Friday, 10 August 2012

On Holy Island. (Phynella) @Lindisfarne

6/8/2012 to 12/8/2012

On Holy Island. (Phynella) @Lindisfarne

Day 47 to 52

(I am going to condense the days on the island into one blog entry because it all become a bit of a blur and though lots of things happen, the need to separate them is possibly not so important. Bear with me....)

Everyone was up early except Pip and I. Pip because she is a growing teen, me because I would have been in the way in such a small galley area. When there was space and everyone had gotten packed away ready to leave, I rose and sat out on deck chatting and being shown things about the boat by Michiel. We dropped the big anchor to secure it in place and I kept an eye on what to do with the mechanisms and tides and equipments. It was all fascinating for me as I love things and toys and mechanical devices.
Breakfast was again organised by the lovely Hans. I had Greek yogurt with jam which was awesome. I had toast with some coos coos spicy spread on it, and humous. Great and healthy things all of them. They had to be at the bus for about 9.30 am so we had to do a couple of trips with bags and people, Michiel the more able seaman rowed and transported us all ashore safely. I had decided to go with them as far as Berwick upon Tweed as I might not walk through there but wanted to see it. They would be catching the train to Newcastle and then a boat back to Holland later this evening. Geert was due later this week so I would have a few days to enjoy the boat on my own. 

When we got to Berwick they had to wait till the afternoon for a train and so we walked around the town and down along the river together. Hans told me about how she had recently been to Palestine to play at a music festival with the express aims of helping to spread peace and harmony through music in that troubled land and for the war torn peoples. I like this idea and the motives behind it. 

They were all very nice people and very trusting I have to say. Not that I shall let them down, but I guess they saw that they could trust me not to sell their yacht on ebay........I'm Kidding........

(Auction ends tonight...Lol...)

Later I caught the bus back to Holy island, there are only two per day, hence the times being so short between them. It was a nice shortish journey along the last part of the English coastline, Scotland starts just after Berwick. Back on the island I made my way to the Crown and Anchor to use the internet before heading back to my new home for a few days of rest and luxury. The test was getting back onto the dingy and row it on my own back to the yacht without capsizing it. It is a fairly stable boat but you have to remember to go with the flow and use the in or out going tide to your advantage or you could be rowing all night. And I have to remember to keep my weight in the center of the boat when getting on or off, or it could suddenly shoot away from the key side with possibly wet consequences...!!!!

I managed admirably, which is good as I am now Admiral of my own fleet.... Ay ay captain...

The following morning the water had ran out on the boat. So no more tea. I had eaten my little meal and served it with a glass of wine. Not bad for a man walking across the whole of Great Britain, on a small budget eh?

I had heard the sound of the anchor chain during the night as it had gotten a bit choppy for a change and the sound of the fishermen setting off had disturbed me too. When I finally opened the hatches to the daylight I nearly fainted. I was now only about ten metres from the dingy of the fishing boat. I found it hard to determine whether they had parked nearer or if I had been dragged by the currents closer to their mooring, and not being a time served seaman I had no idea which was the case, except my feelings were that I had moved. Certain things on the island seemed to have become father away. In the end I decided to wait for the tide to change direction and that way let the flow drag me back to where I had been. Later it was my observation that I was still too close so I started the engine and moved the boat back about 50 metres into the estuary. The thing was that I had two anchors down and working out how to keep control of the boat and lift the anchors on my own took a bit of energy and skill. I hear all you yachtsmen screaming easy peasy......yeah ok well I am not the owner of this boat and was concerned not to end up on the beach as there are clearly low spots all around me here. Or should I say shallow waters? Anyway all went without a wreckage being washed up and my feelings were that a job well done had been achieved. I am sure Michiel had thought me competent to arrange this kind of affair or he wouldn't have left it up to me.
Throughout the rest of the day the sound of chain or anchors moving made me worry that the mooring was not secure, but I didn't seem to have moved from my new horizon and datum points, except for the obvious change in direction of which the boat faced depending upon the tidal flow in or out.
I went ashore and managed to get some supplies and returned to cook myself a meal. The manager of the Crown and Anchor had given me an old 5 litre Daddies sauce bottle full of water for my on board needs. As I began to boil some pasta for my dinner the gas ran out......
Peacefully I made a few comments about my good fortune.....!!!

