Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

27th June 2014

Whit’s End
Posted by at 7.32pm | No responses | Out and About

Whitley Bay seemed as good a place as any to spend my Friday afternoon. There wasn’t any particular reason for it, other than giving me an excuse to have a nice long ride on the Metro. Still, I liked what I saw of the place during the brief time I was there.

Whitley Bay, as far as I could tell, was to Newcastle what Southport is to Liverpool – that is, a place for people to decamp to at the weekend, to get away from the city and enjoy a day at the seaside. On a Friday during school term time, however, the place was quiet.

I strolled down the high street, and turned towards the promenade, passing a traditional amusement arcade. I dwelled in there for a while, losing most of my loose change in the process (I was so sure that the Jumbo Crane would grab the teddy bear on my next try) before moving on.

Whitley Bay Whitley Bay Beach

Whitley Bay’s beach is pleasant enough, although there is a slight “fallen on hard times” feel to the place. There were Victorian shelters containing rows of seats, which had been vandalised and fenced off. Every so often, amongst the welcoming B&Bs, there was one with boarded up windows and weed-strewn gardens. The “Spanish City”, with its grand dome, was closed, although notices around the place promised a redevelopment.

Whitley Bay Spanish City

Then there’s things like this:

North Tyneside in Bloom
Try harder, North Tyneside.

Oddly enough, when I was searching for info on the place, Google’s autocomplete insisted on adding, completely unsolicited, the phrase “nudist beach” to the phrase “Whitley Bay”. Reader, I walked from one end of the promenade to another, and saw no sign of it.

I sat on a bench to collect my thoughts. A woman came jogging up and stopped to rest on the bench next to me.

“I hope you don’t mind,” she said, “this is my favourite bench.”

I should have been prepared for this by now. Wherever I went in Newcastle and its environs, I was surprised at the locals’ penchant to strike up conversations with total strangers (such as myself). It was friendly and charming… or it would have been to just about anyone else. For me, it was hell.

Within a few minutes, I’d learned that she is training for the Great North Run, that she’d never been to Liverpool but had visited Chester. I’m sure she said more, but the whole conversation is a bit of a blur.

She gestured out to the sea. “Look at that view! You don’t get that in Liverpool.” Sensing that she may have caused me some offence (she hadn’t), she added, “or maybe you do in some places.”

Whitley Bay

I didn’t respond. Undeterred, she went on. “What are your plans for the weekend?”

“Errr… I’m not sure,” I stammered. Actually, my plans involved visiting railway stations, but trying to explain that would have just prolonged the conversation.

“We’re having a party at my house in Tynemouth tonight, you should come.”


“It’s just me and my boyfriend and some of our friends, we’re going to have a bonfire. We love fire!”


“Here, let me give you my number.”

And so, on Friday evening, a complete stranger gave me her mobile phone number. I tapped it into my phone.

“Give me a missed call, then I’ll have your number. I’ll think of cool things to do and text them to you.”

She jogged off. I waited until she was out of sight, then tapped Delete.

I can’t be 100% sure of course, but in retrospect I think it may have been the sort of party that ends up with car keys in bowls.

I headed back the way I came. On my way from the Metro station I had passed Pantrini’s, offering “award winning fish and chips”, and I decided it would be rude not to try some.

Pantrini's Fish and Chips

Pantrini’s was voted Number 1 in The National Fish & Chip Awards 2013. It’s a well-deserved title; it was the best fish and chips I’d tasted in a long time. I sat at a picnic table outside to eat it, which may have been a mistake as a few drops of rain started to fall. However, I made short work of it and was on my way again before the shower started.

With that, I decided to make my escape just in case the jogger came past again. I liked what I’d seen of Whitley Bay. It was an agreeable few hours, all things considered. Still, part of me will forever wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to that party…

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