Thursday, 1 August 2013


We're driving down the M1 on a beautiful summer evening. The corn fields by the side of the motorway are glowing bright orange. The sun is melting into the ground behind a dark forest. It's 8.30pm and it's still 30 degrees outside. This really has been the most splendid British summer. 

We spent our last day of camping in the familiar environment of Tynemouth, and stopped en route at the quayside in Newcastle. Neither Sam nor Meriel had ever visited the city, and I wanted to show it off a bit. We had a stroll along the river front, and I pointed out various bridges, buildings and spots where Keith and  I had filmed Metro: The Musical and some of the numbers we'd used in 100 Faces. 

We got back in the car and snaked our way along the river, through Byker, Walker, Wallsend and North  Shields to Tynemouth, where we parked down by the lighthouse. 

The rest of the troops arrived and we walked along the harbour wall-cum-pier to the lighthouse. It's quite a journey. It probably stretches half a mile into the sea, and by the time we'd reached the end, the wind was buffeting us all over the place. 

We walked up into Tynemouth village. Nathan, Sam and I went for some chips whilst the others went down to the beach to eat sandwiches. The queue for the chippie was long and seemed to be in a horribly claustrophobic corridor, which instantly started to make me panic. As we placed our order, Sam decided to head back to the beach without realising that the onion rings we'd asked for were going to take 15 minutes to arrive. As I waited with Nathan, I felt myself panicking and decided to leave him in the queue whilst I went to find a drink. 

I ended up stuck in another queue in the Co-op, waiting for a series of silly old ladies to fumble with the piles of loose change in their purses, all the time feeling increasingly anxious and rather tearful for some reason. 

Nathan finally emerged from the chip shop as my mobile came into signal and I noticed a number of missed calls from the others. Worrying, I thought... 

We walked down to the beach, but could see only Hilary with Jago and William and Jeanie playing quietly in the sand. We instantly realised something was wrong, but fortunately walked into the scene just as the panic was subsiding.

Little Lily, Tanya's 6 year-old daughter, had gone missing. They'd started walking down the steps to the beach and suddenly realised she wasn't there. When you're with a large group of friends, kids tend to glue themselves to any of the adults they know, so the initial thought was that she might have tried to find Nathan, Sam and me. Literally one moment she was there and the next she'd disappeared... 

It seems that all hell immediately broke loose, with Railey, Mez, Tanya, Paul and little Tomas running along the headland, calling for Lily and stopping passers-by to ask for their help. Within seconds an entire group of people were searching the streets. The good folk of Tynemouth had stepped right up to the mark. 

She turned up. Of course she turned up. She'd dawdled a foot behind everyone else in her own little world and simply not seen the group disappearing down the steps to the beach. Tanya realised within seconds, but by then Lily had walked onwards and of course everyone's instinct was to rush back the way we'd come. Lily had been very sensible; when she realised she was lost, she'd found a family and asked for their help. She'd been crying and was obviously a little frightened, but fortunately Iain had found her before the police (who had been called) turned up. 

There were tears from everyone. Tears of relief. Tears of what ifs. I'm sure my panic was as a result of a weirdly claustrophobic corridor couples with going low blood sugar before eating, but it seems rather odd that I'd got into such a state, whilst my very close friends, just down the street, were having a terrible, frightening time. 

We were all hugely relieved and spent a golden time this afternoon, like one giant, eccentric family on the beach, burying Will and Tomas in sand and swimming in the sea. We'd never admit it, but I'm sure none of us let Lily out of our sight... Not for a second.

4pm arrived and it was time to go home. I didn't want to leave. I could happily have done another night, but then again, we've left wanting more and not outstayed our welcome. Iain thanked us this morning for giving the kids such a magical time... That was the plan. Happy to oblige. 

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