I had to throw the pasta out for the seals. They seemed to like its chewy texture.

The following morning I managed to find the compartment where the gas bottle is kept and found a spare one full and ready to use. Whoopeeee...
Tea and bickies here I come....
I heard a piper fire up on the walkway to the castle across the waters and wondered if it were Finn come back. I got the binoculars and had a look but this dude was short haired and wearing the full regalia. And his bag was green not red.

I decided to go over and have a look but it wasn't Finn. The guy was from Bristol and was here everyday he said. Whilst walking I bumped into the young newly weds Andy and Sarah from Sunderland and got really chatting with them out for a walk with the kids. We walked back to their cottage and they offered me a cup of tea and we chatted for a while longer before I let them get the kids to bed (and I had need of the internet again at the Crown and Anchor public house, that also serve tea...Note..) I asked them if they would possibly mind me using the washing machine at their holiday home, knowing it was a bit cheeky, but I didn't expect Sarah to do my washing on her honeymoon, just use the washing machine myself. They said that would be fine and she even gave me a bottle of milk as she said they had enough. Though there is a fridge on board it won't work unless the engine is running I believe, so my other milk had soured after 2 days. Andy said I should come over in the morning as they would be going out for the day but I could have a bit of breakfast with them. So I said I would be over by 9 am. We said our good evenings and I set out for the pub. When I had finished typing and uploading it was dark and I had to row in the light of only the pale moon and cloudy heavens and the odd shore side light from the distance. It was a bit scary but the seals baying on the shore up the estuary was reassuring. It is a strange sound to be sure. The boat hadn't moved which was a definite plus and the boat was quiet and I settled back down thinking of my walk around the island tomorrow. I guess it would be about a 7 mile trek with lots of sight seeing so I took the binoculars as I was also expecting word from Geert and if he had boarded I would be able to see him on board, and then contact him via sign language...Semafores...

The morning was quiet too and the waters very flat. The tide had headed out so I headed in and took my bag of dirty clothes and set off up the path by the old priory to Andy and Sarah's cottage. When I arrived they were already up of course. They have kids. Alex and Charlie the youngest were playing as ever with Archie the dog. I was shown to the washing machine and Sarah did the rest which was nice making a fuss of me.
Andy the chef made us all a bacon sandwich and tea, which was very well received I can tell you. I asked them if later or before they left for home they would consider being involved in my documentary efforts to capture some ideas from all across the United Kingdom about differing views of what it is to be British and other associated topics. They said that would be fine, so I agreed to pop by later that evening to collect my washing. I thanked them for helping out then set of for my walk.
The island is home to many people and quite a few seasonal businesses. I had previously seen the churches and the shops and most of the pubs, but nothing of the actual land and layout of the isle. The road out was the only way onto the island and into the village. I came to a car park where there were signs about Pirri Pirri that sticky bramble and thought to pay attention to the advice, but later I still got covered in the stuff. Thankfully I am not a dog, it seems that it is like sticking a dog with velcro. I laughed at my naivety....

There was a house and what looked like a small castle nearby so I had to investigate. Then I walked through the center of the dunes to the north beach and met and chatted with Colin a man who had just walked across the bay on the sands. At the moment the tide was so far out it seemed to have disappeared altogether. We walked together in the direction I had been going after a while, as it was getting cooler and I wanted to keep walking. A couple of jeep type vehicles came across the sand and spoke with a woman nearby, when he backed up the beach I went over to ask what he had said. Apparently they were from the bomb disposal unit and they were about to carry out controlled explosions of old munitions on the beach a couple of kilometres away. We stood to watch them blow up. The sound came several seconds after the visible part of the explosion. They were very loud bangs. Also jets flew along the valley close by doing low level training I guessed. Colin had to walk back the other way which was fine by me as he seemed a little strange and put me at my unease. I think the woman on the beach with her son and dogs also felt it and she made her exit quickly after the detonations too. I love meeting people of course but some can give you a bad feeling and it is not strictly depending on what they do or say. I hurried away, keeping an eye out for the odd spots of quick sand that were reported to be nearer to the water channels. Before long I had found a very interesting little building that had been constructed apparently over the past five years by a series of visitors, on the site that an artist had originally constructed over 20 years ago. It was like Pandora's Grotto. I loved it here and the mood helped me write some poetry and inspire a new series of thoughts. Later I carried on along the coast line to complete my investigations of Holy Island. There were many odd things, like the Obelisks and the Lime Kilns and the battered shorelines and wonderful sandy beaches to keep me occupied until I reached the village. 

