One upon a time in my well spent-youth Newcastle was a happy hunting ground for unusual clothes and frothy coffee in good company. On occasion we would hitch-hike down from our small Northumberland college - I lived in Harry Potter’s castle, but that’s another story – and spend the afternoon in Newcastle trying on clothes we couldn’t afford, drinking frothy coffee in juke box cafes, and once – I think it was someone’s birthday – having high tea in Tilley’s restaurant where the waitresses still wore black dresses and white aprons.
Years later, with our children, my friend Pat and I would meet in Fenwick’s cafe for coffee and cakes. In those innocent days we used to let the children take the escalator to the next floor on their own (!) to play in the toy department. Meanwhile Pat and I would talk up a storm about the meaning of life – perhaps particularly our lives – and drink more coffee. After a while we’d go up to fetch the children from the toy department and bring them down for ice cream - and get on with being mothers.
I remember now that I bought my un-weddingy wedding outfit for daughter Debora’s wedding in Fenwick’s French salon – a long narrow skirt and jacket in navy blue velvet. I’ve worn it happily many times since.
People often ask me what a book about. Well, I wrote about this one in an earlier post, saying.
‘Sandie Shaw and the Millionth Marvell Cooker’ is about:
Friendship and salvation between women & authentic factory life when industry was booming & the birth of celebrity culture & changes in access to higher education & college life & about changing cultural attitudes brought about by the Women’s Movement & the nature and hesitancies of young love & the experience of immigrants moving into British life & the ironies, assumptions and secrets of institutions
But most of all, I say, I think – and hope - it’s a very good, funny, touching, rites of passage novel about this student from a small Northumberland college who works in a factory one summer in the 1960s ….
I’ve been wondering what I should wear for this particular Fenwick Frolic. Perhaps I should have found time to fit in a visit to Fenwick’s French Salon.
I’m certainly looking forward to it. I wonder if my good friend Pat will turn up. I hope you’ll come too. wx
12.30 pm Fenwick’s Book Department. Thursday 9th July 2009