On a beach in summer

IMG00401-20140607-0645In a county of magnificent castles, this is certainly one of the grander ones we’ve found on the beach which extends beneath the glory of the real Bamburgh fortification. Mornings are the time we view and judge the previous day’s sandcastle-making,  varying in complexity and success, it has to be said. We were on Bamburgh beach on our daily run even earlier than usual, just after six, and the early start brought intensified pleasures – a very low tide, nobody about at all, just us and the sea, and – of our little band – me alone off the lead for the entire long run! Though the smallest and youngest of the Dickens Dogs, this little spaniel has proved the most trustworthy, the most obedient, the least greedy for seaweed, and consequently I am free to roam and follow my spanielisms wherever they take me – which in fact is never very far from Kemo Sabe and the boys. There’s been a smelly old dead seal (poor creature) on a far shore for a while now, but I pass it by with but a distasteful glance, and from a distance, quite unlike the boys who always want to get up really close and get covered in its appalling scent. When the magic mood moves me, I run across and high-five Barnaby, sharing my joy and exuberance when I want. Natural things are so wonderful right now: the days are extra long, the birds are thrilling us with their songs all day, the grass keeps growing, Springwatch is on BBC2 and the creatures in our homely menagerie  provide constant comment.

IMG_1633How incomparably lucky we are to enjoy the peace and striking beauty of the miles of Bamburgh beach! As I write, we are constantly and quite rightly reminded by what we hear on the radio and read about the D-Day beaches, and what was happening on and around them seventy years ago. Our hearts and imaginations are filled with gratitude and humility as we stand in a gentle breeze and breath the pure air from the North Sea, remembering the endurance and courage of all those for whom, that day, interminable noise and horror were inescapable.  And the journey to Berlin had only but begun. We will remember them, all of them.

It was broad day-light and a summer day,
a secret. We were taken in:
enigma once again.
A cry in memory – a beautiful day
like a phoenix, we showed them

a different kind of dawn
then; I wonder if we could again.

It’s always been when the sun is out
when you tell the truth –
shame the devil – that it happens all right.

So, today, I think for the first time
of others, waiting in the back room
waiting in vain behind the wrong blockade –
‘This is no time to try to worry us:
The sun is shining. This is no place to land.’

Written in 1969 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of D-Day

Witnessing fancy’s images

IMG_1197Freshly coiffed, here I lie beside the saltire of my father’s country and ponder the fact that, by first thing this beautiful morning, all evidence of the film-makers had gone from the beach, save the scaffold – now charred and worn from the work to which it had been pressed. A lonely relic among the dunes, we hope it will be left until reclaimed by wind and weather over the years to come. An empty stage is always evocative and – no matter how briefly peopled – ghosts persist, as we boys know better than most. Reading the signs of other realms of existence – an excellent tracker – head down, I charge along employing my spaniel-isms; the poetry, the images of time and place, footprint and breath; what once was there and now is there no more.   Shakespeare, who seems to have understood everything, through the character of Macbeth, his own creation, shows us that he understood the difference between dog and dog:  the swift, the slow, the subtle,/The housekeeper, the hunter.  Interesting isn’t it, that at the point of choosing a suitably ruthless murderer to take on the assault on Banquo, his own best friend, Macbeth reaches for his knowledge of mankind’s truest companion? Yes, we have our uses, and our talents; ‘bounteous nature’ throbs in our veins. You may have left us, Michael Fassbender, but I – a small spaniel – can detect you still! Other recent posts have reflected on the sudden transformation wrought here by the arrrival of the Macbeth shoot.  In the village car park, now bereft of all the trainers, vans, equipment, coaches and trucks, only the marquee survives. No doubt by the end of the week, that will have vanished, too. The other sort of magic has all gone. But only in a sense.

If you would like to see some other pictures of the filming, you will find them here:


Giants’ robes and a dwarfish spaniel

photo courtesy of Bamburgh Castle

These beetling black figures, viewed from the castle crow’s nest, are not about to besiege or attack Bamburgh but are in fact, even as I write this, busy about their harmless work, peopling the dunes with suitably clad extras for the new film of Macbeth.  Long inky capes are the order of the day, and there are masses of them: a high five to the firm that landed that order, methinks!  Outside the pavilion on the village side of the castle, these dubious figures are gathering in inky swathes, delivered by incongrous mini-vans from the shoot head headquarters in the car park across the road.

Theatrical transformation is so thrilling; the everyday is briefly touched by a dash of stardust and little creatures like us are caught in its sparkle: a  wondrous world wherein, as in a dream, a bush atop a sand dune is easily supposed a bear. We cannot help but wonder what these busy and numerous newcomers, professionals and amateurs alike – with their boredom-redeeming Sudokus, thermal coffee-mugs and knitting – are making of this place, but we hope they like it here.  Knowing that, by the time we trundle along the sands on our familiar way tomorrow, the Thane of Cawdor has cantered on before us, will lend a special magic to our steps. But the reality of routine is what a dog loves best:  a whiff of crushed crab on a slab of volcanic rock I’ve bounced across a hundred times is the true magic; it wrinkles my nose and sends me onward, ever onward – to seek more joy beneath the castle walls.