Andy and Sarah had recently arrived form their day out and the boys were watching a bit of television before bed.
Sarah had packed up my clothes after drying them, and Andy had bought me a piece of fish from Cresta. It was a kipper and he explained how to cook it in a frying pan and with milk and butter, which I did later and I have to say it was absolutely wonderful with a piece of bread roll which they also gave me. I am such a lucky guy nearly all the time, I should remember to be much more grateful to the universe more often. Friends like these are the best type of people. Thank you Andy and Sarah for your wonderful thoughtfulness and giving attitude. I have to say without sorrow, but it is enviable the relationship that these young people have together. Of course they have just got married, but they have been together about 8 years and the love in their eyes is still evident like the sun shining in a desert. I'm sure this will come across when I interview them later on. I could tell that they had had a hard day so made my way back to the boat to eat my kipper, with a little glass of wine and I set the table to be more romantic with myself. The boat is very cosy and quaint and I felt very loved by all the people and circumstances that had led to me being here now with Bob Marley coming out of the speakers from the C.D. Player.

The next morning I rose early to have new neighbours everywhere. A boat called Captain Cook that seemed to be full of teenagers on holidays had drawn close and the kids were diving off into the water. Another dutch boat and several more yachts were berthed close to me. I better not play the C.D. too loud now I guess, they might not all appreciate Mr Marley, U2 and R.E.M. at full volume.
Typing again I have now thoroughly caught up to date and am just about to get off the boat and go and find the tramp that I have cooked a meal for, that seems to be wandering around the village all the time searching dustbins for something to eat. I make no judgements of course, just have observed that he could do with a helping hand perhaps. If he wants my help that is.

I heard the piper again and went down towards Lindisfarne Castle to meet the piper and properly introduce my self, and look out for the traveller. I had a very long conversation with the piper (though he has asked me to keep his name out of the blog at this time) and we got on very well. I took some video footage with his permission and will add it here as soon as I can get all the clips uploaded. The problem is file type apparently and I need to convert from full H.D. Mp4 to something else, but my computer runs Linex and I haven't got a conversion app yet. So can someone who knows about this stuff please let me know a way around it? Please.

I stayed for a while until the piper was finished and I had written a couple of new poems. I had a look all round the village and couldn't find the traveller for some reason, perhaps he has left already for new places. I will have to eat the food myself. I went into the Crown and anchor again to use their internet have a few drinks and then I met new people who had just arrived for the weekend Viking battles. I sat chatting with the 'Viking King of Briton' (a rare honour), Hrothgar known in the 21st century as Roger of Lancashire. (Originally South Wales) He was recently inaugurated and was keen to show his power and intellect and gave me many interesting new facts about the history of Briton, the United kingdom, and the reasons for us adopting the title Great Britain. I think he could possibly undo all the misconceptions I have about this topic on his own, but I will restrain myself from recalling all of it here. It was fascinating and informative and he clearly had done a lot of personal research, unlike me up until this project. I liked the company of all his merry men and women who likewise made me feel very welcomed and invited me to come and see them tomorrow in the arena of the Priory and watch them kick the sh...... sorry battle with one another and give live action demonstrations of actual combat and strategy for the likes of me, in their full costume and battle dress. This is all part of the English Heritage work into displaying and supporting the communities of Viking, Saxon, Roman and other historical groups, with an aim to bringing light to the ways of life that have shaped our history and created the civilization in which we live today.
I said my farewells to the group as I didn't want to arrive back at Phynella again in the dark, promising to see them all tomorrow. I walked back around the village one more time but no homeless man, well unless you include me in this and I was already found. On board the boat I settled in for the night and read the last parts of the wonderful booklet given to me by Val Brown, of The Gate pub last week, on the road to Rothbury. It is all about the people and the legends and folklore of the area and poems in local dialect from people from around about that part of the world and a few recent local mysterious tales as well. The Laird, actually the Duke of Northumberland has written the preface and to be honest he shows a great humour and thoughtfulness to the people of his realm, and as he himself says, his title is about as important as a 'cow up a cundy'.
(Find out for yourselves what this means)

The book title for your information is. THE FOREST, Poems, Pictures and Stories of Rothbury Forest. By J.P.Athey.
It is a lovely gift from a stranger to a stranger, so thank you very much Val of The Gate at Forest Burn Gate, Rothbury Forest.

