Saturday, 30 May 2009

Farewell to the north

D and I finally embarked on the farewell tour last Friday and had a great week in the beautiful north. We stayed in a few grotty establishments on our trip as, of course, we are now a lord and lady of leisure and our budget didn't stretch to anything more than 3* (and plenty weren't 1* but never mind)- a few though were very good and great value for money.

The purpose of the trip was three fold really: to say goodbye to a few friends, to visit places that D had never been to (and I in the case of Glasgow and Barrow) and to avoid going stir crazy in our slowly depleting home in Brum.

We realised once we were on the M6 that we'd left the map- so with only a few poor AA directions for some of the places and certainly no SATNAV (pah!... not for real car drivers) we carried on regardless.

Preston started off pretty dismally as Jez was unable to meet up as he had double booked us with a wedding in Malta! Still, we enjoyed visiting his hostelry on the River Ribble and what a fine job he has made of this former popular family pub- The New Continental- (drop by if you're around this great little town-sadly the wrong side of the Pennines...) We arrived at 12 noon and already people were flocking in for the food and real ales on a Friday afternoon.

On to Blackpool, which seems to fade further into oblivion (if not the sea sadly- only joking) every time I visit. Sadly the weather was garbage, everything was closed including the tower and pleasure beach and the people there looked as though they were doing community service rather than bein on t'olidays. The seafront hotel was nasty too- with pissed up lads arriving at all hours of the morning- disturbing my beauty sleep!

On to the proper north west and the lake district. A nice day in Windermere and then onto Matt and Rosie's in Barrow-in-Furness. We had a great time- highlights being the first pizza in a long time (thanks to weight watchers) and listening to Matt and Rosie's new album- April Maybe May- buy it now! (On itunes soon I think...?)

The long drive to Glasgow wasn't quite as long as I imagined and we made good time in 2.5 hours. A few arguments along the way and we eventually found Rutherglen and the Kings Park hotel (which was the best hotel in value for money terms I've ever stayed at, despite the long drive into the city centre). On the way we spotted celebrating Rangers fans outside the funny little low-level shop style pubs that are scattered around Glasgow and despite never being able to tune into 5Live in the Bora, we realised there had been a major upset in the SPL on the final sunday of the Scottish season.

As we arrived we saw some low-level sectarian shite and I suppose not much different to the Sheffield rivalry really (except you realise how many generations of hatred really exists even in this PC world we now live in) as ridiculously drunken 'Gers fans taunted the Bhoys going out of the city on coaches.

My own personal feeling is that both are great clubs and even though I should favour Rangers, being English and christened in the Church of England, the leftie in me has always despised the boorish, bigoted nature of the Protestant Rangers fans and have always favoured Celtic- plus they have a cool kit!

We just managed to detour around the celebrations at Ibrox and made our way into the city centre- through the Gorbals area- realising that football in Glasgow certainly isn't geographical as this famously Celtic/Irish area did have a few hooped fans drowning their sorrows in one pub but had a few rowdy Rangers supporters literally down the road! This could never happen in Sheffield so blatantly...thankfully. (two Catholic Celtic fans were killed in Glasgow on this Sunday night and one I think in Belfast, although the local police were trying to play down the incidents as non-football/sectarian based, it seemed too much of a tragic coincidence)

Once in the city centre yet more drunken fools living up to the ginger simpleton image and YES, even families of Rangers fans stumbling around with Union flags and taunting anyone they thought could be Celtic! Very bizarre. We nipped into see Carl, but unfortunately he was poorly but it was good to see him again and then back out into the strange Sunday bank holiday public of Glasgow.

I must say, despite the football issues and the bank holiday, Glasgow, although pretty enough with its Georgian buildings and grand city centre, is a miserable and uninviting place. Far too scabby around the edges- that's if you can negotiate the suburbs with no road signs and a outdated 19th century street system- social deprivation aplenty and a bleakness that comes with the harsh climate and the lack of prospects that rivals even Sheffield. Yes there are leafy affluent parts (just like Sheffield) but on the whole I wasn't a fan in my brief time here...sorry.

'On top of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, May 2009'

Edinburgh on the other hand was just as beautiful as I remembered and is possibly the most striking city in the whole of Britain! I've never been to Belfast though I must admit but I doubt it's a patch on here. A great bank holiday monday and then back to Glasgow- again getting lost in the suburbs but managing to venture through the famous Govan district, which unlike the Gorbals (which was just a landscape of grim council flats, demloished piles of concrete and attrociously potholed new dual carriage ways), has managed to retain some of its original features.

At least I can now say I've been and survived some of the so-called scariest parts of Britain crime wise from all the major cities in Britain and plenty around the world (seriously never as bad as the media makes out) with these two areas of Glasgow.

