50 Good Things about the North East -and one more


My friend @sbl76 challenged me to find 50 good things about the North East. I found 51 in 10 minutes. You can add a few more if you like.

  1. The Sage Gateshead
  2. The Baltic ArtGallery
  3. Grey Street
  4. Greggs
  5. Wor accent
  6. Jimmy Nail
  7. Sir Bobby
  8. Shearer
  9. Niall Quinn– okay, he’s technically Irish but he’s been adopted. Just ask the children’s wing at Sunderland Infirmary. Big Niall paid for most of it.
  10. Gazza
  11. Bryan Ferry
  12. Brian Johnson
  13. George Stephenson
  14. Jeremiah Dixon
  15. Bridges .
  16. Bamburgh
  17. Durham Cathedral
  18. Durham Castle
  19. Holy Island
  20. Zurburan – Bishop’s Palace
  21. Bowes Museum
  22. Temenos
  23. Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
  24. The Laing Gallery
  25. The Northern Echo
  26. Tyneside Metro
  27. Brown Ale
  28. South Shields seafront
  29. Tynemouth
  30. Sunderland Glass  Museum
  31. Bede’s World
  32. The Lindisfarne Gospels
  33. Sir Thomas Allen
  34. Mike Neville
  35. The Great North Run
  36. Marcus Bentley
  37. Cragside
  38. Rrrrrrrrrrrrothburrrrrrrrrrrrrry      rrrrrrrrroundabout
  39. Weardale
  40. Teeesdale
  41. The Blaydon Races
  42. Beswick
  43. The Laing Gallery
  44. The Angel of the North
  45. Durham Big Meeting
  46. The Pitmen Painters
  47. Auf Wiedersehen Pet
  48. The Likely Lads
  49. Richard Griffiths
  50. Alnwick Gardens
  51. John Wilson



This blog started as a throwaway 10 minute challenge but when I posted it on Twitter, my feed lit up. So many people wanting to share their love of the North East. In a week where the news has focused on the “it’s grim up north” coverage of Margaret Thatcher’s death, it was lovely to see so many people celebrating the beauty and achievements of the North East. There will be stuff missing. Feel free to add to it.

temenos middlesborough kapoor sculpture, art 1

Hadrian’s Wall – @rosamundi

The Farne Islands; Puffins; Northumberland skies; Beaches … And I love The Angel … One of my favourite things ever! – @belugajill

Neil Tennant – @jo_the_hat

The Lambton Worm. The Brick Train, Darlington – @cjhancock

Lauren Laverne, Farne Islands during puffin & seals mating seasons, stunning Northumberland beaches & extraordinary post industrial Durham coast – @nickysian

Alnmouth and Alnwick – @patrickhadfield

 Jesmond Dene, ham & pease pudding sandwiches – @sbl76

The Biscuit Factory – @pommieknight

Red Kites – @MrPeterWood

The Crown Posada, Housesteads – @HeadinBook

 “my grandad’s deep Northumbrian voice saying ‘cowp yer kreels’ with that lovely rolled rrrrrrr.” #dialect. Druridge Bay, Dunstanburgh Castle. Ellington Colliery. Ellington Colliery Band. The air.  –‏@cate_a_moore

Yarm, David Almond. “Oooh, also the words my friend Kath from Redcar says. Spoggies, gegs and gadgie. I love them” – @MsTick68

 The Waal (Byker), North Shields Fish Quay. The Red House, Forth, Strawberry and Trent. Flavoured crisps, the light bulb, the hydraulic crane, the windscreen wiper, the steam turbine, the Great Reform Act. The Longsands, St. Mary’s, The Derwent Valley, Chillingham. Beamish, Kilhope, Colmans in South Shields, Simonside, The Theatre Royal, Lit & Phil, The Endeavour “We should stop this, people might visit.”- @magicdarts

Mark Knopfler, Angel, Corbridge, followed by a walk along the river – @DBanksy

 Marsden Rock & grotto. P.J. & Duncan #BykerGrove – @AnneDunkley

The cafe at Milfield on the road from Wooler to Coldstream – @Richard Lucas

Sid Waddell and Jossy’s Giants. Crossing the Tyne on a train from the south. The Tyneside Cinema, Gina McKee, Viz – @Benjamin Bunny

Ridley Scott. Also Tony Scott. Bobby & Jackie Charlton, Jarrow Marchers, Grace Darling, Carlin Sunday. Seven Stories. Hexham Abbey. Chips at Seahouses. Best beaches in the country… – @PaolaOeste

