Saturday, 25 July 2009


My mother grew up in Northumberland. Her father was a manager for the Cooperative, managed a farm at Hetton Steads. According to the couple my sister spoke to when she and I drove over there, he was a well-respected manager, good to his workforce, strong and fair, morally upright and religious. The farm used to employ 90 staff, today it is worked by 12. Grandad would walk up the hill to work with the sheep (he liked sheep - when he retired to the north west Scottish coast he had sheet on his croft).

When we used to visit our grandparents we would stay with them in their house. They'd built an extension on the side that faced over the loch - with large windows all the way round three sides - good for looking out to sea, over the hillside and across the hamlet. Granny would spot deer on the hillside, or the QE2 passing by on the sea. We'd play whist (with the curtains closed on Sundays so the neighbours wouldn't see) if it rained and in the evenings. Granny would always have an ace up her sleeve, play it with aplomb. She liked to win.

On the window sill there were photographs. One of my favourites was of the five children arranged on the drive of the house at Hetton Steads. I always thought it was at the front. The two eldest stood behind, the three youngest on chairs in the front. Auntie Jennifer very elegant in 50's finery, beautiful dress, hair and lipstick. Uncle John, the littlest ones in matching dresses, and mother. The house looked grand and huge. I was surprised at the size of it - it seemed less impressive than I had always imagined it to be. And faced away from the road over the land.

Amy and I drove past the school they used to go to (primary, before being sent off to boarding school). Its a b&b now. Then we went up to St Cuthberts Caves - Uncle John told her they used to go over there often. We sheltered in what we thought was the cave when the rains came in but later discovered we were totally not in the right spot having taken the wrong animal path when the signposts stopped - doh!)

I can see why our mother loved this place - the landscape is beautiful, green, luscious.

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