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Northumberland

Today, its' just Pip as we're both enjoying writing so much that more words appear each week....


As you know Dear Reader, (I must be turning into a potty mouthed Cervantes), we had agreed to do a long walk a month, interposed with dog walking and anything else that can be termed exercise. And to confirm the question in all of your minds, we decided, after much debate, sex definitely counts. (NOTE: TBT had an annoyingly smug look on his face when he read that and then went onto remind me of many occasions when my stamina had been called into question. Possibly stories for a different kind of blog.....)


Unfortunately, for November’s walk, my long awaited house move scuppered our planned excursion. It was a traumatic move of epic proportions, from a small detached place into a huge three storey house, so I did and continue to do what feels like ascents and descents of Everest daily. It plays havoc with my knees.


Then it was Christmas and boozing and family intervened.


Talking of Christmas, my kids are all grown and living their best lives, eldest is married with kids, my Beautiful Daughter is living a bucolic dream on top of a hill in Northumberland with her lovely farmer hubby and 3200 piglets (did you know piglets sussurate?) and the youngest who lives with his boyfriend in Shiremoor, Newcastle. TBT has his daughter and Olds and my Mum and Pops are being weirdly wonderful, so it’s usually just me and the dog for Christmas these days.


My kids aren’t hot on me being on my tod, I think for fear of what I will get up to if left unsupervised for long periods of time, they have experience.....


So, just before Christmas my Beautiful Daughter arrived for a few days, she is pregnant and due in March, so a very gentle mother and daughter time was enjoyed, although I did need to be resuscitated in Tesco when I got to the checkout and the bill was £430.00.


Then the youngest, aka, Special Precious Boy and his partner Lady Wycombe (pronounced Wycombee, yes there is a story) came down to keep poor old Mama company and out of too much trouble.


On our first meeting, Lady Wycombe, whilst trying to make a good impression broke my best champagne flute, inadvertently called me fat and then looking at the t-shirt I was wearing (see picture below) asked my why it had bumble ghosts on it. “Obviously!” I snapped in “patient” tones, ”they are Boo - bees”


Lady's of a certain age, often wear t-shirts just like this one as it makes them feel twenty one again and believe they still have pert breasts.


Anyway, the boys came down laden with presents, there was glitter everywhere and a distinct paucity of sobriety.


During the festive season, Bec and I put our heads together and decided that Northumberland should be our next walking venue. So I made enquiries about my cousin’s holiday home (thanks Wor Daz) and booked it for the end of January. For those of you who are wondering, Christmas was great! Best present was a new sewing machine from TBT. I am so rock and roll.


January arrives and I start a new job, no company car. I have an extended loan of the aged parental’s second car, a red Mazda MX5. Whilst toddling back from Uxbridge (yes, its a fucking huge commute) I aquaplane and nearly take myself out under a wagon. Cue nervous wreck at the side of the M42 shaking, awaiting the RAC and the parentals. TBT has now banned me from driving cars that begin with the letter ‘M’ as I am prone to writing them off. For the record, the last one was a Mercedes.


Being a person of extremes, I immediately rush out and buy the safest car I can think of. An enormous geriatric Volvo, Christened Gertrude Volvo’s Dottir. These days, my image seems to be less Loubs and more hiking boots and sturdy Gertie.


The dog and I arrive unscathed at my cousin’s holiday house in Beadnell. For those who don’t know the area, that part of the North East is not only the best kept secret in the UK, but also food for the soul! Go and see, it’s incredible.


Within minutes of my arrival there was some sort of proximity alert going off and children and relatives were all texting asking me if I was home - I am originally from the North East.


Bec arrives as I’m cooking a huge vat of chilli, I know how this shit works: my children are about to descend and food will be hoovered up relentlessly. I tentatively mention this to Bec, who I think is imagining a weekend of walks and grown up chamomile tea drinking. She appears slightly startled, but handles it well.


Very shortly a crescendo of knocks at the door echos around the entire village, the dog goes batty and Special Precious Boy and Lady Wycombe explode into the house. Dog is literally bouncing on all four paws whining, knocking random things over with his tail and generally displaying disgusting amounts of sheer delight.


I have come away for the weekend, well prepared, with seven bottles of Prosecco, Jack Daniels, Coke (the fizzy drink kind) and sparkling mineral water. Bec bought gin, artisan tonic, some sensible food and random circles of haggis.


