Cats, Cats, Everywhere

You may have heard of the cat cafe craze which is incredibly popular in Japan; where living space is so limited that having pets at home is just not an option. You go to a cafe and sip your coffee surrounded by feline friends who you can stroke and play with; a perfect way to reduce stress after a nightmare day in the office.

Mog on the Tyne, on Pudding Chare in the centre of Newcastle; opened up last month and has been flooded with bookings ever since. It is the brainchild of Katie Jane Glazier, a fashion design graduate who has worked for over a year to make her dream reality. The cafe is home to 10 cats who have been brought from local shelter Westgate Ark and adopted as permanent residents. Fresh food is brought on site daily (they can’t produce on site due to health and safety legislation) along with cakes from local bakery Pet Lamb Patisserie.

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As soon as bookings opened; I reserved a slot for a Friday evening and then sweet talked James into coming along with me. I have wanted a cat for a lifetime; but as we don’t have one (yet) I was very excited by the thought of spending an hour surrounded by them in this quirky little place.

As we queued up to take our slot, ourselves and everyone else in the queue entertained ourselves by watching a couple of the cats pawing the window, walking up and down in front of the glass staring at their next subjects. Make no mistake, the cats rule this joint! As you go in, you are asked to remove your shoes (take note, remember socks – I didn’t!) and take a pair of slippers if you so wish. You walk in to a catty paradise. A far wall is taken over by a painting of a cat in a top hat. Climbing ropes hang from the ceiling and, in the middle of the room, sits the largest cat play pen/scratch post/house my eyes have ever seen. You look around the place, taking it all in, and start to pick out the residents. Some are easy to spot; snoozing on the cat palace or claiming a chair by the window as the best place for a cat nap. Others are rather more adept at camouflaging themselves under tables and in corners, so you’re forever spotting new ones!

We claimed ourselves a spot on the sofa and ordered a pawnini to share (oh yes, there are puns!). The cats are very relaxed around their adoring fans and a number of them will come up and sit beside you or crawl on your lap….particularly if you’re eating some tasty morsel of food. We were given treats to feed them with and left to enjoy the atmosphere. It really is very relaxing, even if you’re just watching them play with each other or chase a ball around the room. James says that he found the whole thing a bit weird to begin with; but he also felt calm and chilled by the time we left.

The hour goes by very quickly when you’re distracted by cute little balls of fluff; and I definitely didn’t feel ready to leave. I will be back…. but probably not until next month, as they are completely booked up! I am also very excited to see what goodies pop up in their online shop….cat shaped teapot, anyone?

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Kielder Birthday Adventures

Last Friday was my birthday (my last as a Miss!) so we headed up to Kielder for a much needed weekend retreat.

On Friday evening we had tickets booked for Kielder Observatory. This has been on my bucket list for some time, and it didn’t disappoint. Sat beneath the largest area of protected dark sky in Europe, and the third largest in the world; this unassuming wooden building is accessed via a winding dirt road through the forest. It houses 2 telescopes and a central lecture room area which is used for the introductory talks and presentations. It is manned by some permanent staff and an army of volunteers. We were entertained by 3 staff members on our visit, all of whom were exceptionally knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Being something of a geek (and just for the record, geeks are cool) this was right up my street; but I can’t imagine anyone finding a visit there uninteresting. Even though it was too cloudy to do any stargazing, I don’t think either of us was ever bored. It’s so mind-boggling and humbling to think about how absolutely tiny we are in the grand scheme of things, and what lies within our galaxy and past it. One of the staff members, a recent astrophysics graduate, gave a talk on the recent ‘New Horizons’ Pluto mission. Did you know that they named sections of Charon, one of Pluto’s moons, after popular sci-fi names? There’s an area called Gallifrey, a Vulcan Planum, Mordor Macula….brilliant! I loved every minute.

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We had booked 2 nights on a farmhouse about half an hour from Kielder itself. We were the only guests there, and came downstairs on Saturday morning to the delicious smells of a full English cooking away. All fresh local produce as well! After a bit of a lazy start, we drove back along to Kielder village and hired some bikes for a couple of hours. I hadn’t been on a bike for at least 8 years, so it was a little hair raising to begin with; but we soon got into the swing of things and followed a nice 8 mile route through the forest. One part, in particular, was stunning; just before the end of the track, which is where this header picture was taken – beautiful, tall, dark trees and sunlight streaming through the branches. It doesn’t get much prettier or more Shire-esque than that! It really reminded me of the Robert Frost poem; The Road Not Taken. I love a good quote 🙂

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On Sunday it was time to head home, stopping off along Hadrian’s Wall on the way for a quick walk. We made it back to the car just before the rain started….the odds were in our favour this weekend! We finished off the day hibernating under a cosy blanket from the comfort of our sofa, staring out at the traditional August rain. Definitely my kind of weekend. Kielder,we’ll be back!

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Gin Is Always The Answer

Happy happy Sunday!

Hope you are all well and have been enjoying a lovely weekend; hopefully in the sunshine! I’m just back from a couple of days near Kielder Forest for my birthday, so am feeling nice and refreshed…. until I get back to work tomorrow, that is 🙂

A couple of weekends back; we had a day trip to Leeds Gin Festival. These events have been popping up across the UK over the last couple of years; and as I was too slow off the mark to get tickets for the Newcastle festival, we bought for Leeds instead. The timing also meant that it worked well as a pre-birthday celebration for me – I do like to drag these things out!

We jumped on a train on the Sunday morning into Leeds, then spent a few hours wandering around the shops in the city centre to fill our spare hours (punctuated by lunch in Wagamamas. Mmmmmm chicken katsu curry). I’m not a very good shopper and there’s only so much that James can handle as well; so inevitably at about 3pm we headed into the Hotel Chocolat cafe for a sit down and a drink – purely for research purposes, you understand! It was way too warm for a hot chocolate so we ended up with a wine and a beer….why not! The cafe was well decorated and had a nice ambience; however I’m not going to lie, I must admit I was hoping for a little taster chocolate with my wine……

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After our foray into the world of chocolate; we still had a bit of time before the Gin Festival started, so we went into The Alchemist for what were possibly the coolest cocktails I have ever seen! They are made with dry ice (I think) and so they ‘smoke’ when they are made. Some are served in chemistry-style funnels like the ones you used in Chemistry classes at school. I could have sat and watched the bartender mixing them for ages!

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Gin Festival itself was held in Leeds Town Hall, which is beautifully decorated inside. The room the festival was held in had marble pillars and intricate stencilling on the walls and ceiling, with tiered seats across 2 ends. A stage had been set up for bands at the far end of the hall. We bought us some tokens and got to work! In between drinks we perched on seats just behind the stage and people-watched – one of my favourite pastimes 🙂

As an added bonus you got to keep the very nice, very large, gin glass you were presented with on the way in; along with a booklet listing all the gins that were available at the festival and their suggested garnishes. There was also a discount going for any gins purchased on the night (we are not short of gin to drink at the moment; so I restrained myself – so proud).

I’ll definitely be going back – but hopefully next year I’ll be more organised and get tickets for one a little closer to home!

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