I’m quarter Geordie, my paternal grandmother’s side of the family came down to the Nottinghamshire coalfield from its Durham counterpart in the later 19th century. Their sojourn in Durham had been a relatively short one – the family had previously been colliers in Northumberland, 30 miles to the north. It seems that there was a liaison with a daughter of a local landowner, a quick marriage and a move to near Bishop Auckland which saw the family of miners become a family of pit managers. There were still some links to the Northumberland coalfield and one of the sons was middle named after a colliery in a pit village that was eventually swallowed up by Cramlington New Town. It became a family tradition to continuing the naming, passed down to me and now one of my sons.
I’d met J on a field trip course during a bitterly cold Easter at Dale Fort Field Centre (left on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia), a very bleak former Victorian fort which guarded the northern entrance to Milford Haven. She was from Surrey commuter land and her trip was a biology one, mine geography – we had got chatting in the pub one evening. We stayed in touch and wrote to each other quite a lot – she was the only person I have ever ‘corresponded’ with. We met up a few times including seeing Tom Petty, Genesis and others at Knebworth in 1979 and I went up to see her in Durham a couple of times when she went there to university.
On one of those visits we went to see the band Lindisfarne. They had always somehow resonated with me in my youth, I felt that there was a connection – perhaps I wanted there to be as I knew the history of my middle name. They were close to ‘home’ in a small, crowded venue full of both students and north-eastern fans of the band, every song being sung-along to. Lindisfarne seemed to be in their element. Few gigs I have been before or since came close to the amazing atmosphere that night; my ears were ringing for days afterwards.
Unsurprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be any footage of the concert, but this was one of their concerts from a few years later at Newcastle City Hall.
I think that I’d borrowed and taped a live album, probably ‘Magic in the Air’ around 1975 and bought ‘Run for Home’ which did quite well as a single in mid-1978 – at the time we saw them it was my favourite song of theirs. My tastes moved on though, and any vague liking of Lindisfarne was completely destroyed when the band allowed Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne to do an appalling rendition of ‘Fog on The Tyne’ in 1990.
As for J, I think that we saw each other only once or twice more before losing touch – it was in the days before Friends Reunited and then Facebook – I guess that I was never really a letter writer and that I probably didn’t really have the time anyway as I got more involved politically in my second year at LSE. Oddly, I saw her Dad again a few years later in a corridor at Nationwide Building Society’s head office, where he worked, when I was having a meeting with someone in relation to my housing policy PhD.