A reet canny trip to Geordieland

6 May 2014

 The last time I was in Newcastle I came there as a deckhand on a stormbound beamer when we spent three days tied up waiting for a howling northerly gale to blow itself out. Back then the quayside was all pubs, interspersed with the odd bookie, a few chip shops and a chandlery or two. Now it’s all brasseries and bistros, doing steaks and a bottle of merlot for thirty-odd quid. How times change. Even the Mission’s an Italian restaurant now.


What a weekend. I couldn’t help but be bemused by the hen party checking in at Southampton airport and starting their day with double vodkas and cokes at 05.45 for their flight to Benidorm. Impressed. I’m sure they had a great weekend. I was going in the opposite direction and settled for starting my day with a bacon buttie.


Lunch with a mate after a look round the fish dock and then off to the station to join the Alnmouth train and meet Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson who was coming from London. At Alnmouth the irrepressible Jacky Collins of Northumbria University, who was organising Crime Saturday was waiting with Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and whisked us off to Rothbury for a meal and an evening at the Congregational, a delightful gallery venue that was originally a chapel. We all read, in English and Icelandic, with some last-minute suggestions that meant reading straight off the laptop screen, before the questions took over. A genuinely great crowd of people turned up to listen to the three of us; not a big audience but an interested, receptive group of people.


Day two and off to Newcastle again, sadly minus Ragnar who had sensibly decided that with his wife about to produce their second child, his place was with her. Saturday was a bigger event, and held at the Lit & Phil, as the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne is known. It’s a private library – and what a library, nothing but shelves and shelves of books from floor to its vaulted ceiling and not a computer or community access point to be seen.



 But back to Crime Saturday. First up were Aly Monroe, John Lawton and Samantha Norman on historical crime, then Zoë Sharp, Melanie (MJ) McGrath and Mari Hannah on women in crime and then it was our turn as Yrsa and I were gently grilled by Barry Forshaw on the intricacies of Icelandic crime fiction. Then it was suddenly all over far too soon. Books were signed, farewells were said and we had to leave the excellent Lit & Phil behind for a traditional Geordie meal of tapas as the city around us got itself into gear for a Saturday night.



The credit really has to go to Jacky Collins for organising such a friendly, intimate event full of writers and readers to mix, chat and swap thoughts and ideas. It was just how these things should be, with an interested, engaged audience who laughed at our jokes  –even the bad ones. Hopefully Jacky, Mari and Helen of Forum Books will be able to do a repeat performance next year.


So roll on next year. Can’t wait.

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