Today has been both busy and bustling as well as sad. Bags have tumbled down stairs, packing and unpacking done and we boys left by the fire to think it all through – the stench of death is everywhere. In keeping with the zeitgeist of 11 November, I am posting a picture of dear Uncle Jonny, raising a rebel yell at the site of one of the most awful battles in English and Scottish history: Flodden Field – where fell the flower of Scottish youth, including their King, James IV. Flodden Field is near the village of Branxton, not far from us, and is overlooked by a tall monument, surrounded by fields fertilised by the thousands of dead – easily estimated at 20,000, or even more – who have long lain beneath the crops.
They say every family in Scotland lost a member that day. Whatever the cause, whatever the right or wrong, what remains after all the intervening years – and as of this year there have been exactly 500 of them – are the loss and the memory of that loss. You cannot run across that landscape, as we boys have done, with the wind in one’s ears as one breasts the summit – so exposed, so good for wearing bones dry – without calling across the years to all those who have fallen in such fields, whether wind-blown or blasted by the sun. Northumberland is the least populated part of the country but this hill-top brings us face to face with a terrible kind of crowd. We will remember them.