Its cold up North

Extracts from the Diary of Ken Brown, aged fifty and a half. Some jotted in my notebook in the normal way, others recorded on our new Olympus voice recorder. Which is actually meant for work, but I need to learn how to use it and thought it could do with a bit of a test under field conditions.

The field in this case being the pitch of the Tynedale Rugby Club at Corbridge in Northumberland, where we’ve been camped since Thursday. Well, not any more because this is Sunday evening and I’m writing it now because I didn’t have my computer up there. Computers and holidays don’t mix.

10:40 Friday morning

Friday dawned late and I am hungover in my little tent with the broken pole and one side too high and the other too low and everybody else has left to find breakfast and the pub. But its a little early for that for me.

So does this recorder become the blogging weapon of choice then?

They said it wasn’t cold up north. But it is! They lied!

Euuugh…. its raining, I’m by the waters of Tyne, there are Roman Ruins two miles away – but there is a railway station half a mile away
And the railway station will at least be dry and there will be trains to Newcastle. But its very tempting to go the stations to see what times the trains are.

Gosh, it gets more tempting the more I think about it.



Well its June. Its the week before Midsummer, I came up north to go to a beer festival, and so far I’ve spent more on waterproof clothing than beer. And now I’m in Sunderland and I’m about to look for a pub and try to change that.

I quite like Sunderland. Its about the right size for a town or a small city. Big enough to have one of everything but not so big you can’t take it all in. It was so wet I had to buy a waterproof top and wear it. On top of a jumper. In June. I wasn’t doing that in London in March.


There are gulls in the air, herring gulls, the sky is full of their cries. Sunderland is by the sea. I had almost forgotten that. Well, not so much forgotten it as not bothered to think about it. It smells of the sea. There is heavy rain and a strong east wind and its windier on the east coast than inland. If it was wet in Corbridge this is almost a storm. Gulls are rare nowhere in Britain – the herring gull is one of only about two or three birds you can see anywhere from mountaintop to saltmarsh , town centre to forest – though if you were in a wood they would be flying overheard (the others are crows, swifts (though overhead again) Oh and wrens, Bill Oddie has just reminded me.) But they are more abundant in towns by the sea than they are in other places and coming from Brighton I’m used to them as an almost constant backdrop to everything, which I only now realise I miss when it comes back again. It smalls right. Why did I ever leave the seaside? Will I ever go back again? I’m probably too old to do anything else but stay where I am or go home to Brighton now. The Downs and the sea are always in my mind if only as a contrast to to other places. They inevitably define for me what is “normal”, the defaults from which other landscapes differ.

And I never did get to a pub in Sunderland, but had a bacon roll and mug of tea in the “Golden Chef” visible at the bottom of this picture:

Of course its a poor town – it looks poor even compared with Newcastle, poor and run down. The shops are mostly pretty downmarket, ort at any rate cheap. Though I don’t think any part of it figures among the very most deprived neighbourhoods in Britain (they tend to be in Liverpool and Glasgow and London IIRC) and it doesn’t have the pockets of extremely deprived areas that still exist in South Tyneside or round Hartlepool. And there are posh-looking early 19th-century terraces with cobbled streets and BMWs only a few blocks from the station.

And I have a Metro ticket in my pocket now and they are still shiny and yellow, so I think I’ll go and play with the best urban railway system in Britain – time to set off for Jarrow.

One thought on “Its cold up North

  1. Well – you should try Manchester. i was a student in London but the came "up North" to work and have loved it – really enjoy being here. Loads of culture and "city buzz" if you want it. (Bridgewater Hall, GMex, RNCM, free lunchtime concerts at Chethams School of Music, theatre, museums etc) Lots of different areas with different atmospheres ( The famous curry mile, antique shops in Levenshulme, "lego" buildings at Salford Quays, beautifully regenerated city centre (after bomb), etc ) but also within a day trip of the Peak District, Lake District, North Wales, Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales, etc)
    Friendly down to earth people who tend (IMHO) to b e more positive in interacting with others than I found in London.

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