Friday, 5 October 2012

Newcastle (2)

Well, I slept fantastically, so here is the new blog post as promised.  I am not sure what else to say about Newcastle though...  maybe I will just describe my visit.

I went to the hotel when I arrived, to chill out a bit.  I was lucky - they let me up to my room early (I wasn't supposed to book in until after three pm).  The girl at the desk was quite amusing though.  She asked if I had any room preferences.  Confused, I asked what choices I had.  To which she responded, 'I am sorry, we have no rooms left with river views'. 

Clearly, if I had said I had a preference for a river room, I would have got one.  I was too thick to know what she was asking, so I got lumped with the inferior room (I am guessing the receptionists are told to save the river view rooms for those visitors who ask for them).

But, to be perfectly honest, I really did not care what view was out of the hotel window.  It was not as if I was going to be sitting looking out of it for recreation.  Having worked in hotels myself, I was always surprised about the fuss certain guests made about the view from their room - their insistence on a sea view, for example.  They were out for most of the day, and at night time it was dark - so what difference did they think a view from the window would make to the enjoyment of their holiday?

Anyway.  I had lunch at the University, with Kate Hudson, the University Public Engagement Officer who had invited me up to Newcastle.  She turned out to be lovely - right on my wavelength.  She had invited a student from the new University Science magazine to interview me - and he was lovely too.  I am amazed at how articulate, confident and calm all the young people I met at the University were actually.  To be so young and yet so capable - how wonderful.

Anyway, after the interview I went straight off to give my talk, which was good as I didn't have time to think about it too much first.  My lovely daughters had helped me set up a Powerpoint presentation to go with the talk, which worked like a dream.  They are so smart (or perhaps I am just the converse)!

There's not much to say about the talk - I spoke for about half an hour and said a lot of the things I have written about on here.  I didn't read from a script, but I had notes to help me when I floundered.  Afterwards, some of the students asked questions, which I did my best to answer.

It was a really positive experience - empowering.  Or, as little daughter once said, 'I feel like - Woman can Build'. 

Afterwards, we headed off - Kate, myself and Dr Fiona Le Beau.  As I have mentioned on here before, my talk was part of a series of events around the 'Reassembling the Self' exhibition curated by Susan Aldworth.  Fiona is the Professor of Neuroscience who had initially arranged the exhibition with Susan.  At the Hatton Gallery, where part of the exhibition is currently housed, we listened to a reading by Henry and Patrick Cockburn, author's of 'Henry's Demons'.  They took questions afterwards too.

Then Patrick, Henry and Henry's younger brother, myself, Kate, Fiona, Susan and some students went for drinks and on to dinner.  I think there were about ten of us.

The next morning I had no engagements, so I went sightseeing.  I saw the Baltic - an amazing Arts Centre, and the Sage, a music centre, both of which were right by the hotel.  Then I visited the Hatton, to view the Reassembling the Self exhibition properly, to the Vane in town where the rest of the exhibition is housed, and to the Laing Gallery, where there is an exhibition of Quentin Blake's work.  I also went to the Central Library, which has been built recently and is really impressive.  All of it was actually really impressive - Newcastle was much lovelier than I had imagined.   

Then lunch at the hotel, and home.  Taxi, plane and train - from North to South in less than four hours.  Amazing.

I have used the word lovely several times in this blog post.along with various other superlatives.  Maybe my brain is disintregrating - or perhaps it was all just lovely.  I feel really priveleged to have had the experience.

There is a possibility that the Reassembling the Self exhibition may tour at some future point - and that I may be involved in some way if it does.  I think it would be a really good thing - and I am not just saying this because I enjoyed the experience.  I thought it was an excellent way to encourage dialogue about mental health, something that badly needs to be done.  The exhibition has apparently been extremely popular - so fingers crossed for a tour. 
There is also a possibility that I may be involved in the Science Festival which Newcastle are hosting next September.  This is the biggest Science Conference in Europe, with 50- 70,000 attendees, if I understood what Kate was telling me correctly.  I won't say what my role will be, as I don't know for sure if or when it will happen, but I am really excited about the chance of becoming involved.  I will keep you all posted.

So - to conclude - and to quote Miranda Hart's Mum - such fun! 

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to add a postscript to this blog post - one thing that has been on my mind since Newcastle was how sanctimonious and narrow-minded I must seem at times to others. When I heard myself, during my talk, saying that people with mental health problems should not smoke, and should get back to work, voluntary or paid, as soon as they are able, I was aware of my own hypocrisy. I lounged around for years! I smoked like a chimney! And just because I am now better, I do not have the right to tell others how to live their lives. I nagged poor Henry Cockburn throughout dinner on his heavy roll-up habit - but on reflection I recognise that Henry is capable of making his own decisions. He will find the path to recovery in his own good time - and it may be a different route from the one I took.

    In fact, Henry, when I asked whether he would rather have been diagnosed 'Bi-polar' said that he was 'Proud to be a schizophrenic'. Perhaps that is what is holding him back.

    Or perhaps I am wrong, and one should be proud to be 'a schizophrenic'? I will keep writing and speaking about my views on mental health though. Because if anybody is inspired to question the title 'Schizophrenic' for themselves or for another, through anything I say or write, I think that can only be a good thing.