Travel theme: Chapeau!

My immediate reaction to this challenge was ‘I don’t do hats‘ even though the maternal grandmother and great grandmother were obsessed with the things (take a look at this wedding photo – great grandmother Emily is sat next to the bridesmaid on the right – what a concoction!).

Then it occurred to me that when I travel on two wheels I always wear a hat/lid/helmet (delete to your preference), so here are two of the three atop the Monster:

... Raw lid atop Monster

... helmet atop Ducati Monster

Sam Sam …

Sam Sam was a dirty old man
Washed his face in a frying pan
Cleaned his teeth with an engine wheel
Died from a toothache in his heel

This is the poem/song (I never heard it sung) that my grandfather taught me.  If I concentrate hard, I can hear his voice reciting through a cloud of Three Nuns pipe tobacco which he would rub in his stained scarred hands. Even when gone, they talk to us.

A walk to Old Haydon Church earlier in the month gave voice to strangers.  Muriel Sobo’s article in the April/May edition of The Northumbrian reveals that this hidden church was the original place of worship for the parish of Haydon and dates from around 1190.  Used until the 1790s, ‘a new church was then built nearer the bridge crossing the Tyne, as the population had concentrated there and a market was established.  Parts of the old church were demolished and some stones used in the new building’.  I guess this explains its stunted appearance.

The broken headstone leaning against the end wall speaks of the Reed family tragedies:

Ann his daughter Died Sep. 28th 1772 in infancy.
William his son Died Jan. 20th 1775 in infancy.
Mary and Ann his twin daughters Died June 5th 1781 in infancy.
Ralph his son Died Feb. 8th 1790 aged 11 years.
John his son Died Oct 28th 1790 aged 10 years.
Elizabeth his daughter Died July 26th 1794 aged 16 years.

The hard times of old England.

(the same edition of The Northumbrian also contains the review of a certain book ;-) ).

What time …

do you call this!  From nowhere my mum came back to life this week when these words rang out from my PC speakers – ‘What time do you call this’ was the constant refrain of my upbringing.  It started with my elder sister who was subjected to this interrogation every Friday and Saturday night throughout her teenage years. As the irritating (much) younger brother I took quiet delight in her scolding, little realising that I would be subjected to deeper hot water when my time came. The price of schadenfreude.

My teenage reaction was ‘how can parents be so unreasonable, were they never young, were they never just a little wild and carefree!’  And the answer for my mother’s generation is, almost certainly not.  Only just sixteen when war broke out, mum was married with a one-year-old by the time of VE Day, seventy years ago yesterday.

The picture was taken by my dad somewhere in the Lake District in 1942 – a few days escape from fear and conflict.

057-The Lakes-1-wordpress

The context of the lyrics is not right but the repetition of the phrase is perfect. I have seen no reviews but a film that also features The National on the soundtrack at least has to be good to listen to:

Sea change

These waters are never still.  The perpetual motion of the tides carries drowned sailors south from Cape Wrath to rest on the shores of haunted Sandwood Bay.

I think of Lycidas drowned
in Milton’s mind.
How elegantly he died. How langourously
he moved
in those baroque currents. No doubt
sea nymphs wavered round him
in melodious welcome.

And I think of Roddy drowned
Off Cape Wrath, gulping
fistfuls of salt, eyes bursting, limbs thrashing
the ponderous green. – No elegance here,
nor in the silent welcome
of conger and dogfish and crab.

Norman MacCaig – Sea change, January 1978

Sandwood Bay ...
Sandwood Bay ...
Sandwood Bay ...

Seaside Golf

I have a passion for seaside golf, in part explained by this short extract from Golf in the Wild:

Gairloch is pure seaside golf – yes, it is a links course, but it is more than that, it is within sight and sound of a well-used beach. The soundtrack to golf at Gairloch is excitable, shrieking children, the gentle lapping of waves and the barking of frisky dogs taking too much salty air. It is the holidays of my childhood when walks near the beach skirted the local links and very serious ladies and gentlemen in chequered trousers could be seen staring intently at bushes and the long grass as though searching for their lost youth.

There was no playing on the links for us, but there was always the putting green on which to hone my skills, skills I have clearly mislaid since those long-lost summer days. For many years holidays meant Sandbanks on the south coast, west of Bournemouth: familiar territory for my parents raised not so many miles away in Hampshire. In those days Sandbanks was certainly desirable but not the place it has now become – reputedly the fourth most expensive place to live on the planet.

These images are not from Gairloch but Reay on the far north coast of Scotland, taken on a recent ‘research trip’ – the best part about writing travel books on golf.  It is adjacent to the Dounreay atomic energy site, suitably distant from any centres of population and as far as can be imagined from the sands of Bournemouth.  The top half of the original domed reactor is visible from some parts of the course.

The fifth tee ... The 4th green ... The fifth green ... Chimneys ... 9th green ...

In this distant and remote land the beaches are cinerama-wide and post-apocalyptic empty, not a whisper of shrieking children nor barking dogs because something more sinister than ball games is happening on these shores. Reay golf course overlooks Sandside Beach and is visible in all its glory in the last image. Look closely and there are two dots on the sand – the one on the left is a Land Rover, the support vehicle for the one on the right – the Groundhog, scouring the beach for radioactive particles leaked from adjacent Dounreay. Sandside is open to the public, the risk of radioactive contamination being estimated at 1 in 80 million. Having said that, any balls I might have sliced onto the beach would have stayed where they landed – one day they would be perfect for nighttime golf ;-)