2014 – Returning

After travelling cattle class halfway around the globe, it is somewhat of a relief to be on the last leg of what may be my last visit to the country of my youth.

The feeling I get looking down from 30,000 feet, beyond the wing of an EasyJet A318 Airbus is hard to describe. The silvery grey English Channel looks deceptively calm. Tiny pencil thin ships look stationary from this vantage point and the row upon row of miniature wind turbines stand in regimental formation off the coast. The white chalk cliffs of the south coast appearing in the distant haze trigger a raft of emotions. Excitement and relief morph into feelings of belonging and nostalgia. We are nearly there.

Helen, my lifelong partner of over fifty years (did I say over fifty!) is by my side and we have repeated this trip on a number of occasions. Now in our late 70s it could very well be our last hoorah.

Even through the coastal haze the blatantly vivid greens and browns of the English countryside are a stark contrast to the subtle pastel hues of Australia.

The trauma of navigating Heathrow Airport and the London tube I will leave to your imagination. However, once we were settled in the comfort of the train service from London to Edinburgh we could relax and enjoy the typical English countryside.

The East Coast main line runs through Peterborough and York before arriving at Darlington where we will be picked up by Clare, one of my sister’s two girls. This last leg of the journey to Redcar is a far cry from the train that I travelled on in 1963 when I first left. I remember that day vividly. It was one of the worst winters in recorded history, but I will tell you about that in a later chapter.

We’re staying with my sister Coral. Coral lost the love of her life, Gordon, in a tragic  accident while he was diving off the Redcar Scar, the day after their 50th wedding anniversary.  For many years Gordon had suffered from a rare form of a neurodegenerative illness related to motor neuron disease. The full circumstances of the accident may never be known.

Coral now shares her life with Mel, a Redcar local, and now retired carpenter whom she met on one of the regular dance meetings that she frequents.

They live a stone’s throw away from the petro-chemical complex of the iconic ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), where me and a number of my school mates (including Gordon) served out our five-year-long apprenticeships together. We had a ‘job for life’, or so we were told.

ICI no longer exists, but the site is still there, churning out a smorgasbord of plastics and a cocktail of pollutants, possibly with the same limited safeguards practiced by the former owners. The demise of the complex began with an ‘innovative’ new CEO that flogged off  sections of the complex bit by bit. But that’s another story.

Coral’s home is a comfortable semi-detached with a beautiful garden, just a short walk to the sea front. When we were kids, a house like this was far beyond any dreams we had.

Our family did not originally hail from Redcar, but from one of the suburbs of the industrial town of Middlesbrough, eight miles, in the old money, inland alongside the River Tees.

The area was originally settled by Anglo-Saxons from 410-1066 and was named Mydilsburgh, presumably because it was the halfway point between Durham Cathedral and Whitby Abbey. Later the area became home to Viking settlers. Names of Viking origin (with the suffix by) are abundant in the area.                                                

Ormesby, Stainsby, Maltby and Tollesby were once separate villages that belonged to Vikings called Orme, Steinn, Malti and Toll, but now form suburbs of Middlesbrough.

The name ‘Orme’ comes from the Viking word for habitation. Ormesby Hall still stands proudly within its borders, as does the Alms-houses and ancient stables.

Next: North Ormesby

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