Berwick upon Tweed -Notes and Whispers
I had not been in this historic town many hours when I was found in the main soccer pub on the main street (Castlegate) the Brewers Arms. There two attractive young women were asking where they might be able to get English lessons. For the bar maid, used to pints of lager,the odd tattoo and two for one meals this was a question too much. Step forward your man from the Sherpa School.
Where are you from . Brazil. I am an English teacher. I will give you a twenty minute lesson. Oh Senor you are too kind. It goes well. Their English isn’t bad. They are in Berwick because one has a cousin there and they want to work in the UK. The English crisis came because they couldn’t understand a word anyone in Berwick was saying. The Geordie accent is so deep and impenetrable (awreet) that it should have UNESCO status. After a while the ladies and I are getting on well. I make them laugh, I buy them a drink. One beautifully asks, Are we bothering you? I am nearly seventy, these were attractive young women, were they bothering me, sure. Bring it on. I advised them to get out of Berwick as soon as they could.
Lyme Regis has Jane Austen, Margate has Turner, Broadstairs has Dickens, Bognor has William Blake, Putney has Swinburne, Hull has Larkin and Berwick has Lowry. The matchstick man spent many holidays staying at the Castle Hotel and drew at least 30 pictures of in an around the town. His picture of Castlegate painted in 1935 shows how little the town has changed in seventy years. While staying at the Castle legend has it, he typically got a crush on the teenage receptionist and gave her many drawings. She didn’t think much of them a binned them all. Lowry’s painting of Castlegate bought for 30 guineas in 1935 went for half a million in 2009.
I decided to take a meal where the great painter had sat. Prawns,steak and a bottle of red for less than £30. Up North the helpings are bigger tand prices smaller! Weightwatchers has yet to come to Berwick. While I was at the Castle Hotel the manageress came into to the restaurant and talked to her decorator about new pictures. I suggested Lowry prints-after a ll wasn’t that an attraction. She told me that they had previously had them, but they had all been stolen.
Meanwhile the town has a Lowry walk highlighting the sites of his paintings. What is significant about his Berwick pictures is that they are not about the industrial landscape. These pictures underline Lowry’s Northern personality, he also holidayed and painted in Lytham St Annes. But it was in Berwick that rent collector Lowry once considered buying a house. ( A nice three bed roomed cottage now goes for £200k)
Not to miss a trick the town which now has many empty shops and has recently lost its Puff Pastry factory, several artists have produced a range of Lowry look a like pictures. The first time I have come across tribute art.