After a great deal of chilli, alcohol and hilarity that involves Bec’s seeping seams, Lady Wycombe’s understanding of cars (zero) and various other topics, Bec staggers off to bed at 11pm, I am mugged into staying up until 2am with the boys. When I finally crawl and yes, I mean crawl up the stairs into bed, I am filled with dread about the following day’s walk.


The morning arrives far to swiftly after the night before. I am greeted by bright sunlight (a bonus) and a crushing headache (not such a positive). I stagger downstairs, dog excitedly bouncing along beside me, I head for the kettle and am stopped abruptly in my tracks by the grotesque stench of two grown men who ingested enormous amounts of Mama’s special chilli the night before, I hasten to the patio doors and throw them open! If this was a Disney film, I would be looking ‘innocent and beautiful’ and there would be bluebirds and sparrows and other nature type bollocks hanging out in the garden to serenade me. However, I am drastically hungover, look like I’ve been hit in the face with a brick and all that’s in the garden is an idiot hound who is standing proudly next to a fucking huge shite that I need to go and move. I grown internally, add that to the ‘things I need to do after a cuppa’ and head back towards the kettle.


Previously, Bec and I had decided we were going to walk from Beadnell to Bamburgh and back again, right along the beach, it’s a beautiful walk that I have done before, possibly about two hundred years ago and is about twelve miles, give to take a few hundred yards.


We are both optimistic about our abilities and so as we dress in layers to compensate for the random fluctuations in weather that the Northumbrian coast offer as the norm, we excitedly discus how long it will take and I offer what I hope are useful little snippets of information about the local topography.


Suddenly, I realise that Bec is rocking the fucking brightest jacket I have ever seen, I take one look at it and reach for more Neurofen, I think she may have taken the ‘two mummies’ comment rather to heart! If her hair was cut in a sensible way, she'd look like she'd emerged from a day out at the garden centre having purchased a kneeling pad.


I am more soberly dressed in black - it’s my go to colour, although my head is adorned with a rather natty, woolly sparkly hat with a giant Pom Pom on top. I look rather fetching in it.


Bec, as we all know is a detail person, so she has a small backpack with water and useful stuff packed neatly within, I have forgotten my water bottle and anything else of use....although, it should be noted that I did remember to bring an essential seven bottles of Prosecco, which the boys and I have drunk....no doubt why I feel like death. Bec is almost irritatingly un-hungover and cheerful. We set off with Dude dislocating my shoulder, having happily arranged to meet the now almost awake boys at lunchtime-ish in Bamburgh. The sun is shining, we have a great walk planned, my hangover is reducing gradually, it’s only about six miles to the pub. No problem.


Making use of one of Bec’s tricks, I mutter ‘right then’ to myself, being very careful to avoid looking directly at Bec for fear of blinding myself with the reflection from her extremely bright pink jacket, we head off towards the sea. Luckily for us, the tide is out - I had completely neglected to factor this into my calculations, a small detail that I didn’t admit to Bec.


This coastline is beautiful and always, even in high summer, pretty quiet. With its huge expanses of beach, birds, dead crabs and stuff, it is paradise.


Unlike the pocket full of insane that is Eddie, my dog, ‘Dude’ is an idiot. He’s a rescue pooch and comes with all the associated weirdness that being mistreated and dumped at a cat and dog home engender. He is also a complete knob. We discover, in no particular order that;


a) he very much dislikes bright pink wellies - he’s not wrong but even so, being herded by a neurotic German Shepherd away from ‘his’ people must have been somewhat worrying for the poor woman wearing them.

b) he equally objects to seagulls

c) other dogs are just a no no


After catching and putting ‘knob’ back on the lead, we continue with our adventure, talking shite and coming to a fairly swift realisation that walking on sand is pretty hard going for aged knee joints. We head for the wet sand. Handy hint: wet sand is MUCH easier to walk on. It did leave me wondering what Nepalese mountain paths were like to walk on, but I quickly pushed that thought aside.


