New Year, New Dreams

January’s a funny old month; Christmas a distant memory yet daffodils a hopeful pipe dream.  Sunshine is what we need and where better to recharge, recalibrate and fire oneself up for the year ahead than… er… the Northumbrian coast.  A great big Greek bloke, posh Jersey bird and their brute of a rescue dog holed up in a teeny tiny whitewashed cottage in Seahouses.

My mother’s uncles were  fishermen in Seahouses, back in the day.  I grew up with Mum’s endless stories of Alnwick, Bamburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Of Lowry’s paintings.  Of how the endless consumption of oily fish made her aunts  the least wrinkly ladies ever.  Of the time Mum was supposed to be looking after her little brother, Jimmy, when they got cut off by the tide and nearly drowned until she spotted steps to safety.  Magical steps, that appeared magically!  Steps that had never been seen before nor again after.  The steps that saved their lives.

I confess, I didn’t want to listen to Mum’s dreary old northern ramblings as a child growing up in Jersey.  But I suppose those stories became embedded because, well, here I am.  The old girl has talked about coming back to visit for years – along with all the other places she’d been saving for her retirement.  But her eyesight’s gone, unexpectedly.  She can’t even stalk Seahouses on Google Maps now, so here I am.  Seeing it all for her.   I’ve seen ‘her’ castle; the Bamburgh butcher (Carter’s, established in 1887, and one of Rick Stein’s original food heroes) where I ‘had’ to buy sausages (the Greek God’s cooking them as I type).  I haven’t seen the magical life-saving steps though.  Funny, that.

The weird thing?  I’m strangely at home here.  I can find my way without satnav.  I’ve fallen in love – hopelessly, helplessly and irrevocably – with the arse-bitingly cold wind that chases us as we slip and slide over the frozen rockpools and frosty rocks; mad cows guarding the gate from dune to beach; hot kippers in a bun; proper pubs full of glowing glass and brass with pints of Farne Island beer to be swigged by a roaring fire.

Tomorrow we visit Holy Island after which my grandmother, Lindis, was named.  The perfect way to spend our last day.  But we’ll be back.  I’m already secretly searching for houses.  Shhhhh.  It’s our little secret.  I need to talk the Greek God round first.

Mind the (Generation) Gap

I took the Greek God to Jersey last week.  Proper Jersey; the rock off the coast of France, rather than that newfangled American one.  My home, and where most of my family still are.

My life in Blighty remains a mystery to Dad.  Well into his 80s, life revolves around the minutiae of his own little patch of that small island.  He relays the tiniest details of his neighbours’ lives… what they’ve had for dinner, who they’ve fallen out with.

In return, I tell him about my life.  By phone.  He doesn’t do Facebook.  Nor email.  Internet?  Nah, that’ll never catch on… So phone it is.  And phone would be fine but he’s stone deaf.  Conversations are punctuated as his hearing aid screams at crucial moments.

But I persevere.  I explain how street food works; alongside our Greek there’s South African, French, Venezuelan food…  I tell him tales far removed from his newspaper-reading spot at Corbiere where the waves crash and seagulls wheel.

“So you’ve got a burger van, then?”

Er, no… I explain souvlaki, again.  In person.  It’s Greek food; I bake pittas – LOTS of pittas – in my little kitchen before we go to fantastic food festivals all over the place, selling our wares.  I tell him of the long queues, of famous chefs, of mad punk band revivals we’ve catered.  He nods. “Ah, right,” he says.

I bump into a friend a few days later.

“Saw your dad the other day,” he says.  “I hear you’ve bought a van and started doing takeaway deliveries…”

Ah bah crie, as us Jersey beans say.  It’s another world, eh?