The fog on the Tyne was all mine…

Yes it was, once upon a time.

And suddenly I am sixty years old…

This is a shocking revelation for someone who still sees themselves as thirty-four and yet there is no way to sugarcoat it.

I have pulled together my thoughts over this past month – since leaving the North East again – in an attempt to close the cycle and complete the healing of an emotionally charged childhood.

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Return of the native… South Shields, my home town.

I had delayed my return over and over again since my last time way back during my teacher training in Scotland. Then it was a visit to my last known surviving relative, my Aunty Dolly, but she didn’t recognise me. How can your roots be so thin, like a desert shrub, gripping to the sands of time? What a lesson in how transient we are, no matter what we believe; not that this was a required reminder for me for I suppose I have always felt it… Here is the root of my wandering life, slowly becoming an ancient mariner; never able to cut the cord of the eternal voyage.

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Hawthorn Leslie, my Grandpa’s shipyard, back when the Tyne was a working River. This is how I remember it.

So when I arrived at South Shields Metro Station, a feeling of nostalgia flooded through me, quite expecting to see my Grandma, waiting in her old maroon coat like she used to do after school. The ghosts were whispering all the way down to street level but there was nothing but the brisk, chilly easterly wind blowing up King Street from the Ocean Road.

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The Big River today, a ghost of its former self… Looking west towards Tyne Dock, Jarrow and Wallsend. Where did all the ships go? Gone also the smoke and the fog. 🎶I can remember when/ for I was just a child of ten…🎵

What happened to my river, the mighty, coaly Tyne? I sought the answer over the next few days, retreading my footsteps, past my old school St Gregory’s RC, through Harton Cemetery where I used to talk to the graves, imagining an underground city where all the dead were in fact still alive.

The sun graced me with her presence nearly everyday during my nostalgic ramblings, and the indulgent ghosts walked side by side with me around the town and out onto the Coast road that runs down through Whitburn to Sunderland. Was that rambling old Restaurant the ‘Marsden Grotto’ still open, where my father used to take me for ice cream on Sundays when he returned?

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A childhood icon… the Marsden Grotto Restaurant.

However, like everything else, it seemed to have become jaded, a memory of something that once was… and now isn’t.

Perhaps the only real solace came in the form of something that will never really change here, and that is the magnificent North Sea Coast, a survivor of the endless battering from the freezing, violent seas that have sustained South Shields and yet taken so many lives on her fishing boats and Merchant ships.

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Marsden Bay, typifies the magnificent Coastline of the North East.

How many masses were said for the fathers’ of my childhood schoolmates after they were lost to its brutal cruelty? We children were brothers and sisters in tragedy.

The beauty and power of this coast fashioned me into the person I have become. The rawness and self-belief, which often pushes folk away from me; the tenderness from witnessing the suffering of Mrs Thatcher’s economic policies, and the sheer bloody-mindedness from being told I was never good enough.

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Farewell to the Tyne…

Standing on the beach that afternoon, I spat into the wind with the belligerence of a viking that would rather die than be a slave, and then walked back towards the Metro to catch the train back to my hostel in Newcastle. The following morning, crossing back over the Tyne bridge and heading south towards Liverpool, I said my final farewell to the past, leaving the ghosts waving goodbye on the platform.

I could almost here them say: “Farewell hinnie… do wor family proud.”

I hope I have… truly, I do.

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About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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30 Responses to The fog on the Tyne was all mine…

  1. cornishtim says:

    Sixty but coming on sixteen. Magnificent post. Those ghosts have moved you and shaped you into the incredibly brace person you are. Not a bad pen smith either.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Ye auld flirt! Thanks Tim, as always I appreciate your feedback. Makes me want to keep writing (and sailing😱😱)

  2. Jason says:

    lovely Poppy xx

  3. I share your experiences with ghosts of the past. Having led a nomadic life I too return to hear them talk from time to time. Difficulty in life makes us what we are. Stand proud my friend. X

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks Hilary, I will… nee choice, as we say on Tyneside! Ten years in now… it’s a long time to be sailing and the physically begins to catch up on you after a while. Heading south in June towards Poland. Eventually back to British waters due to Brexit…but it’s about time now. Twenty thousand solo sea miles doesn’t lie!

  4. Roger Lundqvist says:

    Well done Poppy, and thank you for sheering.
    I am looking forward to see you again before you sail south this summer.

  5. Andy says:

    Great, emotive post. Roots to me are important-I still live in my childhood town. Indeed-next door to my childhood home! My Mum still lives there. And when I walk around it I recall people and events long gone. In one of my poems I wrote this:

    ‘When you live in a small town
    you often encounter
    your own ghost,

    anchored to decaying landscapes
    pursuing outgrown pleasures
    that then were everything.’

    This still happens a lot.

  6. Viki Moore says:

    Happy birthday Poppy! Ghosts are a reminder of how far we have all come. I am sure they will be very proud of you. Xxx

  7. ruth.harte1@btinternet.com says:

    Dear Poppy, After a spell away from home and this unfavourite machine I find your touching account to the north and see you’ve had a birthday! Late very best wishes and may this decade be filled with many unexpectedly good things and experiences. I wonder where you’ll be, sailing or what? Knowing you, it will certainly be vital and interesting!

    All for now after this delay. Did you get to Germany?

    Love,

    Ruth

  8. ruth.harte1@btinternet.com says:

    I’ve tried to reply and wish you a happy late birthday and new decade!Where are you? Love, Ruth

  9. I don’t believe it! You don’t look a day over 36! I read a day or so ago that time is an illusion. In reality, it is simply a series of “nows” that we sense. It is only when we experience change, we notice time. Then there is the, ‘age is merely a state of mind’ – adage. I still feel 30 – 37 in my head, Yet I am almost 20 years older. Strange how our headspace doesn’t age as our body does. I hope you are in good health, Poppy. Are you preparing for a northern Summer on the Baltic?

    • Viking Queen says:

      Hah ha…. flattery will get you everywhere! I too feel about 34! I am really well thanks Amanda and i reciprocate you sentiment. This year is the big push south as I feel it is time to move on towards, Poland, but not before visiting Ysted and Wallander territory in Skåne. I have yet to go there as it is a tricky, shallow coast with predominant onshore winds.

      • Ooooo, you are a woman after my own heart! I didn’t make it to Ystad, only got to Malmo, so I will love to see your updates when you reach there. Bit of a Wallander (svenk version) is writing this comment! And I loved Poland, such a hidden gem. The food is delicious, people friendly and a lovely atmosphere in the towns and villages. I look forward to seeing your photos lazing on the pier at Sopot, perhaps?

    • Viking Queen says:

      Are you on Facebook by any chance, Amanda? I’d love to link up with you if you are!

  10. herbwormwood says:

    Lovely post, very perceptive

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