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,
centuries and epochs set in cut stone –
Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans –
knowing here was somewhere we should stop.
We could see the castle from our hotel room.
We walked St Aidan’s wide, sandy beach
to Beadnell’s gentle harbour and took a boat
from Seahouses to the Farne Islands
to see the colony of grey seals
basking on the bronze seaweed. A bumble bee
kept pace with the boat all of the way,
like us a wondering, wandering stranger.
We visited Lindisfarne Castle
and Holy Island, where Asian women,
in saris, on a coach trip sheltered
from the sea haar. We thought of the saints
and the Armstrongs, castle owners now
once arms kings, and Grace Darling, heroine
of Bamburgh and Wordsworth’s ‘A maiden
gentle…pious…pure, modest and yet so brave…’
It was good to go somewhere new – to
re-make love in the splendidly antwacky
hotel with Craster kippers large as plates;
on the windy beach; among the rustling dunes;
against the cold, cold sea.