Meeting a friend for a drink in the Ramside Hall Hotel this afternoon, one of the topics we discussed was how as we grow older, roles reverse and the parents become the children that we must look after.  (I’m reminded of Peter Gabriel‘s introduction to Baby Man during his Still Growing Up tour at this point – is this neotony?)

I’m not sure where I lie on this scale, but the venue itself took me back to my childhood.

Considering her upbringing by the docks of the East End of Sunderland, my mother developed into a real snob during her lifetime, with a strong penchant for any outwardly visible displays of wealth; ostentatiously large diamond rings, couture mink coats, and Daimler cars.  This fixation extended to the garden, and when we moved from a very average semi-detached to a corner site bungalow with a commanding position on one of the main roads of the area, she had a blank canvas upon which to work.

The trouble was that those who have money do not necessarily possess the taste to go with it (now my snobbery makes its presence felt) and her “vision” for all of this space extended no further than having great swathes of lawn surrounding the property broken only by a large rockery area with impressive rocks and precious little planting.

Not any grass, sorry, turf  would do however.  It had to be sea-washed turf.

I have no idea where she got these fixations but it meant travelling miles to find just the right supplier.  Wherever we travelled in the country, if she spotted some particularly green and weed-free sward then it must be sea-washed, her horticultural nirvana.

My recollection is that we ended up buying from a supplier called Donald Ireland in Darras Hall (the area outside of Newcastle populated by lawyers, accountants, company directors and local football stars).  A quick google could find any trace of the name, so unless my memory fails me the business may have long since closed.  In contrast one of those places that fell foul of my mother’s demands still remains; A N Sanderson.

I remember this business because it had a magic ingredient.  The cottage home of Mr Sanderson was a thatched cottage that I can still picture in sixties kodacolor._MG_0434

Now to those who live elsewhere in the UK, a thatched cottage may be nothing special, there were certainly plenty about last year during my trip to Northants, but here in the North East you just don’t see them, and so placed alongside the main Sunderland/Durham road this was a pretty remarkable piece of PR.  _MG_0429-Edit-Edit


Everybody noticed it, everybody remarked upon it, and a sign by the roadside ensured that you knew who to associate it with.  _MG_0435

The business was founded almost 60 years ago, and for the last forty has specialised in supplying conifers.  Perhaps losing my mother’s business was just too much for them to continue supplying turf!  Those conifers are now used to screen the property from public view, the PR being left to word of mouth and internet I suspect.

I can understand the reasons for seeking a greater degree of privacy; they have always shared the site and entrance road with a small hotel.  A small hotel which over the years has grown larger, busier and now incorporates a golf course.  There is a lot more traffic, traffic which today included my friend, me and a bottle of prosecco, for though I’ve tried to give them a vintage feel, these pictures were all taken today.



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