Pit yakker, born and bred

YOU can take the girl out of Blackhall but you can’t take Blackhall out of the girl.

No matter how far I go in life, I often get the call to go back to the place I came from.

Blackhall, the colliery that is, not what seemed then to be the posh Blackhall Rocks.

And not from the best part of the colliery either as, in those days, the scheme houses always seemed inferior to West Street and Hardwick Street, where my obviously more affluent aunts and uncles lived.

But how do you decide where you come from?

Is it where you were born, where you went to school, where you worked or raised your family?

For me it was where I lived from the ages of seven to 16 years of age. Shakespeare Avenue, number 14.

Still, at that tender age, I remember my very local accent.

“Haway man” and words without “ing” were par for the course until a teacher criticised “the girl who was shouting ‘haway man’ in the school yard”.

Then things seemed to change.

It took me about five years of concentration to remove that “un” and get the more correct “ing” on the end of my words, but it was so important to me.

After all, the teacher may never have known it was me she heard that day but it was still worthy of her comment.

Forty years on for that changeling, “the girl” now speaks with a different accent, yet anyone I come into contact with will know that I am from the North-East.

A Geordie? No, I’m not a Geordie. I’m a pit yakker and very proud of it too.

Now living in Spain, I love that rare occasion when I hear an accent from my neck of the woods.

A man from Consett, another from Esh Winning, their accents are so beautiful – maybe no teacher criticised them for their local banter.

Yet, I often get the call for Blackhall Colliery and I fly into England and take a trip down the scheme houses, taking photos of my upbringing and the little white and black dog sitting outside my house in Shakespeare Avenue.

And when I do return, those “ings” disappear faster than I mastered them and I’m once again who I really am.

Ay, a pit yakker, born and bred. And proud of it, too!

Denise Watson,