Sunday 13 April 2008

The charm of deafened birds

13st 12lb (clearly a delayed reaction to my Thai feeding frenzy of Friday); zero alcohol yesterday; 1,391; Northumberland Heritage Coast.

Well, it’s certainly a nice day for it, and it hasn’t been possible to say that often of late. I managed an uninterrupted and refreshing night’s sleep for a change, though I did wake with a start, convinced that I had blown it with the Tall Cheshire Blonde by writing to her yesterday that our only shared interests appeared to be drinking to excess and cunnilingus. I suddenly thought that I might have misinterpreted her e-mail, and that she was actually picking up on my persistent sore throat, in a sympathetic sort of way, and recommending a brand of soothing linctus. I hastily beetled downstairs and checked my inbox. No, the linctus thing was definitely a bad dream, but she doesn’t actually mention oral sex as such, either. Though there is perhaps a hint of it in the appended list of things her girlfriends have warned her about, which includes her habit of wrapping her legs around friends’ necks while sitting at the bar. Anyway, it’s a fairly safe bet, isn’t it? Women liking that sort of thing? Surely it falls into the same sort of category as dogs and bones, or politicians and big wads of unmarked bank notes? Fingers crossed, at any rate.

This morning, immediately after the Archers cliff-hanger about the Kathy Perks rape trial, I went for an absolutely delightful walk along the coast from Newton-by-the-Sea to Dunstanburgh, in the company of someone I met at a recent lunch who proved to be most entertaining and informative company. The sun shone on a perfect, silver sea; a skylark sang above the fields nearby; and eider ducks paddled picturesquely in the gentle swell. It would be hard to imagine a more delightful and peaceful scene. In marked contrast to the one which we would have experienced if we had made the trip a few hours earlier. One huge purple marquee and a slightly smaller one in a frankly unimaginative sort of natural canvas colour stood by the dunes a little way from Newton village. The larger, open-sided tent had accommodated a band with an evidently powerful sound system, which must have kept the puffins on the Farne Islands up all night, with their wings pressed tightly over their ears, and probably led to a few irritated calls to environmental health departments from coastal settlements along the Norwegian coast. The smaller marquee was home to an evidently well-stocked bar. A few bleary-eyed survivors lay around in the sun, evidently trying to adjust gently to the fact that they were still alive. I was impressed by the level of organization that had evidently gone into this event, and wondered whether it included obtaining some sort of permission from the local authority, or whether one just went ahead and did it. A question which has always troubled me in a wide variety of contexts, much as it did the Bloke who ended up in the dock in Bournemouth in The Archers.

Apart from the fact that my dog misbehaved comprehensively from beginning to end of the exercise, it was one of the very best walks I have had in the last year. It concluded most agreeably with a pint of beer and fishcakes in a very Farrow and Balled pub, which actually looked like it would be more at home on the Dorset coast than in Northumberland. The clientele seemed a bit out of place, too, including as they did an ageing would-be rock star with long grey hair and ludicrous wraparound shades. My sort of Northumberland pub contains old men in flat caps drinking bottles of Brown Ale, playing dominoes and smoking tabs. The last, alas, is now one with Nineveh and Tyre. Still, to look on the bright side, the large woman behind the bar was completely charmless, so at least one ancient regional tradition is being kept up even here.

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