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Archive - Tuesday, 2 October 2012
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SAVE for its most famous inhabitant, globally renowned, Ravensworth might be supposed a pretty anonymous sort of a place.
WATER WATER: The entrance to the village and the nursery under the water
It’s a small village off the A66 west of Scotch Corner, home to a couple of hundred people, a ruined castle and a pub. These days, however, it seems forever to be on the news.
Back in December 2010, minus 19.9 degrees Celsius, it was officially the coldest place in Britain – “bloody cold,” recalls Sue Wass, for 16 years landlady of the Bay Horse. Last week it was the wettest, 5.2 inches in two unforgettable days.
“We’d probably be there or thereabouts if they measured fog as well,”
says Sue. “We’re at the bottom of a valley. It just sits there for days.”
After the storm, little marked out Ravensworth as a village that goes to extremes. The notice board advertised a child’s buggy with rain cover, there was a cottage called Windy Ridge, a sign post to Gayles (but that was a mile-and-a-quarter away). Just one house was for sale (and not even by Reeds Rains.) “It’s crazy,” says Sue. “All that rain and the next day there’s sunshine and it’s all gone again.”
Ravensworth’s national prominence, as unexpected as it is unwanted, has come about since the Met Office automated the high-tech weather station at the village nurseries, run by Doug Bradbrook and his family.
Where once they collated daily and reported monthly, now information is automatically transmitted every minute.
It’s one of more than 200 weather stations throughout the UK, each around 40k apart and supplying – says the Met Office website – “a wide variety of meteorological parameters, including air temperature, atmospheric pressure, rainfall, wind speed and direction, humidity, cloud height and visibility”.
Mind, it wouldn’t have taken a clued-up computer to divine that last week was wet. “My son was rafting where the ponies normally graze,”
says Fiona Dean, Mr Bradbrook’s niece. “The first time we were on the television news was quite interesting.
Now we’re getting a bit too accustomed to it. We were the wettest in July as well.
“I’ve always thought of Ravensworth as pretty average, not extreme at all. We were just joking in the nursery that it’s not going to do much for house prices. I wouldn’t care, it’s a lovely place really.”
Sue Wass had calls from friends across Britain asking if they were all right. “The BBC wanted to know where the worst flooded houses were. I told them there were none; the girl seemed quite disappointed.
“Another friend rang from America where it was 93 degrees Fahrenheit and in our yard it had dropped below zero. At the end of August we woke up to a white frost, people chopping ice off their cars to get to work.
“Part of the problem has been that the council doesn’t clear the drains.
It never happened when there was a little old man on a bike, carrying a few pipes.”
Sir Ian Botham, Ravensworth’s most famous, has been unavailable for comment. Wise man, last week he took himself off to the sun.
THINGS seem to have been a bit extreme off the west coast of Scotland, too. Following our reference a couple of weeks back to a holiday on Mull, Archie Mackay. in Coundon – near Bishop Auckland – reports that last Tuesday’s ferry crossing from Mull to Oban, normally about 40 minutes, took more than six hours because of the gales. Calmac insists that it made passengers “comfortable”. The phrase may be euphemistic.
LAST week’s nostalgic walk through Shildon Rec, celebrating its centenary, prompted happy memories. “We lived in Ferryhill but went to my aunt’s in Shildon for our holidays,” writes Mrs G Wilson, now 82, from Sedgefield.
Particularly they looked forward to carefree days in the recreation ground. “We were there every night until it closed – better than Blackpool, and it was free.”
Audrey Lofthouse – Cross, as was – recalls hiding when the closing bell went, recalls the noisome netties (“they stank to high heaven”) pictures more affectionately Sunday afternoon concerts when her dad played euphonium with the British Railways brass band.
Robert Bacon, now in Wolviston, near Billingham, recalls not just being chased out at closing time but climbing back in again. “Woe betide you if you then got caught again. It meant being frogmarched to the nearby cop shop for further admonishment.”
Robert also recalls sneaking into the sordid shelter surreptitiously to smoke cigarettes bought in brown paper bags from the corner shop and childhood contests in the netties to see who could pee furthest up the wall.
I was an Old Shildon lad; Robert was New Shildon. It was another place; they did things differently there.
MORE travellers’ tales: back from Poland, Paul Dobson, in Bishop Auckland, reports seeing a pizza place called Pitta Pan. In London last week we came across a fastfood shop called Hummus Bros. It was sub-titled “Give peas a chance.”
AS if the ale at the Elm Tree, in Durham, weren’t good enough, we are offered – on the house – a shot of grog, made on the premises before our eyes.
“It’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day,” it’s explained.
So it transpires, and not to be confused with International Talk Like William Shatner Day (whoever he might be.) That’s March 22, this was September 19.
Pirate Day began in Tasmania in 2002 and, however inexplicably, has been celebrated on September 19 ever since. “An international phenomenon that shows no sign of letting up,” says the website.
So how does a pirate talk, we ask a chap in a skull and crossbones hat.
“Aaaarrrr,” he says, and has another swig of grog.
NEXT day, meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that Alison Whelan, 51, has been in court for stealing a 45ft passenger ferry from Dartmouth. “I’m Jack Sparrow, I’m a pirate,” she told chasing police.
Aha, so that’s how they talk. If the constabulary hadn’t caught her, the “inebriated” lady added, she’d have ended up in St Tropez.
... and finally, the note two weeks ago on the deep-fried Mars Bar, that Scotian delight, reminded Steve Hodgson, in Darlington, of a time working in Motherwell in the 1980s – and how, to the Scots, “supper” is a distinctly moveable feast.
Steve was helping build a blast furnace for Davy McKee, many of his workmates Middlesbrough men.
One lunchtime, his turn for the fish shop run, he spotted pies next to the fish and chips, thought he might have a steak and kidney for a change, ordered four fish suppers and steak pie and chips.
“Whizz, with a flick of the wrist my beautiful fresh pie was sent to the heaving pan. To my horror, they fry pies, too.”
Yet to discover the dubious delights of the parmo, the Boro boys stuck to fish and chips. And the deepfried pie? “It was disgusting,” says Steve.