The Lovely Wife has been a trooper this last week of holiday. Not only has she had to put up with a growing nationalist tendency in me – I now wear my Northumbria flag badge with pride – but she has had to cope with infinite patience as I waffle on about childhood holidays and how wonderful they were. In addition she has had to cope with the fact that everyone from the region I call home over a certain age believes that anyone is fair game for a chat, and such a conversation is of highly indeterminate length (although never, ever short). Luckily, while my level of patience is something akin to the time it takes my family and friends to eat their way through a cheese board (with or without port) the Lovely Wife has all the patience a middle child has to install into her.
This week we were up in the North East, near the village (small town?) of Rothbury, in an old mill with a working (overshot, you see I have learned some things) waterwheel beloved of the owner (he was giving it a good moss scraping treatment as we were leaving). For many years as a child the annual holiday was a caravan at Bamburgh on the coast and this area is one of my favourite places as a result. Bamburgh in particular is my personal example of the classic English village. It has a green, nice pubs, an old and interesting church (poor St Aidan, everyone talks about St Cuthbert, his protégé but he gets his shrine in the church here and no one ever visits it), the beach is just a stone’s throw away and of course it is towered over by its castle (albeit mostly Victorian restoration, it sure looks the part). It has an interesting and relevant museum (to Grace Darling, Victorian lifeboat heroine) which is well worth a visit. To top it all as we drove into the village laden with fish and chips they were playing cricket on the ground at the base of the crag on which the castle sits. Picture postcard does not come close (incidentally, even as a child there was a feeling that there was some kind of arrangement in this area between Bamburgh and nearby Seahouses. The latter gets to be pretty while the other is, well, not exactly ugly but has the useful shops, the seaside tat and lots of good fish and chip shops. Or put it another way, you can buy good fish and chips and they’ll still be warm as you eat them in a much nicer place.)
For me that place is Stag rock. It is called officially something else but it is a bit rock with a stag painted in white on it so that is good enough for me. No one seems to know who painted the stag in the first place (clearly someone repaints it every so often). Certainly it was well known locally forty years ago. There is a small lighthouse above it and while that of course is now automated I suspect that when it was manned the keeps got bored. I don’t care why, I still love the place as it has not changed in the last thirty years since I was last there on a childhood holiday; the rock pools are still as full of interesting marine life awaiting to be abused by a curious eight year old (even if in the progress of which he gets so sunburnt that he has blisters for the rest of the week. Oops) and the eider ducks still bring their ducklings right into shore, as we discovered to our delight as we munched through the local delicacy trying to avoid sand being an unwelcome addition to the salt (and in my case vinegar) as condiment. When you love a place so much it seems hard it can get better, but some places just keep giving. Cherish yours.