Our invitation from Haltwhistle was initially for 5 years, but about half-way through the Stewards asked John if he would stay longer. In different circumstances we might have spent our whole lives there! We had to think very carefully about it. This was John’s second circuit, both had been rural, and ideally he would want to move to a new environment and experience a different kind of ministry. Elspeth was too young to be much affected, but in 1962 Anabel would start school on top of leaving the only place she knew. John was a Governor at one of the smaller schools (also Clerk to one of the Councils) so he asked around and found that if we stayed until 1962 Anabel would have one term in the local school which would stand her in good stead when we moved. So we agreed it would be great to stay an extra year.
Ministerial appointments were sorted out much earlier then than now, so Elspeth was still just a babe-in-arms when John had an invitation from Sunderland North Circuit which he accepted in consultation with the Chairman (and me, of course, but separately!) This was without seeing Roker or the house we would live in. That summer our Sunday School Trip was at Seaburn, the seaside of Sunderland, just along the road from Roker where the Manse was. I often wondered if they chose Seaburn to give us a chance to see our future home but I never asked!
It was a lovely warm day and the sandy beach was mobbed. John had made an arrangement with the Sunderland Steward, Mr Ernest Armstrong, to see the Manse. He came with his car and took us to his home for a cup of tea and to meet his wife and then to the Manse. We had thought Haltwhistle Manse was big but this was a 3-storey terrace house with large rooms, high ceilings and some drawbacks which I mentioned in a previous post. The furniture was all from the Victorian/Edwardian era, good solid oak and mahogany, with lots of carving to collect dust. One wardrobe was so high I couldn’t reach up to the top. But I married the bloke for better or for worse! And I got to love the furniture when we lived there. We never did manage to fill the drawers and wardrobes.
The house seemed a bit drab, but we had learned to be handy with the paint brushes so weren’t dismayed. Our Haltwhistle kitchen when we arrived had cement walls painted brown at the top and dark green from half way down divided by a black line all round. Not very cheerful! However, the stewards had the walls plastered soon after we pointed out the paint was needing renewed and we didn’t feel inclined to tackle it. They were given some pastel emulsion from the local paint factory and it was a much brighter kitchen when that was done. Between that and the flagstone removal I felt I’d done my bit for Methodist manses, but there was more to come over the years. We’d also papered the small room next the bathroom in Haltwhistle and made it the Study. That was our first attempt at paper-hanging – and the last. There were around five layers of paper to remove, so I found it wasn’t as easy as it had looked watching my Dad hanging paper. He wasn’t great at helping with the housework (‘women’s work’) but he was a dab hand at the paper and painting and ‘stippling’ with a sponge! The other rooms in our first Manse we emulsioned in light shades.
We put Sunderland North to the back of our minds and got on with life in Haltwhistle. Leaving still felt a long way away. I never liked the feeling that we were itinerant, always moving on, knowing that the day would come when we had to leave everything behind and start again. We left friends behind but we always found new friends. Not long before we left Haltwhistle the butcher asked Anabel if she thought she would like living in a new home. She told him she wasn’t going to live in a new home. “But aren’t you going away to live at the seaside?” he asked. “Oh yes, we are, we’re going to live in a different house but we’re taking home with us.” Home for Anabel was Mummy, Daddy, wee sister Elspeth, and the dolls, toys, books and all the bits and pieces that would go with us, the things that make a house a home. She got it right!