Northern Ireland, Small is Beautiful

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Recently we spent a few days in Northern Ireland.

We were based in Belfast, an up and coming city with a proud industrial heritage, particularly in ship building. It was here, of course, where the legendary ocean liner, The Titanic was built.

In more recent times, though, Belfast has been blighted by what was called ‘The Troubles’. Thankfully, those days are long gone but the scars remain. I won’t talk about those times right now.

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No, I want to talk about the County Antrim coast road, which takes you around the northern tip of the island of Ireland.

I have scarcely seen such beauty, anywhere; the fantastic vistas out to sea, atmospheric views across to Scotland and the Mull of Kintyre; the wonderful, secluded, almost deserted beaches.

And then of course sensational spots like the Giants Causeway.

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In fact, words almost fail, except to say that property sales particulars were consulted. Simply wonderful.

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There will be more pictures to follow in future pieces on the fabulous little corner of the world.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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Poem: A Walk by the Sea

a walk by the sea

Without too much thought I took
to the beach,
followed the white lines of
breakers
leading me due north along that
fractured shore.

in no time at all the beach huts were
behind me,
removed by dunes and blurring
summer haze.

then suddenly
she was there
right in front of me, as if she’d
dropped
right out of the ether.

she was squatting down,
blonde haired and
quite young,
her blue-green dress hitched up a touch
showing small bare feet
half buried,
where the dry white sand
gave way to shingle.

I stopped
said hi
but she didn’t even look!
staring into that wide expanse
she could see
clear across the ocean.

looking down I admired her
gold-embroidered dress,
the delicate amber jewellery on
slim fingers,
her long hair matted by
the keen breeze.

then she looked up,
her eyes like cyan gems
and pointed to herself–
‘Elfhild’ I thought she said
sounding sort of German
or Dutch or maybe something
in between
but I didn’t speak a word.

not then.

she didn’t seem lost or in any distress
so I moved on,
giving her a faint wave,
after all, what business was it
of mine?
I carried on steadily
maybe half a mile or so,
felt the wind move round
south to south east.
I could’ve done with a jumper so I
turned back,
got up quite a pace in the end.
frankly I wanted to return
to see if she was alright –
but I saw only footprints
where she had been, where the shingle
gave way to sand.

walking to the shoreline something
caught my eye, a piece of amber
wet and shining.
I picked it up, held it
to the light
and smiled, looking out
to where the waves
were rolling in by the edge of
that German sea

poem and image © copyright Dave Barker 2012

Poem ‘Bede’

Bede

It wasn’t at Jarrow where I sensed you
but on Bamburgh’s raging shore,
among the seaweed and razor shells
on gull peppered sands,
its castle brooding behind me
like a huge chiseled tomb.

North waves were scrambling,
spilling memories of guttural voices
disguised in flushing sound;
cries of songs, harps and old tales lost,
fragments I could almost hear
when I turned my head into the wind.

And who was the black figure
bent against the breeze,
absorbing sharp light
on that blinding beach?
I struggled through the dunes,
the little islands of sparse grass
and pygmy flowers —
but you were gone,
extant only in memory,
my boundless imagination,
and in your books
which carry me through centuries
on a primal wave,
each time I read your words

Poem and image © copyright df barker 2012

Poem ‘Sea Wall’

The Wash, as seen looking west from Heacham, i...

The Wash, as seen looking west from Heacham, in Norfolk, just south of Hunstanton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sea Wall

Stand and look from here,
you can see the earth’s curve,
a sea-levelled land
bereft of its mother.

Shells we have found
while the silt blew away,
powdered by droughts
and the pitiless wind.

Stand here with me
at the high spring tide—
you know the stark sea
will swell all over this again

poem © copyright df barker 2012

Poem ‘Beachcombing’

Beachcombing

We set out one morning
after the rain had cleared.
Not a breath of wind,
loose clothes sticking to my skin.
Our intention was to search
the shallow beach,
stretching so far ahead of us
towards lights on low, murky cliffs—
baleful beacons through the mist.
“Stop there!” you said
and took that picture of me,
my trousers rolled up;
never the most fetching sight.
“Walking on water,” that’s
what you called it right away:
Maybe this was the closest
we ever got to heaven

poem and image © copyright df barker 2012

Poem ‘Barricades’

Barricades

My home is a castle in need, because
of who I am, for all that went before.
Living close to a sea I rarely saw,
I rode bikes, losing trees, clothes on the way,
all scale of self to glimpse some grey ocean,
a lone redshank wail from his muddy creek
and rise into blanket skies, scorning me.
I didn’t know then, nor do I pretend
to know now exactly what’s hurting me,
but the funk of youth is bitterness now.
The shining ship which might’ve saved me, white
sails riding threshold waves — it didn’t come.
Abandoned, the sailor who never was,
behind terse barricades, counting the days

poem © copyright df barker 2012
*image © Neil Smith

Poem ‘Boats’

Boats

One of these boats is mine,
let’s say this one right here,
all ship-shape
and eager for the tide.
So come on, take my hand
I’ll show you around,
there’s no time to lose
because summer’s on its way
and I can feel the warm winds
arrive on this scented ocean air,
promising to take us beyond
that blue-on-blue horizon
to those lands unimagined
in all our dreaming

We shan’t follow the tireless tern
who labours from pole to pole
every year of his life,
merely to survive.
No, ours are the balmy seas
and first port will be St Tropez.
We’ll saunter ’round as if we own it,
then sail slowly on hugging Italy’s leg
all the way to Venice,
where we’ll flop onto chairs in Florian’s,
order the most exorbitant espressos
and demolish bite-sized cakes

And after that? Well,
I propose we simply wander,
let the currents of nature and time
take us where they will.
Because you see, there are no plans,
no timetable.
We’ve earned this shot at life— at living—
this precious smiling space

poem and image © copyright df barker 2012