22nd February

In Sunderland:

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But despite arriving so late last night I still have to get up early as I’ve arranged to go and collect my Gran’s ashes from the undertaker where they’ve been for the past 3 years! It’s been quite a while since we’ve been to Sunderland and I was meant to be coming up yesterday afternoon from a job in Birmingham but it all changed and the Undertakers have very kindly agreed to open up today so I can pick them up at 10:30.

The first thing I notice is that they appear to be in one of those carrier bags that you give bottles of wine in at Christmas but when I pick them up my thought is “Blimey I’m sure she weighs more now that she did when she was alive!”

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Afterwards Sarah, Ben and I head off  down to the sea front to get him out of the house and into the fresh air! We park up next to Roker park and he has a go on the swings before we wrestle him into a pair of boots and head to the beach. It’s as well we did as he’s straight into the water and within a few minutes the water has gone over the top of his boots! We walk along the beach and end up going for a coffee at the Cat and Dogs stairs. Sarah asks me why they’re called that and I confess that I don’t know except that my Dad used to say that they were as twisty as a dog’s hind leg. However Google turns up a more sinister reason! Depending on which version you believe the name is either because people used to use them to take unwanted pets down to the sea to drown or slightly better that people used to abandon dead animals there – either way  I think I prefer my Dad’s version!

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After the coffee we wander up to the lighthouse that stands on top of the cliff before returning via the beach and park to the car, where we pour water out of Ben’s boots, and then back to the house for lunch.

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After lunch we go to the local Tesco which I have mixed feelings about as it was built on the site of the Mecca nightclub where many a happy youthful night was spent. The venue had seen such acts as led Zeppelin, the Who, Free and the Faces appear there in it’s heyday – sadly before my time but I still saw the likes of Tom Robinson, Wishbone Ash, Budgie and Ian Gillan there. It was also the last place I saw Tony McPhee (until the other weekend!) After buying Ben a pair of Wellies we headed off to South Shields for the afternoon. By now I was wearing one of my dad’s old coats that I’d just been given and despite having a hoody, jacket and the coat (plus scarf and hat) it was still bloody freezing in the park – no idea what happened to the sunshine and warmth of this morning!image

We decided that we’d go indoors so we headed for the amusement arcade where we played on the penny ‘chines. I also had a go on the one armed bandits which were the old type that I remember playing in the arcades at Seaburn with my Nana when I was Ben’s age!

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We were going to get some doughnuts but decided against it and headed back to the car and back to the house. On the way back we stopped off in the car park of Souter Lighthouse and Ben and I went to have a look – sadly we couldn’t go in as it was closed. I remembered sleeping in the huts down at the army camp when I was a cadet and seeing the light from here sweeping regularly around the room while the fog horn blared it’s warning!

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