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.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Sunny Days

Couple of sunny days we drove up to the sandy beaches to dig sand castles, swim (some of the younger contingent) and sunbathe. First visit we just got the suntan lotion rubbed in and the sun went behind the clouds for good - good hour worth of shade-bathing instead. Nephew cried when he got sand in his sandwich. He discarded it a short distance from the rug. Seagulls swooped in for it.

Monday, 13 July 2009


Tide comes in and goes out. At the low tide a beach is revealed below the rocks that are being smoothed into curvaceous smooth shapes by the sea. Cormorants, gulls and house martins. Three days in exhaustion is setting in. Probably a mixture of relaxing from work, sea air and different waking hours. Blogging from the kitchen table with the french doors open and the sea lapping up just beyond the fence. Occassional walkers pass by interrupting the seaview (the coastal path is just outside the fence).

Monday, 6 July 2009

Conference at Excel Centre

Brave new world of docklands. All covered walkways, elevated, self-driving trains and hotels build of lego. Wide pedestrian routes and brick pathways in various designs. Old warehouses cleaned up with glass extensions and deep moats left from the days of being dockyards. In the glaring sun the dirty film of air in the distance from the city sits on the horizon. Feels devoid of enough people to make it feel like a real part of the city. Over the main dock is a development of apartments built in identical modern-in-the-style-of-something-old houses. Great view from them. Great location on the side of the water. Some years to come before it will look anything more than a dormatory. Along the side of the docks the massive Stothert & Pitt dock cranes stand erect in pairs - reminders of what once was a hive of industrial activity. An oversized bronze statue of 3 dock workers loading up a palet to be lifted off by a crane is dwarfed by the buildings, cranes & size of the pedestrian walkways. A forest of newly planted trees are miniature. Evenly planted like in the Parisian Tuileries. Eventually they will gain some stature in their surroundings. So finally, I turn around and enter the Excel Centre for the conference...

Friday, 3 July 2009

Essential Dressing

Big thick black extra long false eyelashes. Eyes looking out from below them - surrepticiously almost as if wearing sunglasses - not realising how much can be seen. Very vampish, 60s look. Apart from the false lashes she is wearing a velor tracksuit and bright yellow teeshirt, and has just been to Aldi's. When did false eyelashes become one of the can't-be-seen-out-in-public-without items?