One of the memorable events was in 1990 when The Queen came to Newcastle to distribute the Maundy Money. All the Church Leaders took part in the procession before and after, and their spouses were invited guests. I was very pleased to be sat behind one of the rows of elderly folk who were to receive the bags of coins. When Her Majesty came along I was able to see her clearly and admire her lovely complexion. It was a very enjoyable occasion.
One of the District Churches was a few miles over the border in Scotland, Eyemouth. It was a small fishing town in those days. In 1989 the September Synod was voted to take place there and it caused quite a stir. The Scotland Chairman and his wife did the opening devotions. Somebody joked it might be the start of a total invasion and it was reported in local newspapers! It was an unusual and ‘jolly’ day. I believe Eyemouth Methodist Church is no longer there. Like many small fishing communities, I suppose their trade diminished and became unprofitable and the young would have to seek further afield for employment.
If my memory is correct, Eyemouth was connected to the Berwick Circuit. The Super there was Rev. Richard Teal for whom John had high regard. He asked Richard to become Superintendent when he was hardly past being a Probationer, and now he is Chairman of the Cumbria District. His wife, Susan, usually invited me to come when John was preaching at Berwick and we had very enjoyable times with them. I remember the Manse had a very steep staircase with narrow steps which were not very suitable for large feet!
In 1986 the Church Leaders were invited to take part in Blyth Harbour Commission Centenary. They all seemed to enjoy the occasion, and each was presented with a commemorative plate which had been made at the Tower Mint in London using traditional methods. Along with the plate was a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ from the Mint. Until we retired it stood on John’s desk and afterwards on a bookshelf, his retirement desk only being big enough for computer, printer and lamp!
Conference was in Newcastle in 1992 and it was spoken of as being one of the best ever. It certainly seemed to have a lot of party atmosphere at times! I was one of the Catering crowd so when I wasn’t catering at home I was helping out somewhere else. The first woman President, Katharine Richardson, stayed with us. Katharine now sits in the House of Lords. The weather was very good and I’m sure all went home thinking Newcastle was a great place and Conference had been in good hands – the main ‘good hands’ being those of John Mitchell supported by a great Committee.
We had been to Kansas in an exchange a couple of years before but John’s Committee said they thought we should now have a break to recover. So we did! We had 6 weeks in Nebraska and stayed with our Alabama friends for a week afterwards and came home feeling good. I’ve written quite a bit about Alabama and Michigan but nothing about Kansas and Nebraska, not because we didn’t enjoy being there but we were left pretty much on our own to begin with. After the first week, the Kansas  exchange minister phoned one of the people and told them about the great Programme John had arranged for them in Newcastle District and they got busy! We had an Open Day Coffee at the Parsonage and were taken aback to hear none had been in it until that day. We were not entertained in many homes but mostly taken out to dinner, which was very good but we would like to have met people in their homes. It all worked out fine and we got a great surprise when Betty and Dan, who were on an extensive Mobile Home trip from Alabama detoured to come and see us. It was a real highlight!
Nebraska was 1993, we had hoped for another eastern Exchange but were too late in applying. It is incredibly flat and full of farms. We were tickled when one couple took us to see the Irish Hills. There were two wee bumps and hardly noticeable. I guess they didn’t travel much. We weren’t looking for excitement on that exchange, a good rest was better! Fortunately we were feeling good when we got to Alabama as Betty had ‘Open Day’ each day unless something else was planned. It was a very happy visit and we were all shedding buckets when a crowd took us to the airport knowing it was unlikely we would meet again. The friendship continued until Betty and Dan died.
There were many other District events which I’m going to bypass. The fourteen years were full of interest, many people stayed with us and many spent days or evenings with us. We were welcomed in many homes in the District and friendships survived. All but one of our Pastoral Exchange friends have gone and Fay and I write to one another every Christmas time.
Although we worked hard we also had some lovely holidays, among the best being Germany in 1987 when we stayed with Joy Heffter at their guest house in Altenfeld in the Sauerland of Germany. Her parents were Consett folk who moved to lived there, Jean and Joe Pattison. John had married Joy and Hans-Jurgen in Consett. Anabel and John were with us and we had both cars so that we could do things independently. We were enfolded like members of the family. We did some outings together but John and I enjoyed walking to the small villages nearby and having coffee or lunch. The locals were friendly and much more helpful and less critical of our lack of their language than the French were! We were there for a month and had such a joyful time never to be forgotten.
1989 found us in Interlaken in Switzerland and making our way up to the top of the Jungfrau and another mountain where there was a superb restaurant and where I was bitten on the face by a nasty large fly while surveying the amazing view from the Garden. I went back down the mountain hoping John wasn’t being looked at as a wife beater, HaHa. By then I had a swelling of black and blue!
Malta in 1990 was an eye opener. In spite of the smallness it had so many large domed churches and other spectacular buildings. We did all the tours and on the first one thought we had travelled a long way until we looked at our map and saw the winding route which only covered a short distance!
Retirement was coming near and we wanted to stay in the District which, after 38 years, was home to us. We meant to find a small house or flat somewhere near the North Sea and be ‘invisible’ for a year. This was customary to allow the new Chairman to be settled into the job without his predecessor hanging around! After we came back from Nebraska something unexpected happened that raised doubts about it, but more of that next time.