Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Feels like home

on October 5, 2013

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Last Wednesday marked 20 years since I first arrived, as an eighteen-year-old student, to live in the North East (it was a Saturday, so today is sort of the anniversary of the day!). As I’ve mentioned before, I’d already fallen in love with beautiful Durham earlier that year when I came up for interview, and was overjoyed to learn that I had gained a place there to study languages (after a couple of hours’ panic over a dodgy English Lit result, a lot of tears and two phonecalls – the second because I needed to check that they really had said yes!). I still love the little city (as cities go, it’s tiny and earns the title by virtue of its cathedral and university) and enjoy visiting whenever we can. Throughout my time there I got to know each street, riverbank, bridge and view like the back of my hand, declared every season my favourite each time it rolled round, with the flame-coloured leaves which first greeted me, through the snow on our return after Christmas, the daffodils which came into bloom if you hung around long enough into the Easter holidays and the sleepy sunny days after the exams. Durham, of course, has special memories for me as the place I met Southern Daddy (well, technically we first met in the Yorkshire Dales on a Christian Union weekend, but our courting all took place in Durham), and I am, if required, able to give a guided tour of the city based around significant events in our relationship!

During our student days my friends and I held a slightly skewed picture of the local geography: Durham was (naturally) the Centre of the World, with the satellites of Newcastle (good for shopping and the theatre, and – once – a nightclub in a boat on the river Tyne) and Sunderland (which we visited once to go to a different theatre) situated nearby and accessible by train or bus (preferably train, We took the bus to Sunderland, it took ages and when we got there we didn’t know where we were in relation to anything else and finished up going for tea and cake in a little church hall whilst seeking directions). But the villages around Durham and the towns en route to these two other cities were unknown and uninteresting to us – apart from the almost-mythical Pity Me, home to a branch of Sainsbury’s frequented by those students who had a car, setting them apart from the rest of us who were forced to shop at Safeway. We visited Sainsbury’s the first summer when a friend’s parents let her have a car up after the exams. I seem to remember we bought ice creams and then went back to college. But I digress – my point is that I wasn’t aware at that time of the variety of scenery, landscape or attractions held by this glorious part of the country.

Had Southern Daddy and I not met – or, rather, had we not decided to get married – I should probably have remained in blissful ignorance. I didn’t really intend to stay here – the best places for the Masters degree I wanted to do were elsewhere, and anyway, despite its beauty, North Eastern winters can be miserably cold and dark, which doesn’t suit the temperament of a mild SAD sufferer. But, graduating a year apart, and wanting to see one another regularly, we agreed that the best thing would be for SD to find a job locally until I was ready to leave Durham. We didn’t know then that he would find not only a job, but a church, and a circle of friends, and a life here – and thus the die was cast. Two months after my graduation we moved into our first home as newlyweds, the first of three homes in Newcastle.

It was strange beginning to live in a place I’d previously considered as merely a shopping and cultural centre. For one thing, it was also my place of study now, so the part of the town centre I visited most frequently was further from the station than I’d ever ventured before. I came to know some of the suburbs, and learned that Byker was a real place (and my new home) but that it possessed nothing called, or resembling, a Grove!
I discovered that there are parts of Newcastle almost as beautiful as Durham, that some of the architecture is simply stunning, especially if you look up above the shop fronts, and that there are plenty of places worth visiting outside the cities. I also discovered that it’s not worth taking the Metro from the Central Station into town, as it’s a 5 minute walk, tops (we’d been paying about £1 for this tiny journey, for FOUR YEARS!) and that, with concentration and practice, it is possible to enter and leave Fenwick’s department store by the same door!

Soon after my studies were complete, Southern Daddy was made permanent at work and we bought a house nearer church. I worked for a little while before the Bookworm was born in the impressive Royal Victoria Infirmary, and three years later the Butterfly arrived in our third Newcastle house (in which we still live).

Since becoming a mother I’ve had more chance to explore what the region has to offer families, with its museums, beaches and parks. The girls and I had an unforgettable day last year in summer when we travelled by Metro, bus and foot visiting cultural venues around Newcastle to fill in their Sustrans Green Explorer cards (we took the photo that day – you can see the Olympic Rings on the Tyne Bridge).

One of the elements of our Newcastle life which has proved invaluable is our church family. As well as being supported and nurtured spiritually through our involvement there, we’ve been blessed with a family to fill in for the biological one which is spread across the country. There we have stand-in parents who have taken babies for long walks so we could get some sleep, brothers and sisters who’ve given us advice, shoulders to cry on and babysitting exchanges, and imaginary cousins for our children to play with in the same way they dote on their real ones. We really could not have had the same quality of life without them.

As we make decisions about a secondary school for the Bookworm and move towards the next phase of our family life, it doesn’t look like we’ll be moving away any time soon, and I realise I’ve now lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere.

I didn’t expect to stay this long, but now it really is home.

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One response to “Feels like home

  1. Love this – such special memories! xxx

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