Rain, not rioting, in Northumberland

Angle of the North – Elizabeth Elder’s monthly column from a farm in Northumberland


Like many farms around here, we do not have a mains water supply.

Our water comes from a collecting tank on the hill. Every time it rains – and, as I write, it’s been raining for much of the past month – the water turns brown. So, we have been bathing in something the colour of cold tea for weeks.

I am not sure how this is affecting our skin, but it is not doing much for our laundry. It was noticeable at Archie’s cricket match on Sunday, that his ‘whites’ were the creamiest on the pitch.

The match was the Under 11s County Cup final between Alnmouth and South Northumberland, the Manchester United of cricket in this area.

I think the opposition thought their win was going to be a formality. However, Alnmouth put up a reasonable total and then started bowling and fielding well. We realised that the batting team was behind and the mood of the crowd began to change.

There was a breathless hush on the ground that day, 24 to defend and the last pair in…

You get the picture – it was extremely tense. Could the country boys beat the undefeated, undisputed champions from the Toon, with their indoor cricket school and 12-month training schedule?

Yowzer. Alnmouth won. Boys and supporters studiously tried to be gracious in victory, applauding the opposition and suppressing a desire to celebrate with a medley of ‘We are the champions’, ‘Can we play you every week?’ and ‘Are you India in disguise?’

With Archie’s team, as with the England Test team, the fans are not very used to being the best and find it a bit disconcerting. You have the sneaking suspicion that your team is top because everyone else is rubbish.

I was reminded of the words of Sid Waddell, the legendary darts commentator: “When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer Eric Bristow is 27.”

Alnmouth under 11s are, um, under 11.

We are now in the middle of the school holidays and, in line with tradition, we have not gone away anywhere. Jake refuses to plan anything until the silage is made and we have various commitments at the end of the month. So, it is hard to see us getting away at all this summer.

However, after protracted negotiations, Jake has agreed to apply for a passport. It is so long since he travelled abroad that he previously used a paper passport bought at the Post Office. Now he will have to go for an interview to check that he qualifies. I think any interviewer would conclude that he is British, but from which century?

We have managed to take the children on a number of summer family outings, though – mainly centred around sport (Archie), shopping (Julia) and the compulsory Harry Potter film.

During this week’s shopping experience, I viewed people queuing up in Newcastle to pay £10 to dip their feet into a tank of water and allow fish to nibble their toes. I kid you not. While this sort of thing continues, despite the world’s economic worries, it is hard to conclude that there is no money about.

Julia has announced her desire to get her ears pierced. I have always been a bit squeamish about needles and the idea of someone firing a metal spike through my flesh never really appealed. I feel she should not do this until she is much more mature – 25 might be a suitable age.

On the other hand, Jake claims to have pierced his own ear using a compass from his geometry set at school. He says it was probably the most constructive thing he ever did with his geometry set.

Thankfully no physical evidence of this act remains. But, he has offered to do the same for Julia using either a compass or an EID tagger. So far she is holding out for the full salon experience. Negotiations continue.

I was very shocked by the scenes of rioting in London recently, not least because I spent the three years before we got married living near Clapham Junction, one of the affected areas.

It was surreal to see people calmly walking out of the Debenhams store which I knew as Arding & Hobbs, with armfuls of looted goods.

Ironically, the only time I came close to any scenes of rioting in those days, was when Jake met me from the train late one Friday night in Newcastle. They had closed the doors to the Central Station because they were worried about rioting in the West End of Newcastle.

Fortunately, the North-East was calm this time, whether this was due to having more common sense or more rain I don’t know. Maybe we should market that to inward investors – no rioting and plenty of water – a good combination.

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