Craster kippers and DunstanburghCastle – @keithy73

Northumberlandia – The Lady of the North – @patcat63

 A pint of Workie Ticket – @makapala

Minchella’s ice cream, Ant n Dec, NUFC, The People – @Mitchas23

 Parmos – @steelriverboy

The Wildhearts – ~DeeTeeUK

  The friction match, steam locomotion, electric light and the Sydney Harbour bridge. Peter Higgs (of Boson fame). Futureheads, Wildhearts, Lindisfarne, Kenickie, Young’uns, Vin Garbutt, Unthanks, Rowan Atkinson and Alexander Armstrong. Also CP Taylor, Alan Plater, Pat Barker, Vic and Bob, Robert Holman and Mo Mowlam. Tynemouth Priory, Pumfrey’s Coffee, Eston Hills, Northern Stage, Side Gallery, Live Theatre and Barter Books.- @danielbye

Centre for Life, Great North Run – @sandyfootwells

Saltburn by the Sea – walking along the cliffs looking down at the town – @RobinlaRoca

 Prefab Sprout, Ross Noble, Paul Rodgers, Sir William Armstrong, Bessie Braddock, Daniel Bye, Kevin Whateley, Roseberry Topping, Martin Stephenson & the Daintees, The Hoppings, Alan Price, coatless revellers, John Martin, John Miles, High Force, Low Force, The Northern Sinfonia, Lee Hall, Alan Price, The City Hall, The Evening Chronicle, The Sunday Sun, Eldon Square, The Stadium of Light, The Riverside, St James’ Park, Chinatown – @andromedababe




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Dryathlon Dry

It’s Drythlon January. I might have mentioned it once or twice – at work, at home, on Twitter. Might have done. Well I’m glad I did. I signed up to do it hoping to raise about 50 quid. And, in the style of all Blue Peter appeals, I hit the target easily and just kept putting it up and up. My current status is £700 raised, with a target of £750. That, if I may say so, is bloody magnificent.

Here’s the thing. How do you know I’m sticking to it? You don’t. You’re trusting me. And that, above all else, has kept me at it. Even on the days when I’d sell my own childen for a brandy, I haven’t had one. That trust is too precious to abuse.

Why am I doing it? Well, we all know cancer is a right bugger – sorry if I’m confusing you with medical terminology. Few of us escape its reach. Family, friends, our own good selves. We all get a taste at some point of the fear of cancer. And it is a word that carries fear. My friend the Wing Commander, an RAF nurse who’d seen it all, was my first encounter. She couldn’t say the word. Always, even now, years later, refers to it as “C.A.”

My own brush with cancer was the day a locum GP rang me with some test results. “You might have liver cancer,” he said breezily. “Don’t look on the internet. You’ll frighten yourself to death!” Too late. I spent the day, and the next few months dealing with the most hideous fear. As it turned out, I had something else (and my own GP was beyond angry that I’d been put through that.) It scarred me though. It took me about 18 months to recover from the fear of death. And I’d be lying if I said that experience hadn’t changed me (and not for the better.)

You’ve just thought “Bloody drama queen,” haven’t you? Don’t blame you BUT what I was feeling seems to be common. Because no matter how many optimistic statistics are quoted about survival rates, to a lot of us, the word “cancer” is still inextricably linked to pain and death.

I spent 2 years nursing someone special through terminal cancer. I was there when she died, in a wonderful hospice that managed her pain and passing with a compassion and dignity that’s bringing tears to my eyes even now as I’m typing. But she suffered. Lots of pain and lots of fear.

Anyway, back to Dryathlon. It’s brilliant. I know about 8 people who are also doing it, so that’s at least £2 thousand raised for Cancer Research UK, so that’s at least £2 thousand closer to getting rid of that fear and pain.

So, go us. And go you. All you lovely people who took it on trust that we’d do what we said we would. It’s nearly over. I’ll stop asking for money and drink the champagne looking at me from the fridge. Cancer Research can get on with all their brilliant work. Excellent. Job done.

> Thank you. Cheers.


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Perfect Roast Beef

First, tempt a boy cow into your garden. It has to be a boy. Girl cows taste milky.

It’s probably best to put on some false eyelashes and MOO softly.  Boy cows like that.

