THERE’S a swallowtail butterfly in the lavender. It busies itself drifting from one plant to another, gathering nectar or whatever it is that butterflies do. This insect – as delicate as it is – triggers a thought process in the recesses of my mind and liberates forgotten memories. I am transported to a terraced house in a Lancashire village where coal trains from Cumberland clank past the front door and high moors rise from the back . . . Continue reading Fifty years later . . .
I ONCE worked with two old boys called Carl and Jimmy. They weren’t old really, they just seemed old at the time. It was the early 1980s and I’d be in my late twenties, they in their early forties. Early forties isn’t old, unless you happen to be observing things from the viewpoint of someone twelve years younger . . . Continue reading Passing clouds
A BAND of Celts wander north into new lands and discover a broad river sweeping through forests. They are in awe of the river because it is deep and powerful. They give it a name, and the name is Esk. To later generations this possesses magical, almost ethereal, qualities. The name resonates so strongly it survives several waves of migration: Romans, Anglo Saxons, Scots, Vikings, Normans. Thousands of years after those Celts peered through the rushes, that river is still called Esk. That’s fascinating . . . Continue reading Stream of consciousness
DRIFTING along the ridge of a hill I come across a heap of stones. And then another heap of stones. And then another. Back in my native England I might have glanced at these heaps and deduced – with the air of a man who might be an expert but isn’t – they were the work of an ancient people, probably late Neolithic or early Bronze Age to middle Iron Age. But this is Spain, not the heathery moorlands of Cumbria or the northern Pennines, and different rules apply . . . Continue reading Roll away the stones
THE Carthaginians came and went. The Romans came, conquered and went. The Moors came, conquered and flourished. The Christians came, conquered, flourished, gave the world Franco, Morgan’s Tavern and the biggest holiday resort in Spain. Today, all those generations and waves of humanity later, this city of concrete, glass and pizza has more high-rise buildings per capita than anywhere else on the planet. This cauldron of cultures has history, sand, sunshine and karaoke bars. It’s a world within a world and a shock to the systems of the unprepared. It’s big, it’s brash and it’s brazenly brassy. It’s Blackpool with bocadillos and barbequed Brits, a beautiful blister set on a sun-baked beach. And it’s still known by its Moorish name – Benidorm . . . Continue reading Benidorm. Bring it on.
APPLICATIONS submitted by Britons for Irish passports have soared by more than 70 per cent since the UK voted to leave the European Union. My wife is included in this number, courtesy of her grandfather, Joseph Beckett Steele, who migrated to England from County Antrim in the early years of the last century to work in the iron ore mines of the Furness Peninsula and fight for his country during the First World War. Strange how events unfold as years pass by . . . Continue reading When Irish ties . . .
I HAVE resumed my flirtations with not-so-fine art – an interest I suspended temporarily in 1973 when faced with a future in shipbuilding rather than a preferred path to art college and enlightenment. Enforced retirement has provided opportunities to grab the frayed strands of former pastimes, and to tug them gently to see where they lead – if anywhere. Though I daresay my place at Preston art college has long been filled by someone else with a bad haircut . . . Continue reading Poppies from the past