No doubt about it - nostalgia isn't what it used to be! By chance, I saw the tv on Tuesday night where the Essex pig-farmer visited Kielder. It had been a number of years since we were in that small corner of Northumberland and the scenery drew me back. Bellingham would lead on to Hexham where we used to stock up on game and on fish pies and then to Corbridge which has a super-deli full of guilty secret continental stuff.So, on a invitingly sunny morning - we were off. The organic meat place was soon ticked off. A very small and un-developed farm shop but with Northumberland charm oozing everywhere. The countryside around was in very good nick. Well cared for, breath-taking in the views and obviously productive in beast and crops.The drive to Hexham was cunningly planned so as to have us passing The Hadrian in Wall just as lunch was announcing itself in two noisy bellies. This stop had always been a given in our days of holiday-cottaging. I felt a bit of a cheat sitting down to my favourite mince and dumplings. This belt-strainer used to be the self-awarded reward for a twelve mile or so tread along Hadrians Wall. I would be thrown out at Steel Rigg and told the car would be waiting for me when I had finished. Me and the old dog had some great times chasing Roman ghosts doing that. Only once had we been forced off the actual Wall during blizzards that Scott of the Antarctic would have given up in. The Romans built a road which paralleled the Wall for just such conditions.Hexham came up OK. All looked the same except Waitrose had taken over the supermarket site in the main town car park. Civilisation is afoot! It was as we walked towards the path into town that I recalled how steep this was for about 800 yards. It was a bit of a puffer when last tackled - what? 10 years ago. Yesterday, it was a climb where one kept looking for the Stations of The Cross. Luckily, the upper two-thirds has shops selling art - never have windows been so welcome to allow us to regain some sense of life.Hexham has changed. I cannot say how exactly but it is more tourist-attractive in some way. Benches. Hanging baskets. Extra - but discrete - sign posts to the attractions of this ancient old town. To us though, the changes were a mixed-bag. There used to be a pair of twin sisters who ran a gentleman's clothing shop. It was unchanged for many many years. Glass fronted drawers racked one upon and alongside another held ancient treasure. Men's underpants in that silky light grey wool with legs down to the knees. Round necked vests if Sir did not like the new and modish V-neck style. Nightshirts that would suck all the passion out of a night of torrid sex. Spotty handkerchiefs? A dozen or more colours to choose from.Well, the old ladies have gone. I cannot imagine their stock setting Antiques Roadshow afire so it must be road fill. The game butcher and the fresh fresh fresh fish shop have also gone. Thankfully, the vegetarian cafe is still there. Hexham Tans is unusual in that is operated by the local mental health trust as a means to get people back into work.They prepare the meals and serve. Ordering a meal and discussing alternatives with the staff was always a bit of a demanding task.So - adding the new and subtracting the losses - time has not been good to Hexham. We gave Corbridge a miss. We had spent more time than planned communing and re-walking with spirits of dogs long gone and those who only recently left us.
On the way home, I decided to see just how good - or otherwise - my satnav was. We were in a part of the country where I knew half a dozen variants from A to B; most often via H. I told it to bring us home. As expected, she wanted to go by way of Jedburgh. That was out as I had gone that way and I am still programmed not to form routines. Anyway, we had been diverted to a damned quilt shop as we passed through and I did not want to risk a repeat visit so soon. I set out towards Rothbury. Just two attempts to get back onto track and then she consented to guide me My Way. Other diversions had the same result - just one did not click with her and she was pleading that I turn around and go the way she had sorted.
So - nostalgia result was that whilst the places we visited had changed somewhat the basics - the scenery and the people - still remained more than sufficient to drag us back. As MacArthur said - We Shall Return!!