Monthly Archives: August 2007

Angel of t’North

So finally after 2 1/2 years living in Gateshead I have finally got up close and personal with our famous Angel.

I had been umming and ahhing about going for a bike ride this morning, after all I did my weekend stint yesterday.  I have a good route mapped out for me now that, whilst only taking an hour ensures that by the time I get back home my heart rate is around 170bpm.  Normally I climb out Bensham and up to Durham road – a fair climb for me and then cycle out to Low Fell (the posh bit).  As I hit Low Fell there is a nice fast descent down behind Saltwell Park and onto what is effectively the end of Saltwell Road.  From here I cycle out to Sainsbury’s and then mooch around the Team Valley trading estate (oh so quiet on a Sunday) cycling around, looking at the businesses and riding down the very short nature trail along the side of the river/stream thing.  Then it’s a fairly steep climb out of Team Valley and back to Bensham after which I’m normally incapable of anything more than breathing heavily.

This morning, the weather was lovely again and I started my route as per usual and headed into Low Fell.  As I got into Low Fell (which I don’t cycle past on account of the fact that it involves a lot of road cycling, something which I’m still trying to gain confidence at) I was mindful that Phil had told me that the Angel of the North was within cycling distance.  Knowing full well that Phil cycles a lot further than me on weekends I was dubious, but headed out that way anyway.  I have to get used to the roads sometime!

Anyway as I headed out of Low Fell I caught sight of the Angel and it really did look like it was within cycling distance, and a few undulating rises (they really weren’t hills, but it was a bit more interesting than cycling around Team Valley) I got to the base.  A number of people had parked up and were admiring the sculpture, and when you get up close you can see why.  It really is an impressive beast, and a lovely colour against the cloudless blue sky this morning.  And it is *HUGE*.   I always knew it was big, but really, I didn’t imagine it was that big.  I walked around – admiring from all angles, hopped back on the bike, cycled back into Low Fell, dropped down behind the Park, then cycled up through it (which I hadn’t done before) and home.  A much needed change from my normal route and I feel like  I actually achieved something on the ride today other than going out for fitness sake.  I can’t wait until I’m a little bit more fit and can face heading out into the more westerly districts.  I’m also definitely taken now with finding a quick route to the Tyne so that I can see how far I can get each way – I think this will be the impetus to extend my rides a little further.

Now I see why people get into cycling!

Too good to pass up

So Roy Keane thinks that the WAGs are the reason that Sunderland can’t attract the players it wants.

As a Sunderland resident pointed out to me today, it’s a city that still looks up to Newcastle as being ‘classy’.  Anyone who has witnessed the Bigg Market on a weekend will be able to attest to the truth (or otherwise) of this statement.

A lovely quote from the article : ““We’ve got a nice VIP area upstairs and we’ve had Niall Quinn in here, along with a few footballers.””

It strikes me as faintly amusing that attracting footballers of any calibre grants a venue any kind of cachet at all..

Perseid fun

Well according to the Times:

An astonishing natural firework display left thousands throughout southern and Mediterranean Europe enthralled last night, but sky-watchers in Britain were largely frustrated on a cloud-covered evening.

Not so here! Despite my obvious interest in astronomy (even though I own neither telescope nor binoculars) I’ve seen more comets (several) than I’ve seen meteors in meteor showers (none).  That was remedied last night however during the Perseids.  After afternoon showers the sky cleared and stayed clear well into the night over Gateshead and even with the sodium glow of streetlights the meteors were zipping across the sky from 10.30pm onwards.  Warmed with a coat (and hipflask of whisky obviously) I finally broke my meteor cherry.  I guess the new moon, and having carefully worked out where they would be appearing in the sky helped a lot, and I was rewarded with streaks, flashes and a particularly memorable and long lived meteor during the 40 minutes or so I stayed outside.   Shame it wasn’t a Saturday night I would have laid on the grass all night and watched them.  It’s a great show, I can’t believe I’ve missed it so many times.  I think I will be out more in the future on those clear, dark nights when Swift-Tuttle and the like strew their debris into our path.

Beryl Cook at the BALTIC

So I got round to seeing the oft-maligned Beryl Cook exhibition at the BALTIC on Sunday.  A lot of the controversy has surrounded this in the local and national press as the exhibition of populist, commercial art at a venue like the BALTIC is deemed inappropriate.

Cook isn’t really my cup of tea I admit.   There’s no doubting that there’s something engaging about the work and I admit that it was a reasonable enough diversion.  Interestingly it’s the busiest I have ever seen the Baltic – especially on a Sunday afternoon, which I think says something about both Cook and the BALTIC.

So what, there was something popular on in an art gallery.  I like my contemporary art as much as the next man, but I didn’t feel mortally offended by the inclusion of Cook.  The exhibition was well lit, had a good number of paintings, some of which I recognised.  A couple of things struck me though.   Cook is often listed as painting ‘fat people’ a label which even makes it into her (desperately needing edits) Wikipedia article.   After seeing this exhibition, I don’t think she paints fat people at all, I think she just paints people, who in her rather cartoonish style, appear to be overweight.  It’s like suggesting the Simpsons is about ‘yellow people’ really.  The other thing that struck me was she’s really rather adept at catching facial expressions, but not consistently.   The pictures I found most interesting were the ones with the most intriguing expressions, and I feel that the lack of this in some of her works makes it easy to dismiss her as some pictures really do lack (to me) a certain depth.

Did a quick tour of some of the rest of the BALTIC, mainly to revisit the completely awesome Freakshow exhibit.  My two favourite items from that show are on this page.  The jaw line of that cat skeleton is 6 feet off the ground, it’s an excellent and imposing piece and I will miss it when it’s gone.

All change at the BALTIC in September, I can’t wait.  It’s still my favourite place to be in NewcastleGateshead.

Charlie Brooker on “The Enemies of Reason”

The ‘Screen Burn’ column in the Grauniad by Charlie Brooker is one of my favourite columns. Witty and acerbic he casts the same kind of eye over the televisual realm as I tend to. The write up here of the new C4 show “The Enemies of Reason” by Richard Dawkins is particularly amusing. I’ve been looking forward to this show for some weeks now, and this only whets my appetite more.

Choice quote (and there are many):

If I was made Emperor of All Media, I’d broadcast something akin to The Enemies Of Reason on every channel, every day, for 10 years. This is an urgent message that must be heard if we want to survive, as a species.