Northumberland part two


Well, now that I’ve had the tooth repaired this morning – a large white filling/rebuilding, at a tenth of the price of the dreaded crown – things are looking a lot upper.

But by midweek, all in all, I was feeling a bit low, plodding back to the coast on a sunny, breezy morning, a bit out of sorts, a bit – whisper it – bored. Bored! And additionally annoyed with myself for being unhappy (‘What more do you want, ffs, if the Northumberland coast under cloudless skies isn’t enough? Unicorns? Free puppies? A starring role in a Busby Berkeley musical?’) and a bit why on EARTH am I doing this? And then, suddenly, in the distance, sunlit, was Dunstanburgh Castle. And in that instant, it all came right.

Nevertheless, a sizable bluebottle in the ointment was the misjudging of distance/strength. To give an idea, I weigh nine stone exactly, but the rucksack and kit added about 24lbs, adding up to not far off 11 stone. Carry that lot for 11 hours and expect to do 10 hours the next day and suddenly your left knee has formed a close-harmony yowling group with your ankles, and your arches are humming along.

Still, the landscape was wonderful; I met some really lovely people – a local historian at the next table in a pub, a Canadian woman travelling with her daughter, some very jolly B&B owners – and as I walked across to Lindisfarne the grin was unwipeable. It’s wonderful wonderful wonderful. I was staying in a retreat centre run by a Celtic Christian order who holds a service every evening, so I thought I’d go along. That very day, Friday 16 May, was the day of St Brendan, an awkward-sounding bugger who nonetheless became the go-to guy for ‘journeys, pilgrimages and adventures’, according to the order of service. Well! Big up to Brendan! Yes, ok, there were blisters, a crocked knee and a broken molar, but still, thanks for bringing me home safely, big guy.

I’d like to say that Lindisfarne gave me a great sense of peace; I certainly had my only really good night’s sleep there. On these trips sleep is not voluptuous – it’s more a case of collapse for a few hours and then awake, thinking about timings, checking gear and plotting the next route. But perhaps subconsciously I knew I couldn’t get off the island until 9am anyway, so I could let go. It’s also true that the injuries were really mounting up by then so it might have been that the need for emergency repairs simply fused my lights.

All said, it was a great adventure – high highs, unexpectedly low lows and meeting some really lovely people along the way. The repairs are nearly complete, thanks to my spanking new molar and Birkenstocks, the sandals that bring pleasures twofold: first, they’re not walking boots, and second, my horrid heel blisters are left untroubled to heal – and turn the stomach of anyone walking up an escalator behind me. It’s always nice to share the joy.


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