Thursday, 10 April 2008

An eccentric lad from Pegswood.

I received an airmail from my dear Mother yesterday. It took three weeks to navigate its way from the small Northumberland village of Pegswood, deep in Northern England to the small Taiwanese village of Cigu.

The letter made me think of home. I started to remember my childhood growing up in Pegswood. For any readers unfamiliar, Pegswood is a small village in Northumberland, handsomely located between the towns of awesome Ashington and marvellous Morpeth. A little south of lavish Longhirst. A little north of gushing Guidepost. Guidepost proudly boasts spectacular waterfalls cascading along the course of the River Wansbeck. This river snakes through the famous Wansbeck gorge before discharging into the North Sea at the beach resort of Cambios. Cambois is a honey-pot for tourists wanting to relax at a beautiful sun strewn beach. The pristine white sand, idyllic palm trees and turquoise sea all conspire to make Alcan aluminium smelter a distant invisible memory. The whole area is about 25km North of the city of Newcastle Upon Tyne.


I want to do my bit for my birthplace and take this opportunity to plug the village. I'd like to say how the whole Pegswood conurbation is currently experiencing a boom. The place has become a magnet for tourism. Partly because of the abundant natural beauty and partly because of affordability in these difficult times - excellent value for money. Shortly after landing at the nearby futuristic Hebron International Airport it's not difficult to see why Pegswood is booming. There is much to see and do. Visitors from around the globe leave their footprints daily.

Activities? Nothing beats an early morning stroll up the 'pit heap' for stunning views of Ashington. On a clear day you can see 'The Tech', Ashington's tallest building - that really is a sight for sore eyes, rivalling the Eiffel Tower in magnificence. A pint of beer in either of the two fantastic 'working mens' clubs' is mind blowing. Downing a quality ale in these lavish surroundings will leave you with no regrets - a real boon at 50% of London prices too!

Anyone yearning for a bit of yesteryear can visit the 'budge'. Unfortunatley the original budge has been replaced. The original was a wooden green bus stop that was a highlight of many residents' young lives. It once flaunted a golden spray-painted 1 meter phallic symbol - it would not have looked out of place in cultural Amsterdam or by a Venitian canal. However, the new one is still worth a visit as you are guaranteed a nostalgic trip down memory lane (even if the aesthetics are somewhat diminished).

You can scale the fences at the sewage works and 'jump the piss'. This involves standing on the circular walls of the open filtration tanks and jumping over the metal arms that rotate and spray chemicals onto the.........well, the piss! The danger of falling in makes this a challenge as uncompromising as anything you'll see on Fear Factor.  There is also 'The Style' where you have the chance of an action-packed, adrenalin-fuelled game of chicken with the high speed trains plying the London-Edinburgh route.

Alternatively, try a daring ascent of the primary school roof. The exhilarating thrill of avoiding a fatal fall combined with the possibility of being captured by the school caretaker and subsequent police prosecution will leave your heart thumping. If the excitement of Pegswood is too much to handle, fear not, the delights of Ashington are a mere 2 miles down the 'Pegga Straight', and beyond that, the bewildering array of pleasures available at Sandy Bay caravan park. Go quickly before the hotels fill up!

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Pegswood Welfare Hall. How inviting does it look? Have a game of bingo with the old folk. Get lucky and win £1 per line or £3 for a full house. Whistle jovially as they call 'Those lovely legs eleven'. The 'hoosey' not your cup of tea? No problem, sit back, relax and listen to the haunting sounds of a Pegswood brass band practice session. Re-trace the Beatle's footsteps and experience the sounds that inspired them to greatness. Go on, you know you want to. I remember when we discovered an unused trampoline in here. To put this discovery into perspective, this was during a period of recent history where the local kids were topping themselves weekly through boredom. Yet, amazingly, they weren't allowed to use a trampoline that was left gathering dust! How can that logic be explained?