Feed it grass. Please note: if you only have a back yard, a punnet of cress makes a useful alternative. While it’s ruminating, crack it over the head with a big hammer. It’ll drop like a stone.

Now’s the best time to cut a big chunk from its arse. Apply Savlon Wound Wash and a big plaster.  When it comes to, point to a strategically placed vodka bottle and roll your eyes. (See Gromit for eye-rolling techniques) It’ll slink off thinking it had a good night.

Put the arse in the oven. Take it out when it’s cooked.

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Exit Andromedaville

“We are not drifting, not with one of us still left holding the line. And the wind that has moved you to set your sails lifting, blows cold on the one who got cut loose behind.” (Ralph McTell)

The song above is about a love affair ending, but it’s been going round my head all week. Without any warning, the second of my two children announced he was moving out and moving away. It hit me like a punch. I wasn’t prepared. The elder had quietly left a few weeks earlier but not far away and, while one was still there, it felt like they both were.

If I thought about it logically, they were barely ever there. The lives of middle-aged schoolteachers and two young men rarely move in the same timeframe. But other things were there – an overflowing washing basket, the smell of surreptitious fags, bacon fat. And that will go. My house is going to be clean and tidy and quiet. And I can’t bear it.

Nothing can prepare you for the birth of your children and, just as they have no idea of the disruption they bring when they arrive, equally, they have no idea of the pain they cause when they leave. Just as well. It wouldn’t do to worry them, or worse, make them feel obliged to stay. We’ve all met the lonely older people who stayed at home with their parents and have no life after the parent dies. I don’t want that for my kids but I’m not ready to part with them either.

So, I’m randomly crying: the Winnie-the-Pooh sign saying, “X’s Room” was enough to set me off today, the day before it was a favourite mug.

I find it hard to believe their childhood’s over. And harder still to accept that my role is on the sidelines of their lives now. I’ll get used to it…all parents must – but I’m not going to pretend I like it.

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You’ve All Done Very Well



 The school year is lurching to a close. There’ll be Sports Days to police (sometimes literally), Leavers’ Assemblies to sob through and reports to write. Thanks to successive government policies of EMPHASISING THE POSITIVE, teachers have become experts at euphemism. I thought I’d share a few of my favourite bits of report-speak to help you decode your child’s school report and possibly save yourself the fiver you were going to hand over.

  • Galileo is a sensitive child who is easily upset by change.      Galileo is a big soft lump
  • Beowulf demands a lot of adult attention.      Beowulf is naughty and disruptive and  needs a slapped leg.


  • Evadne sometimes finds it hard to remember to share.      Evadne is so spoiled she wouldn’t share spit.
  • Xavier doesn’t always consider other children’s feelings.      Xavier thumps other children.
  • Ariadne isn’t always caring towards other children.      See Xavier.
  • Ludovic needs to remember to listen.      Ludovic is the class gobshite.
  • Gretchen is a lively, chatty child.      Please God, just let Gretchen stop talking for 5 minutes.
  • Colin and Colinna have difficulty accepting established boundaries.      If ever 2 kids were destined for jail it’s Colin and Colinna.


  • Clarabelle is a quiet, polite little girl.      To be honest, I never have time to speak to Clarabelle, what with having Xavier in the class, but she seems nice enough.


  • Charlemagne has been a pleasure to teach.       Charlemagne’s parents have never complained about me and he’s tipped me the wink that I’m getting a decent thank-you present.

  There. Hope that helps.

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Happy Birthday Amro

My Twitter has gone berserk this morning with the mention of one name. He isn’t a politician or a bloke off of the telly. He’s a quiet, unassuming academic – a physicist. His name is Amro. Why is my feed full of his name? Simply this – it’s Amro’s birthday, and people are falling over themselves to say nice things to, and about, him.

Why? He isn’t famous, or notorious. What he is is kind. It’s a quality in very short supply in social media, notorious for its trolling, snap judgements and witch hunts. Pass an innocuous comment and you’re likely to be at the centre of a lynch mob.

But not with Amro. He has all the qualities you hope for in a friend. Amro is endlessly kind and patient, tolerant and sympathetic. He has the most perfect manners which I suspect come from his horror of hurting people’s feelings. Most social media users have a “type” of follower – fashonistas/politicians/actors. Amro transcends that. Universally-loved photographer, catlover, maker(and giver) of the finest marmalades, musical expert, gentleman and scholar.