I was eager to know all about the Viking invasion as it would appear that Holy Island or the area directly about here was the site of the first ever Viking invasion around about the 8th century. If I wanted to know about my nation and its history, where better than at a brawl. I mean at a well prepared cultural event that was to be staged in the idyllic setting of an actual priory and on the site where it had all taken place so many moons ago. Sometimes I just don't know how lucky I am to be at the right place at the right time, but this past week has all been about timing and acceptance of the mechanics of the universe to lead me to see and experience such wonderful adventures.
I had a hearty breakfast and took the homeless guys meal with me too, if I couldn't find him I would eat it myself, it was a tasty dish I had prepared, and I wouldn't see it go to waste, and besides I have no money to burn. The village had not yet received the influx of tourist as I arrived, which gave me a really good chance to see all the things at the Viking traders encampment. To all intents and purposes the camp is exactly as it would have been back in the day, though as an invading force there would have been no women about. But as a trading camp, a sort of, 'Viking Car boot sale', it was very real and illustrated the type and wealth of stalls and tents that would have been used. Both crafts and food stalls and also the metal working and tool and equipments on offer. I have to say that the costumes are very good, and the atmosphere was incredibly intoxicating, as children and warriors alike ran and passed by, following their duties. 

I began chatting with Thorhild, (or Jud from Yorkshire) about the dress and living arrangements and the authenticity of the camp and its setup and whether the community was a real one outside of the gatherings for displays etc. It would appear that these people get no great financial assistance, just the pleasure of being invited and included in the displays as with any other type of social club. They have a sort of official membership for being part of this Viking clan and they have to make or at least have made their own clothing and keep to quite strict codes of conduct and health and safety withing the clubs individually and collectively. Some people are just craft orientated, others choose to become full blown warriors, or both. But you don't just come in and say I want to be a warrior, you have to work up to these roles as they would have done in the real Viking civilization, through training and experience and your own financial outlay. 

At the bottom of the priory was a small field that had been set up for the displays and as the combat arena. Shields and armour and swords and axes and just about every type of device were laid about ready for later when the warriors would give a live action display of the weaponry and fighting techniques.

A man I half recognised, dressed as a monk came up to me, he knew my name and introduced me to the organiser of the event for EnglishHeritage, Jon Hogan. I was grateful to Erling Rigsson (Russ) from the Midlands, for the introduction and that he had also taken me seriously in the face of real warriors all about to remember and use my chosen name. 

Jon gave me every assistance with my questions regarding his organisations dealings with the Vikings here and many other organisations around the area he personally covers. He is also responsible for the Abbey where I got my membership from almost 2 months ago, and we chatted briefly about that project and the archaeological dig going on there by the people from Sheffield University, whom I had met previously.

Suddenly I was in the presence of royalty as Konungr (King) Hrothgar came over and presented himself to me again, me a humble scribe and travelling storyteller. It was great to chat to Roger in costume and he likewise presented me to several other warriors and people at the camp.

One of these was a writer too, a man of 8 books on Vikings and history, ORM (aka Robert Low) and he was very keen to tell me about the arts and the history attached to this period.
Just in case you are interested, (and I am getting nothing for the plug, I paid myself, so just wanted to share the information) the English Heritage are currently offering a 15 month membership for the price of 12 months and also if you have children they go free with adult members throughout the summer months. Jon you owe me a cup of mead, or maybe

