I was put off camping in the UK at quite an early age by attending a festival many British school teachers like to refer to as the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Oh sure, it was fun enough the first time — we walked a bit, set up our tents, lay out on the grass in the summer sunshine eating our supernoodles and marshmallows listening to Glastonbury on a portable radio. One boy even brought a guitar and as darkness fell we all sat around the fire solemnly singing Karma Police and mulling over whether to quit school and set…

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You don’t need me to tell you that Jesmond Dene House Hotel is the best place to stay in Newcastle — you could just look on TripAdvisor to find that out — but it really is a haven of subtlety and elegance and northern warmth, and it just so happens that it’s also a very special place to me as well. Let me explain. As Newcastle spreads up the hill from the river, the city falls away very quickly, making way for parks and town moors and grazing land of the kind you’d expect to find miles out of town,…

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I’ve started running again recently and it sure does feel good. I never stopped completely, but I let my fitness levels dip and as a result going for runs stopped being fun. And they are fun usually (I’m not just saying that, I promise), and also essential, I’ve come to realise, not only to my health but my happiness too. I haven’t always been a runner, but I signed up to do the Berlin half marathon last year and once I got into it, I was hooked. I suspect many people are put off signing up for fitness challenges through…

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I spent three blissful years living up in Newcastle, and while there were many things that made it, in my mind, the ideal place to spend my university years, the best thing about it was undoubtedly its proximity to the beach. When the weather was beautiful in the summer, we’d gather up our books and jump on the metro, and 20 minutes later we’d be stretched out on the sand revising. Admittedly, a lot of paddling and napping and ice cream got in the way of revision and those days probably weren’t productive in the slightest, but hey, we all…

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