I am in the North East of England to visit with my friend Leslie and her family who live in Durham.
Just off the plane, I join her by metro from Newcastle to Southshields. Leslie is a coordinator and facilitator of children's activities at Southshields Museum and Art Gallery, spending much of her time at the nearby archeological World Heritage site at Arbeia.
Arbeia is the only fort on Hadrian's Wall where visitors can see archaeological excavations taking place. Forts and outbuildings have already been excavated and some are reassembled so we can get an idea of what they were like.
There is evidence that three Roman emperors ruled from Arbeia and the museum holds statuary, human remains, jewelry, helmets and armor among the more common shards.
Under Leslie and the team, some high school volunteers have cleaned and sorted small artifacts such as Roman pottery, animal bones, brick and tiles . Usually though, Leslie coordinates an ongoing influx of younger children involved in this unexpected facet of local heritage.
Today I am helping her set up for a group of Autistic children to do a mock "dig" at Arbeia in rubber sand with authentic shards borrowed from the "hands on collection" of the museum. They will dig for the shards in small tubs; catalogue and clean the pieces; and then sketch them.
We set up for the class the next day and then walk down to a park that fronts on the seaside. The town of Southshields has emerged from a shipbuilding and coal mining population. I am not sure it has found its new path into the future.
I do see many guest houses down by the sea but we are uncertain if so many can be filled in the high season. They look cozy though, right out of a Rosamunde Pilcher novel ; the seaside homes clean and welcoming. No doubt one can order scones and clotted cream for breakfast with our tea.
Other than these businesses I see lots of Indian restaurants and small establishments like "fish and chip" shops, pubs and the like.
We have a long commute home to Durham but the metro is above ground and I see my first green fields dotted with lambs and hedgerows.
I am, indeed, in England.