Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Angel of the North

I scooted down the quayside to see the Millennium Bridge raising at 9.30am, but it started ahead of time so I caught it mid-rotation, a handful of boats passing under in the slow winking of the eye.
Immediately east of downtown Newcastle is Ouseburn, where I visited Seven Stories centre for children's literature, the Art Works Galleries, and The Biscuit Factory, Europe's largest centre for commercial art. Bondi had spent most of this time in the car, so I took him off to nearby Heaton, to Belle & Herbs. It's one of those cafes with a mishmash of plush settees, gigantic menus with every type of eggy dish (the guacamole-coated California Benedict was great) - a great place to linger as today became colder and wetter. Sadly British cafes and restaurants don't seem to have any smoking restrictions, so it only took one cigarette a few feet away to kill my appetite and send me for the door.

Our final stop for the day was the Angel of the North, the UK's largest (angel) sculpture, on a hill looking to the south. Having a wingspan comparable to a jumbo-jet doesn't save it from rusting silently over South Tyneside, or protect it from idlers scratching their initials in its base.

Settling back into the hotel room, with the remnants of my MSG headache and the seeds of a northern cold, we tried to get the TV/internet console working. The "Power TV" kept crashing whenever we were on the verge of opening a web-page, but there was the promise of a direct connection by taking the TV's network cable and attaching it to my laptop. We were prompted for £12 for a day's connection, an order of magnitude less excruciating than the £8 required for a wireless connection (hotel foyer only). Considering our room's rack rate was 5 times that of the hotel across town where I had stayed before (with free wireless), this one should be providing a free typist to take dictation of my blog entry.
Chris switched to the multi-channel music service, which began with Queen's "We Are the Champions" played at half-speed, followed by the world's longest single "Bohemian Rhapsody", now far from rhapsodic as it played out at a Wagnerian timescale. Every channel the same, like a dreadful school band lumbering through their repertoire: the opening riff of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue drawn out so long I thought the clarinetist was going to run out of breath before the top of the scale.

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