting for their virtual tummies to be rubbed. Still got a bit to do tomorrow, but it should be a short day, leaving me time (weather permitting) to take some photographs of the delights of Birmingham.
Having skipped lunch in favour of getting on with the job (a decent breakfast made that an easy decision), I was in need of a nice dinner, and I thought I’d try something different. The hotel is adjacent to the Arcadian Centre, a courtyard full of restaurants, bars and the like. Previously (including last night) I’ve been to Las Iguanas, but I’d dithered about giving another place a try. And tonight I did. Milano is a rather good Italian restaurant, with a nicely varied menu – they’ve got the usual pizza and pasta, but I thought I’d try something different tonight. After a paté starter, which came with a nicely crispy salad and some caramelised onion, I went for the Pollo Toscana – chicken breast with shallots, garlic, peppers, Italian sausage and tomato in a white wine sauce, accompanied by rosemary potatoes. This was delicious – looked good, tasted even better. I may have started with a glass of Pino Grigio and it’s alleged that I had a Sauvignon Blanc with the main course, though this may be denied. I won’t deny being tempted by a tiramisu dessert and a very good espresso. And I was pleasantly surprised when my bill was accompanied by a free shot of Limoncello, a lemon liqueur that I should probably avoid as I could get used to it far too easily. Friendly service, great food. Well worth a visit if you’re in Birmingham. And if you stay at the Ibis, it’s a really, really short walk for your dinner!
Here’s another random photo taken at Tynemouth Priory, which shows that my long lens isn’t just for lighthouses four miles away: