When I returned to work after maternity leave nine months ago, weekends were declared sacrosanct. Two days out of seven were ring fenced for doing lovely, fun, wholesome, hearty family – oriented activities. Sadly, this idealistic aspiration soon started to fray around the edges and I realised to my dismay, that Saturday and Sunday’s sacred status was becoming untenable. It turns out that when you work full time and declare weekends a fun only zone, your house quickly becomes a hovel. So, last Saturday, we thought we would dedicate a morning to, to adopt a particularly mumsy turn of phrase, “getting on top of things”. We thought, for example, we would pack away the clothes our son had grown out of. This turned into a complex and protracted procedure which involved familiarising oneself with the annoyingly diverse sizing nuances of different baby clothing brands and then hunting out the tag on each tiny item before assigning it to the correct “vac bag”. We decided we would tidy up the toy room. It turned out that this involved picking tiny bits of dried out playdoh from the matted, pastel pelts of forty five cuddly animals. We thought we would de-clutter the kitchen surfaces. This turned into a meltdown on my part when I couldn’t find anywhere to put a dish especially for camembert, a cast iron teapot and a meat thermometre. It was almost three o’clock before my husband suggested that we go out and do something nice. But all this domestic drudgery had a negative impact on my mood and his chirpy suggestions were systematically rebuffed. The beach? “Too blustery”, I replied. The park? “Too screechy”. The farm? “Too smelly, too far away and anyway I haven’t got the right shoes on”.
A couple of dozen of suggestions later, and we found ourselves on the Quayside, on the basis that it was nearby and didn’t require specialist footwear. And, after a few minutes, much to my husband’s relief, my mood began to lift again.
If you type “Newcastle Quayside” into Google Images, the pictures which come up are mostly all dark and moody, the greyish navy of the river shining under the glitzy lights of the many riverside party venues. Such a gallery might suggest to someone unfamiliar with Newcastle that this is a part of town best visited only after dark, but of course, that isn’t the case. The quayside is a great daytime location for families, and as well as the obvious points of toddler interest (seagulls, boats, people on bikes) there were some unexpected attractions too. Fishermen, buskers and teenage boys sculpting their physiques on the newly installed gym equipment in front of the law courts all proved fascinating sights for our little boy. From the Baltic we walked across the Millennium Bridge and then east towards Ouseburn, with a pitstop at the Cycle Hub cafe. This venue aims to provide local bike lovers with a caffeine and sugar kick as well as local cycling information. You can cycle right into the cafe, and then enjoy the great views of the quayside from their tiered deck. Thankfully, we pedestrians were made just as welcome as the lycra clad customers, but I imagine that their mocha would taste even better knowing that you have earned such a calorific credit by being almost at the end of the C2C.
From there we continued up into Ouseburn, which has already been blogged about here. It’s worth mentioning though, that the walk from the Baltic to Seven Stories is bookended by two of my favourite shops in the region. The Baltic shop always provides a quirky range of gorgeously weird books, home ware and kids’ stuff. Some of my favourite recent purchases have included a set of matryoshka dolls which double up as measuring cups, and a very cool set of ‘pairs’ cards which has extended my son’s much lauded animal noise repertoire tenfold, but I also covet one of their collapsing Angel of the North toys and beautiful Miho deers. Across the river in Ouseburn, Seven Stories houses one of the best independent bookshops in the North East. The fact that it sells only children’s literature soon becomes an irrelevance given the scale and scope of their collection and it is easy to lose yourself for an hour or so amongst its colourful shelves.
People watching, coffee and cake, a walk and a bookshop: what the quayside provided in a few hours that afternoon was just what I needed to help me snap out of my clutter induced fog. It was enough to transform what was threatening to be a very dull weekend indeed into a sort of special one. And maybe “sort of special” (as opposed to “sacrosanct”) is how weekends should be.