For the last eleven years, for one weekend in May, attractions across Newcastle and Gateshead have opened their doors after hours for the public to visit creative spaces, watch shows and get involved themselves in all sorts of fantastic cultural adventures. This fabulous after-hours programme, known as The Late Shows, offered over 60 different venues this year, showcasing a range of arts, culture and heritage experiences.

So Saturday night saw nine of us friends joining with the other intrepid explorers of The Late Shows, armed with booklets and glow sticks, to venture out on the streets of Newcastle after dark in search of excitement, inspiration and fun.

And I loved it! Absolutely loved it! And here are ten reasons why:-

  1. The booklet

These Late Shows booklets are like gold dust! Or maybe we just don’t frequent the right places. We struggled to get our hands on one. We had a planning meeting on the Monday before the event – yes, seriously, it had to be done! About fifteen minutes in, there was a knock on the door and a friend appeared with a booklet she’d picked up at the local library for us. She saved the day! I love a trail, a map with numbers, descriptions of magical-sounding events…I was hooked.

2. The glow stick

The Late Shows glow sticks are also hard to come by and yet the evening would not be complete without one. As we walked up Grey Street, we recognised fellow culture crawlers by the glow sticks around their necks. We greeted total strangers like long lost friends. We were all in this together.

3. The opportunity to dress up

When we set our hearts on ending up at Kommunity for a George Michael Tribute Evening, it didn’t take long for us to order a job lot of CHOOSE LIFE T shirts. So we may have looked like a Hen Party and one of our party may have looked like the hen, but we were happy. We had our dress code. And what I loved was that we all had the T shirt, but we all did the look completely differently. We expressed ourselves.

4. The opportunity to try new moves

Trying new stuff is exhilarating. Whatever it is, I love to have a go. So we started at Dance City with a Salsa class. I don’t know that we would ever all have done that together under any other circumstances, but this was the Late Shows. This was what the event was all about. We were here to leap out of our comfort zones and leap we certainly did!

5. The opportunity for local artists to showcase their skills

We queued to get into the Happiness Project at 13 Grey Street – and this venue just proved that happiness means different things to different people. This house divided us. Some of us loved it and could have stayed there all night. Others really didn’t get it and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I was in awe – each room had a different theme and activity and was so well thought out. It felt like I was wandering around inside my own brain, moving from experience to experience.

6. Embracing difference and being ourselves

There were nine of us in our group – nine completely different individuals. Some wanted to eat; others did not. Some drank alcohol; others did not. Some wanted to join in; others wanted to observe. We tried to cater for each individual taste in the activities we planned to attend. Some were huge George Michael fans; others not so much. But we all felt able to be ourselves without judgement or teasing. If we wanted to sit out, we sat out. We felt that freedom and sense of security with each other.

7. The vibe

Everywhere we went, everyone was so friendly. We chatted to all sorts of people. It all felt safe and cheerful and positive and just a really cool celebration of art and culture in the city. I felt proud of the North East and all that’s being done here.

8. The laughter

Key to a good night out. We had a really good laugh. That’s what happens when you step beyond the familiar. Curious people, curious places, curious events – curious weird and curious inquisitive.

9. Dancing like we were teenagers again

It was our era. The 80s. The DJ was onto a winner. Every time I went to sit down, the next track started and I was back on my feet again. We sang and danced and sang some more. We felt like we could dance all night – until we couldn’t any more.

10. The photo opportunities

We took a lot of photos and plastered them all over Facebook. We now have some fabulous memories and some photos to back us up. That great night happened. Whenever we catch a glimpse of one of those images, we will smile and remember.

So thank you to the organisers and all those artists involved in the Late Shows. We loved meeting you all.

And we’ll see you all again next year!

It’s been a while. I know that.

Thanks for sticking with us.

I’ve been distracted by another project, but now that’s over, I’m back.

And I’m wondering where to start, so I’m looking back over the last year to look forward to the next.

So here are the top fifteen Pretty Vintage Life posts:-

  1. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH SUE
  2. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH MAVEEN
  3. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH MARY
  4. MY LURCHER DRESS
  5. IT’S SHOWTIME
  6. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH BECKY
  7. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH MALLORY
  8. IT MAKES YOU WANT TO JOIN A CHOIR
  9. A WOMAN AND HER DOG
  10. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH SUSANNAH
  11. OUR INSPIRING ORDINARY WOMAN OF THE MONTH JUDE
  12. CRAVING CAULIFLOWER
  13. SUFFOCATING TRUTH
  14. UPCYCLING HEAVEN
  15. TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT HOLIDAYS AND THEN TEN THINGS I LOVE

So what does that tell us? There are some pretty surprising ones in there, if I’m honest.

Well, it tells us that we love real life stories. We love to read about ordinary women doing extraordinary things. These true stories inspire, encourage and challenge us. It doesn’t matter whether we know the person or not, although reading about someone you know is always fascinating. These women have taken the difficult situations in their lives and turned them into opportunities for something new. We want to believe that as ordinary women, we are capable of living extraordinary lives. These fabulous, courageous women show us that we can.

Let’s find and interview and feature some more of these inspiring women. If you have a woman like this in your life, let me know. I’d love to find out more about her story.

