Saturday, 5 February 2011

Claire's Accessories Pink

I’m sitting in Porter’s Cafe, which is a charming little place in the middle of Tyne Mouth Station. It very much reminds me of something from Brief Encounter. There’s an open fire, high ceilings and little vases of tulips on the tables.

Tyne Mouth is one of those Victorian Stations that looks a bit like an ornate glasshouse. It’s absolutely beautiful. Verdigris columns stretch up to the roof and the whole place has an air of faded English seaside decadence. Today is market day and the place is buzzing. All the platforms are covered with stalls selling bric-a-brac. It’s like a scene from the 1950s. There are little plastic dolls, broken mirrors, World War Two helmets, knitting patterns, piles of paste jewellery, boxes filled with Bakelite records, watch straps in suitcases and badly-framed and faded water colours as far as the eye can see. It’s utterly charming and in the middle of everything, a lady stands proudly selling homemade rock cakes, jam sponges and cups of tea. She’s rather hopefully set up a little plastic table and a few chairs, but at this time of year, it’s too cold for most people to sit in the draughty station, so we've gone to Porter's Cafe instead.

As I travelled here this morning, I listened to a few groups of young kids talking about their lives, television and the various stations we were passing through. I thought how nicely brought up they all seemed. They weren’t trying to intimidate the other passengers, like you find all the time in London. They weren’t swearing, or shouting, they were just chatting to each other. I thought how lovely that was. Mind you, Newcastle City Centre on a Friday night is renowned for its anti-social behaviour, so maybe these kids are going to grow up into little chavvie monsters!

My Travelodge was packed with hen and stag parties last night. People were running up and down the corridors and staircases yelling at one another pretty much all evening. I’ve seen nuns, army cadets, nurses, clowns and most recently, smurfs. I stopped a smurf in the corridor and told him he had something blue on his face, but he didn’t seem to realise I was joking. None of them are wearing coats, and most seem to be carrying or wearing something which is that lurid pink colour you only find in branches of Claire’s Accessories. This morning the breakfast room was full of rather pallid-looking individuals, who smelt like breweries blended with pots of sick. They were obviously about to start the process all over again. I could never do it.

The 5th February 1661 was washing day and the ever-improving Pepys and his wife were able to leave the servants (which probably included his sister Pall) to do all the work. Pepys and Elizabeth headed to Westminster. Elizabeth visited her mother, and Pepys, who, to my knowledge rarely, if ever called in on his mother-in-law, went to Westminster Hall, where he met a chap called Belgrave. Belgrave seemed to want to remind Pepys, rather too often, that he’d known his mother when she was a humble wash-maid. He proceeded to curse and swear his way through the rest of the conversation, which made Pepys very weary.

He left Belgrave and went to see the heads of Cromwell and his cronies which had been placed on the ends of spikes at one end of the hall. He met up with Elizabeth and they went to the theatre, but their coach broke down on King Street. The play they saw was Argalus and Parthenia, which Pepys had already seen. He enjoyed the dancing and singing, but liked little else. But Pepys, as we all know, was very hard to please.

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