Happy New Year for 2012.

Well, here we are in Windy Nook seeing in another New Year. There has been no Blog writing, as there's been nothing to write about which would be of interest to those of you who weren't intimately involved. Sorry!

I went downstairs to my Mam's at 00:05 this morning to be her 'first foot', carrying coal for the fire (now gas, of course) to guarantee the house warmth for the coming year, cash money, so that those who dwell there should never be without and the remnants of Christmas Eve's bottle of ginger wine, so that there would be good cheer for the coming year. It's her 87th birthday on January 10th, so I hope that the tokens which I took will really represent what happens for her in 2012. As usual, Freda and I feel very guilty in leaving her behind as we make our way back to Luxor to rejoin our 'fantasy life'. Although I do comfort myself with the knowledge that my sister and brother are here (and probably more capable of seeing to her needs) as well as our own brood, who I hope descend on her occasionally with her various great-grandchildren. But nothing's easy, is it?.

We don't miss very many material things while we are living our fantasy life in among the Pharaoh's descendants, but I cannot tell you the warm glow I experienced while making these two sandwiches: 

The right-hand side one still has the Cumberland pork sausages to go on! 

So it's mini stottie cakes with best butter, a smidgen of HP Fruity Sauce, large fried egg, two rashers of side bacon and two pork sausages, washed down with cups of steaming Ceylon tea. What more could any man ask for? (Don't answer that, this is a family Blog!!!!)

Carol Singing.
On Christmas Eve, we were a much reduced troupe of carol singers. We had a 16 seater mini-bus instead of our more usual 33 seater! Even this was bigger than we actually needed, as there were never more than 12 of us at any one point. With not singing regularly, my voice didn't start to really work until about 11:30, after we'd been struggling on for five and a half hours! By then we'd got rid of the hangers-on (no offence meant, but we always have a number, of mainly younger ones, whose main purpose in being there is to enjoy the experience, and who don't actually add very much to the quality of the singing, lol) and were singing really well. Little Brother Richard (he's not even 50 yet!) made some recordings, with the intention of putting something on 'YouTube', but that hasn't happened yet. Anyway, it was another absolutely fabulous time of joy and exhilaration, and by the time we finished at 01:30 on Christmas morning, we had managed to raise £434.60 for the charity 'Action For Children' (formerly The National Children's Homes). On our return to the Chapel, Brother-in-law Roy (whose back was too bad to allow him to be tramping the streets with us) had warmed the pies and boiled the kettle! This year we got the mince pies from the very famous 'Greggs the Bakers' for the first time. Along with some pease pudding, pickled onions and beetroot, they went down a treat. The reduced number of singers meant that there were enough of them to have two each!

I'm not sure how long the Windy Nook Methodists have been doing this, but I'm reliably informed that the only year they've missed since starting was 1947, when the snow was just too deep. I don't think that I've missed a year since I first went out 43 years ago. If and when I get the link for the YouTube vid, I'll post it on here somewhere, promise!

Away with the Old, and In with the New! 
Windy Nook 'Store' (the Co-op) at one time boasted the best 'dividend' in the area (it may have even been the best in the country, but I cannot remember for sure). My Mother's 'store number', which needed to be quoted and recorded at every purchase in order to ensure that her dividend was correctly apportioned, is still embedded in my memory after fifty odd years. But, with the poor idea of introducing dividend 'stamps' in the '60's, the whole venture slowly went downhill to the point of closure.

When I was a little boy, growing up just along the street from where we now live, there were a range of shopping opportunities here in the village. The big Co-op department store (spread over several streets and the scene of the gruesome murder of old John Patterson's father) was at the far end of the village, but they had a smaller 'branch' just along the street. To get to it we had to pass Oakley's corner shop, which was a small, family run, general dealer, and also (at the other end of the same block) Jack the Butcher's. Jack was Jack Nicholson, part of a large family of butchers who also had a wholesale business at the Felling (the next door village).The little 'store' was on the next corner, and on the corner beyond; was Mrs Nelson's little greengrocery and fruit shop. I can vividly remember her with her round spectacles and headsquare tied in a knot on top of her head, she always wore a 'pinny' as well. There was a small fireplace in the shop, where she would have the smallest imaginable fire of broken up tomato boxes burning in the tiny grate. What with the gas lamp and the fly papers hanging from the ceiling; it was like something out of a Charles Dickens novel!

In the opposite direction from our house, towards the 'big' store, there was the Windy Nook crossroads. Dotted about here was the fish and chip shop, the paper shop, Jim and Elsie Turnbull's Post Office, the barber and the second oldest building in the village still in use; the Black House Inn. In 1832 it was recorded as being called 'The Coal Wagon', but here it was still working (just, due to the smoking ban) when we were here in the summer.

You can imagine our surprise on coming home to find this:

And just behind, in the pub car park, this:

Most of the other shops are now defunct, being converted into house or flats. The complex which comprised all the differing departments of the old store has been gone for years, along with the houses which surrounded it and the old Primitive Methodist Chapel and school (fondly rememberd by my ex-pupil father-in-law as 'Windy Nook Acadium') which stood nearby. The colliery and grindstone quarries have all gone too, as has Windy Nook as a postal address. Now, we aren't even classed as a part of the Felling! No, now we are privileged to be 'Gateshead', or even Newcastle/Gateshead (spread over two counties, would you believe?). I, for one, choose NOT to believe it, and continue to write my address as Windy Nook, although computer things don't recognise it! It's just another maddening modernity trying to drive me to an early grave!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, even though there has been a bit of an objection (as usual where Tesco is involved) it is a very useful addition to the local facilities.

Two more days! 

Yes, two more days and then we will be setting off for Luxor once more. From what I've been reading on some of the forums and in some news reports; I'm wondering if it will be the same place when we get there! According to some, it's even more dangerous than before. Before when, I don't know. And, dangerous in what respect, I don't know either! 

I strongly suspect that we'll find it about as dangerous as Dorothy found the 'Wizard of Oz' was, when she and her travelling companions finally met him! lol

I hope we all have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year in 2012. God bless.


  1. its a 'sign' of the times, sadly, even though you are 'oop north' it wasnt much different from me and where I used to live, I remember Mrs Belchers, we used to walk all the way to Ealing to get our shopping, it cost a fiver, it was the only place that offered food 'on tick' try doing that in Tescos
    The dimise of the corner shop is in a way of a good thing, but I still remember them fondly, now refered to as the 'good old days' it werent that long ago
    Anyway Happy New Year to you and Freda

  2. We didnt have any carol singers this year, a very quiet christmas everywhere, kinda sad really

  3. Your comment about the Coop bought back memories, and the 'divi' number I can still remember our number (from how many years ago? 1315303, we had to recite that every time we went to the 'Coop' and the milk man call (anyone remember a milkman ?
    The Coop is still about, biut nothing like it was, just another suermarket, I even remember Mc Fisheries, a huge store that sold nothing but fish, lucky to find a fish monger these days