I was born in Middlesbrough but grew up in Fairfield, Stockton. I’ve always been jealous that my younger brother Mick was born at home by candlelight, during a power cut in a thunderstorm. It’s a much more dramatic entrance to the world than Middlesbrough Maternity Hospital isn’t it ?

I have such warm memories of growing up in Stockton .There’s nowhere on earth I’d rather be from and I’ve always pictured myself moving back someday.

Margot and her brother Mick on their Holy Communion day in Stockton

Hanging around on the benches outside the HMV on a Saturday afternoon, the flea market and the Georgian Theatre. Trying to get served in the Green Dragon and the Dovecot. Watching local bands like Black Rose at The Swan in Billingham.

The parades bringing Father Christmas to Debenhams (or Robinson’s, as it used to be). Our mam and dad being sad and angry when they knocked down the Vane Arms to build “that monstrosity of a shopping centre” and being taken by the school to see the plans and model of said monstrosity , on display at the library. 

Spilling orange juice down my first communion dress. The smell of burning turnip on Halloween. The frustration of never being allowed to paddle in Norton Duck pond because our Nanna, who lived opposite, said ‘vandals threw glass bottles in it’. 

Stockton baths and the wire baskets you put your clothes in, which would be hung on a revolving rail thing by a bloke behind a hatch. Who would give you a rubber wristband of a certain colour and when a light with your colour flashed, your time was up and you had to get out, and being grossed out by the soggy verruca plasters there always seemed to be in the changing room. How wonderful the High Street was back then though! Breaks my heart to see it now.

 After Stockton I lived in Northumberland for ten years but never truly felt at home there.

We moved to Berlin in 2002, where I spent a fascinating decade working as a reporter on the BBC World Service, 5 Live and Radio 4. I mostly covered football related stories from Central and Eastern Europe so was always traveling. When Russia invaded The Republic of Georgia in 2008, I found myself down there doing a spot of war reporting. I fell in love with Georgia and returned to live there in 2012, reporting on the presidential elections and other Georgian stories, and volunteering with Chechen refugees in the Pankisi Gorge on the border with Dagestan.

Margot reporting for the BBC in Georgia during the five day war

While I was in Georgia, I started talking online to a bloke in Alaska about World War Two aircraft. Within six days he had booked a ticket over to meet me in England. I came to Alaska to visit him a few weeks later. We ended up getting married in 2013 and I’ve been here ever since.

 Our home is fifty miles from the nearest road, accessible only by air or by a three hour boat trip in summer or by ski plane or snowmobile up the frozen river in winter. We have an aviation business, where we fix and rebuild bush and float planes. It’s on the road system and my husband, who is a pilot, makes the half hour flight into work and back most days. It’s really just the same as commuting anywhere else but more weather dependent. A plane here is pretty much like having a family car.

 What’s different ? Well just about everything. In Berlin, I could sit in bed and watch world leaders drive by in motorcades. There were restaurants, shops, bars and clubs. Here , I don’t see other people for days on end. The nearest big town is Anchorage, which is two hours away. We only go there a couple of times a year and it seems incredibly noisy and hectic and it’s strange to see shopping malls, big glass windows and shiny surfaces.

Our neighbours here are moose, wolves, beavers, caribou, lynx and wolverines and of course, bears, which means at certain times of the year, you have to carry a firearm and have a good look around before you leave the house.

 No mains electricity but we do have running water from a well so we have a proper loo. Heat comes from a huge wood stove so chopping and stacking wood is a big part of the daily chores. The mail plane comes in twice a week; Amazon Prime delivers out here! The only drawback is that the post office is on the other side of the river so we have to go by boat or snowmobile to pick up our packages and

letters. Or you can call Steve the postman who will bring it down to the airstrip by quad bike, which is how we all get around in summer as there are no

Margot’s home in Alaska

roads.

So yes, it’s a bit different ,living out here. It’s a physically demanding lifestyle but I love it. Things I don’t love are the mosquitoes, the earthquakes (of which we have many) ,the 24 hour daylight in summer and the bears. Things I love; The peace, the wilderness, the incredible starry skies and the northern lights in winter, the snow and the extreme cold. It gets to -40 but it’s a dry cold and I enjoy it.

 I get back to Teesside as often as I can; usually once a year but of course, that’s not been possible since the pandemic. But I love being there. It’s still home and always will be.  Apart from the obvious things like friends and family, I miss the sense of belonging you can only get in your hometown.

I miss the coast and Pacitto’s lemon tops. The Yorkshire Dales, you can travel the world over and not find anywhere lovelier. The view from the top of Eston Bank as the lights are coming on, with the whole of Teesside spread out before you (I’m getting teary-eyed now! )

But above all, it’s the warmth and humour.

 There is simply nothing else like it anywhere. Teessiders are natural comedians , laugh the most when we have the least to laugh about and will make a joke at every possible opportunity. You don’t truly appreciate it until you don’t have it.

I once heard a wise man ( well, it was Mike McGrother actually! ) say that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, it’s greener where you water it. So true!

No matter where you end up in the world, it’s up to you what you make of it. You take your attitude with you and if you were lucky enough to be brought up on Teesside, you’ll have that North East humour to draw on and that’s priceless!

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