Above: Grey's Monument, just a few minutes walk from The Bruce Building serviced apartments on Percy Street
A Room with a View by Helen Limon
The last time I lived in heritage architecture was 9000 km east at Shanghai’s iconic Embankment Building. The views were a little different, 7th rather than 3rd floor, with a view of Suzhou Creek and the Bund rather than Haymarket’s angel and the seahorses encircling the civic centre. In Newcastle, as in Shanghai, I’m close by the metro and have my choice of Mobikes, right on the doorstep - my trip record shows over 500 km travelled through both cities. Some days I miss living in Shanghai but I love Newcastle: it’s my home town. The skies are clearer here and the traffic a little easier to navigate, too.
I’m at The Bruce [Building] for a teaching placement and to finish a long-overdue children’s book. In the two weeks since I moved in I’ve done more writing than in the previous year – thank you The Bruce! Keeping sane while writing (and teaching) needs a careful balance between work and rest or you can quickly find yourself becoming a little eccentric: writing is an extended conversation with your characters and it is horribly easy to forget social conventions and take them with you to the shops, in your pjs, still muttering. Settling right in the heart of the city means I can walk to my school, and to Pilates, swimming, the Stepney Bank riding stables, Dance City, and any number of cafes. Writers run on warm beverages and I’m glad it’s so easy to find really great coffee close to home.
Had brewing at The Bruce remained in production I'm sure China would have been a target market. The HMRC reported a 500% increase in British beer exports in 2017 – l noticed that like Peppa Pig, Brewdog had an unexpectedly high profile in Shanghai and Beijing. Now, I’m an IPA fan but I’m glad that The Bruce has had a makeover and a change of function. It’s a beautiful building in a beautiful city and I feel privileged to live and work here, even if only for a few months.