/ Scotland2016

Holy island

In memoriam, Alan Hull, founder of Lindisfarne.

Today's early, early alarm call 07:00 meant we were at the bus stop well in plenty of time to catch the bus out to the island, about a 12 mile or so journey. We could have taken the van but would have had to be mindful of tide times, the island is only reachable at low tide. Anyway it turns out Liz's OAP bus pass works so the only fare is £8 return for her toy boy. And anyway bus travel is greener and far more pleasant.

Liz and especially I are not religious, so why bother visit the site where St Aidan and St Cuthbert brought Christianity into Northumberland and, eventually the rest of England? Quite simply, because Lindisfarne, it's priory, those early saints are a quintessential part of what defines being English! They defined Englishness for centuries. That original rift between the Celtic church and the Roman Church must have sewn the seeds for Henry VIII's break away from the Vatican and the subsequent Catholic/Protestant warring. If Oswald has not converted to Christianity would we all still be worshipping Woden?

One thing that hacks me off is all these English Nationalist groups, calling for the banning of the burkha and making St George's day a national holiday. Have any of them taken the trouble to explore what being English means? Do any of them know any English history? What about culture, can any of them sung a traditional English folk song or dance a traditional English folk dance, I doubt it. If we have to have a patron saint let's make it Aidan or Cuthbert, not some Turk who never set foot in this country who just happened to be a favourite of a King who didn't even speak English and who tried his hardest not to set foot here either.

The island was fascinating, a little community isolated from the mainland, it's main trade being tourism although I hope the few fishing boats still maintained a living for probably families who have relied in them for decades, if not centuries.

Back to Berwick early afternoon (that's all the time the tides would allow us) and since it still wasn't raining, time to walk the walls. The town has been reinforced in Elizabethan times to ward of the Scots and had impressive ramparts, each with gun enclosures to catch those heathen Catholic Scots in lethal crossfire should they ever deign to threaten God's own Proddies! Believe me, this is some serious defence work, and the UK's first garrison town to boot, prior to Berwick having its own garrison, squaddies were housed by the local townspeople, I bet that was fun!

Then for an evening meal. The painter Lowry was a fan of Berwick and many of his paintings depict parts of the town (if I every get decent internet I'll upload some paintings and photos). When in town he stayed at the Castle Hotel which the local butcher had told us did an excellent steak dinner special. If it's good enough for Lowry it's good enough for me. And it was, two huge local steaks, chips, all the trimmings and a bottle of wine for £30. Makes up for that cheap fish'n'chip meal on our anniversary a week or so ago. And if this hotel could offer up a bottle of wine with only 20% markup (i.e. it sells in Majestic for £9.99 and is in the Crown's menu for £12) then why do southern restaurants make at least 100% markup?

One slightly sour note of today, first thing this morning Liz took a walk to the toilet block. On her return there was a bloke with a placid Labrador walking close to her, coming the other way was someone with two little yappy terriers. The terriers took umbrage that another dog should be in their vicinity and got frisky. They were on those extensible leads and one ran behind Liz and attacked her, leaving either a purple claw or tooth mark in her ankle. Unfortunately she was not using her walking stick at the time or a canine rectumotomy may have needed to be performed.