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Favourite people and places

If ever I were asked for a list of my favourite places then Newton Bay is one that would be very close to the top. It is part of Northumberland’s North Sea coastline and is a place given natural shelter by a rocky reef, where the sand is soft, the sea is invariably cold and the light has a special quality about it.Dunstanburgh Castle

Some years ago, with our young children on board and just as the daylight was fading (so rather later in the day than we might have liked) we can recall piloting our sailing boat into Newton Bay, following closely behind a friend in his shallow draft cruiser. Although we bumped our keel on the rocks which give the bay such fine protection from the North Sea swell, no harm was done and we were soon anchored safely. In those days there was rarely a sailing trip we made that was without some incident, some excitement, which raised the blood pressure for a short while. This being the early days of our family sailing we were learning steeply, each trip taught us a new lesson, this one being “Never assume it is safe to follow another boat”. Our keel was made of iron and suffered little from its encounter and the wound we made in the weed-covered rock no doubt also healed over quickly. Maybe we inadvertently dislodged a crab or two, for which I belatedly apologise, but the day was one of many memorable ones on board our tiny boat, ‘Noggin the Nog’.

Today the beach at Newton is just as it was then; there are the dunes which hide a small haven for wildlife, there is the same small collection of houses and there is the pub, closed to us then with our small children in tow and closed again as we revisit the place, it being mid morning. The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle also still stand on their rock overlooking the sea, little changed in the thirty years since our last visit nor indeed since being abandoned back in the 16th Century, by which time the Scottish border was considered to be stable enough, England no longer feeling under threat from those north of the border. Today the position is reversed, of course.

We visit this familiar place not specifically on a jaunt down memory lane, however. It is simply that having travelled so widely around the coast of Britain we inevitably find ourselves revisiting old haunts, our exploring genes ensuring that we rarely pass by without broadening our experience inventory.

Mal&Kate at StAbbsSo it is that we find ourselves taking a selfie on the  very highest point of St Abbs Head, which also juts out into the North Sea and overlooks the mouth of the Forth of Firth a place past which we sailed on more than a few occasions. We have crossed the border into Scotland now but the wind that we lean into blows mild air from the south giving the impression it has crossed a much warmer sea than the one stretched out before us. We are perched up here on the edge of Winter but the season itself has yet to arrive. There is, however, a battle going on in the sky above us, one that followed us south a week ago and which still rages as we make our way homewards. Back then we would be driving through torrential rain with the sun in our eyes then five minutes later on the dry road would be overshadowed by black rainbow-spewing clouds.wild skies

As we head west the rain lashes horizontally across the road, our campervan staggers to the gusts, while I pull at the steering wheel to keep us moving in a straight line. We are en route home now heading for our nearest branch of B&Q where we have a mission to accomplish. It is  a little over one hundred miles by road from where we live to this, our closest DIY superstore, so I have saved up a little list of things I need for my latest project, adding some wooden decking around Ducky’s carport (something we now affectionately call the ‘Bus Shelter’). Our mobile home now becomes a builder’s van as we load up with large pieces of wood, bags of cement and a few other bits that were not on the list. Once loaded, the extra weight on board means the gusty wind can barely affect us but the rain falls in great floods as we negotiate the final turns in the long and winding road back to Carradale.

In a little over a week we have completed a 1700 mile trip around Britain, visiting a sample of our scattered family and friends along the way. In Bristol we bumped into a rare coloured gorilla and met up with our youngest, Ben, just back from an American tour with hgorilla in Bristolis band, Frogbelly and Symphony, and still somewhat jet-lagged. Having recently moved into this city, Ben has set himself the challenge of creating a new music scene there where  none currently exists, so watch out Bristolians! Down in Cornwall we dropped in on my sole surviving aunt, Jessie, who we would love to take back home with us but fear this might not sit well with the rest of her family. Instead, we gave her a gift of some Edinburgh rock and as much of our company as she could stand. In Worthing our eldest, Tony, took us for a walk along the shore to his favourite beach, a place where the flint pebbles look like old dinosaur bones, then in Yeovil, Kate’s brother, Peter, offered us a comfy bed for a few nights while his wife, Liz, fed us in style.

Back home now the season has definitely changed as brown leaves are stripped from the trees by the wind. Our stove is alight, ready for its first full winter trial, and if we run out of logs then we’ll just start on the furniture.

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One Response to Favourite people and places

  1. Wonderful stories beautifully written Malcolm!

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