I was born in England and have spent all of my life in this green and pleasant land. However, there are still many places I have yet to visit and enjoy. (Do not worry dearest reader, I shall not be breaking into one of the lesser known mid nineties soft rock/pop songs by Elton John). While many glamorous destinations abroad are on my list, I still have a great deal of exploring to do on these shores. (Maybe I should be brave enough to publish a list one day!) Back in December at the annual Christmas meal with friends, newly qualified driver Ben mentioned the fact that he would like to go on a weekend road trip. For some reason, we decided to travel as far as possible within our own English border. The city of Newcastle was chosen as the party destination for a long weekend. Now we just had to select the date mutually acceptable to all members of the party group. The final obstacle was gaining clearance from our other halves (this was turning into a stag weekend without the wedding or groom!) Easier said than done, in some cases! The event was initially billed as Foxy’s 30th birthday (even though it was taking place a week afterwards). This had to be changed to Kev’s 32nd in order for Fox to obtain permission from his otherwise to green light this lads weekend!
I have never been to the North East, let alone the city of Newcastle-upon-Type. My earliest memory of the city are from the late 1980s school educational television series Geordie Racer. The theme tune was extremely memorable and catchy (ideal when your viewing public are six to seven years old). A year later I started watching a new television show again on the BBC but on this occasion aimed at a slighter older audience. My sisters and I were probably a little young for Byker Grove but it was good fun and a change from some of the contemporary shows on at the time. You must appreciate that as a family, we did not watch Eastenders at this point in our lives. We were fully committed to The Bill on ITV, backed up by our Dad who had always been a fan of the Metropolitan Police drama.
Fast forward over fifteen years and the next time I would consider the city was during the British football movie Goal! released in 2005. I went to see the movie with my friend and colleague Chris at the FilmWorks Maidenhead (as it was then, it is now an Odeon). We were the only two people in the cinema as the film was about to start but were joined by three other guys as the trailers started. The movie was poor but it did give me an understand of how important football is in the North East and what St. James’ Park means to the Geordie boys and girls. It was the first time I saw the city on film in any level of detail. While the film (and the subsequent two sequels) were both disappointing, I gave the director and production team credit for selecting Newcastle as the football club to set their story, rather than the Hollywood desire to follow Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even to a certain degree Manchester City. Set the film where football is part of the people’s blood.
My manager at the time, Nic had mentioned a trip up to the city he had experienced. A local had been hit by a train, but instead of going to hospital for urgent medical attention, he had decided to go out on the sauce in the city. There was no chance he was going to miss a drink with the lads. Proof, if it was ever needed that us southern softies have no chance among real men of the North East.
There are plenty of famous Geordies and plenty more infamous ones. I will focus my attention on just two. Firstly we have Paul Gascoigne, probably one of the most gifted football players of his generation and it is such a shame his career never hit some of the heights of his true potential (particularly on the international stage). However, he will forever be loved as a son of this city, regardless of his off field battles. In 1990, the year Gazzamania well and truly landed after tears in Turin, everything Paul touched turned to gold. He even appeared on Top Of The Pops.
Do you remember ITV’s Popstars – The Rivals? This was the show that bought us (among other talents) a fresh faced Cheryl Cole, who successfully became part of the reality TV band, Girls Aloud. Little did we know then what the future held for this girl from Southshields. Ultimately you knew very early on that she would branch out with her own solo career and media work, purely because she acted as the spokeperson for the band. Ultimately this has been proven right, as her career as overshadow that of all her band mates. Plus, on two fronts she beats Gazza, she is much better looking and has a much better singing voice. For some reason, at least once a week in the gym since January, they have played Call My Name and I have instantly started thinking of my Boys On Tour Weekend in May, even though it was months away! I have long been a believer that life is not worth living if you have nothing to look forward to.
What am I most looking forward to this weekend? Well it is the first long weekend away with the lads in a considerable amount of time. We have all become rather busy in our own day-to-day rat race lives and rarely meet up as often as we used to. I probably hold the most guilt in this respect and make no excuses that I am my own worst enemy. The last such ‘showpiece’ event was probably Pav’s Stag Weekend in Berlin, which is almost two years ago. It will be great to spend time with them all and create some more memories. I look back at the last few years and some of the best times have been nights out with these group of guys. There is constant entertainment and the ride will be non-stop from the moment I clock off at the office at noon on Friday until I finally say goodbye too early to even contemplate right now, on Sunday morning. My next adventure will not take me home to Slough to rest and recover but instead back into the capital for a concert by Mrs. Jay-Z.