When I came to Haydon Bridge, in 2002, I was disorientated and I didn’t really know where I was. My life had changed utterly. I had left my job in Cape Town, a huge city at the southern tip of Africa, on Friday the 26th April 2002, flown to England on Saturday the 27th and arrived in London on the 28th. I was in Haydon Bridge on the 29th. This happened because my eldest daughter could only access my British citizenship and accompany me, as a minor, if she entered the UK before her 18th birthday on the 30th April. It was a tight fast move.
Aron, my partner, was to follow and start at the Newcastle University a few months later. We found ourselves in Haydon Bridge because Peter Stone, who had visited us in South Africa on work trips, had met us at the station in Newcastle and brought us to his home, then in Church Street.
And, thereafter, we never left Haydon Bridge.
The girls and I went for a walk along the river to the pump house on our first afternoon. We spent the following week looking for for a place to live in Newcastle. After a week of searching, I gave up. Blindly, we rented 13 Ratcliffe Road, and a year later moved across the road to number 12 – our home ever since.
For the first few months, Haydon Bridge was unreal. I remember feeling as if I was moving around in a film set. Our youngest started at the high school and later, Aron arrived from South Africa. Initially I worked at the Co-op, and then I secured a teaching position at Newcastle City Learning.
Gradually, I gained a sense of place, and began to unpack and treasure Haydon Bridge and the surrounding area. A year or two ago, I began drawing and painting elements of the village that give it character. I worked up all my drawings into a design that would offer a sense of belonging, village pride and story. And this was how the cup came to be.
In a world of urban anonymity, pollution, consumerism and fast living, Haydon Bridge is a heavenly place. A soothingly beautiful river glides through the middle of a village that is neither too big nor too small. People greet each other in the street, children can play safely and know their neighbours. Different generations mix, shopping is a social event around essential needs, and nature surrounds us in every direction.
Who could ask for more?