Life on Tynedale and the endless works needed on the house have brought a procession of interesting characters I never tire of observing. There is the Chimney Sweeper, with a colourful, resonant voice and a use of the dialect that epitomises the vocal music of this region. There is the Calor Gas man, who doubles up as welder and mechanic, and whose son has a small farm nearby and a small child that takes his hen-keeping duties very seriously. There is the Skip Man, whose aristocratic face and dignified bearing, unhampered by the overall he wears to work, exude an air of lordliness. Some other time I will write about the motley team that has been working on this house on a daily basis, giving our space the stamp of their idiosyncrasies and dictating to a large extent the rhythm of our lives.
Last week came the Scrap Man, bearing a luminous face and a sense of enjoyment of his trade that seemed at odds with the evident physical effort of lifting heavy pieces of metal, dismantling obsolete contraptions and loading the rusty components on the back of his van. He was quite methodical about it, and seemed to know where each piece of metal should go in the van with such exactitude that my offers of assistance were cheerfully declined, as if it were obvious that I wouldn’t know where to put the items I was proffering.
Like most of the local tradesmen, he knew this house well and had done work for its previous occupants. He wanted to know what alterations we were planning, he enthusiastically agreed on the need for all the changes I mentioned, he praised the beauty of the surroundings and he told me about his own house near Wark, which over many years he had improved with his own bare hands. His pride in it was unmistakable. Well after he had finished loading the remains of our ancient Rayburn on his van I could still hear the clunking of metal outside. At length he knocked on the door to tell me that he had finished. He informed me that he had removed some metal from the skip at the front of the house so we would have more room for our rubble. I looked at the skip, previously full, and it had come down to about one-half of its capacity, betraying a considerable burst of activity on his part. He left, wishing us good luck with the remaining work to be done, and he left behind the warmth of his beaming face and his name card: P Pratt, Wark Metals Scrap Dealer.