domingo, 20 de abril de 2008
When Jacky and I decided that the theatre and its glory had run dry we looked North for salvation and tried to find a house near Hexham, Northumberland, however the prices were above the £24,750 that we had received for our house in Abbey Wood, London. Time ran out for us and we accepted the holiday ruin that friends, Barbara and Alistair, had bought for their weekend cottage.
Alistair was a doctor in Durham and they had a nice house close to the river in Durham but wanted to have a retreat that was very quiet and allowed the stress of the town to sigh. The problem with their purchase was that it needed practically everything doing to it, no water or sanitation, no cooking facilities, leaking roof, the chimney was collapsing and they had no idea of DIY . I arrived a month in advance at the house, around October 1980, in East Black Dean, Weardale, in order to try and get the basics sorted out and completed before Jacky and I moved our belongings from London. We completed the sale in London and packed all the cats( I think we had 6 with us when we left London) into the car and everything else into a hired van, pushing the folliage of the last potted plant firmly as we closed the door at the rear. The whole process of terminating work in london, losing a secure income and all that along with moving left us stressed to maximum level and continued when we arrived at East Black Dean and saw the snow was falling, clearly we could not get really close to the house. The local coal merchant, Ralph, came to the rescue with his lorry to ferry things the last few yards. The locals obviously thought that city folk are all stupid. Ralph was typical of Weardale residents, they have a small holding and keep everything on it, the idea being the the cattle use the tongue to rip off the long grass, the horses and goats chew the medium length grass and the sheep nibble the rest down to the point when you rotate the beasts allowing one field to be fallow ( medieval technology that I suppose works. Weardale is very high and the valley is narrow, high winds and snow in the winter but the summer brings early sun rise to those that live high in the mountains, on Chrismas day when the snow lay more than a metre deep we could ski in shorts and short sleeves, the sun was so hot.
I think that my hard work on the cottage won round the locals and we started to be accepted almost as heroes, especially when they found out that we were baking bread, making wine, cider and beer, also growing all our own vegatables. At one party we gave for friends they even remarked that the wine was better than any of the cheap plonk that everyone had brought to the party. The sad exception to this idylic life was our hosts, Barbara I think had thought that the house was unliveable in and therefore gayly said that we could staay for 25 years without it being a problem. We did not wish to wait 25 years to buy another house but had hoped that the lack of pressure would mean that we could find the right house at the right price and be first in with an offer. After 8 months in the house Barbara arrive back from her italian holiday in what can only be described as pregnant depression, she arrived at the house one weekend and announced that she was going to stay, she took our belongings out of the cupboards and threw them on the floor in front of us both without any hint of an explaination causing Jacky to initially boil over and then retreat into a depression that focused on us finding an alternative house rapidly. This proved difficult and the whole scenario of beautiful country life went to the dogs, Barbara then moved attention to the garden and removed plants that we had planted. It was a nightmare of grand proportions and it left Jacky and I caught in a state of panic. Jacky wanted me to buy practically anything that came up on the market and I was trying to think of what we could do if nothing was available, one house came up for sale vear Alston but near a refuse tip and miles away from any work or town, she was so eager to buy it that when I agreed with my friend John Arthur that this was not the right area she vertually stopped talking to me, I had let her down for the first time and it was clearly a painful experience. John had reasons too for saying it was not a good choice, he had been left with a huge death duty bill and needed to get his mother out of the family home on the edge of Newcastle and into a conversion that he had done in Corbridge. He suggested to me that he could let me have the house there for a pepper corn rent so that we were not living with Barbara and Alistair and that would appease his mother who was very fond of me and would accept me living at Hill Head Farm, Westerhope. It seemed a good compromise and gave me workshop space as well, so the deal was struck and Jacky and I moved house again, leaving Barbara to her fortune and the Devil.