In The Freak Midwinter


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January 2nd 2022
Published: January 8th 2022
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Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Driving home for Christmas. I was beginning to think we were starting to put this whole pandemic business behind us and I could stop mentioning the C word. Alas, here we go again or more to the point - here we don't go again! When we can book any trip with confidence, all of a sudden looks further away from us than ever. We are back to waiting on the word of TFB, as to whether further restrictions will be foisted upon us. The other Home Nations went early, but TFB holds the purse strings and has one eye on the knives in the back. He eventually chose to maintain the status quo. Plan B onwards and upwards. The situation seems to be getting closer to home as well. The Man in the Middle has tested positive, even though he was fully boosted. "I'm fine" he states unsure whether it is the Omicron variant, "a bit breathless, but just like having a cold". A couple of days later and he could hardly walk upstairs. He is now on the mend. I remind him that he is out of condition anyway, not having run for a bus or a tram for a good while on our East European football missions. Peak fitness possibly waned a decade ago, after a dash outside Partizan Belgrade in 2011. On reflection, he thinks it could be the new undetected strain - the public house variant - caught whilst indulging in licensed premises. The Tricky Trees will have to cope without him for the next 2 matchdays. We have another friend, who succumbed to the Tenerife variant once back in the UK. The rules changed 3 times, whilst he was out there and it played on his mind whether he would get home or spend time locked in a Spanish hotel room. There was also the small matter of the testing regime eating into his beer budget.

Driving home for Christmas has a new impetus this year. Mini have latched on to the tune, as part of their latest TV advertising campaign. The Rea family fortune was already doing quite nicely on the annual royalty cheque, so this year the icing will be really on the cake when bank balance is inspected. It highlights that Mr Rea wrote the song on Christmas Eve 1978 - in a Mini. What it doesn't say is that he wrote it driving the 250 miles home to the Boro from London. I believe that one of cars featured in the advert features a Mini Electric model. The stated range on a single charge is up to 145 miles. If a budding songwriter was composing his Christmas tune today, he'd be able to add an extra verse whilst the car was on charge somewhere south of Sheffield.

In years past, we would have sorted out a bit of a get together with old friends. Time often heals some of the differences of opinion from school. I stress that these would be gatherings, not parties. In political circles, it seems the two are often indistinguishable. There could be a reassessment of the English Language going forward. Does a party require to have copious cheese, outdoor catering, more than 3 bottles of wine and the attendance of the shy one from accounts who likes a glass of fizz? There is no lockdown to date or restrictions on social mixing, but the transmission of the new variant has forced most into a form of hibernation. The usual buzz of a licensed premises at the festive period was missing. Everyone was just either being
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea

The North East Premier Surf Resort
thoughtful to protect the older relatives or just being plain cautious. Meanwhile elsewhere in the North East, a combined audience of 80000+ managed a spot of festive football at St James Park and Awesome Park.

As a child of the 1960s, the words "make do" were commonplace. Our last serious venture to Athens was 21 months ago, but I have managed to blog and find something to write about closer to home. It is always interesting to look more closely at things considered not worthy on your doorstep. I settled into a Christmas routine. A Norfolk Terrier of my acquaintance likes a routine and demands a full entertainment package. We were out across the fields, down the woods or on the beach everyday. There were always squirrels to chase or new forms of seafood to inspect on the high tide line. The average dog is also well versed in the fish and chip hunting grounds. They get to know the favoured benches on which visitors devour their meal. The fish and chips might well be "award winning" from certain establishments, but the scraps still end up on the floor. The out of town folk are often not familiar with
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea

Footprints in the sand by Vera
which outlet has featured on the BBC or found column inches in the Times - they base a decision on the length of a queue and whether they be bothered to join it.

The weather was unseasonably mild for December. There were UK records set over the holiday period. They were peaking in the mid-teens centigrade. In Teesside terms, it meant occupation of the beach chalets approached 50 per cent on some days and it was warm enough for shorts. It was better than summer. The surf crew landed in their camper vans and the waves lived up to their expectations. Other motorists cursed their existence and unable to find a suitable park at sea level, reluctantly crawled back up the bank to clutter the town. The weather peaked towards New Year. There was talk of the restrictions north of the border forcing the Hogmaney crowd south. Newcastle might have been bracing itself, but Heart of Midlothian logos were also spotted on the beach. We walked on towards Hazelgrove. It was caked in mud. Vera was already caked in mud, but we chose to divert up towards the caravan park. The days of the old caravan park appear long
Skelton in Cleveland Skelton in Cleveland Skelton in Cleveland

Frank Wild Memorial
gone - some of the "resort homes" are possibly better than some bungalows in town. Times have changed at the Scout Hut - it has a metal security shutter door these days. The front grounds are some form on mini allotment too. It makes you wonder what other changes have taken place inside? Is it still suitable for an evening of British Bulldogs? Is British Bulldogs still classed as an acceptable activity for politically correct youth? The Man in Montreal will surely be keen to know the answers to all these questions.

The NEPSR and the hinterland has had many previous words devoted to it, but there is always something else of interest. I trained my camera on Rushpool Hall, which appears much more visible at the top of the valley than it was in years gone by. The Gothic structure was once the palatial home of the Bell family. The NEPSR was the centre of a building boom when the railway line pushed through. The imposing Zetland Hotel has been covered before in other blogs, but also in 1863, John Bell was throwing money at his new home - Rushpool Hall. The cost of the dwelling on the
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea

Vera - the squirrel hunt
back road to Skelton was said to approach £100,000. Iron ore mining was obviously paying very well. The leading architect was said to be George Gilbert Scott, who had a hand in many things including the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park and Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand. The Bell family later leased the Hall to another great Teesside ironmaster, John Dorman of Dorman Long. The Bells had taken to wintering in the sunnier climes of Algeria!! A fire caused huge damage in the early 1900s and the salvation of the Hall passed to the unlikely ownership of the Liberal MP for Barnsley. By 1940, the Hall was derelict and only latterly became a Hotel and wedding venue.

