Firstly, that when the trains work and are uninterrupted, they work fine, secondly that mixtures of step and natural family needn't be stressful, but were in our case and...that one of the most attractive seaside places from a train can actually be a complete waste of time to visit.
I think that's it.
On the way up, son-in-law dropped us off at the station and the train turned up on time, the coffee bar, while we waited, served an excellent brew, I bought a Private Eye for an amusing read on the more boring bits of the trip (Lincolnshire and Yorkshire), we found our reserved seats at a table, partially occupied, but our glares of disapproval seemed to have the people shuffling off to another part of the carriage, so we faced each other across a table, spread out and enjoyed the passing view, partaking of the well stocked buffet trolley that soon came along.
On the way back, I commented to my wife that where we were was where the train broke down last year, when the progress slowed suddenly and the Guard came on the Tannoy to inform us that "Now you're not gonne like this", in his warm Aberdonian accent. "There's been a fatality between Newcastle and Morpeth, which means at least 90 minutes delay while things are investigated". He thoughtfully allowed the train into Morpeth station and opened all the doors so people could stroll around, have a ciggy, etc. or those going to Newcastle get a cab or a bus the 8 miles or so it would have taken.
Immediately, a gaggle of people, so self-important, so OUTRAGED that their time had been taken out of their hands, surrounded the poor guard and the train staff, demanding to know if they would get home that evening. I merely asked if there was a drinks trolley on the train. We had a lift the other end whenever it got in, so were nicely smug.
A bit of Dunkirk spirit later and we were away much sooner than expected and sped into Newcastle with no evidence of the scene of the "incident". Behind the scenes, a family is messed up and turning on itself, a driver is having horrific nightmares along with the medical crew, Transport Police, et al.
There are perfectly effective pills for this sort of thing, I'm sure, which will take you out of this realm in seconds, rather than spreading you all over the front of the 5-18 from Edinburgh to Kings Cross at great inconvenience to hundreds, possibly thousands as the delay filters down the line and re-writes the carefully planned timetables and work shifts for the rest of the day. In the end our driver stepped on the gas a bit and we were less than an hour late our end. Whether Mr. Important ever got his sorry arse back to Camberwell in time, who the Hell cares?
Suffice to say that an older step-daughter in a generally younger family can be a right pain in the backside, making a visit increasingly stressful, when it should have been a rest, but 'twas ever thus Ooop North. But it was nice to see our own young grandchildren and our son again, despite the endless crap TV they watch.
Also good to help son out with a couple of his latest projects, which included a wish on his part, to cast aluminium in sand in his back garden. He had built a furnace using blown charcoal and melted hundreds of drinks cans down and poured into cake trays to make ingots. Now he wanted to make something. In anticipation, I had made a simple pattern of something I could use on my kit car, but first we needed to find some casting sand. Unwilling to pay huge carriage costs, he had drawn a blank, but being a seeker on pages 2-7 of Google search, I found him a foundry not 20 miles away that proved helpful and willing to sell him a bag of greensand. Off we went to Greenslaw in the borders and found a small foundry, run by an extremely helpful chap, who showed us round, explained the principals and sold us a bag of the necessary for a good price. On the way home we stopped for chips in the Greenslaw restaurant. Looking like a rural Irish bar, the chippy is 2 tables and a bar at the front and the chippy out the back. A very friendly Polish lady took our order, explained that everything there is absolutely fresh, even the chicken nuggets are Scottish fillet chicken cooked in Bellhaven Best Bitter batter. An Indian gentleman came through, singing the praises of the establishment with gusto and insisting we "bring the family back here like I do".
They were, needless to say, amongst the best chips we'd ever had!
I made the lad some casting boxes in scrap fence wood (they don't HAVE to be cast iron!), rammed the new sand in and pressed in my pattern. Mike fired up the furnace and poured into the cavity. 8 pours later, I had 8 neat little top hats in aluminium ready to put on the lathe for tidying up.
Made a pattern for a sand-tamping tool for Mike and he cast that too.
Then a gust of wind filled the pot with ash from the charcoal and casting stopped, so a gas furnace is the next thing.
Finally......Northumberland is a beautiful, largely forgotten county. We had set aside a day for toodling around and mainly going down the coast road, taking in Seahouses, Craster, Alnmouth and any other attractive looking seaside and fishing villages we could. This plan was also stymied by the dreaded step-daughter, so we only had about 3 hours, so we forgot about Low Newton and the Ship Inn, going instead straight for Seahouses. It was a sunny, but incredibly windy day. Indeed we all at different times nearly got blown in the harbour.
Seahouses is a bit seasidey, but the harbour was busy, mainly with a bewildering amount of trip boats so folks could see the Farne Islands.
Nowhere by the harbour was selling a cuppa apart from a miserable Asian in a tram shaped hut, where we had a hot chocolate.
Via Craster, which appeared to be closed, we then, finally got to the very pretty Alnmouth, a village on a small estuary that we saw from the train and decided we should visit. When we got there, it was clear that here was a mini playground for the Audi loving stuck up bastards that frequent golf clubs and the like. Nowhere to park, despite a dozen trendy little dives to eat, no directions to a car park or any facilities. Horse shit on the tarmac, a sure sign of knobs abounding and no making use of or even money from, the waterside. We found a cafe called the Dandelion, which vaunted on many outside posters their "Fresh Coffee", their sandwiches and light bites. Finding the last 15 feet of unlined blacktop in the town we walked back past England's oldest 9 hole golf club to the caff, where we were pounced upon by a robot, programmed with all the spiel about the weird cakes they sold.
I asked about sandwiches and "lite bites". We don't do them. I reminded her that their large signs proclaimed otherwise. No response. I am now in a black mood and getting blacker.
The coffee was like the dregs of a bad Costa and would have been improved with a spoonful of Nescafe Gold Blend. The cake was OK, but so crumbly it couldn't be eaten with a fork. I noticed that the home made soup of the day was priced at £4-95!! At that point I left.
People, when visiting the lovely Northumberland, leave Alnmouth WELL alone. It is an unsatisfying dump. This is the only interesting thing there.