And then there’s dogs. We love our dogs. That never changes. Three years on and I still adore my two lurchers. That dress still makes me smile. Maybe we should run a feature on your beloved pet…I’m sure you’d love to tell us about some of the quirky things your dog gets up to and why your breed of dog is the best of all. I’ll be in touch!

Of course, anything we post about singing is always popular. Helen H brings singing into the Pretty Vintage Life world and her Inspirationers love to sing and love to read about the joy of singing. So Inspirationers, keep the inspiration coming. Get in touch with an idea and write something for us. How about choosing a particular song, a favourite performance and telling us all about it?

I was just going to present the top ten to you today, but I couldn’t miss out on the joy of sharing these seemingly random results with you.

Craving cauliflower – what’s that all about? Who wants to read about cauliflower? Well, I know Helen H would disagree with me, but I never knew cauliflower had such a following. We do need to do more recipes though. Anyone got any great recipes that they want to share?

I’m glad that dance made it in to the top fifteen. If singing is Helen H’s things, then dance is mine. I’ll happily keep the reviews coming. Off to see Matthew Bourne’s ‘Red Shoes’ soon, so watch this space!

And then there’s upcycling. It seems a lot of you love a project. I need to get my daughter-in-law to share some more of her work with us. Helen H is good at this stuff too. While I am not. But we’re all always looking for inspiration for our homes. I need some help here!

And finally, holidays. I think the popularity of this one is less about holidays and more about our fascination with lists. You’ve got to love a bit of flagrant click bait! Writing a list is as fun as reading one, so prepare yourself for many, many more.

This has been fun. Good to reacquaint myself with some of our great articles.

So thanks for journeying with us over the past year and come on girls, let’s bring it on!

 

As I walked past Warehouse yesterday afternoon, I glimpsed in through the door, as you do (especially since the blouse I bought there before Christmas has attracted so many positive comments) and yes, I can testify that yellow is in!

Hurray! Because there is something about the colour yellow that lifts my spirits. We need more yellow in the our lives. Here are some of my random thoughts in praise of yellow.

Yellow symbolises Spring. I’ve always focused on green before and that sense of new life that it signifies, but look at all the yellow flowers in Spring. It’s like nature telling us to wake up, savour this awakening, live life to the full.

This zest for life is embodied in lemons. My fruit bowl is always predominantly yellow right now. As I sit here with my early morning lemon water, I reflect on the revitalising boost that lemons can give. Lemon water reminds me I’m alive. It sets out my intention to live fully and live well every single day.

Yellow makes everyone smile. At the yoga workshop I went to yesterday, everyone commented on the daffodils on the table and then on the bright yellow tops my friend and I were wearing. Yellow draws the eye. It brightens the mood. My vest top from Asquith is called Lemonade. I love that. Full of fizz and zest – just like me when I’m exercising!

Yellow is hard to wear, but when it’s done well, it’s stunning. Yellow is the colour of LaLaLand for me. Emma Stone in that stunning bright yellow dress. I’m not sure I could get away with it, but next time I see a bright yellow dress in a shop, I’m sure going to give it a try!

When I saw Martha Graham’s last work ‘Maple Leaf Rag’ in New York last week, I was blown away by the costumes. She was 96 when she created this work – 96! – and yet it is so full of humour and life and positivity. The costumes were designed by Calvin Klein – yes, the Calvin Klein. Each dancer in a different colour leotard and skirt and the female Principal in bright yellow. I couldn’t help but smile throughout (just as I had done in LaLaLand) – something in these works draws the sunshine out of my soul.

Yellow was my Dad’s favourite colour. He never explained why. But when we visited his graveside this week to remember him one year after his death, it felt so right that my sister brought an abundance of bright yellow flowers – daffodils, roses and the weirdest tulips I have ever seen! It reminded me of the day of his funeral – a bright sunny spring day with a sense of life in the air. A sense of resurrection – new life – my dad’s new life.

 

I now have a yellow item of clothing to wear. My friend knitted me a vintage style little scarf – in bright yellow. She even used one of her original vintage labels from back in the day when we first met. The scarf is that lovely warm bright yellow, like the middle of a creme egg. It’s my splash of yellow on any outfit.

 

My splash of pretty.

My splash of vintage.

My splash of life.

You have to be feeling bold to wear yellow. It draws attention. It gets you noticed. Maybe that’s why most of us avoid wearing it. My friend obviously thought I could carry it off. Well, if ever there was a time, this is that time! When I wear that scarf, it will set my intention for the day.

I am bold. I am alive. I am going to live life to the full today.

I’ve been wanting to write about my trip to New York, but couldn’t come up with an angle. Then yesterday, my daughter’s dance teacher sought me out to ask about my trip.

Did you really go to New York on your own? Wow, that’s so brave of you. How did you manage?

And that was it. My angle. That’s what made my trip different. I did it on my own.

So here are some of my thoughts about how I made it work.