I’m proud to be @iamamro’s friend. I hope he has the happiest of birthdays and, in his darker moments, remembers how well loved he is, even among strangers.

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Bronowski. Auschwitz.

These words aren’t mine but I love them. I think of them when people say, “All Muslims are…/all gypsies are…etc.”

“It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.” Bronowski, Jacob. Auschwitz. 1973

I don’t need to add further comment. It’s perfect as it stands.

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Stop Matronising Me

If you tweet, you may have come across the fabulous @_millymoo. She’s a barrister and a clever ‘un too. She introduced me to a new word (coined by @ozgirlnc). MATRONISING – women telling other women that they’re not doing it right; looking down on the beautified.

I’ve got a good degree and a good job and a spray tan and acrylic nails and very high-maintenance hair. My friend runs a car dealership and has breast implants. My Twitter friend has botox and a beauty salon – her hobby’s neuroscience.

I don’t like men who sneer at women for the way they look. Equally, I take it badly when I hear women sneering at other women because they like a nice product.

Twice recently, I’ve been told I can’t be a feminist because I have a Brazilian. I can be whatever I want. Don’t matronise me.

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Simply Irresistible

Things I will never be able to resist.

  • Waving back to a puppet
  • Nuzzling a baby’s neck
  • Singing both parts of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – loudly, badly.
  • A fingerful of peanut butter
  • Stroking fur
  • Chocolate ginger
  • Popping bubble wrap
  • Sniffing flowers over garden walls
  • Red shoes
  • Paddling
  • Biting the end off an ice-cream cone
  • Walking on a wall
  • Glitter
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X Marks the Spot

 Guest post – another lovely story from @PrincessofVP 🙂

The Princess was sitting in the window seat of the tallest tower in her palace. This was her favourite seat as she could see the Dryad’s forest and, if she craned her neck, catch sight of the sea with the white sea-horses cresting the waves as they galloped to shore to hear the Mermaid sing.

It was all quiet in the palace. The Snow Bear and the Lemur had gone to see Mrs Bizzle for a cookery lesson and the Princess was enjoying the peace and a chance to read.

Jeremy the Beagle humphed and sighed. He didn’t like reading. It was too quiet and still and meant he didn’t get to play. He humphed again, inching closer to the door. Cocking one eye at the Princess, he saw she hadn’t noticed so he humphed again then, quick as a flash, squeezed through the door and ran down and down the spiral staircase, scampering through the kitchen, and then leapt through the open window.

“Woof!” he announced to the world. Then, nose to the ground and tail wagging, he set off to find adventure.


Lexie Doodle was curled up in her basket. She had been banished to her bed while Dr Bear did important work in her surgery. She thought about scratching at the door and whining but last time she did that she’d been told she was a Bad Dog. Lexie shivered; she didn’t like being a Bad Dog.


Her ears pricked up. That was her friend Jeremy’s bark. Rushing to the window, she put her paws on the worktop and looked out. Jeremy was in the garden, wagging his tail. “Woof?”

Lexie thought. She knew she was supposed to stay in bed. But she also knew if she batted her paw against the door handle and pushed quickly it would open. And Dr Bear said she wasn’t to be disturbed so if she went outside she definitely wouldn’t disturb anyone.

With a quick swipe of her paw, she opened the door and bounded outside.

“Woof!” said Jeremy approvingly

Through an exchange of barks and licks the dogs established adventure was needed and they set off, tails wagging, to explore the great wide world.


At Mrs Bizzle’s cooking lesson, the Lemur had sticky paws and a slightly bruised tail as Mr Bizzle had trodden on it. This wasn’t really Mr Bizzle’s fault as he was a little absent-minded and so very tall it was such a long way from his head to the ground he sometimes didn’t see small furry creatures until it was too late. He’d been very kind about it though and given both the Lemur and the Snow Bear a lollipop. Mrs Bizzle had also wrapped a bandage around it so know it was more bandage than tail!



He looked out of the window as he washed his paws then did a small peep of excitement. In the distance he could see Lexie Doodle and Jeremy the Beagle’s tail as they tracked through the fields. Sidling over, he nudged the Snow Bear, “Psst, Snow Bear, look!”

The Snow Bear was practising her icing and the nudge made her do a big squiggle. “What?” She looked up to where he was pointing. “Ooh, where do you think they’re going?”


The dogs didn’t know where they were going but by following their noises and all manner of interesting scents they found themselves on the cliffs by the sea.

