September 9th, 2002
|01:26 am - Busy but fun Sunday|
Short version: cygnusfap is off to Norway for three weeks, not least to see tranquillo. He's getting there by ferry; the Fjordline service shuttles between Newcastle and three ports on Norway's west coast. As I live about forty miles south of Newcastle, I met him on the train and spent an afternoon with him in Newcastle before seeing him off at the ferry terminal. It was a very entertaining day.
Morning, rather too late: get up, bathe for slightly too long, wash hair, dry hair, clothe, shave, brush teeth, grab bag of potato crisps, rush off to Middlesbrough train station. (Something goes slightly wrong in the clothing process and I end up wearing my vest [undershirt] the wrong way round all day.)
1310: Arrive at train station. I am expecting to take a train to Darlington leaving Middlesbrough at 1323. No such train exists. Queue for a ticket without incident. Am directed to platform two, which is slightly unusual for trains to Newcastle. Go to platform two.
1327: The platform two train to Newcastle does not call at Darlington A train arrives at platform one. I realise this is the train I want and was thrown by it being listed for Bishop Auckland instead of Darlington. A schoolboy error.
1328: Catch train for Bishop Auckland, but only by about ten or fifteen seconds. Phew.
1358: Arrive at Darlington as planned. No information about when cygnusfap's train will call at Darlington is available, but all the East Coast Main Line trains in both directions are running severely late - over an hour, sometimes nearly two. This shouldn't directly affect him, but you can't run a train service without having knock-on effects.
1402: Try the information office. It turns out that there has been a lightning strike between Berwick and Edinburgh which is affecting lots of trains. By happy accident, the lady behind me is also after the same information about the same train and reports that her boyfriend, on that train, just text-messaged her to let her know that his train had just left Leeds.
1406: Eat egg sandwich, crisps and pack of Revels. (Nothing to drink, though, as the drinks machine doesn't like my £1 coin.) Settle down in waiting room with Sunday Times.
1455: cygnusfap's train arrives. Find said cygnusfap upon it without difficulties. Hurrah! Objective one complete. Commence discussion of his forthcoming trip and miscellaneous gossip regarding Harry Potter Fandom, next year's Potter symposium and related topics. If you believe that you have a connection to the latter, then, yes, we did talk about you. All nice things, of course!
1525: Arrive at Newcastle train station. cygnusfap plans to catch a special bus from outside the train station to the ferry terminal. Said buses operate at 1630 and 1730.
1530: Wander down to the Quayside, the hippest and happeningest part of what is said to be one of the world's top ten party cities. Cross Swing Bridge by foot. Walk down Gateshead side of Tyne to Baltic Art Museum.
1555: Struggle to lock bags inside Baltic Arts Museum's lockers. The Baltic Arts Museum used to be a flour mill and is now a striking and large art gallery building. It has a sixth floor rooftop brasserie, a fifth floor viewing terrace (good views of the fourth floor, the Tyne and the bridges over the Tyne) and five fairly large (30m x 60m) floors of art beneath. Three of these five floors are currently shut, preparing for future exhibitions.
1610: Floor four has what is probably the world's definitive collection of models of bridges made from Meccano / Erector Sets. It also has a decent collection of materials about building models of bridges, including a 1931 Meccano magazine. What a concept! There are only really three big Meccano bridges and a handful of smaller ones, but the big ones are pretty impressive.
1625: Floor one has a description of an Archie Gemmill goal plus a description of the relevant body movements written in some choreographic score-like notation. Again, what a concept! Floor also has a very large screen on which "Dreamtime", a 35mm film about a Russian space shuttle launch, is shown. Pretty impressive!
1640: Ask for a carrier bag from the gift shop in which to hold my Sunday Times. They offer a small plastic bag at first, then a really-quite-impressive fabric bag. Remarkably, they are not charging for the latter. Conclusion: we like the Baltic Art Museum.
1650: Walk across the famous "blinking eye" bridge. Lots of "lidless eye" gags. It's unusual and attractive.
1652: Decide that we are time-rich but cash-poor. We know the ferry's location only as the North Shields International Ferry Terminal. I suggest taking the Tyne and Wear Metro (the local light rail system) to North Shields and going to the ferry terminal early. We start to plough through Newcastle on the strength of a lousy map on a lamppost.
1654: I have lost all memory of the map and am generally walking in the right direction instead. We walk down a large valley and up the other side. We see some elevated train tracks with overhead power wires and follow them.