There were a few battles displaying the fighting and the weaponry of the period and then they had something called kiddie Viking which was an opportunity for the young visitors to have a go at fighting the warriors, with pretend swords and shields. It was great fun to watch, so hope you get the feel of it from the videos I took. The children kept coming, they had to extend the performances as so many children wanted a go at beating up on the heavily armed warriors. During the displays of fighting amongst the warriors, (not with the Kids) they are actually not rehearsed scenes as in totally choreographed performances and the warriors are really attacking one another. Of course because they are trained to do this they are able mostly to pull the blows and still make it appear life like, but once or twice it was hard to tell if they were really play fighting or not. I saw that they have again a strict code of combat rules, that for safety of the crowds and each other are adhered to implicitly. A sword was actually broken in two whilst a fight ensued and immediately the weapon was removed. A tip of a sword had been found and the battle was halted until everyone had accounted for their weapons wholeness. It was incredible though to see that with the force and passion that these warriors acted out scenes, the reality of the existence of the real Viking warriors would have been a very bloody and violent one.

I got talking to two warriors who were about to give a story telling performance, but at the last minute it was postponed because of the clash with another performance in the main arena. Still I had a very long chat with Halldor Karrison, (Rock of Thor) from Aberdeen and Erik Herdebreid (The Broad shouldered) from York.

They introduced me to their leader, who was Thorstene Oxleg, also from York, Yarl of Volsung Vikings from Yorvic (York). It was fascinating and intriguing to listen to the depth of knowledge that so many of these people had about the subjects that I was presently trying to revisit with my own project Imagine. Thorstene reminded me of Hagrid a bit. The grounds keeper from the Harry Potter stories who always had something new to tell them.
I also met a man who was recently new to the Vikings society (3 years) and his clothing was fairly plain and undecorated, and he carried only a belts and pouch
but no charms or weapons or any of the other indicators of position in the clan. He told me it was all part of working up over time to a level of acceptance and favour within the group, when maybe the Jarl would allow him to carry or wear other more lavish decorated attire.
Einar (a.k.a. Tom Wyles) was also organising the Stamford Bridge displays later in the year, and showed me how to play a few Viking board games. One was similar in a way to chess, called (translated) The Kings Table, the other was 9 Mens Morris. Something like back gammon and draughts. There was also a chance to play a game called Kubb which was about knocking over wooden blocks set out on the floor with baton type sticks. A type of couyts with sticks.
To be honest there was way too much to take in all at once and I was in awe of the organisation and willingness on behalf of all here to share their learned information with the general public. It must get a bit repetitive talking with so many visitors each day. But everyone seemed happy and smiles were freely forthcoming. I saw a lady from Sky who was doing an interview with one of the Viking men and she asked some very interesting questions, which had equally interesting answers.
Did you know for example that sometimes their children weren't named until they reached about 7 years of age? It is also known that some small and infant bodies were found put out with the rubbish so to speak, because the Vikings didn't seem to consider the children acceptable as members of their family until they survived this age, therefore worthy of a burial. Maybe they didn't want to become too attached with these children if they would die in accidents or from illness and disease, and so they only accepted them when they outlived this period. To us it is totally shocking and even abhorrent, but then history has been much the same for millennia. We ought to spare a thought for the wealth of freedom and opportunity we actually have and count our blessings more. Though I too am glad that the world has moved forward in certain things, I also realise that we have lost a lot of important cultural roots and skills that would or will serve us well at some point in the future. Skills such as bread making, growing our own food, preparing foodstuffs and hunting, as well as tool making and other creative crafts. A show like the one I am seeing here is a fantastic way to get a brief glimpse of the seriousness of knowing some of these skills and arts in our modern world.

I next found a friendly monk called Karsi. (I promise you this is not a joke about something) A.k.a Mark from Leeds a physics teacher in his current 21st century life, told me that the life he finds here in the Viking world to be a great way to relax and take stock of the real value of life and friendships and community, and he has little fears for his children at these functions because of the close knit framework of the whole group. Of course no one is saying that it is 100% safe anywhere in the world, but by his comparison it takes their family back to basics and good family life and values. A whole weekend without the trappings of modern technology and the stress of being at the beck and call of the present world fascination with gadgets and electricity and oil.

