I went into Newcastle with planning to sit in a cafe for a while, reading.
It wasn't a major change of plans. I did sit in a cafe. It just wasn't the cafe I'd expected to visit.
First I visited a Catholic Church and from their book stall picked up a couple of little Christian books, readings from Thomas Merton and Bede Griffiths, two Catholics who wrote much on contemplation and became greatly influenced by Eastern religions, Griffiths especially by Hinduism and Merton by Buddhism. I'll say no more, because elsewhere I promised a spirituality free post!
I also grabbed a few journals of local history - Tyne and Tweed, which covers the history of Northumberland from, as the name suggests, the Tyne to the Tweed. Here I learn of a murder on a train from Newcastle to Morpeth and learn that Barras Bridge, a road near the biggest shopping street in the city, is probably named after a barrow - a mass grave for plague victims. I'm sure I'll learn of happier things too as I browse the journals.
And then to today's first cafe of choice. At which point I decided not to go in. The person serving was not the usual man but instead someone who I know has severe problems with me being transgender. I'll say no more about that too, because I promised a gender free post!
So I walked to the Anglican Cathedral. Alas, my favourite seat - the only comfy sofa with a table - was taken. So after absorbing the organ music playing in the church I left.
Instead I decided to visit "The Laughing Cat". It's very quiet in the morning as it's tucked away up an unappealing ramp near the library. You wouldn't go up that ramp without good reason so most people don't know the cafe is there.
I haven't been there for a few weeks. The last time was with a friend and there was much joyful singing along with the music playing, by staff and customers, that music being a version of The Rocky Horror Show. It's a friendly place and a good spot to meet people for a drink or food - the pesto pasta is great, the home-made soups are filling and flavorsome, and the bacon is high quality. And my friend treated me to take-away cake which was an enormous portion of grand chocolate cake.
I treated myself today. Not just a drink. But a cookie. I know that's not much of a treat for most people but for me it's not usual.
Perhaps some of you would have had no surprise about the envelope. Perhaps you've seen the letters "F F" on an envelope somewhere else and explored the contents. As I explored I discovered that the letters stand for "Found Fiction". People write a story, submit it to the found fiction group and their story is left somewhere. These envelopes exist elsewhere in Britain and there are quite a few in the USA. What a good idea. So I read a story called "At the Stake", a less than jolly tale. I don't know if you'll be able to read it too by clicking on the text but here's the story. If you save the picture and then open it then it should be readable. And if anyone from FF reads this and thinks these photos shouldn't be here please let me know and I'll remove them.
The city library deserves a blog post of its own. It was opened by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh in 2009 and replaced a structure that the broadcaster John Grundy called "a monstrous concrete blob." It's a pleasant place to choose a book or to read a book. I'll photograph it sometime but there are plenty of images online for anyone curious.
And then I looked up. The Laughing Cat is on a balcony above the road. And it's below this:There's a musical about Bewick Court. I've often wondered what it would be like to live in one of those flats. I know it would be a very convenient place to live but I suspect it wouldn't be an ideal quiet life there - given that last November there was a court case concerning a rape there and just a few weeks ago someone was arrested for an arson attack there which luckily was controlled quickly and without anyone being hurt.
I think on reflection I'll stay where I am, in our quiet house, and know that we're fortunate to be able to afford to live here rather than in a small flat amid the noise and haste. I'll just pass it by unless I get to know anyone who lives there.
I'll just visit The Laughing Cat and enjoy it.