I was going to blog about all these days and nights out individually, but realised with a stotting headache and the prospect of returning to work tomorrow, I will condense it all into one blog. Don't want to bite off more than I can chew.
Friday the 17th February was a day to get out and get the small person some art and natural history to stimulate his brain. We visited the Hatton Gallery in the quadrant of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Despite my 3 years at the university, and the hundreds of times I had walked past the gallery, I had never been in. So I didn't know about the John Graham Lough Sculptures, and the collection of paintings: many of local relevance and the story behind the Collingwood Monument at Tynemouth. There is still more for me to see, so I'll be back. While we were there our son bought some masking tape from the little art supplies shop, he wants to have a go at watercolour again. He is inspired, job done! Next we crossed the road to the other part of the Great North Museum, the Hancock. A far cry from the dusty old Hancock museum with stuffed animals reminding us how people just saw animals as specimens to collect, the Hancock is now an interactive museum. It is ideal for young families as the children can get hands-on and learn about ancient civilisations, archaeology, paleontology, local history and zoology. The old stuffed specimens are still there but not the main attraction. ( If you are a creationist look away now, you probably wouldn't want to go anyway) Some live creatures such as snakes, other reptiles and arthropods are in glass enclosures with references to prehistoric creatures they were living alongside or evolved from. Some species have been around a long, long time, humans are pretty late on the scene. I would recommend the Hancock for families with children from toddlers upwards, adults will find it interesting as well. I couldn't help thinking about the film "A Night at the Museum" when I saw the T Rex skeleton which is a full size reconstruction. It didn't want to play ball, however. http://www.twmuseums.org.uk
And on the evening, rather special performance at the Sage, Gateshead by the Northern Sinfonia was bolstered by wonderful solos by Bradley Creswick (violin) and cellist Guy Johnston.Conductor was Ainars Rubikis. My personal favourite was The Lark Ascending during which Mr Creswick's violin brought tears to my eyes. Mrs Johnston's cello was perfection in "Spiegel im Spiegel", a work by Arvo Pärt. This was a somewhat minimalist piece, which showed an astounding precision by the cellist and the pianist. It could so easily have been spoiled by a note out of time. I've seen Bradley Creswick 3 times now, one of them playing at the Cluny with Archie Brown. He really seems to be able to turn his bow to anything. Also played were "Variations on a Rococo Theme" by Tchaikovsky and Opus 73 from "Symphony no 2 in D major" by Brahms. Northern Sinfonia really deserve a listen. Even if you think you don't like classical music, try it. This was a demonstration of just how beautiful music can be. Have a look at the listings on the Sage website. So much going on http://thesagegateshead.org/whats-on/
Despite knowing we would be out on the night, I had the bright idea of going to Dunstanburgh Castle to get some fresh air. And get some fresh air we did. We fought our way against the icy wind to get to the castle ( a 3 mile round trip from the car park). The wind got through my thermal hat and was determined to get in my left ear. I wrapped both my son's head and mine in scarves as well as topping it off with our hats. It was brisk. It was coastal. It was natural. It was *expletive deleted* freezing! We watched as oystercatchers confidently took off and were nearly dashed on the rocks as the wind caught them. As we approached the castle we wondered why a lady came running out of the gatehouse looking a little nervous. After a walk around, and a welcome cup of tea from the visitors hut, we realised why. When we left, we were catapulted out of the castle in a wind tunnel effect. We had to cling to the walls. Funny when you look back but a bit scary at the time! The castle is great for kids to explore, taking care as there are some steep banks and sudden drops. How it is still standing after 700 years in this climate I don't know. It is a rugged construction with lots to explore. The castle is owned by the National Trust and run by English Heritage and prices to look around are £4 for adults, £2.40 for children and £3.60 concessions. Entrance is free to English Heritage and National Trust members. The scenery around is gorgeous. I noticed some very sandy beaches north along the coast at Embleton. Perhaps a visit on that one warm day in June is in order! http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunstanburgh-castle/
Saturday night was spent at the Grinning Idiot Comedy Club at the Tyne Theatre. Dan Evans, Andy Clarke, Julian Dean and the headliner Canadian Phil Nicol (yes another Canadian comic headlining a Newcastle comedy club!) put on a great show with MC John Smith. Phil Nicol was a bundle of energy, parodying stage school campness, performing comedy songs, including getting an audience member up onto the stage to help with the unforgettable tune "I'm the only gay Eskimo in the tribe". Fortunately the audience member was well up to the challenge and a good sport. I look forward to seeing Mr Nichol again, never a dull moment. the Grinning Idiot Club takes place in a number of venues including the Customs House in South Shields, the Stadium of Light, the Chillingham Arms, Newcastle....check out their website http://www.thegrinningidiot.com/index.html. Full listings and details of how to book are found there.
And breathe! I'll be back with more next week. In the meantime I recommend a gig at the Cluny on Saturday 25th February by the Lucky Strikes. I have seen this band once, and they are exceptional. Fiddle driven rock and roll and blues which should surely get the right crowd moving. Have a listen at http://www.myspace.com/wearetheluckystrikes and buy tickets at the Cluny or online http://www.thecluny.com/