Yesterday I was looking at some photographs I took on the beach at Bamburgh back in January. It was a clear, cold day, all the better to fully appreciate the coastline, the wind and the last of the day beginning to seep away into night. January light is rare and to be cherished as there’s never very much of it, the sunlight delicate even if there’s any force behind it.
The poet Norman MacCaig used to go to Assynt every summer for his holidays, swapping school desks and city streets for Suilven, dramatic scenery and winding roads. He talked about fattening his camel’s hump, loading up ideas into his brain ready for the year ahead. My trip to Northumberland was one of those experiences when my own brain was stocked up with fresh insights and thoughts even if some of them have proven to be slow-burning and only came out when spring has sprung.
Northumberland is easily one of my favourite places on the planet. One reason why is its scenery, often best viewed from a height. When I used to go to Berwick, I liked to stand on the Walls, near the Royal Border Bridge, and see two great castles in the distance, Bamburgh high and mighty to the left, Lindisfarne looking for all the world like a sandcastle to the right. They always beckoned for future adventures, playing to my almost constant urge to see what’s over the next horizon. On the beach at Bamburgh that day, the Castle even higher above the dunes, the Farne Islands lay so close the lighthouse could nearly be touched. The sand was gentle, far enough from a tide not to be sodden, as we put one foot before another, almost entirely alone as the sun beat a steady retreat and everything once more would be still, except of course for the waves going ever on.