We followed the valley and the Miniature Railway down towards the sea. The "Keep Off The Tracks" is lost on Vera. There are squirrels on the other side. We stay relaxed, as there isn't a train due until the Easter school holidays. After our patrol on the golden sands, we walk back up Cart Road. It is more commonly known as Saltburn Bank in modern times - the scene of many a panic stricken motorist when meeting the Arriva X4 bus on
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea

Saltburn Pier
the second bend. Half way up are the Assembly Rooms. A "must have" for any self respecting Victorian seaside resort, it boasted a concert capacity of 600. The Assembly Rooms morphed into the Spa Pavillion, after an extensive modernisation in 1935. The stage and Maplewood dance floor were added at this time, which would become familiar to us as part of Philmores - the centre of nightlife in East Cleveland from the 1970s through to the loss of the entertainment licence in 1992. The capacity of 1400 was achieved by the regular late night coach transport laid on to allow the night time revellers to get back home after closing. The coaches lined up opposite the Zetland, providing a captive audience for the resident burger van. "What's yours pet? Onions and sauce?" The stage played host to many live bands over the years, including the aforementioned Chris Rea. Whatever happened to Benny Santini?

It seems that there isn't a trip north these days, that doesn't involve a trip to the James Cook Hospital - South Tees Hospital in old money. The Other Half accompanied the Outlaw on her appointment, whilst I introduced Vera to the world of Stewart's Park.
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea

The North East Premier Surf Resort
A mixed bag of recreation space, history and a sort of domestic urban farm. Vera wasn't sure what to make of a llama. The history is dominated as you would expect by Captain James Cook. Cook was born in Marton - once a village before Middlesbrough effectively existed - but now part of the urban sprawl. A birthplace Museum sits in the grounds of what was the long, gone Marton Hall. It was the home of Henry Bolkow, another one of the Teesside ironmasters. He laid out and landscaped the Park as we know it, which was bought by the a Councillor Stewart for the good people of the Boro to get a bit of the countryside. The Hall demolished in 1960, as having no "architectural significance". A fire finished the job. A nominal part of the old stone construction remains. A pink granite urn nearby marks the place where the cottage in which Cook was born once stood. One way or another - whether it be James Cook or the Sydney Harbour Bridge - Teesside has had a marked influence on Australia.

I move from one great adventurer to another. It puts your own wandering into perspective. Frank
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Memorial
Wild is the most famous son of Skelton in Cleveland. Frank who, I hear you say? Frank Wild, Antarctic explorer and one of only 2 to be awarded a Polar Medal, with 4 bars. He was on Scott's first expedition to Antarctica in 1901 and followed up with 4 more expeditions as part of Shackleton's team. He was 2nd in command to Shackleton on the final trip in 1921/22 and took over command, after he died of a heart attack in South Georgia. After th 1922 expedition, Frank settled down - well figuratively speaking anyway. He got married and tried his hand at cotton farming in South Africa. He died in 1939 in South Africa. Wild was reunited with Shackleton, when some of his ashes were interned in South Georgia. Frank Wild is ironically claimed to be related to Cook on his mother's side.

Christmas wouldn't be complete without some festive football. Vera, well used to being the sole member of the Marske United Canine Crew at away games, was in situ at Mount Pleasant on December 27th for the visit of Stockton. The Awesome Park gang had played on Boxing Day, so the eyes of Teesside were fully
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
focused on the North - South non league contest. The crowd was listed as an astonishing 1250. The number of dogs was unrecorded. A scrappy game was settled in Stockton's favour. It was a trip to Dunston on the edge of Gateshead on New Years Day. My only other previous visit had been a FA Vase tie in 1996, when one of party visiting from points further south, refused to leave the bar in the 2nd half. "Too cold", I am staying here. Dunston used to be associated the Federation Brewery, so the beer was only coming from bet door. Dunston is Gazza territory. There was no Gazza on show for either team today. Marske hit the woodwork and missed at least 2 other good chances. They were mugged late on by an organised home team. I got a lift up there, so Vera was left sulking back at base.



Appendix 1

Pitching In Northern Premier League Division 1 (East)

Marske United FC 1 Stockton Town FC 2

Venue: GNR Stadium, Mount Pleasant, Marske by the Sea. North Yorkshire. TS11 7BW

Date: Monday 27th December 2021 @ 1500 Hours

Attendance: 1250
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum


Scorers: 1-0 Boyes 51 Mins (Marske United), 1-1 Nicholson 63 Mins (Stockton), 1-2 Mulligan 82 MIns (Stockton)



Appendix 2

Pitching In Northern Premier League Division 1

Dunston UTS FC 2 Marske United FC 0

Venue: UTS Stadium, Wellington Road, Dunston. Gateshead. NE11 9JL

Date: Saturday 1st December 2022 @ 1500 Hours

Attendance: 398

Scorers: 1-0 Fowler 70 Mins (Dunston), 2-0 Elliott 79 Mins (Dunston)


Additional photos below
Photos: 60, Displayed: 30


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Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea
Saltburn by the Sea

Saltburn Pier
Saltburn by the Sea Saltburn by the Sea
Saltburn by the Sea

Vera - the squirrel hunt
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough
Stewart's Park, Middlesbrough

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum


10th January 2022
Saltburn by the Sea

"Signal Sclpture was erected in 2001 to recognize the importance of the railways on this area."
10th January 2022

Loved this album!!

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