We left Newcastle after seeing off the removal van and the very helpful men. We had labelled all the furniture so that it would end up where we would like it to be, which turned out to be as wee bit optimistic! Mandy was a bit confused with all the packing and the empty house and needed a lot of pats and cuddles. We had to keep her on the leash all the time which she didn’t much like. We did the final tidy up and arrived in Consett just after the van. We saw that the gate was now mended. However we got a premonition when the ‘boss’ removal man asked John if we were just being put in this house temporarily, obviously comparing it to the one we had left! The front garden had a large pile of weeds etc. and the back wasn’t too tidy either. The sitting room still had a big bump on the wall, caused, a neighbour told us later by children doing cricket practice! When we had a look upstairs we asked the removers not to put anything into the main bedroom. The carpet was damp, stained and far from clean. So much for the ‘little palace’ we’d been promised!
The removers had been top-notch, and once they were finished we had refreshments then saw them off with gratitude and a suitable gratuity. Then we got the beds made and unpacked the necessities. Next day we phoned the Steward and he came round, had a look and condemned the carpet. I wondered if he’d ever seen the house since the day we visited. He phoned his fellow steward who came, and between them and John they got the carpet bundled up and thrown out the window. There was a small wardrobe left in the room and we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw that a piece had been cut out of the carpet to accommodate the wardrobe. We had a good laugh and it cheered us up a bit. The wardrobe was disposed of as well!
The next day was Sunday and we couldn’t unpack any more until the new carpet was laid, the furniture placed and some cleaning done. The floor boards in that bedroom creaked such a lot John thought he’d knock a few nails in to try and quieten it. All was going nicely till Elspeth came racing upstairs calling, ‘Dad, Dad, there’s water dripping off the light bulb!’ We found out later that the water pipes were not very far under the boards and he had pierced one with a nail. We had to call the Steward again, but Sunday wasn’t the best day for finding a plumber! Meantime I had put my plastic bacon box under the leak which stopped the water travelling down. Eventually he came along with a retired (Methodist) plumber who was able to patch it while muttering to the Stewards something like, ‘What’s he at doing this on Sunday, think he’d have something better to do!’
The next day I started washing the kitchen walls which were painted, not emulsioned or papered. They were fairly clean for about five feet up then you could see where the cleaner had stopped. I wanted it clean all the way up so got the step-ladder and got stuck in. While I was busy we had a visitor and it was one of the two women who had done this ‘cleaning’. However she did say they had only washed as far as they could reach. Quite funny really!
We thought the bathroom was pretty dingy, and so did the Steward. Before long Joe Pattison was round painting it in a nice shade of blue. Joe was a jovial, friendly chap and we all liked him a lot. His wife Jean and I have kept in touch for all these years since. More about them later. At that point the bathroom was the best looking room in the house!
Cutting what could be a long story short we had time some free before John was officially welcomed as Superintendent Minister of the Consett Circuit. We used some for exploring the area and the rest for getting the house organised. We got to like our wee house. We had lovely neighbours too. We didn’t know what to do with the small front garden, until one day one of the two brothers next door met John and said he could lay flags for us. We were amazed and delighted at the kind offer. The flags arrived and he came with his tools and made the front look very nice. An oblong bed was left so that we could have some colour. Our neighbour had obviously enjoyed the work and we certainly were grateful. The Stewards got the materials and paid our neighbour. He said he didn’t need paying but they insisted. It was a well done job.
Soon after, we had a visitor who introduced herself as Teddy Pearson and she brought us a lot of cuttings of aubrietia in various shades of blue and white. I planted them all round the edge of the plot and the next spring put bedding plants in the centre making a lovely show of colour. Teddy was a newly retired teacher and became a real friend. We had quite a few people calling before we were ‘official’ but only one who came to the back door before we had breakfast, the day after we arrived! We had had a strenuous day and all agreed to have a longer lie in the morning. Elsie was the organist and an excellent one. I think perhaps she was quite scandalised to find us in our dressing gowns at 9 a.m. and the girls still in bed. I know we felt quite guilty like naughty children! Even though we were still on holiday! I discovered that almost everyone in Consett used their back doors but I never took to the idea.
At our other side lived two brothers and a sister. Emerson, the elder brother, worked in the steelworks. Jackie was a semi-invalid as a result of a chest ailment. Emmeline was their sister and kept house. The love of their lives was a little Pomeranian dog. He was one of a succession all from the same breeder. I love dogs, and we had Mandy, but I didn’t much like the Pomeranian! It wasn’t friendly to anyone but his owners. The first time my Dad came to stay with us I took him next door to introduce him and the dog bit his heel. Fortunately his teeth weren’t long enough to get through Dad’s socks and trousers! It was greatly loved, particularly by Emerson who often carried it around the garden. Their back garden was beautiful. Emerson’s other passion was chrysanthemums and he grew magnificent blooms. They were fenced round and sheltered and when the buds came he would be among them every evening taking off the low buds as they came and eventually one large blossom would result. When the season was over he took cuttings and put them in the greenhouse ready for the next year.
Emerson also grew tomatoes in the greenhouse, and in 1974 he gave us some plants raised from seed. We got two growbags and put them on the shelf round the conservatory. Emmeline instructed me about pulling off unneeded shoots etc. and they thrived with lots of buds. The day came when a tiny tomato became red and John got first taste. They were much better than shop ones. Well, we thought so anyway! We grew them every year till we left Consett.
Emmeline’s favourite bit of their garden was her pansy patch which was a joy to behold. We planted pansies in our back garden, but they never grew and multiplied like hers. Years later I saw a bit on TV about the steel industry. It showed men who were obviously sweltering shovelling coal into the huge furnaces then the molten steel travelling along to the place where it is put in ingots. The heat must have been dreadful. Emerson was in charge of the pouring I was told, when losing control for a second or two could cause dreadful havoc. It made me realise that perhaps his times in the garden with his wee dog and tending his flowers offset the heat and stress of his working life. Every minus needs a plus!