Jeremy liked the sea. Sniffing around, he started barking excitedly as there, set into the rock, was a rickety old staircase. “Woof, woof, woof.”

Lexie hung back for a moment. She’d never be so far from home without Dr Bear. But the lure of the unknown, plus the chance to paddle her paws in the sea, was irresistible and she quickly followed Jeremy.

The stairs were old and, at the bottom, wet and damaged from sea-water. But they led to the most beautiful cove, seemingly untouched by visitors ever. Jeremy bounded over the rocks and splashed into the sea. Lexie padded across the sand, exploring, then stopped. What was this? A piece of paper? Well littering on beaches was wrong, The Mermaid had taught her that. Picking it up between her teeth she turned to go and bury it at the top of the beach but then a piteous whine from Jeremy made her drop onto her belly.

“What have we here then? A spy?”

Peeking up, Lexie could see the scariest man she’d ever seen. Dressed all in black, with long straggly hair, gold teeth, and a cutlass stuck through his belt. Lexie had only heard about pirates in stories but she knew enough to recognise one. Worse, he was holding Jeremy by the scruff of the neck.

“Well, we all know what we do with spies. It’s back to the ship with you, my lad.”

“Awww, leave him be, Cap’n. Tis well known that it’s bad luck to have a dog on board.”

Lexie sneaked another a look. The Jaffne had also climbed over the rocks and was facing the captain, hands on hips.

“Be it now? That’s a rumour I never did hear. Ah well, ” The Captain set Jeremy down and knotted a scarf round his neck., “if we can’t find out who he’s with we can always eat him. Plenty of meat on a beagle.”

Jeremy whined again and pawed the sand. He didn’t want to go on a pirate ship but to be eaten on one would be even worse. The Captain shook him roughly. “Quiet, you mangy cur! And tell us what your owner has done with the treasure map. OUR treasure map.”

Map? Lexie dropped the piece of paper she had picked up and looked at it. There were wavy lines, and a ship, and… Was it? Yes, it was. A tiny X if you looked carefully. And everyone knows that X marks the spot.


Taking the map back up between her teeth she bounded forward, her fur bristling. She stopped out of arm’s reach of the Captain and dropped the map, deliberately putting one paw on it. “WOOF.”

“What be this now? Another one of ye curs, is it?” The Captain reached out but Lexie flattened her ears and growled. She knew biting people was wrong but surely the Captain was a Bad Man.

The Jaffne burst out laughing. “Outdone by the dogs, Cap’n.”

“Shut it you and take this one.” The Captain thrust Jeremy the Beagle out of the way and stepped closer to Lexie. “Now give me that map, you.”

Lexie bared her teeth and growled louder.

The Jaffne caught Jeremy’s by the makeshift collar and gave him a broad wink. “Cap’n, I be thinking that if we let this fella go, his friend might back away from yon map. Isn’t that right?”

Lexie pawed the sand and yipped. Treasure was fun but not nearly as important as friends.

“Bah!” The Captain threw his hands up in despair and backed away. “Dogs, stupid dogs. Give me a cat every day. Let the beast go then but if I don’t get my map…” He leered horribly as he drew his finger across his throat.

The Jaffne knelt by Jeremy and whispered in his ear. “Ye run to your friend then up them steps as fast as you can. All will be well, promise ye.”

Jeremy gave one quick yip in response and then bounded away. Lexie saw him go and, in one final act of defience, pawed sand at the Captain before bounding away up the rickety steps.

The sound of the Captain’s curses and the Jaffne’s hoots of laughter followed them up to the to top of cliff. Collapsing at the top, trembling in fear and relieft, they looked out to sea. There, on the horzon, was the pirate ship that in their excitement they hadn’t seen before. The wind blew stronger and rippled out the flag.


By mutual agreement, they both turned and ran.


Skittering back into the village, they quickly rubbed noses.Lexie then skidded in through the open door and settled down into her bed.

Jeremy raced on and on, back through the open window, across the kitchen, then up and up the spiral staircase to flop by the Princess on the window seat.

The Princess woke with a start and a yawn. “Oh Jeremy, I fell asleep. You good dog for staying there and looking after me.”

Jeremy thumped his tail sleepily.

“And look, I can see Snow Bear and the Lemur coming home. Let’s see what cake we have for tea.”

Jeremy thumped his tail again. “Woof!” After adventures, there was nothing better than cake.












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