A Canny Day Oot

By Paul Mein

This story won first prize in the 2020 dialect writing competition held by the WORD library, South Shields.

(Note to readers: you can click on the highlighted dialect words for meanings.)
Aa was up with the grandbairns in one o’ the best places for bilberries – the hill up to the Draakstone. Porple handed, porple moothed, we med wa way to the Stone, hunkered doon to watch the clouds scud ower Harbottle. What a bonny place. We went ower the top to the lough. Dark, deep, ghoustie. Aa browt to mind the aad tale aboot when they tried to drain the lough. The workmen hord a voice from neewhere – “Let alone, let alone or a’ll droon Harbottle and the Peels and the bonny Holystone.” They got such a gliff, they ran, muckle feart. Aa cud well understand why, so we med wa way, tappylappy doon the hill to the car park, lightenin’ wa load as we wa gannin’ alang. “Mind,” aa sez, “divn’t gan and eat them aal. Granny’s ganna myek a lovely bilberry tart when we get hyem.” Nowt quite like it, ye knaa. Crusty broon pastry, a sprinkle of sugar on top and evaporated milk to help it doon. Get yirsel’ on the ootside o’ that, ye’ll come to nae harm.

By the time wi got to the car, it was blaa’in’ a hooly and we just managed to get wa byeuts off and inside before the rain came stottin’ doon. “Whey noo,” aa sez. “Wasn’t that good to get the stink blawn off ye, a bit of history and mystery up by the Draakstone and pick wa own supper an aal?” The littl’un said, “Granda, I’m very cold and I need the lavatory.” (Livin’ doon South has sharp got shot of their northern broughtins up). Aa cud tell he was borstin’ so aa sez, “Whey, there’s nae netties here hinny, but plenty of trees. Just gan ti that one ower there. Naebody’ll keek.” The rain had eased off to a mizzle and I watched him trudge to the furthest tree he could and disappear ahent the trunk. Aa turned to Noah, the eldest. He aalready had his phone oot and wis tappin’ geet fast with his bilberry fingers. “Did ye enjoy yersel’ this mornin’ pet?” “Yes thank you Granda. But I want to finish this bit of my game, if that’s alright?” (Posh taak, lovely manners). “Sartinly hinny. What are ye playin?” “It’s called Grand Theft Auto. It’s very exciting.” Aa thowt ti misel’ “Whey, aa cud play that in real life. Just leave me tractor unlocked and then chase the theivin’ nowts in me LandRover like Tommy Heppell did.” Aa didn’t share the thought – it didn’t end ower well for Tommy.

William came back, clarts up to his oxters. “Granda, I slipped and fell in the mud and dropped my bilberries.” He looked as miserable as sin. “So yiv cowped ya creels and lost ya catch. Wet arse and nae fish.” Aa hev ti say, that raised a smile from both. “Taakin’ of fish, whit aboot we gan and get some fish and chips on the way hyem? We’ll get some scranchuns an’ aal.” We wolfed them doon and aa fund oot on the way back that Noah had eaten aal of his gatherins and aa hadn’t bothered to pick any, thinkin’ the bairns cud dae the lot; me back was bad an’ aal. So aa wasn’t luckin’ forward ti tellin’ ’ Grandma aboot the failure. But when she oppened the door, she had hor pinny on and there was a lovely smell comin’ from the kitchen. “Ye’ll never guess,” she sez. “ Helen’s man Jimmy just browt is a whole load of bilberries. He came across some when he was oot on his rounds. Aa’ve med a lovely tart for afters, but aa’ve had nae time to cook a meal. Aa thowt ye cud get fish and chips for tea. Hoo does that sound?” Wi aal nodded, the ‘hear nae, see nae, speak nae’ monkeys. At least we wad tyest a bilberry tart efter aal.

Paul Mein, poet, author and playwright.  

Paul was born and raised in Newcastle’s West End. His professional career has been devoted to education, where he has served as a teacher in local comprehensive schools, a lecturer and an education inspector.

As a writer, he now focuses much of his work on Northeast landscapes and characters. This passion is reflected in his poetry collections: The Language of Sands and In Quiet Places and the more recent compilation, Singularities, to be published in Spring 2022 by UniVerse Press. At the same time, Paul’s poem, Lindisfarne Light, will feature in the work of installation artist Paul Rooney at Lindisfarne Castle.

Paul is an accomplished writer of the Northumbrian dialect. In a 2020 dialect writing competition organised by The Word library in South Shields, he won first prize for his short story, A Canny Day Oot. Having previously written and produced two plays for voices, Voices in a Mystery and Behind Every Hero, this year will see the performance of The Witch of Edlingham, his first collaboration with fellow writer Mike Lyons. It will be followed later in the year by The Bride of Boulmer.