The weather wasn’t bad at all that winter: quite a lot of snow when everywhere looked like Christmas cards. We found it colder than the West of Scotland, although John had experienced the Moray Firth high winds and bitter weather. But there was a lot less rain in Northumberland than in Greenock! Anyway, at our age weather never bothered us and we dressed accordingly. It was probably about three-quarters of a mile to Castlehill Church so I was back and forward there several times each week, and shopping most days as fridges were virtually unknown and freezers a thing of the future as far as we were concerned. We liked to go for walks when opportunity arose, although John got lots of exercise on his borrowed bike, so the walks were for my benefit.
We first had a fridge when we moved to Newcastle Mission in 1968. The Circuit Steward was a builder and it had been agreed by the stewards some time before that the kitchen area needed updating. So for our first few weeks there we lived with a hole knocked through the wall between the kitchen and the breakfast room. The electric cooker was brought in there and the flex plugged in via the hole in the wall. They knocked down the pantry wall and added it to the kitchen so it was a bit of an upheaval for us, but it worked out well. The Circuit Steward was getting a new fridge so they donated the old one to our Manse which was great. It was a timesaver, as I could shop less and keep milk, meat, and other fresh foods for several days.
We always seemed to fall heir to some major work in Manses. In Haltwhistle they decided to lift the flagstones in the kitchen and put a wooden floor in. That certainly was an upheaval! Anabel was not yet two but once the flags were away, she immediately struck up a friendship with the workmen and I have a vivid memory in my mind of wondering where she had got to and finding her sitting on the edge of the new floor with quite a drop in front of her, watching all that was going on. They seemed to like her company, and she certainly liked being there, so I trusted them to keep her safe. They said she was ‘a grand wee lass, and a good wee singer’!
In 1962 we moved to Sunderland. They knew before we went that there was rising damp right through the hall from front to back of the house. Obviously they had saved it for us, or more likely the people who left weren’t as philosophical as John and I were. It took me 56 steps to get from front door to back door. The walls up to three feet or more were knocked out, treated and replaced. The dust was awful but it got by, eventually the hall was in order again and life became easier. They sold the two large Manses two years later and we were moved to a more modern house (shown) in the same area, still handy for Roker seaside. We lived for three years in that one in tranquillity as far as major upheavals went.
When we went to Consett the tables were turned as we had a small house which had been a council house and was, in a way, a bad buy in the sense that there was no study which is essential for Ministers, although maybe not all. Anyway, John suggested he could use the Church Vestry as his study which was agreed. Bookshelves would be required of course and the steward undertook to get some. When we went back we found two small glass fronted cupboards which were totally inadequate. As the Mission we were leaving was closing, and it was the year when ministers could take any furniture they wanted because the Church was no longer going to provide furnished houses, we took the lovely mahogany bookshelves with us. We had a tall filing cabinet which John could use to keep stuff he didn’t want open to the public gaze as the vestry would be used on Sundays and at other events.
However, after 3 years, it was decided our Manse would be sold. It was thought it would be difficult to get a young minister with family (which seemed to be every Circuit’s dream!) to come to such a wee house. Once again we moved a short distance to a larger house where the dining-room became the study. I was sorry to leave the good neighbours, but saw them often at Church and around the town. Ours was not to reason why but to accept change, settle down and get on with life and work wherever we were.
Once again I have sat down to write for the blog and, as has happened before, completely lost the plot! However that’s the luck of the draw at my age and probably next time I’ll mention Mary again and get back on track………