By Friday we were down to five bodies, really it was like an Agatha Christie novel, we started the week with ten and had somehow lost five in the duration, but five hale and hearty bodies determined to enjoy the last day – and then the three females decided that actually, they didn’t want to go out anywhere today and just wanted to slob around the house, “Tidy up” is what I think they called it, several hours later they were still out there on the patio in the sun, drinking wine.
So Steve and I went for a drive down the coast, I had two gaps to fill in, two small Northumberland harbours that we hadn’t visited yet, Beadnell and Seahouses, and ultimately a pub was involved too.
Beadnell has the only west-facing harbour on the east coast, strange but true, for its harbour does not face the sea but uses a quirk of the landscape to curl around on itself and face landwards. Its another of those Northumberland villages that evolved via a few fishermen pulling their boats up onto a shallow dune-backed beach and deciding that this would be a good place to live, and then around the end of the 18th century with the whole strip of this north-east coast having exactly the right combination of coal and limestone to facilitate the burning of the stone to make lime for agricultural use, a couple of landowners constructed the lime kilns that exist on the harbour wall to this day, and built the harbour for shipment of the lime to markets.
Fishing for herring, crab and lobster have been its main trade ever since although now its just one or two leisure fishing boats that operate from the small but perfectly formed harbour, its a small village with old houses built right up to the dune line, a long sweeping dune-backed bay, clear waters and as quiet as a graveyard when Steve and I strolled its harbour walls, I could probably put up with living there.
Seahouses is probably the largest and still working harbour on the coastline, its just a tad more developed for the tourist trade, there are a few shops selling tourist tat, burger vans on the quayside, that sort of thing, most people turn their noses up at the place but its ok, still very picturesque from the harbour wall, has the best views of the Farne Isles and is the only place that you can take a trip out to those rocks a mile or so out to sea, I’ve done the trip 30 years ago, its OK if you want to be tossed around like a cork in a very choppy bathtub in a very small boat that sounds as though its struggling to keep up with the tide, and then arrive on what is just a flat-topped rock that you can walk around in ten minutes and see nothing but rabbits and grass, if you like that sort of thing then take a Farne Isles trip, if not then don’t let the returning passengers convince you that you missed much.
So we retired to The Olde Ship Inn on Seahouses harbour front where a small front bar offered a choice of cask ales, its what could be described as “traditional” in that its a bar unaffected by large brewery chains knocking all of its internal walls out and letting children run riot around tables while their parents stuff chicken and chips down their fat faces for £3 a head – its not that sort of pub. Its the sort of pub that I recall my parents allowing me to tiptoe into from the beer garden where we were usually abandoned with a bottle of coke and a packet of crisps while on our family holidays in Cornwall in the 1960s, the sort of pub with small cosy rooms filled with fishing tat and relics, the sort of pub that you want to sit in for a while and just stare at the ceiling without saying anything to anyone, the sort of pub where you could take up pipe smoking, long clay pipe smoking, the sort of pub where you’d sit pulling on a long clay pipe, staring at the ceiling for hours on end while contemplating the universe over a pint of proper cask ale and then finally address the bar room with something profound like “If you knocked all of these internal walls down you could get loads of plastic tables and chairs in here and fill the pub with families and screaming kids and feed them on frozen chips and chicken nuggets for £3 a head – or maybe not”
And then we had fish and chips, just to round the week off, I can’t say for sure that the fish was caught in Seahouses, but they still tasted bloody good being eaten in Seahouses.
One other honourable mention which I missed earlier in the week was Suzannes 50th birthday evening on the Wednesday night that we spent in The Victoria Hotel & Restaurant in Bamburgh – they do a bar food menu but we chose the posh restaurant bit and had some bloody good food* at a reasonable cost, not cheap, not too expensive either, but bloody good food where everyone cleared their plates on every course – you can’t ask for much more than that.
* Phrase borrowed from the one patented by my dad in the 1960s, “bloody good grub” being the only descriptor necessary to illustrate food that has been served, eaten in its entirety, not caused indigestion or vomiting, and was cheap.