A couple of miles in and we hit a river, after a bit of consultation, we decide that crossing wasn’t what we were going to do, so we follow it towards the sea, scramble round some rocks and up a small, but sheer cliff face emerging, panting, yet exultant onto Seahouses golf course where some unsuspecting middle aged unfashionably dressed men were going about their Saturday morning game of golf business. We stoically ignored the footpath that was now in plain sight just to the right of us, that we had failed to notice earlier.


After the ubiquitous selfie and a couple of moodily scenic snaps, we continued past the caravan site and into Seahouses itself.


Seahouses, is in the summer a bustling busy little place, with a little harbour that still has a working fishing fleet, as well as the de rigueur boat trips out to stare at puffins, seals, kraken and things around the Farne Islands. At this time of year Seahouses is completely dead, there were a couple of hardy walkers (not us) and some people dejectedly eating bacon rolls shivering hovering round the edges of the pavement, you could fire a cannon down the high street and not hit a soul.


We had both been mumbling about needing to pee for some time, so I head off to the public loos, Bec hangs on to Dude slash Knob who creates what can only be termed a bit of a scene by howling with despair until I reappear having wee-ed at top speed, then we decide a cuppa is in order.


The only place open is a hotel that welcomes 'well behaved dogs' - understanding this stricture counts Dude out completely, I sit outside in the pale sunshine awaiting Bec with the tea. This arrives, in the mode of Julie Walters carrying two soups, Bec weaves her way unsteadily towards me carrying a tray of tea and coffee accoutrements with the obligatory Italian style biscuit. The tea is stone cold. After much debate we decide that we are British and won't say anything in case it causes a 'scene' and set off again. We both make use of the facilities once more, just in case.


There are a lot of sand dunes around Seahouses and Bamburgh, so we trudge what feels like a hundred miles to get back to the beach, as ever talking the level of complete shite we all do when talking to our best mate; kids and what to do with them, the Ever Patient Husband, TBT, my idiot dog (as he pulls me off my feet randomly chasing nothing), the menopause, how disconcerting it is that we both assumed that the menopause meant the cessation of periods, when actually what it does do is completely fuck your body up, flooding (not the type they have had in Hereford recently), constantly needing to pee, aching joints, the desire to kill any male that speaks or dares to breathe, the irrational anger etc.... We come to the conclusion that gin helps and move onto discussing sex.


In truth, its mainly me actually that talks about sex because Bec has Ever Patient Husband and as we all know when you get married you aren't allowed to talk about your sex life anymore. I have undergone many interrogations about the chats Bec and I have about sex from TBT who is understandably interested in what I've said. Suffice to say I haven't shared anything and I am enjoying his constant state of mild panic.


Lots and lots more beach happens, Bec's knees start to hurt, my left foot and toes go numb, apparently I do need to pay eleventy billion sodding quid for proper socks....then my phone pings! It's a text from Special Precious Boy and Lady Wycombe, who are now awake and eager to eat food....as I am fumbling around trying to find my glasses, dropping them on the sand, cleaning said glasses then reading the message, my phone rings, clearly the boys cannot wait and are in dire need of sustenance. We arrange that we will meet them in a dog tolerant hotel for a meal 'shortly'.


Bec and I grown in unison and up our speed. Slightly.


Bamburgh Castle looms above us, it's proper spectacular. As we walked passed it, I mused about my late father and how he used to swear blind his family were descended from the Forsters that owned the castle way back when. They eventually lost all their money by drinking and gambling and making poor relationship choices, hmmm, perhaps there is something in it, although, I don't gamble.


We cut around the bottom end of the castle and cross the cricket green, very English. Heading for the pub, by which time my litany of complaints was reaching irritating proportions.


"My feet hurt" I moan and "my back is in agony." I add plaintively.


"Nearly there." Placates Bec.


"Where the fuck is the pub?" I grumble, obviously its the one furthest away....bloody kids.


Bec seems, despite saying her knees hurt, to be handling this much better than I am.


Bec scouts out the pub - searching for other dogs that Dude may try and eat, (never great in a restaurant), we find the boys and I try persuade a large, sandy, exhausted and reluctant dog under the table, out of the way, with, I have to say, very limited success. By now, my patience, never obvious, is at its very end and I am snarling at the poor dog.


The boys wisely decide that for my sanity and probably mine and Bec's ongoing friendship, it might be best if Knob is taken home at this point. Off they go in the car. Bec and I relaxed. Back they come with Special Precious Boy seething with rage and Lady Wycombe sniggering, apparently, the back of the car is now filled with eight inches of sand. "Oh, dear", I say silently to myself, "I suspect I may be stung for lunch in retribution!"


