ewein2412: (maddie as WAAF)
Our children have been embroiled in a school production of Fiddler On the Roof, meaning they were out of the house at 8 a.m. and not home till 10.30 p.m. all week long, so we’ve been taking advantage of a relatively empty nest. Also, IT IS SUMMER, all glorious three days of it, with cloudless skies and temps hovering around 20-25C – or as the Guardian called that in 1969, “The sizzling seventies.” Tim and I went flying yesterday afternoon. Tim flies a lot more than I do, mostly during the week when he’s in Kent – I still don’t have a current rating, so have to take an instructor and do some training. Anyway, yesterday we hired a plane together from Tayside Aviation in Fife.

“Where do you want to go?” Tim asked. “To the Bridges, to the Kelpies, along the Fife Coast?” All twenty-minute jaunts and very pretty.

I said, “How about Bamburgh?” Because I know it isn’t far, especially in the air, and the coastline is wonderful and it is my favorite holiday destination. We have now had a week-long winter holiday there three years running.

“Great idea!”

So that’s what we did, Tim doing the flight planning and the radio calls and all the hard work getting around Edinburgh’s airspace, me doing nothing. As we approached Berwick-on-Tweed, twenty miles north of Bamburgh, he handed me the controls and said, “You can fly us there.”

And as I took the controls I remembered this, from Code Name Verity.

Maddie on fabric wings flew low over the long sands of Holy Island and saw seals gathered there. She flew over the great castle crags of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh to the north and south, and over the ruins of the twelfth-century priory where the glowing gospels were painted, and over all the fields stretching yellow and green towards the low Cheviot Hills of Scotland.

Holy Island and Lindisfarne

the causeway to Holy Island... tide is out

That passage is, I think, the most oft-quoted of length from all of Code Name Verity – to my utter surprise and delight, as when I wrote it I worried it was going to be considered such hooptedoodle that I’d be asked to edit it out. And then I remembered that Maddie also dreams about flying over the sands at Holy Island, later in the book, with Julie. And then I got kind of choked up.

Fly the plane, Maddie.

So I did. I let Tim take all the pictures, because he takes better pictures than me anyway. This meant that I did all the flying the rest of the way down and all the way back. Afterward Tim said, “I’m sorry you were doing all the flying – you didn’t get the best view!” and I was like… “DUDE. I DID ALL THE FLYING. I flew over Holy Island and Lindisfarne Priory and Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands. I was HAPPY.”

Bamburgh, looking north toward Budle Bay

(I mean, a little bit of choking up is manageable in flight. I honestly didn’t think about the CNV connection until I was approaching Holy Island with my hands on the controls.)

Nothing to be afraid of, nothing to battle against, just the two of us flying together, flying the plane together, side by side in the gold sky.

the cottage we stay in is at the right of the little square near the center - Sandham, Armstrong Cottages

PS At least one reader on my twitter account connected flying to Bamburgh with Code Name Verity FASTER THAN I DID.

ewein2412: (harriet writing (no text))
There are snowdrops blooming in our garden. I am planning another visit, soon, to Cambo Snowdrops—I have been looking forward to it all month.

Since I'm so useless at posting anything current I thought I'd share something from last October, when we went to Northumberland with Gramma. This is served straight-up out of my journal for 6 Oct. 2006.


I went for a walk on the beach by myself again this evening, compelled by a formidable rainbow over the green gabled roofs of the original Armstrong Cottages which face this one. It was... just indescribable. I realized that part of the reason I don't enjoy everything as much as I ought to is that I am constantly writing it all down in my head as I go. Also, I am constantly (this is related) trying to think how I will preserve it, how to record it—photos, notes, souvenirs—

"I stray alone, here on the edge of silence,
half afraid, waiting a sign."

The "waiting a sign" is different (but again, related) to wanting to preserve the moment. "Waiting a Sign"—the Sign, whatever it is, is a significator enabling you to preserve the moment (BLARF! BLARF! BLARF! The Academic Speaks.) —But it's true—you stand there on top of the dunes. Golden light is drenching everything on the west side of you, and the ridge you stand on. On the east side, all is pink and blue and dove grey and lavender. Ahead of you there are two columns of rainbow, one suspended over the sea and the other over the little village on the headland. Around you, marring the landscape, are all man's defenses—castle and crag, gun turrets, lighthouses, breakwaters (I found an ancient iron ring sunk into the Whin Sill rock of the headland when I walked out there)—below are birds and pools and waves breaking—and you think, I need a sign. I need to see something special. A special bird, a hawk or a puffin; or some other kind of animal, a seal or a dolphin—so that I can always remember this walk as "the one when I saw the seal."

Eventually I stopped taking the same picture of rocks and gulls and lighthouse and reflected sea and sky, thinking: I can enter this scene. Instead of trying to preserve it I will climb down the dune and walk across the sandflats and be part of it. But—it made me feel a little sad, or rueful and foolish anyway—the scene all ran away from me when I tried to enter it—the whole flock of gulls took off, and the pink water just disappeared as soon as I got close—even the tide was on its way out!

I walked out to the very end of the headland and thought, as I did so, that it would be nice to pick up a very special shell as my "sign"—my "gift from the sea"—and I picked up a tiny green snail shell, the prettiest kind, with a pink whorl at the tip. And because Sara had accidentally got some live snails the other day and felt sad about it, I turned this one over to check that it was empty—and it wasn't empty. It had the tiniest little orange and white hermit crab living in it!

Well! You know, I thought, this is the missing chapter of Gift from the Sea—The Hermit Crab! This is the shell of the person who leaves home again and again, who has to make a new, comfortable, beautiful home in someone else's abandoned house. This is the shell for the one who chooses where she will live, who can always make a home out of her surroundings—and it is also the shell of continuity, the shell that proves that there is life after death, that change is inevitable and can be good.
ewein2412: (Default)
It's now a week since we got back from our week at the beach in Northumberland (my notebook still smells like woodsmoke). Can I just say, again and again, that Northumberland is jaw-droppingly beautiful. We were in Bamburgh, which I think is the most glorious beach in the whole of the UK (when I discovered Bamburgh with a friend of mine 2 years back, her then-6-year-old stood on the sand and uttered, "Is this the Mediterranean?")—there isn't anything remarkable about the landscape itself, really, but the LIGHT! The clear light and near sky does something to it like watercolour on a paper landscape. When we arrived a front was passing away to the south of us, clouds piling up on the horizon in what Mark (who is 5) described as looking exactly like a wave about to crest.

I will stop talking about the weather (this is what happens when you live in the UK for 10 years) and skip over the castles and priories and steam railways and sandstone caves in order to cut to the best part. On Lindisfarne, Holy Island, the place where the Book of Kells was written, we all walked along the beach at sunset. Looking back over the bay towards the mainland the sky was all rose cloud with pinpricks of gold in it, reflected in water and wet sand. Halfway across the bay—half a mile away— was a spit of sand where at least 20 seals were playing—rolling about on the sand, diving and surfacing in the water, stretching and posing. And they were singing. At first we thought it was birds; it was a distant, dovey sort of sound, quite haunting. Sometimes louder, sometimes softer, barking, cooing, howling, hooting.

I think that Northumberland is the Great Undiscovered Vacation Spot of the Known World.


ewein2412: (Default)

September 2017



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