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A blast from the past. I found this pic on the web. Displaying typically Pegswoodian state-of-the-art '80s black n white technology. Pegswood Colts Junior football team in 1987 before we headed to Belguim. I can see Penny, Mick Atkinson and a few others from my childhood. Do you think Dougie Imrie is a little bit proud of his Captain's armband? Who else can you spot? Why am I not on this pic? I only scored the winner in the semi-final in Belguim! WHAT A GOAL! The following week was a crash back to reality with a 14-0 defeat against Wallsend.

I now think of Pegswood as a kind of Royston Vasey village. Straight from the pages of The League of Gentlemen. Caught in a time warp. Lost in a legacy of closed coal mines and Tory reform. A place with extraordinary gravity. Like a blackhole nothing can escape - not even light. Like the Eagle's Hotel California, you can checkout any time you like but you can never leave. I feel fortunate to have been able to forge an escape to broader horizons.

I loved reading my Mother's letter. It's strangely comforting to read a hand written letter in this day and age! I would like to mention a salient point she made and I quote:

"I like reading your blogs. Sometimes amusing, occasionally profound, ranting yes and eccentric a lot."

She also says "But I'm your Mother and I'm biased" hehe.

It is the 'eccentric a lot' bit that drew a smile. I've always felt I was a little different from most people I knew back home. I never really felt that I fitted in. I went climbing mountains alone in Scotland and the Lakes when most people were at St James Park fretting over another inept display. I asked but, for some reason, nobody fancied the idea of slogging 25km up and down mountains on a miserable wet Saturday afternoon.

I never followed the fashions of the day. I was always searching for some intangible thing just over the horizon, always just out of reach. I now know what that thing was. I was looking for an escape. An escape from the mundanity of England. I needed new challenges, not in the 'work' sense but in the 'life' sense. Futile materialism was also draining me. Running on a treadmill like a hamster for what? A new DVD player? The latest car with extra bells and whistles? In my view, to live like that is a somewhat shallow existence that, ultimately, does not result in true happiness. After all is that not what we are all searching for? Happiness? I don't think it comes with a high paying stressful job that affords you the latest TV but precious little time to watch it. Unfortunately, most of the Western World has succumbed to this mad consumer rat-race.

For me, travelling with few possessions is the answer. Attempting to understand a wide ranging blend of rich experiences.  Enhancing your Worldly perceptions. Trying to make yourself a better person. It is not the answer for everyone but it suits me. I suspect this is what makes me eccentric. Leading me to live the life of a transient gypsy. Eccentric but content.

Eccentric? Maybe adventurous is a better word.

I'm currently thinking about a blog post for my biennial anniversary on the 12th of June. I am going to write one containing a list of best place, worse place, cheapest, scariest, food etc etc. It is taking considerable thought. This is causing me to look back retrospectively at things over the last couple of years. From being comotose on the streets of Chiang Rai for two nights to eating boiled eggs with a bored Russian whore in Moscow because I couldn't sleep. From drunkenly falling into the open sewers in Dali, China to almost getting my head kicked in in Korea. To stinking out a Japanese ferry sleeping quarters with my hideously smelly socks to playing 5-a-side in broad daylight at midnight in Iceland. From getting hammered on coconut wine to killing a hen in the Philippines. From sleeping in a Bhuddist monestary in Burma to attending a small mass in a tiny Catholic church (like a shed) in the Mindoro jungle. I would love to mention sexual encounters on here but, just like the Daily Sport is a family paper, this is a family website. I have to save the dirty bits for crack over beer!

Tomorrow I am going to stay in a hostel in Kaohsuing, Taiwan's second city. I want to talk 'proper' English to the backpackers who may, or may not, be there. Maybe have a few beers too - well no, definitely have a few beers. Wor lass is at work most of the weekend so I may as well go and find some crack!

周末愉快 Zhou mo yu kuai = Have a nice weekend!

再见

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