We have such a lovely lunch and I try very hard to persuade Bec to get a lift back with boys. It's a straight 'no', so we set off for the walk back, Bec jauntily, me rather less so.


As we head back, we stumble (remember my feet and Bec's knees) upon a retail opportunity and purchase rather super gloves - mine rocking both fur and lace, Bec's are are more elegant with fur cuffs and delicate sparkles.


As we hobble homeward bound, Bec starts whispering at me in sibilant tones, I stare at her blankly. It does take me a minute or so to understand why and once I eventually locate and apply my glasses to the appropriate place on my face, I can finally see the deer across the road, lurking assassin-like in the undergrowth. Not to be outdone with such a profound observation, I proudly point out the fields on our right which Beautiful Daughter and bump sowed with something agricultural that I cannot remember the name of. Bec is suitably impressed.


We decide that given the rapidly descending gloom and indeed incoming tide, we should stick to the sand dunes or the road. We stop in Seahouses again for more tea, hot this time and push on. By this time its proper dark, my back goes again and I'm hobbling, Bec's knees have proper gone now and in truth I'm a bit concerned about the limp she is enjoying through gritted teeth.


We are only about a mile from home and I'm traitorously praying that any moment SPB will be so worried he will be out combing the area for his mother's almost lifeless body, no such luck and we finally achieve the little holiday home, never has a house looked more wonderful.


As we stagger into the house, almost crying with relief, SPB announces that he was beginning to get a bit worried.


"A bit fucking worried!" I snarl. "I could be dead at the side of the road!" SPB laughs (he knows me well and is accustomed to my verbal over reacting), whilst Lady Wycombe desperately tries to reassure me that they were just about to come and find us. He's so sweet.


After Bec and I gargle with gin and Jack Daniels plus pain killers (apparently we are mid-ulting well), Beautiful Daughter and Giant Husband arrive, the boys recognising this as heralding more sensible behaviour decide to go home. We have a lovely evening discussing childbirth - did I mention Beautiful Daughter and Giant Husband are expecting a baby soon? I might have, as I am worryingly excited - in fact poor Giant Husband has been given to understand that I am going to be staying for an extended period when baby arrives. He is so very excited because I am pure joy to be with.


The following morning I am surprised to find that I feel really quite perky. Not perky enough to climb Cheviot in the rain as I do point out to Bec, perhaps slightly snottily, in retrospect. I mean For Fuck's Sake it's a six thousand foot mountain! And it was raining.


Anyway, not having appropriately Morningside style coffee available in the house, we decide to head to Berwick Upon Tweed via Beautiful Daughter's house and have coffee and cake. We duly get lost trying to find her farm in the middle of nowhere. Gertie's sat nav isn't very reliable.


Beautiful Daughter is safely collected, the new nursing chair admired and us ladies bundle ourselves into Gertie and we head off to Berwick, to find coffee etc. We do find coffee (it's from a chain, but Bec doesn't moan too much as its one of the better ones apparently). We prevent Dude from trying to ingest four daschunds and a springer spaniel, then go for a gentle stumble around Berwick walls. It's the oldest and most complete walled town in the UK I believe.


It's drizzling, but the three of us are strolling and chatting, Dude is enjoying his outing - he's easily pleased. It's almost as though we were having a normal Sunday afternoon.


An hour or so later Bec painfully hobbles back to her car, stating that she'll be going via Go Outdoors, where, to my horror, she was desirous of purchasing Norwegian walking rods or whatever they're called. It strikes me with horror that I will now have to be seen in public with her wearing her bright pink jacket and attempting to walk with poles.


I return to my little temporary house, tired but happy. The most wonderful way to spend time is with family and friends, chuck in some booze and lots of laughter. Perfect!


This is a light-hearted blog and not the place for huge emotional statements, but I would like to dedicate this instalment to my Uncle who lived in Seahouses for many, many years and un happily died two days before we arrived for the weekend. He was a man with a huge heart and a wicked sense of humour and I loved him. He would have howled with laughter at the state of us staggering home. He will be missed by many, not least me. Laugh on Uncle John.


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