It was Dad’s idea – north but not quite Scotland where we’d had a fortnight’s drench three years before. The cottage greeted us grim-faced but inside there was pine and shine; a stack of logs, a grate we used most nights.
Each day was an adventure: shoeless through a beck to dodge a bull; skittish horses on a sea-splashed ride; damming a burn and feeding bread to elvers; the helter-skelter sands of Bamburgh Dunes.
But best was Lindisfarne. Remember how the Cortina raced the rising tide, Tango and crisps outside the Iron Rails? The castle was a playground: you dashed ahead to hide, played sword-fights, scrambled up stone steps to rake
the horizon for Viking ships. Dad and I read every notice, tried to guess which bits were sixteenth century; shivered at the ghosts of Cul-de-sac. And the Priory: sandstone ruins arched against the blue. You lapped up tales of fiery dragons
on the wing, how they predicted heathen raids, the trampling of saintly bodies in the street. Later, on Keel Head beach, we adults hunkered out of the breeze, watched you quartering the sands for Cuddy’s beads.
We drove back into a golden-orange haze, stopped for fish and chips, reached the cottage late. You two put yourselves to bed. Under the Milky Way, I banged sand from pumps while Dad fired up the ancient radio.
That’s when we heard the news: the King was dead.
Biography: Gill Learner’s poetry has been published in a wide range of magazines, won or been placed in numerous competitions, and appeared in quite a few anthologies, e.g. from The Emma Press (https://theemmapress.com), Grey Hen Press (http://www.greyhenpress.com) and Two Rivers Press (http://tworiverspress.com). Her first collection, The Agister’s Experiment (2011), her second, Chill Factor (2016), and her third Change (Autumn 2021) are all from Two Rivers Press; the first two have received positive reviews. More can be found on her web pages at: www.poetrypf.co.uk/gilllearnerpage.shtml.