Blogs are often used, rightly, as an outlet for venting about whatever the author chooses. To date, three of my four pieces for Birth and Baby have been, in some form, a rant. This month I am changing tack and am going all positive. I want to sing the praises of where we live as a place to be a parent.
I moved to these parts in 2013, from Portsmouth. My wife, who is from Gateshead, was desperate to raise our daughter, then 9 months old, back in the North-East. I didn’t quite get why but, being from London and hardly settled on the south coast, I was willing to give it a go. I couldn’t have imagined how positive the move would turn out to be.
I took up a teaching post when I arrived, and for the first two years of life in North Tyneside a constant pile of marking, assessments, planning etc hindered my ability to immerse myself in what the area has to offer. Since I quit teaching in summer 2015 (it is amazing how many people have quit the profession of late, but this is a subject for another blog) and began working for myself I have had my eyes opened to the quality of life we North Tynesiders have.
Firstly, the housing situation. With my wage (which was mediocre, really) I found I had a degree of spending power in the market – if I had been earning the same in London I would have struggled to find a garage worth as little as our house. Instead, my daughter is being brought up in a lovely Victorian house, a stone’s throw from Northumberland Park.
This brings up another great thing about living in the North-East – the number of open, green spaces there are for children to play and learn in. All along the coast there are playgrounds and parks teeming with children of all ages enjoying themselves. They really are a lucky bunch. All of these green areas are close to possibly the greatest natural feature of the coast – the…COAST! There is a big ol’ sea right there. I mean RIGHT THERE. I am looking at it as I write this. There are children in this country who have left primary school but have not seen the sea surrounding our beautiful island, yet we are fortunate enough to exist right next to arguably Britain’s most beautiful bit of coast line, featuring golden, sandy beaches, rocky cliff-faces and an icy sea ideal for moulding our kids into a brave bunch who feel no cold, and thus allowing the famous northern stereotype to continue to flourish. As a Londoner who lived hours from the seaside when young, this has been a big hit with me.
Parents like me who arrive in the North-East lost in the fog of early parenthood don’t need to go far to find conversation, reassurance, and, more importantly, coffee and cake at the many parenting/baby/toddler/child groups that exist to help us regain our sense of direction (shout out to Janine and Birth and Baby, here). There is of course a massive benefit to our children, who are able to make new friends and share new experiences, but also to us parents, who get a receptive ear, support and the gradual realisation that it isn’t just us going through what we are going through. They are INVALUABLE. As they grow older, our children have access to wonderful nurseries, two of which I have experienced. This former primary teacher is now looking forward to nosing around the local primary schools and assessing the situation there!
Days out in and around the area are plentiful with the country parks, farms and innumerable soft plays on our doorstep (God I’m starting to feel like I’m writing a Lonely Planet entry), but if we can’t find what we want in the area we are a short Metro or car journey away from a city which houses some inspiring galleries, museums and activity centres, ideal for kids (Seven Stories, Jesmond Dene, Beamish, Centre For Life and the Hancock Museum are some of our favourite haunts). Further afield and to the north, we have the picturesque Northumberland and a whole bloody other country – Scotland, to the West, the Lakes, and Yorkshire and the Moors to our south. We’ve landed on our feet with the natural geography round here, haven’t we? Plus if we really want to slog it down to the big smoke – which I do to see family and friends – then three hours to London isn’t too bad, is it?
All in all it seems Geordies really are the lucky ones to have been born and brought up here. It’s us immigrants who come out of this best, though – we are the smart ones for choosing to move, and stay, here.
Jake is from London and moved to the north-east in 2013 after spells in Manchester and Portsmouth. He was a primary school teacher, but left the profession in 2015. A former national newspaper and broadcast journalist, he now runs a PR business, Rusby Media, with wife Frankie. He has a three-year-old daughter, Matilda, and another baby due imminently. In his spare time he enjoys following his beloved Arsenal, attempting to brainwash (unsuccessfully) his daughter into loving the same club, playing guitar, cooking, reading and eating…lots.