Why? School turned out to be more intense than I expected. It was fun work, I'm not complaining! But the assumption of long weekends traipsing off to exotic locales was not possible. Add to that, while we had originally planned to go to France for Christmas, Stan caught a bad flu bug which kept us here through the first half of winter break. He was really sick, poor guy.* (I know, I know. Get out your small violins...we had to spend Christmas in Edinburgh. Awwwww!)
At any rate, all that changed on Thursday when we hopped the train down to Newcastle to visit Susan Gates and her husband Phil. You may know Susan as S.P. Gates, author of over 150 books and generous blurber for A Bird on Water Street.
Susan and I met years ago when Lee & Low asked me to host Susan on my blog with her latest title, The Monster in the Mudball. Even via email across an ocean, we got along famously.
Later, Susan read and loved ABOWS. She especially connected with the mining history because of a similar history in Newcastle. Pollution there was so bad in its hey-day, they actually filmed the movie ALIEN on a local, blackened beach. Of course, that's all since changed and the city is now a thriving and beautiful metropolis. And the land that was once so destroyed has now been saved. Read about that here.
So when Susan emailed me with fun photos of their New Year celebrations in downtown Newcastle, we just had to go say 'hi'! I mean, how bizarre is life that we now live only one and a half hours apart? I wanted to go finally meet my friend in person. That meant taking the train for the first time...
I am in love with all things train - the train station in particular. We bought our tickets a few days early, so found a deal of a trip. We walked the 12 minutes from our flat (seriously) to Waverly Station. Then we walked into this lovely, Victorian-era, atrium-like space, which is all at once buzzing and surprisingly relaxing.
On the other end, we arrived in Newcastle where Susan and Phil were waiting for us in their equally lovely station.