Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Northumberland, surely God's own acre.

Probably the best known blog in the UK is 'Wife in the North' by Judith O'Reilly. It tells of life as seen through the eyes of a reluctant housewife ensconced in the wilds of Northumberland. Witty, observant and dry humoured though not without a touch of pathos the printed version has done well and rightly so.
As it happens, Northumberland is one of my wife and I's favourite places so, when the going was getting a mite bit tough last week it was to this county we fled. On Tuesday morning we manoeuvred up the M1, traffic horrendous but 220 miles and five hours later sat in the sunshine by the harbour in Seahouses (They say the sun shines on the righteous; they also say the devil looks after his own!)
Its hard to say what exactly is the lure of Northumberland. No one attraction but the place never lets you down. (Though the weather can be dour and unpredictable.) A county of beauty, history and mystique, I could not possibly do it justice in a few lines. Yet there is so much to lift the spirits.
Bacon, eggs and a steaming cup of tea in a motorhome at the foot of Ross Castle (not really a castle) in the hills above Wooler takes some beating; not one passing motor in over an hour. Wooler itself, full of arty shops but with a charm all of its own.
The magic of Bamburgh, the sight of the castle on the approach from Seahouses one of my favourite views. Budle Bay of an evening, quiet beautiful solitude, a twitchers paradise, the redshanks and the curlews recognisable by even this limited ex-countryman.
I suspect one of the attractions of Northumberland is its resistance to change. At the side of the road near Coldstream sat three delightful old men, traffic watching. They reminded me of the three brass monkeys, 'Hear no evil, see no evil and say nowt.' They were also uncannily akin to 'Last of the Summer Wine.' They told me it was a regular, daily pastime. Good for them, they showed an inner contentment lacking in many city folk. And though they will not be there physically forever, I'm sure they will be there in spirit.
We spent our evenings in an ex-servicemens club in Seahouses, a favourite haunt for twenty and more years. We are always made welcome, despite years between our visits; it is as if we had never been away. There used to be four old men who sat in the club surveying all. (I wonder if its a Northumberland trait or merely habitual behaviour by the old.) One by one they died off but I swear they haunt the place still. If I shut my eyes I can see them still, sagely nodding their welcomes as if we'd been in the night before though it could have been all of five years between our last fleeting acquaintance.
The present incumbents, customers and committee are the pleasantest of people; some have been around many years. And, if you listen very, very carefully, city folk can learn so much concerning what real ife is all about. I mention listening carefully as the Queen's English is not exactly the choice of dialect in these parts. ('Yew canna guw on the buzz' was not easily decipherable to southern ears.) True, they have similar anxieties to anywhere else; health issues, financial problems in an era of recession, they are not immune to life's foilbles. But they seem to lack the stresses, anger and aggression prevalent in city life.
A glorious five days; so much to do, so much to see. Berwick and Amble, both pleasant plus Craster, exquisite. Warkworth plus castle, stunning, Alnmouth, exceptional, Alnwick, almost perfect. The whole place is different, the scenery, extraordinary, the people, unique.
On our last night there was a discussion with a committee member concerning some cheeky devil who was was parking overnight at the end of the club's car park. Obviously very cheap and convenient. What some people will do to save a bob or two in these hard times. (Thanks chaps, but I had asked.)
Back in Derby our problems may remain but seem somehow less daunting. Thanks Northumberland, we will be back if you'll have us.


Unknown said...

My word just reading this post makes me want to go back to Northumberland, it has been a few years since I have been up there. I used to go with my family once a year and stop at the Berwick Holiday Park. I can remember visiting Hadrians Wall and Holy Island Castle, and of course the town itself.

Chevy Chase Cottage said...

Last time I was in Northumberland I stopped at a Self Catering Cottage in Wooler.