Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Linguistic variant, Eggplant, Adam Ant

I drove from Llangollen to Newcastle via Penrith, Barnard Castle and Hexham. This is not the most direct route but it proved to be an excellent one for my American travelling companion who is a huge fan of Withnail & I, waterfalls and old stuff. Getting parked in Penrith initially proved problematic as everywhere had signs up saying "Disc parking only". Since I didn't have a disc, I couldn't park. I circled the small (gridlocked) town for a good fifteen minutes before finally losing my rag and parking up opposite an electricians, in a "Disc-only" space. Leaving the septic to her own devices, I boldly strode into said sparky's and before I could finish the sentence "Excuse me, but I'm trying to find out information about disc parki..." I was handed a disc out of a cardboard box coupled with a verbal explanation of how to use it. At the end fo the exchange I asked if they would like me to bring the disc back in when I left. What the man said to me in his thickest of Cumbrian dialects I managed to translate into "Yes, if you are considerate enough to remember then it would be much appreciated if you returned the disc to our goodly shop". What he actually said was

"Aye, if ya think on, aye"

I walked out of the shop grinning from ear to ear and reciting "Here, hare here" repeatedly - one of my favourite lines from the Richard E. Grant / Paul McGann cinematic classic and then bought fish and chips from a chippy tagged with "National junior fryer award, 2010" and ate it contentedly in the car knowing it had almost certainly been fried by a very talented pre-teen. We look down our noses at the child labour and sweat shops of Asia yet triumph in putting our own youth to work in the unhealthiest of environments and for that, Great Britain, I salute you.

Next stop: Barnard Castle via a tank depot on the A66 and some gorgeous scenery. It's a really lovely place peopled by some of the most inbred-looking folk I have ever seen in my life. The American visibly winced when one pair of local unfortunates crossed the road in front of us. I'd never seen anything like it either but didn't want to let on that I was also terrified. The castle itself is fantastic and is one of a string of them in the area built to hold back the Scottish hordes.

Barnard Castle - it is a long way in the background. I am not actually a giant. I like the fact we built a park bench so the Picts had somewhere to sit.
We then threw caution to the wind and followed signs for Teesside High Force, a waterfall I admit I had never heard of. To find out what happened there, you'll have to go here, but suffice to say it was ace. Then a breathtaking ride over the North Pennines to Hexham via Alston (Look! There are sheep! In the goddam road!) took us onward to Newcastle and the offices of The Hyena Comedy Club to pick up the keys for their excellent flat. Pete Cain (Also on the bill) showed up at the same time and I gave him a lift up there, procuring my favourite back room (it's en suite in so much as the en suite doesn't really work very well but it's good for late-night toilet emergencies). Anthony King (Old friend of mine and the other guy on the bill) showed up later. The gig went fine despite there being a large number of stag dos in (it's always the way) and we had a few drinks after but nothing ridiculous. A relatively early night followed. Saturday came and I went to my favourite Chinese all-day buffet in The North East, not just because it's incredibly cheap (All you can eat for £6.50) but also because it's called

Ho Buffet! A Chines restaurant and NOT the smorgasbord of prostitutes I was hoping for
HO BUFFET! It turned out all the young lad on the table next to me could eat was prawn crackers and an orange. The American faired little better. I had hot & sour soup, prawn chop suey, chicken chow mein, beef in black bean sauce, egg fried rice, chinese chicken curry, stir-fried vegetables, oriental ribs, sweet & sour pork and pretty much anything else I could get in my mouth, all washed down with a copious amount of Chinese tea.

Perusing the menu of the Ho Buffet. Hmm... I'll have two Thais and a Chinese, please...
I only tell you all this because I don't normally eat particularly well when I'm in Newcastle as the required arrival at the gig prevents an evening meal and I normally end up having a pizza afterwards. We had a little look round the town and got home to see the first half of the Champions League final with Pete and a seemingly ever-increasing number of his Geordie mates, before heading down to the gig for what we suspected would be a far nicer night. It was full of women. That made it worse as it turned out and they were mostly rather annoying. Afterwards in the bar underneath our attention was drawn to two very tall women groping each other and giggling. Obviously I approached them to say that they had made my friends and I very happy (They were lined up on a couch laughing uproariously). The brunette of the two explained "Aye!" (here we go again) "...and we're twin sistas as well, like!". Of course they were. Newcastle is famous for several things, the intense cold not being bottom of the list, but the propensity of the local girls to a. wear very little and b. shamelessly exhibit is unmatched throughout the world.

On Sunday we met up in Wallsend with my mate Graeme and his wife Barbara for lunch. Graeme has an interesting enterprise delivering vegetable boxes to the chattering classes of Gosforth. Each box is accompanied by an A4 sheet depicting the herb/fruit of the week with a piece of creative writing to accompany it. Graeme has always been something of a poet and some of the write ups are brilliant (And very funny). Here's a sample box:

Look I'm not showing off but I got a butternut squash in my one as well...
The company, "Harvest 2 Home" only source from a reputable local market and deliver on Saturdays. That is the end of my advert for him. Anyway, we went up to Tynemouth for a roast dinner and an opportunity to see some more old stuff

Tynemouth Priory. Old stuff, officially

...And to hopefully track down a bit of Hadrian's Wall to complete the American's three-day review of our Northern and Western defences. We did but only on the way back to Wallsend (The clue is indeed in the name)

The last bit of Hadrians Wall. Also pictured - Hadrian's railings and some of Hadrian's temporary fencing.
We then went to look at The Angel Of The North, but it's back here for that one, returned to the flat and got ready to go and see possibly my ultimate hero, Adam Ant, at the o2 Academy. The American had now gone fully native and changed into very little so as to fit in. We bumped into John Scott (Excellent Scottish comedian - obviously the defences were down when he sallied South) and his girlfriend outside the gig, had a quick drink and joined the queue. John was very excited about an act called Jesse Rae being the support act. I was underwhelmed, despite his preposterous attire

Jesse Rae and his two comedy backing singers who Scottish danced and giggled their way through the entire thing. He kept his helmet on throughout.
He was followed by an unexpected (and terrible) second support act that I couldn't bring myself to photograph (they were so bad) so here's a photo of the stage just after they walked off

The second support band were so rubbish they made me properly angry

This all made me suspect The Ant was only going to do a shorter set. I needn't have worried. The backing band "The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse" arrived first and broke into the throbbing, pulsating intro of one of his oldest songs, "Plastic Surgery". The rest is a delicious two hours plus blur of mainly "early stuff" greatness, a real "Set for the fans" and a couple of lengthy encores that left a capacity crowd very happy indeed. My own highlight was "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" that I thought showed up very early in the set, really, particularly as it somehow sounded a little "bigger" than the rest of the gig. A fat girl with too much hair kept barging into me for no apparent reason. Eventually The American grabbed hold of her and said "F*** off, you obese cow". Stunned, she relented and we moved over to the bar a little later anyway.

Adam Ant - still looking - and sounding - incredible. If you don't believe me, bear in mind he is in his mid-50s. Do YOU know anybody approaching 60 years old who looks this good? I don't.

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