Tuesday, January 13, 2009

[The Life of Shaun #321] Scenes of Middlesbrough

Having had a drink or two at the glorious Trader Jacks the night before (not to mention on the train rides up), a hearty breakfast of grease was in order. We set out like good modern tragedy tourists to find a local greasy spoon, which was delivered in spades as Grubbs. Cheeseburger, chips and Coke? £3.00. Massive egg/bean/toast ensemble? £2.60. Look of Argie's and Lottie's faces when they bit into their burgers? Priceless. Three meals were purchased, three meals were left on the table as inedible. We tried to eat locally, but were forced into the bosom of Pizza Hut by the chefs of Newport Road.

However, the locals sure seemed to think it was tasty. And apparently wholesome, too. Sat at the table next to us was a family, Mom, Dad, Grandma (I think) and Baby. The baby girl wasn't old enough to speak yet, but Mom, Dad and Grandma fed her a steady stream of sausage, bacon, fried turkey, fried mushrooms and fried bread, all washed down with generous helpings of Coke.

I myself couldn't eat the banner dish of the Northeast, the parmo, as it is made from chicken or pork. I did, however, try the cheese "sauce"/"topping" on some fries and promptly spit it out. Middlesbrough is not a culinary capital, I'm afraid; it was fated that Pizza Hut would be my best meal of the trip.

At The Oak, Middlesbrough's main gay bar, rum & Coke, vodka soda and a water: £3.10.

Tower Green used to be the cheapest street in the UK to buy a house on. No longer! But not for any upwardly mobile reason; it seems Middlesbrough was not proud of this achievement, so you can no longer buy a house on Tower Green at all. They are going to tear them all down and redevelop the area. I am glad I got to see it before it went! The street's not as god awful as you'd expect of one that had £10,000 semi-detached homes at the peak of the housing boom, but the location is unforgivable. Isolated from the city centre by a highway and a rail line, the area's only neighbours are disused factories, a nuclear plant, the transporter bridge and a small field of 10-20 cows. What is that they say about "location, location, location"?

On the way from The Oak to Mboro's only gay club, Saturgay @ Cornerhouse, we asked two local lads if we were going in the right direction. They confirmed we were and added "But you don't want to go there tonight, it's gay night." We assured them that we were comfortable with this and did indeed prefer it to the strip club they suggested instead, but I thanked them for their concern.

While inside, I saw a fight! A real bar fight, not a poofy gay bar fight. Choking, hard punching and - the masterpiece - a bar stool being smashed on a guy's head! Not unsurprisingly, he started bleeding at a decent rate at the impact site. But don't worry, his friend came to his aid very quickly, picked him up and said "Let's get you a drink, then." It's good to know who's got your back.

Can I just tell you, this town is too much. It is almost comically impossible to have such a ludicrously tragic place. I loved it thorougly. For nearly two years Lottie and I made plans to go there with various people, each of which pulled out for one reason or another until Argie, our Northern Rock, agreed, booked, paid and went. It was honestly one of my favourite weekend trips ever. My year to see Britain is off to a good start! (Especially if I include Edinburgh as a prologue.)

On Sunday, we woke up and had lunch much earlier than necessary for our train tickets, so we hopped on an earlier train. Unfortunately, National Express East Coast has not fully grasped that it is in competition with the likes of EasyJet and RyanAir and has let their concept of customer service atrophy, so we were instructed to disembark at York and wait 3.5 hours for our scheduled train or pay £80 each to change our tickets. We were aggrieved, but what a blessing in disguise! York is ancient and gorgeous, well preserved and wonderful. The contrast with Middlesbrough could not have been more iconic. We happily wandered its old streets and cathedral before settling into a centuries old pub for a closing couple pints to our trip. Two cities checked off in one weekend! Brilliant.

I hope all your weekends were as satisfying as mine. Next Great British stop? Birmingham!


If you'd like to see the full set of pics from the trip, they are here:

Middlesbrough: http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=713081334&k=5YF242UYV5ZMYJ1FSD64W

York: http://www.new.facebook.com/p.php?i=713081334&k=6ZGU245YPZVMYJ1FSD64W
Some indicative samples below:

1) IMG00114 - Me and my meal at Grubbs; family in the process of causing infant heart attack behind

2) DSC00013 - Middlesbrough city centre

3) DSC00029 - Bottom of Tower Green with the Transporter Bridge (Mboro's one sight) behind

4) DSC00038 - Trader Jacks knows how to pamper its guests

5) DSC00039 - Said bar, which is pretty near the top of the list of my favourite bars ever

6) DSC00040 - Girls queueing to get into a club. Notice what Argie & Lottie are wearing. Now notice what they were wearing. Outside! It was like this everywhere, I don't know what they have against wearing their coats out in this town, but it's something egregious

7) DSC00045 - Argie @ gay Middlesbrough's hot spot

8) DSC00061 - The outside of our hotel. There used to be an old church there. They tore it down and built a Travelodge, but they kept a corner doorway as a memory. Seriously.

9) DSC00064 - Proof! I was there!

10) DSC00074, 80 & 84 - And then there was York! Could it be any more of an antithesis?

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK


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1 comment:

Millennium Housewife said...

Not sure you'll have as many nice things to say about Birmingham, loads more gay clubs though. MH