Border Lines

Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Music, art…and oysters

Adopting a new home is a bit like having a child. Depending on your audience, you are either incredibly defensive or downright moany about it. That’s a bit how we’ve been about Berwick since moving here from North London.

Some things we have been defensive about – particularly to London friends – are:

The wonderful Maltings Theatre & Cinema

Culture… They say: ‘But what about art galleries/theatres/live music etc etc?’  We say: Our own much–loved Maltings  provides an astonishing wealth and diversity of locally and nationally (and some internationally) sourced entertainment, music and culture a step away from our front door. My own highlight of the year was the outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Not only did we have a most entertaining family debate (triggered by The Nine–Year–Old) about our top three flavours of crisps(mine resolutely cheese and onion, The Husband probably any flavour, The Nine–Year–Old smoky bacon, salt and vinegar, roast chicken – she’ll grow out of it) but also the Lord Chamberlain’s Men gave a fast–moving performance with no boring bits or tiresome over–the–top innuendo and really helped make sense of Shakespeare as originally acted by all–male casts.

AND we’ve been to several gigs in Edinburgh and, last week, visited The Sage Gateshead. Parking has been straightforward and cheap – free in Edinburgh – and right outside the venues. Hack that you Londoners as you wrestle with tube trains, parking attendants and the Congestion Charge and still have to walk miles to get to the gig. ALSO, Northumberland and the Borders probably have the highest population of artists in the country. With many Open Studios and art trails happening right now, it’s the perfect time to get soaking up the Northumberland/Borders Scene – Hoxton eat your heart out!

Looking out from Lindisfarne

Restaurants…They say: ‘Where will you eat?’ I am almost speechless. Northumberland = fresh. Fresh seafood, fresh meat, fresh vegetables. Cooking at home is bliss with such ingredients – as is shopping for them and there’s no wince–inducing price mark–up like you’d find in London’s Borough Market. We’ve had great fun and some delicious meals in and around Berwick.  Favourite moments so far include purchasing crab from the guys over at the Berwick Shellfish Co and sharing the resultant crab feast in our garden with friends; driving out to Ross Farm with The Nine–Year–Old and London Daughter (who was visiting) for Lindisfarne Oysters  – and the three of us slurping them straight from the shells as I opened them over the sink; watching a pig carcass being jointed at Peelham Farm, Foulden and learning how different English butchery is to Italian; marvellous venison at the Queen’s Head; illicitly snatched tasty, lazy lunches at The Maltings Kitchen enhanced by the marvellous view; happy times and relaxed meals of creative home–cooked food at Café Curio – all three in Berwick; and, slightly further afield, The Allanton Inn‘s subtle and delicious in–house smoked fish and meats. No wonder I’m looking forward to the Berwick Food Festival in September.

People…They say: ‘Who on earth will you hang out with?’ This casual London–centric view that the only interesting people on earth are found in London would be totally exasperating if it weren’t so risible. I say just read the paragraphs above to get a taste of some of the creative and entrepreneurial people we get to chew the fat with.

The Weather…They say: ‘It’s so cold oop North’. Pah! The Husband (who has bona fide anorak qualifications in a range of things including trains and statistics) says: ‘It’s only ever a couple of degrees cooler in Berwick than London.’ This, he says, is, ‘pleasingly refreshing in the summer months.’ And, ‘we have real winters like we used to have down South in the 50s.’ He also asserts that there’s hardly a raindrop of difference between here and London. So, my London friends, pop that on your trendy wood burning stoves and smoke it!

Now for the moans…Ah, shame, I seem to have run out of space. Moaning about Berwick will have to wait for another column – perhaps a London one!

(A version of this article was first published on August 4th  in The Berwick Advertiser

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