This week, Dispatches From the South is coming to you from The Northâ€”further north, even, than our northern correspondent, Lisa in Hartlepool. We’re in Northumberland, in a holiday cottage on the coast. Very scenic, very relaxing and very isolated. (I had been planning to post in real-time from here, but after arriving, I discovered there is no mobile phone signal or Internet connection so my posts from the north are going to have to go up after I return home.)
The drive up took about eight hours, but that, in itself, was part of the holiday. The scenery along the west coast is stunning and, being in no hurry, it was a relaxing day. We arrived in Alnwick (pronounced AN’ ick) about 2 PM and, being an hour early for check-in, decided to stop there for a nose around.
I was surprised to discover that at least some of the Alnwickians are piratesâ€”or maybe they were just preparing for â€œInternational Talk Like A Pirate Dayâ€â€”but later, on the telly, the news reports confirmed that pirates still operate in the waters off these coasts. Shiver me timbers!
Alnwick is a picturesque market town and the day we were there was uncharacteristically lovely. We found out later that it has been raining and grey for weeks and we happened to arrive on the first nice day in a long time. So far, so good.
We wandered around a while, scoped out the gardens and castle for possible, future activities, laid in some supplies at Morrison’s and headed even further north to the tiny village of Craster and our holiday cottage.
Renting holiday cottages is one of the best things about living in Britain. For a surprisingly reasonable fee you can rent a self-catering cottage (in case that doesn’t translate into US English, â€œself-cateringâ€ means it has a full kitchen) in the most beautiful locations. (And if you can’t afford the reasonable fee, you can always go to the Holiday Park down the road, but you don’t get the fireplace, the Juliet balcony in the bedroom and herfing* deck out back.)
This cottage is, without question, the most well-appointed we have ever stayed in. They have all been comfortable and filled with ample dishes, flatware and cooking implements, but they are usually mismatched, camping-quality items, which is what I would expect. This cottage, however, has full, quality sets of dishes, cooking paraphernalia and flatware. The kitchen also has a stone-tiled floor, a Belfast sink and a four-slice toaster, so I think we’ll be happy here for the next week.
Even though it had already been a full day, after settling in we took a stroll around the village to reconnoiter the local castle and enjoy the sea views. The area is lousy with castles; it seems every town has one. Some were built by William the Conqueror but this area needed a surplus to keep those pesky Scots in line and protect the locals from periodic Viking raids.
It’s dusk now, and I’m on the herfing deck with a cigar and a beverage watching the ocean. It’s remarkably soothing; I think I could sit here all week watching it roll back and forth in its hypnotic rhythm. I need to get one of these in my back garden; but only if I can find one without pirates.
* Herf (v): To smoke a cigar. (n) a gathering of two or more enthusiasts for the purpose of smoking, trading, admiring and talking about cigars. (adj) to ascribe herfing qualities to an entity.