It also became apparent to me that each member has to be given a certain level of training, to be sure that the group as a whole can conduct themselves as a well organised symbiosis. Even things like learning how to make a fire for cooking and techniques and practices for moving dangerous objects around a busy and general public populated venue. Not just the safe handling of weapons during the displays, but more in depth living skills and participation in activities. You imaging that here children that are on holiday are everywhere, interested and curious and looking about are maybe not being properly or adequately monitored by their parents, suddenly one approaches an open fire or a workshop with sharp objects. So the various stall holders and responsible Vikings have to have eyes in the back of their heads, and make sure that the accidents are avoided at all costs.
There was a final battle that was fought and it was full contact. The outcome was not determined and the warriors had to use all their skills and savvy to avoid being maimed or killed. Miraculously the dead somehow came back to life, ready for the end of the show and their well deserved dinner. And another performance tomorrow, Sunday.
I have to say a huge thank you to the kindness shown to me by, The Vikings, the warriors and their ensemble and of course EnglishHeritage for organising the event and timing it for my visit here this weekend.

I made my way back to the boat which I now understand to be celebrating her 75th birthday this year. She has looked after me well this past few days and I am very grateful to her owners for offering me the accommodation and whiskey, and unique opportunity to stay on Holy Island for such a great visit. Please check out the Webpages forPhynella and see what a great life she too has shared with so many people.

For my dinner I have had the wonderful pasta dish that I cooked for the homeless man, who has missed a great opportunity for a decent meal. Burp...!!

I have decided that tomorrow I shall leave Holy Island as it is a Sunday and the first day of the week. Did you know that the days of the week are named after things worshiped by the Vikings and Norse people?


I am hoping to go out over the boarders towards Jedburgh and then on to Roslin and Edinburgh, before heading west and my brothers place at Kincardine on the banks of the Forth river close to Alloa, and the smallest county in the United Kingdom, Clackmannanshire. Again the route can be altered or chosen by you the reader depending on where or if you would like to join me for a part of the walk.
The water is becoming very choppy again tonight, so I hope that it has calmed before tomorrow as I have to get my backpack back into that tiny dingy and onto dry land without sinking it and all my worldly chattels and the future of the IMAGINE walk......

The boat had stopped rocking by the morning though it had been pretty rough all night and I wondered if I might actually be sea sick. I had my breakfast and packed everything away, made a pack up for the rest of the days food requirements and got the washing up done. I cleaned the floors and wiped all the surfaces ready to leave Phynella in a decent condition for the next people to find her in good order. I had a bit of a job loading the dingy as the waves were still bobbing me about, and I wondered if my fears would come to pass. I got a bit wet as I tried to row over to the shore from the oars catching the wave crests as they came along behind me. But I made it and moored the dingy safely on the top of the beach where it would be out of the tide and safe for Geert to find when he arrived later. I also tied the oars into the boat just in case someone wanted to move them.

God it felt odd having this bag on my back again, and I wondered how far I would get today. I had need to go and clarify some details with some of the Vikings and wanted also to get a few more pictures for the blog, so passed the English Heritage gate again and got chatting with Lynn and Rachel from the Heritage staff, who kindly said that they would look after my bag rather than me carry it around the priory. 

I went looking for the people I needed to speak to and also got into a great conversation with Hilda Applecruncher, 'Keeper of the Douglas', (aka Sharon from Cambridgeshire) (Douglas was her little dog) 

Hilda told me about the way the Vikings organised their events and the hierarchy and other social gatherings and I learned more about the way you could come through the ranks of Thrall, Friehal, Drengal, and Jarl. Surprisingly there wasn't a ban on women being involved in the more aggressive sides of the events, Hilda was also a warrior, a craft and musical entertainer and a Jarl of her group. She had been coming along for well over 15 years and enjoyed the camaraderie at the events and the challenges of the old way of life. I asked her if she would consider living totally in this period, but she indicated although there were many advantages to this simple way of life, she couldn't ignore the advancements we have made and the comforts of modern life all together.
I am now at the Crown and Anchor again to let you all read this story as live as it can be as I am leaving Holy Island in a few minutes and heading off across country towards Jedburgh, thanks to Keith at the Crown and Anchor. The Edinburgh festival is on so I am sure to be there soon for that and see what happens there in Scotland's capital city.

Goodbye Lindisfarne, and thank you for looking after me.

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