We have just returned from our autumn break in the north east Yorkshire coast with two other couples. We had a great time sightseeing, eating, drinking and generally having a great time. For one week a year we become Saga Louts as my son calls us.
We always get together for a midweek break (Monday to Friday) this time of the year because one its cheaper and two we are all needed for various babysitting duties at the weekends.
This years destination was Whitby a great favourite of mine mainly because it has a great atmosphere and its like revisiting your childhood because of the whole feel of the place with its small winding streets and very friendly people. Not to mention the Magpie Cafe, the best Fish and Chip restaurant in the world (In my view).
We stayed a little out of town in the next bay up the coast Sandsend and as the name suggests it does seem to be the place where the Sand does indeed end.
Now because of the scale of economics three couples splitting the bill for accommodation means that you can rent somewhere rather plush, and it certainly was. We had rented the ground floor of a rather substantial cottage that overlooked the sea, a great way to start any day.
At our age we all need our creature comforts such as ensuite bathrooms, large dining kitchens and comfortable lounges that when we are ready for a nap the seating swallows you up so you are ready to start the next activity.
We always try at least one thing we haven’t tried before on our holidays so I was intrigued by the suggestion that we should spend a day on the North Yorkshire Railway. Now my idea of trains is that you get on when they arrive and get off when you reach your destination with the minimum of fuss in-between, so what could possibly make this day anything special to write home about.
How wrong was I, it was magical. There is something special about travelling on a steam train in a carriage that was built about the same time that I was born. The smell of the smoke from the engine, the seats that when I was young used to make my legs itch after an hour or so whilst sat in my short school pants. The same feeling was muted by my longer trousers.
The carriage didn’t have wifi or charging points which meant that people actually talked to each other, asking each other where they lived and were they are staying, it was fantastic.
The best thing of all was the breathtaking scenery rushing passed the windows with whips of smoke passing by every now and again. I also discovered that strange pastime that we used to have of sitting waiting for trains and not actually doing anything but thinking and looking around. When was the last time you had the luxury of that activity.
It was the sheer scale of the operation of running at the railway that had me amazed, most of the staff are volunteers and mostly over the age of retirement and the effort to keep it all working must be epic.
Now the day after I did something I haven’t done for a while and that is we actually used public transport to get around, a strange experience for me an ardent car user and commuter. Now this was very different to the experience the day before.
Our trip was to Saltburn a pretty little coastal resort town about an hour up the coast. The buses were modern with all the latest technology , talking destination screens that told you the next stop and drivers who actually waited for people to be sat down before starting off again. As the day before people were actually taking to each other, it was very enjoyable.
As the bus made its way up the coast away from Whitby it became clear that this coast does suffer from lack of employment opportunities and the further north we travelled the more apparent it became.
I was listening in to a discussion that two people on the bus were having about the closure of the steel plant at Redcar and the effect it will have on these communities.
These things when they happen are devastating to any community that they are in but in these fragile economies on the Northeast coast it will hit them especially hard.
I have been made redundant twice in my life and it is a traumatic time. All you can see are the bills that you have to pay (which multiplies the fear of unemployment a million fold) and the daunting prospect of trying to find a job when most of your town are also looking for the same opportunities makes for several sleepless nights.
My advice for what it is worth to these people is to look at it as an opportunity to retrain and look at doing something you would like to do. I know that it seems like cloud cuckoo land thinking but sometimes it takes something monumental to make changes in your lifestyle and these occasions are just that.
If you are worried about dwindling finances get in touch with your mortgage company and tell them of your situation, they are helpful and could offer interest only payments in the short term to help your circumstances.
If you rent see what help the benefits agency can give you and a point to bear in mind is that they don’t offer up the information readily so do your research and tell them what you are entitled to. The Citizens Advice Centres are brilliant at helping with benefit entitlements.
Take advantage of any training that will help you become more employable. This sounds like something of a luxury when you are unemployed, but look at it as an investment in you getting a job.
Look at your household budget and see how you can reduce your outgoings. I did this the first time I was made redundant and by the time we had reduced our outgoings and luxuries I could find a job five hundred pounds a month less and still be in pocket.
Above all its the support of your family and friends that will get you through the turmoil and when you look back you think that all that stress and worry was a waste of energy.
But no matter how many people told me that I didn’t believe it. It’s only looking back ten years later that I agree with them.
So instead of locking yourself away and feeling isolated, get out and meet people who can help you get back up on your feet. Opportunity never knocks on a closed door and that I have found to be very true.
So now I am back in the land of the living its as though I have never been away, Grandkids to pick up and drop off, shopping to get, chores to do and getting ready for the week to come, but at least I know that I am not in the unenviable position of the 2000 people in Redcar tonight wondering what the future will bring.
Well, at least for now, because you never know what the future has in store for you and yours.