The Village that Vanished
All the bitter day waves smash into Smugglers’ Cove and Byer’s Hole. The sky has failed to lift and a shipwright’s hoolie blows doon King Street. Sometime soon we’ll re-pack the van, lock the door, gan from here. Away from foghorn bass and herring-gull staccato we’ll wake to brighter light, wind in tune. There’ll be no need to tell the bairns about Jobling or Fairles, riots at Mill Dam, the death of Palmer’s Yard, except to say they all kindled in a town where no town should be, where for years the houses inched closer to the cliffs, buddleia crept into lintels and sycophants threw gasoline onto the pyre.
My voice choosing whether it knaas or knows while lost on campus looking for the hall. Geordie syllables caught in me throat. Repairman with faded anchor and swallow tattoos speaks a language my Granda bawls while aa wonder what it is aa knaa I know. Puzzled, I ponder which way to gan or go while he points: forst on ya left, nee bother at aall. Geordie syllables free in his throat. Cleaners and canteen staff in the shadow of the academy don’t need to call Geordie syllables caught in their throats. From the Robinson Library I can see Gallow- gate: thousands of accents that are Hebburn, Walls- end, while my tongue stumbles: knaa or know? Considering where my voice is at home: how a Tyneside accent can make iz galled; torn over when it’s right to knaa or know. Geordie syllables caught in my throat.
The Last Home Match of the Year
After, and with apologies to, Paul Farley. R.I.P. Bradley Lowery.
The ref raises whistle to lips as our goalie jogs to the centre-circle hanging big palms round the shoulders of our full-back and captain making a link with the linesmen, fourth official, visiting team and fans whose marras once did the same in clotted coal shafts beneath. We’re duly asked over the Tannoy to observe a moment’s silence for the players, supporters and club representatives who’ve passed this year. As the whistle blasts, sucking all attention to the sky (ideal blue as the day Pangaea first cracked or when MacGregor was pushed to the cold ground at Ellington) forty-thousand people cross their hands, tune to the backing fuzz of floodlights, that one lonely Seagull’s cry. Electric advertising hoardings flash to no-one in this moment which is strictly carbon and chlorophyll. Looking from the patch of atmosphere the stadium frames back to the touch-line we envisage rings drawing closer: who’ll be left next year to sing the lads in? Part of us wants this moment arm-to-arm with parents, grandparents, pals to last past dusk, through next week, eclipsing Christmas and the shambles we’ve witnessed. But already some bloke in his lucky, striped scarf three pints in, odds looking good is itching in the south stand as the ref once again raises whistle to lips to bellow Haway! bring the life back in and send the year on its way.
Nil Desperandum Auspice Deo
When I heard that the two of you had started driving out to churches that autumn they first flooded your veins with chemotherapy drugs I wasn’t surprised that the Roker Dolomite of St. Peter’s Upper Permian Magnesium Limestones were some sort of solace. Nor as you poured tea from an always-leaky pot where once Ceolfrith blessed heads and Cuthbert and Aidan called to the skies was I surprised to think of you taking comfort in walls that had survived many storms. And just as the scanners at the RVI consecrate flesh and tissue for remission petrologists’ laser models of sacred buildings reveal similar findings: that half-buried masonry like half-burned cells remain because people with cracked bodies like churches with cracked roofs say we will not be defeated we will not be defeated.