Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A County Languishing on the Fringe

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A County Languishing on the Fringe

Article excerpt


ILIVE just a few fields away from Journal columnist David Banks in what he fondly refers to as "El paradiso sur Tweed" in praise of the scenery, tranquillity, quality of life and local people, on both sides of the border. But in less obvious ways, paradise is a misnomer. The Argos catalogue puts its nearest store in Scotland. Actually, it's in Berwick, which changed hands 13 times before the Act of Union. People fought and died to retain it as an English town, although there was talk recently that some Berwickers wished to revert to being Scottish.

When once I tried to buy the English edition of the Rugby World magazine at WH Smith in Berwick, I was told their Scottish wholesalers supplied only the Scottish edition. I took out a direct subscription.

Dialling NHS Direct yields an automated message directing me to NHS 24, its Scottish equivalent, probably because my local exchange is covered by the Coldstream area code (it's north of the border, by the way), although my GP is in Wooler, 15 miles inside England.

And in north Northumberland, if you opt to take Sky TV you can access any BBC station in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the choice of ITV stations is Border or London.

Border covers Cumbria and

Dumfries and Galloway from Carlisle, while even if I could get Tyne Tees (my nearest local ITV station, based 60 miles away), its name suggests Northumberland is not a priority in its coverage.

Local weather forecasts? Don't even go there. The fact that Northumberland is the second worst county in England for pot holes and the indefensible refusal to complete the dualling of the A1 north of Morpeth, to meet the excellent dualled road that extends south from Edinburgh to the border, are further examples of how peripheral we are to the rest of England.

Both the rugby and soccer teams of Berwick play in Scottish leagues, although I believe the rugby team does play some English teams.

Most galling of all was to be told over the telephone, while trying to arrange a delivery, that I did not live in England. When I corrected this, the person on the other end said I was wrong: their computer database said I lived in Scotland. …

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