1725: We find Byker metro station. Not the one we were aiming for - the next one down the line, with a commensurate extra walk. It's all good. I decide to buy a Metro DaySaver for GBP 3 on the grounds that it'll be, at worst, a few pence more than two singles and permits much more flexibility. This leaves me with 22p.
1735: Train leaves from Byker for North Shields. The time is surprising, about an hour later than I had internalised. Conclusion that we were time-rich seems retroactively incorrect.
1755: Alight at North Shields. Look for directions to the International Ferry Terminal. Consult with local taxi firm. Turns out that "North Shields" isn't a very accurate term and we wanted one of the two prior stations. Hey ho.
1802: Negotiate with an off-duty taxi driver to take us to the terminal for £3. (That's £3 off the meter - I dread to think how much it would be for a metered journey after 6pm on a Sunday, plus surcharge for two passengers plus luggage.) A light escape, all things considered, but still rather more expensive than the special bus would have been. (The special bus' £2.75 fare is looking less like a rip-off than ever before.)
1815: Get to Ferry terminal. Conclude that the economies I suggested to try to avoid a bus fare were very false indeed and made the afternoon needlessly exciting. cygnusfap joins hairy-looking but actually moderately quick-moving queue to check in.
1835: Have a drink in the local "Sybilla" coffee shop, which sells hot dogs, hot dogs with mashed potato (!!?) and "French hot dogs" which appear to be wrapped in pastry and unidentified yellow substance. Decline gratefully. Much more chat.
1915: cygnusfap goes through boarding, having watched people queue for the boarding gates for over half an hour. I shake hands, wave goodbye and watch him get searched. Suspicious-looking single guy with an accomplice paying rather too much attention, I shouldn't wonder!
1920: Wander back through Newcastle-on-Tyne looking in vain for a Metro station. Usual "head in the right direction and look for the overhead lines" technique seems to be working reasonably well. After maybe 20 minutes' walk, find Percy Main station. Loudspeakers are playing classical music in an attempt to dissuade local hooligans from hanging round. (Yes, this demonstrably works.) Not stirring classical music - droning, tedious classical music, alas. Catch train back to Central Station, going the long way around the yellow line loop.
2010: Interesting adverts inside the train for plays on at Newcastle's Royal Theatre: the Gyles Brandreth highlights-from-100-musicals-in-100-minutes show "Zipp!" which has got excellent reviews for a novelty Fringe act is playing next week (more info, grudgingly positive review, Theatre Royal blurb), also the Branagh-directed Morecambe-and-Wise-a-like Play What I wrote next month - rave reviews, very tempting. Going to the theatre of my own accord? Yikes. Times are a-changin'.
2020: Get to Central Station. Finally find a good cashpoint machine and withdraw £20 note. Spend £1.29 of it on a very large Sprite from Burger King; this might be the first thing I had drank all day and I could certainly tell. Trains southbound down the East Coast Main Line are still a little behind, but only a few minutes. Am advised that this will cause the next train to Darlington to miss its connection to Middlesbrough and take the slower direct train to Middlesbrough instead.
2037: Decide to catch train to Darlington anyhow. It's a faster train to Darlington and in the worst case scenario I'll just wait at Darlington for the slow train to catch it up and take me to Middlesbrough.
2108: Arrive at Darlington. Discover next train to Middlesbrough leaves at 2108. (!) Sprint across to other platform.
2109: Board train to Middlesbrough.
2111: Train to Middlesbrough departs. Panic proves needless, though underlying prinicple was good.
2140: Arrive in Middlesbrough. Surprisingly large amount of activity in town's clubs, pubs and bars. Catch a relatively sporadic bus home - 5/hour at this time of Sunday night, I think. Bus journey uneventful.
A good result, all things considered. Excellent to see the very adventurous cygnusfap; I wish him safety, success and satisfaction on his three-week voyage around Norway.
Current Mood: knackered
Current Music: 3.5 hrs of brakusjs's Bemani 3-65 station again!
Sounds like you guys had fun. Hoped you waved at Durham as you went speeding by...
I never normally have trouble on trains going north, but whenever I want to go south GNER always seem to lose a memmber of staff at Newcastle Central Station and so delay the train for up to an hour. Last time I went back down south a trip that should have taken me five hours took me seven. Ah well. Maybe they're trying to tell me something.
Oh yes! Durham being one of the centres of the Potter movie universe, it's a place that doesn't get forgotten...