  1. I bought a map.  Yes, a paper map. Actually. one of those waterproof paper maps that folds easily in all sorts of directions without tearing, so I could keep it in my pocket and not look like a tourist at every street corner with an unwieldy massive sheet blowing around in the wind (actually, those have become a thing of the past with maps on mobile phones – if you can afford the mobile data bills!). Anyway, my map was great. It gave me a real sense of where everything was in relation to the rest -which when you are spatially challenged like I am is always a bonus. And the walking tours on the back of the map were so good. I love a good treasure trail. There’s no way I would have seen what I saw without that trail to follow. I wouldn’t have known where to start.
  2. I listened to other people before I went. Like my friend Wendy who told me to just take hand luggage (and I know you all thought I was mad) which I did and that decision turned out to be an absolute godsend when my connections got screwed up in both directions. Wendy also told me to go up the Rockerfeller Centre at about 4:30 and to stay to watch the sun set. Great advice, Wendy. I did, and it was the most wonderful experience. And then my friend Katie told me to take the free Staten Island ferry which goes right past the Statue of Liberty. There was a great view back over Manhattan too. Another good call.
  3. I had a reason to be there. I’ve been saying to people that I didn’t act like a tourist and they just laugh and ask what a tourist acts like. But I had a sense of purpose in being there and that helped enormously. I had places to be. Appointments. Interviews. I had a role to play and that gave me an inner confidence. I had a reason to interact with real New Yorkers.
  4. I chose to feel safe. I had every reason not to. New York is quite a scary place. I heard more people speaking other languages than English. There’s a lot of visible poverty. It’s the most multicultural place I’ve ever been. I travelled on the subway alone. Even at night. I walked down quiet side streets. I ate alone in some pretty downmarket places. The place I was staying was pretty downmarket. I found the height of the buildings very claustrophobic and I never felt like I was breathing fresh air. I could have let my fears take over and not left my room for the week. But I played a part. I chose to put my brave face on. I wasn’t stupid. I didn’t take unnecessary risks. I kept my bag close and locked my door at night. But actually, I did feel safe. When you walk with confidence, you blend right in. No one was interested in me in the slightest. I was as invisible as the next person.
  5. I chose to be positive. There were some bad moments. Like the afternoon I sat waiting for someone for three hours. Like the moment I landed at Amsterdam on the way home and found that the Newcastle flight had been cancelled. But I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience and I wasn’t going to let anything spoil it. I chose to let all the bad stuff go and focus in on the good. Very little of the trip was as I anticipated it would be. Nowhere near as good on paper. But it was all the better for being real. Unforgettable in every way.
  6. I listened to my body. That’s one advantage of being alone. You really can listen to your body. You can eat when you want and what you want. You can sit down and rest when you want. You can take a shower when you want and go to bed when you want. I looked after myself because I knew there was no one else there who was looking out for me. It worked.
  7. I really tried to experience New York. I wasn’t on my phone all the time. I wasn’t constantly connected with home. I didn’t read a book or listen to music. I really tried to soak it all in. To listen. To watch. I allowed plenty of time to get places. I never rushed from one place to another. I walked slowly and took everything in. I didn’t go in any shops even. I didn’t want to be where the tourists were. I wanted to be out there. It was so great to take a yoga class at the Jivamukti Yoga Centre in Union Square for example. To be doing what regular people were doing. To feel part of something. To have a chat in the changing rooms.
  8. I sought out weird stuff. I didn’t feel the need to tick off all the top attractions. I did a few, but missed loads. I didn’t go to the Guggenheim or Ground Zero. I didn’t walk in Central Park. But I did go to a traditional Irish bar called Dead Rabbit which served vintage cocktails – even at 11:30am! I did some of my best thinking there.

Looking back on my time in New York, I loved that version of me. I was positive and bold. Nothing was going to hold me back. I was calm and content. I found pleasure in every little experience.

I want to find a way to be that person here too.

Thank you New York for all that you showed me and taught me.

I may never return, but I will never forget.

Can you believe it? Pretty Vintage Life is one year old this month.

This time last year, we were caught up in such a whirlwind of excitement. It was all so new and we had so many ideas.

We produced some great articles. I look back and I’m so proud of what we have achieved.

For a start, we are still here! That’s an achievement in itself. Have a look around – most blogs don’t survive a year. It’s a really tough thing to sustain. We did good.

It’s been good to get Linda on board and I know many of you have enjoyed her tips on good places to go and eat and books to read etc.

We don’t publish as regularly now, I’m sure you’ve noticed that. It’s been a busy time with work and other projects, but it’s really reassuring to know that Pretty Vintage Life is always there. It’s a great platform to share all those things that are exciting us right now.

A year on is a time to evaluate. We’ve covered plenty of life and a fair few pretty things too. Maybe less vintage than we would have liked but I still believe that is something we are going to grow into. The possibilities are endless. I know what I admire and what draws my attention. I’m heading in the right direction. So watch this space for more vintage love!

Thanks to everyone who has joined us on our adventures, to all those inspirational women out there who have agreed to be interviewed, to those of you who have posted comments and generally been supportive.

This is a good ride. We always intended for it to have a feelgood factor and I think we’ve done pretty well at creating that vibe.

It feels good to be entering our second year. I love this space and I know many of you do too.

Happy birthday, Pretty Vintage Life!