Peasants abroad

Hey I was getting carried away by my thoughts of living in my Italian paradise, teaching English perhaps, ideally finding myself a tasty little Italian to help keep me warm on the cold nights.

I loved the idea of getting some mates over to help me get my place shaped up, I thought I’d pay their beer and pizza money, and maybe give them something towards their flights. I’d have to have a decent stash of money to finance that though, maybe they’ll all join in just for the love of being there.

And then I liked the idea of renting the place out in the summer to Brits so that I could get some more cash behind me. I was researching that idea when I found an article on the behaviour of Brits in holiday homes that really shocked me.

It sounds like we’re a bunch of animals when we’re away. Why on earth would we do stuff like this? And in the Lake District too? Isn’t it supposed to be oh so calming and beautiful, even if it is a bit wet. What happened to wandering lonely as a cloud and something to do with daffodils?

Right then, if my little pipe dream ever gets off the ground I’ll not go away, I’ll just stay nearby, perhaps in a shed on site which could be my base when I’m doing the restoration work. That way I can keep an eye on people and make sure they don’t get carried away. I’d also know from the outset which people I trusted and which ones I wanted to keep an eye on.

Christmas and stuff.

We were a close family, but probably only because we were poor.

Mum and Dad didn’t have much, and so we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t like they were super loving parents or anything, but we’d eat together, leaving nothing, we’d watch the telly together because there was only one. All my mates had tellies in their bedrooms, and computer games and stuff, but not me.

Most kids around here would just go and nick what they wanted, but if I did that he would have beaten me for sure. He was strict. Still is strict. When I bashed my finger while we were doing the wardrobe I cursed and immediately I could feel his eyes on me.

“Not in this house sunshine!”

It’s as if he’s some Victorian dictator dad or something, but he’s only 52 now.

But you know what? I don’t resent it. I’m hard enough, I have respect for anyone who works to earn what they have, and while that makes me a bit old fashioned, I don’t care about that.

And then there’s Christmas around the corner.

That’s a strange time. Mum would love me to be there at home.

And if truth be told, I don’t have anywhere else to go. But it feels a bit pathetic. We’ll sit around. Have a few bottles of brown, cliche I know, but that is what dad and I drink when we’re together, football, Christmas, it doesn’t matter. Mum will be tutting at her turkey from the Co-op.

Apparently most people don’t even find the time to have Sunday dinner together these days, I read this article in one of the online pub magazines about it. Hopefully they’ll find the time to make a proper Christmas dinner though. If for no other reason I’ll be driven home by the thought of that amazing meal.

But I guess if it only makes her happier, and means that I get a great dinner, then I’ll be there. And probably I’ll be there next year too.

Is that too sad?


I’d love to write a mood guide to Britain some time. Perhaps I could suggest it as a final year project, or maybe even something for a masters.

Having been to Byker Grove a couple of times recently I felt generally depressed by the state of the country, and yet this weekend I’m back in Manchester for a party with mates tonight and here it feels so different.

As my mate was driving me to his place from the station one of the first things he said was “Look, the cranes are back.” And I knew what he meant. Ten years ago when we were kids there were cranes bristling all over the centre of Manchester and people were amazed at how many flats were being built in a town centre that had no real infrastructure to look after its new population. Now there are convenience stores all over town and you could live there easily.

Hilton Manchester

We had a wander down the canals to his flat and I loved the juxtaposition of this shot showing one of the old bridges that made the city what it was back in the day, there is some serious ironwork in this town, and then behind it the glass edifice that is the Ian Simpsons and Partners Beetham Tower of Manchester. It’s not a pretty building, but its slender side view is undeniably impressive. I’d love to go to one of the flats high up in the tower, I imagine them as ultimate bachelor pads, where the cleaner probably visits almost as often as the owner and the only bit of the kitchen that has been used is the coffee machine, and maybe the toaster.

Manchester feels a happy place compared to the north east.

Back In Byker


The last picture of Byker I put up must have been taken from the other side of the wall.

This one shows the volume of building, yet even though here it seems to sit on top of itself, it does actually have a good proportion of green spaces surrounding the buildings.

If only they’d moved well to do, or even decent working class folk into the estate they’d probably not have had the problems it has caused.

Last night I was talking to one of my mate’s neighbours, an old boy of nearly ninety, but a sprightly fellow with his marbles in tack and quick of movement too. He was telling me how the area used to be rows and rows of near identical two up two downs, where life was tough, but community was strong. I guess there was a lot of nostalgia there, but he could see the good points of his new places too.

As many such projects from the later sixties and through the seventies, the buildings are truly centrally heated, in that there is a massive boiler house at the end of each row that supplies all the heating and hot water for the houses. The down side of this is that people don’t bother regulating their temperature, instead they just leave it on with the windows open.

I like the buildings themselves, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a scary place to be out walking around after dark. It’s certainly a place to dress down for. I mentioned that to the old man and he laughed at me saying he thought that Manchester is a lot worse. Ah well, it’s all in the telling, and the media that tells you.Byker Wall

Byker Grove

There are a few iconic places that speak Newcastle to whoever you mention them to.

The Tyne.

The Bridge.

The Metro Centre (God forbid).

The Baltic Centre.

And The Sage.

But mention Byker Grove and rather than iconic you’re talking more notorious.

My mate Shaun lives there, and I have always wondered what it must be like living in a place that strikes fear into the heart of many people simply by mentioning it.

Dad says that Brixton used to be like that, but now I think of it as a cool, if a little edgy, part of South London where a few mates live and where we have a great night out now and then.

So I wanted to go and see Byker.

And last night I did.

Bugger me!

The first impression, the one that is supposed to count for the most, was great.

I have to explain, that for a child of the mid nineties I have a strong love of 60’s architecture. I don’t know if Byker is 60’s or 70’s but it looks wild. It’s like someone had the world’s biggest Lego collection and decided to build a housing project with it.

This is the infamous Byker Wall, a long mid rise tower that’s surrounds the estate. The best views in Newcastle are to be had from up here. But few would be brave enough to invest in living here.

The problem is the people.

The houses look great. Could be good to live in, they’re near town, filled with light, modern enough to be easy to live in. But the population are the scariest bunch of folk I have come across in a long time!

Shaun – I salute you. It’s cool, but not for the feint hearted!

ps: thanks for the tip on free betting.


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