We were off on the Tuesday and back east the 40 miles to Edinburgh (looks less on the map!) so we could begin at the top of the A1 and make our way down this delightful stretch of coastline to Northumberland and finally Tyneside.

Now, without trying to upset the people of Geordieland and their beloved city- I've never been a fan of this part of the world- purely because, tucked away away from everyone and with big chips on their shoulders, the Geordies often come across as quite arrogant tossers. It was strange to be there after Newcastle had been relegated as there wasn't the same amount of the 'Why aye man' swagger that I'd noticed before.
We were staying in South Shields in a room above a pub- which was a first for me! I personally felt like we were proper travelling musicians or summat- rather than lazy swines on a pretend farewell tour! This is distinctly a Sunderland area (North Shields across the mouth of the Tyne being more Newcastle) so the people were a little more buoyant and their accents a little more sing songy and less harsh to a cunning linguist like me! I've always favoured the Mackems anyhow- a little like Kiwis are as opposed to the Aussie-like Geordies!

We caught the excellent Metro system into Newcastle, as despite my preference to all things red and white (only in the north east) I wasn't about to put D through a day out in Sunderland- which probably makes Barnsley look like Venice!

I must say I was more impressed with Newcastle this day than any other time I've ever been- possibly because this was the first time I wasn't accompanied by an irritating Geordie telling me how great it is. The Quayside area is fantastic with the three new attractions (funded by Gateshead not Newcastle of course) of the footbridge, Sage and (free, yes, free...) Baltic arts space.

'Newcastle Quayside, May 2009'

It made me sad that Sheffield can't get its act together and 'do its self up' even more with its close proximity to possibly the best countryside in the UK in the Peak district (and I should know after travelling through all the other northern national parks this last week and still thinking Derbyshire is best) and the natural rolling seven hills of Sheffield offering a natural landscape and village feel that could easily be utilised in the same way that Newcastle's Tyne and bridges are.

Still, if it makes Sheffield 'up its own arse' in the way Newcastle and places like Leeds are with their often desperate 'we're just as important as that London tha' knows man' are then I'd prefer us to stay 'undiscovered' boring and humble like big brother Brum is too.

We were up again early on Wednesday, and despite the pub downstairs being empty(??) we let ourselves out, without a cooked breakfast (probably a good thing considering it would've been my fourth that week and I was supposed to be still 'weight watching') and the short distance to Whitby (full of Geordies and Smoggies (Middlesbrough) very briefly and into the much improved Scarborough and back in Yorkshire. At this early part of the season it felt like Scarborough of yesteryear that I remember. I went every summer to nearby Cayton Bay as a lad and despite the traumatising effect of seeing Marvels theme park, the outdoor water park and open air theatre in ruins (some of my happiest memories ever spent in these places and another reason why I'm glad we're leaving this dismal country) the place seems to have moved up a notch back towards the UKs premier seaside town.

In the evening we were staying in York as I had the exam marking meeting the next day. Eventually we found our completely overpriced hotel 'Saxon House' through D's idea of buying a tourist's street map from one of those machines (ingenious as well as beautiful- I am lucky!)
D spent Thursday shopping as only she knows how and I spent the best day of the trip locked away in a tudor college debating the quality of answers of George and Lennie's dream with a bloke I hoped I'd never have to see again! Ooh it's a hard life...

Three hours through the rush hour traffic from York to Brum was great going and a few days rest before we embark on the west country part of the tour.

Well 912 miles later and we're still going. The longest farewell tour since The Stones some have said... James even offering to drive us to the airport early if we'd just leave... Well you don't get rid of us that early!

Either the scales are playing up or I've found the best diet ever as it seems I've lost weight on returning- maybe northern air, fry-ups and much walking is the way forward for the new weight loss plan...

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Farewell Tour Continues... Bangkok Booths or Bust...

Following the highly successful northern dates on Bangkok Booths farewell tour, Lethargy and Idleitis tours is pleased to announce the southern and west country dates:

Wednesday June 3rd-Sun June 7th- Cornwall

Monday June 8th- Bristol/Cardiff

Saturday 4th/Sunday 5th July- Hayes/London

Monday 6th-Sunday 12th July- London/Rochester (Possible secret gig in France)

Book now to guarantee disappointment...

Monday, 11 May 2009

Bangkok Booths or Bust- The Farewell Tour!

Lethargy and idleitis concerts are pleased to announce the farewell tour of J and D- 'Bangkok Booths or Bust...'

The Beautiful North and our cholesterol cousins north of the border section!

Fri 22nd- Preston

Sat 23rd- Lake District

Sun 24th/Mon 25th- Scotland/Glasgow/Edinburgh and wherever we may get to before the roads get too narrow...

Tues 26th- Northumberland/Newcastle

Weds 27th- York

Thurs 28th- Sheffield (the homecoming)

Complimentary tickets available for all those anywhere in the region of above events- venues TBC