Driving to Scotland, via the North East,
to celebrate six months in a new job,
we stayed overnight in Durham to see
the romanesque, sandstone cathedral
with its relics of Cuthbert, Oswald and Bede,
denizens of Northumbria and its isles.
Next day, I saw a sign for Bamburgh –
somewhere I had visited in boyhood –
and suggested a detour off the A1.
We never made it over the border.

We drove down lanes lined with oak, ash, hawthorn,
and saw Bamburgh Castle against the sea,
resplendent on its volcanic outcrop
in a northern August afternoon sun,



The prime minister of the fifth largest
global economy has asserted
the need for a big conversation
about gulls: not the greedy and the fearful
who voted for him but the species
laridae, especially the herring gull
that swarms in seaside towns and marauds
the 99 Flake out of the very hands
of the innocent, young and old alike.

Adult birds dive, swoop and grab to eat –
whether mackerel or deep fried Mars Bar.
The herring gull chick knows instinctively
to peck the red spot on its parents’



…watching the circus – breath taken, mouth
open – in the red and orange striped
big top on the Green with Miss Monica
from Budapest high on the silk ropes
then walking on the pier like any mortal…

and losing your splendid red and blue kepi
to a mild westerly on the steep steps
that zigzag down South Stack cliffs, seeing it
whisked just out of reach over the wall
and lodged in a crevice where only gulls go…

and cruising up the Straits to Puffin Island,
seeing the seals,



Somehow, past the custodians, two green leaves
have entered the gallery to lie
side by side beneath Chagall’s ‘Promenade’.
The artist – next to the wedding treasures
higgledy on a red cloth, his feet
almost firmly in the richly green fields
by the piggledy village, his expression
ecstatic and apprehensive – grips
his painter’s bag with his right hand, with his left,
held upright, his wife’s for she is flying
in a purple dress. Soon he may fly too.
Perhaps the leaves have come from the tree
above the nuptial gifts.



We were born in the Year of the Horse,
the month Rommel was trapped in the desert,
Paulus in the snow. This, our forty ninth
of marriage, is, again, the Year of the Horse.
We are predicted family happiness,
filial piety, fiscal surety –
urged to avoid pneumonia and be
‘of merry heart’. This is also the year
of the drowned. Somewhere it is always
night – stars fall, meteors rise. The robin,
perched on the street lamp, sings through the dark.
The wild bee, lost in the room where I write,