Some journeys are about the pursuit of pleasure and the exploration of lusted-after destinations; some are a quest for self discovery. Some voyages are about understanding your roots and origins and some, in contrast, are about retracing the steps taken by your loved ones.
This journey was one of those.
Nearly 40 years ago, my parents departed the warmer climes of northern India and landed in the more unforgiving, icy-cold winds of North East England. My Dad still remembers the one single suitcase and 5 pounds he arrived with and the life he founded with those simple staples, spurred on by his infallible work ethic and his larger than life dreams, dreams which did indeed come to life.
As I would grow up, I would find it entertaining that so many of our family friends had their own ‘5 pounds and a suitcase’ tales, each one equally poignant, equally inspiring, equally incomparable to anything I could ever comprehend.
One of the first places my parents would call home in the UK was a small village you most probably have never heard of – a friendly place known as Shotley Bridge in County Durham. A district general hospital once stood there and the embracing, welcoming hearts that filled its walls provided a sanctuary of warmth and reassurance to two scared young adults, embarking on a new life.
One of those compassionate, caring souls was a nurse, who would take my Mum and Dad under her wing and provide them with the type of friendship they had never imagined possible in their new world, one that continues to this day. After my sister and I were born, that very nurse became our Godmother and despite the long geographical distances between us, Auntie E has always been another Mum to us.
It was with great pride and excitement, therefore, that Pumpkin and I traversed the country in September to try to get a long-overdue glimpse into this region of England and to explore some highlights of Durham, Northumberland and the North East of England, guided by our resident experts, Auntie E and her husband. I had not realised quite how much there is to see and do and two nights was not nearly long enough but having seen how picturesque this part of the UK is, I need no persuasion to return.