Saturday, 17 May 2008

A Picture's Worth 909 Words

I decided to go visit the flea market in South Shields yesterday to look for any stalls selling fabrics. I took public transport rather than trying to drive. Every other time I’ve driven there I’ve spent ages with a mobile and/or a map trying to find the destination before giving up and feeling lucky just to get out. I’ve had to cancel meetings because I just couldn’t get to them. It’s really confusing place to drive.

There were some cool boats on the river. I would’ve photographed them, but Bill took the camera to work with him for some reason. Mind, it is his camera; I gave it to him for his birthday one year. I missed the first ferry due to visiting the public toilet near the landing. Visiting public loos in this part of the world can be a little scary, but full marks to both of them, they were clean and well provisioned with no signs of paraphernalia associated with exchange of body fluids (but did you know that Tracy & Ash Rock?)

I just followed the crowd up from the ferry landing and in lees than a minute I was in the market square. Have I ever mentioned that women from Tyneside are Olympic Power Walkers? Even the ones that are overweight, 4’8” and wearing stiletto heels have this quick step that I just cannot keep up with. I tell myself they didn’t grow up in a hot place like Oklahoma where you learn to shuffle and you use a car rather than power-march as a form of transportation.

As flea markets go, this one was bigger than I expected but pretty flea bitten. I could have bought paperback books for 50 pence and greeting cards 5 for £1, both bargains, but I just didn’t feel I needed any. There was a shop on the market square that had a few bolts of fabric on sale for £1 a metre, but none of it appealed. The lady at the sewing circle who told me there was a fabric stall said it wasn’t big and would likely be the bright coloured cloth used in making saris that Indian women wear. I was looking forward to those bright colours, though I’d rather have velvets and silks than cotton. Still, it was a big active market and I was impressed with the wide range of entrepreneurial activity taking place. I would have shown you a picture of it, but Bill had the camera.

I walked further up along Ocean Road, lured by the smell of fish and chips; or perhaps I just imagined that smell since I never found any but settled for a highly over priced burger and chips at a bar/restaurant in a big stone building. Waiting for my order I read the back of the menu and noted that their descriptions of the wines on offer imply that they count towards getting your five-a-day (that’s 5 servings of fruit and veg for those of you not in the UK). I sat by the window watching people walk past and made mental notes for myself about increasing the frequency with which I colour my hair, making sure I walk with my shoulders back and that my clothing is appropriately skims rather than clings. I could list a lot of other factors that made me want to send a good proportion of them to Trinny & Susannah, but I try not to sound like a snob, in spite of being one.

After lunch I spent a couple of hours at the museum and art gallery, which was free. There were a collection of paintings, a video of how to paint with oil or watercolour or restore a painting, and a whole exhibit dedicated to Catherine Cookson, South Tyneside’s most famous daughter. I enjoyed watching the short videos of her and I have enjoyed the 2 or 3 of her books that I’ve read. I would say however that if you’ve read a few of her books you’ve pretty much read all 103 that she wrote. Mind, she did good, considering she was born an illegitimate child in abjectpoverty (one word, like richAmerican) on Tyneside: she left an estate worth £20 million to charities.

Various displays also indicated that Jimi Hendrix had once done a concert there; Mohammed Ali put in an appearance; and once, in 1971, 161 Americans stopped for a visit on their way to Europe (I’m not joking: that’s what the display said). South Shields, like many of the seaside towns around here, mourn their glorious past as family holiday destinations. Personally, I think South Shields is most notable for (a) hosting the end of the country’s biggest half-marathon, the Great North Run. It has a field of about 35,000 runners. I’ve had some of my nearest-to-death experiences in South Shields; and (b) managing to have the cleanest public toilets in the NE – open 7 days a week. I am not being snide; I really do appreciate public conveniences. You just wait ‘til you get older and have a dime-sized bladder.

Walking back to the ferry I remembered to look up, something everyone walking in European towns and cities needs to remember to do. The shops at street level are boring or tacky, some downright depressing. The original buildings remain above the shops; they are magnificent and truly inspiring if you love older architecture. I would’ve taken some pictures, but I didn’t have the camera…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You really ought to visit us more often, I enjoy your prosaic writing style. Tomorrow I will take my camera to Souter Lighthouse where there will be a show of ancient "moggies" (Morris Minors, an antiquity of the British automobile sector.)
Best market days for fabrics are Monday and Saturday unfortunately.

How long have you been here, and where are you based?