Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Why can't England be more like Northumbria?

When you're an Englishman (or a woman, but I don't know what that's like) and your passions are traditional boats and traditional music, there is no finer place to combine the two, within the borders of the country, than Northumberland. And that's where we headed for our holidays, a four day break away from the febrile Indian Summer parching south-east England.

We stayed at an outstanding B&B, the fantastic Fenham Farm, which is run by a delightful couple called Wattie and Gill, and enjoys magnificent views of Lindisfarne, without all the hassle of getting seawater up to your car windowsills on the causeway (which us Merseaites know a thing or two about).

It was hosing it down on the Saturday, so we drove up to Edinburgh and had a look at the Royal Yacht Britannia at Ocean Terminal, then enjoyed some Deuchars in the Cafe Royal.

Sunday was a bit brighter, so we headed down to the Tap & Spile in Morpeth for their Sunday afternoon session. We were warmly greeted by Keith Besford, an oustanding session fiddler, who kept his wonderfully named band under his Homburg. I'm sorry I can't remember the names of all the terrific musicians there, but the assembled company also included smallpiper Maureen Davison and uber-fiddler Bennett Hogg. Juliet made the aquaintance of Jean and Craig, visiting from Connecticut after a three-year absence, who were delighted to be remembered at the session (Craig is a mean 5-string banjo player, sadly unarmed on this trip), and their friend Sharon from Warkworth. The craic was 90 (I never have understood that phrase) and the tunes were fast, furious and mostly Northumbrian (except Morpeth Rant - so passé!).

All too soon, we had to up and leave, as we wanted to see a boat in Blyth, some dozen miles distant, on behalf of a friend down south. The irony of the banter in the Tap and Spile ("there isn't a boat in Blyth that isn't rotten, lad") was brought home when it turned out that the owner of the boat had been on a bus, sitting next to Keith Besford, chief Blyth maritime detractor, the previous day!! Small world. Especially considering the boat owner himself would normally have been playing at the session!

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