13th February 2014Special Guest Blog: Memories of Millom, Norman Nicholson, Shire Horses, Mackerels & Puffins

The writer and poet Geraldine Green reminisces about days spent on the Western Lake District coast at Silecroft beach and Fleswick Bay, and also recalls the childhood memory of a visit to Millom and seeing Norman Nicholson 'the whiskery man'.

 Jan Fialkowski)

Silecroft Beach (Photo credit: Jan Fialkowski)

Shire Horses, Mackerel and Memories

Re-discovered Silecroft beach on Sunday. It’s many years since I’ve been there. The last time I recall was in 1978 with a friend Cath. It was a time of mackerel, so could have been May – must check when the mackerel shoals come close in shore.

What I recall is how close they were to us when we swam among them. Their glittering bodies silver as they sped turned burned in one breathed marvelled moment monument of fish-flesh fins. Up and out, light-winged birds of sea, air and water sped towards us animal swimmers, nose-gilled head-turned armed bodies swaying under over tumbled silver, supple, leaping, turning, saltwater drops falling from scales silver glitter scab cut bloodied slippery sloping sea waves falling from scales silver glitter scab cut bloodied slippery sloping sea waves and falling, mackerel-in-water leaping silver skyleapers wave chasers cloud-leap-sky-silver-waterfalling in, then in again, un and under, mackerel fed speed-leaped water in flight night fled flying silver flying supple muscled arched fed fish flesh of Irish sea.

This time it was a day of high winds and sunshine, the sand blew along pale gold dust in waves as the north wind blew it. Six shire horses got skittish and galloped along the broad gold sand, hooves thundering.

 Brian Sherwen)

Fleswick Bay, St Bees (Photo credit: Brian Sherwen)

Moonstones and Puffins

I couldn’t sleep last night, woke at three-thirty with the full moon’s light making my mind lively. I got to thinking of the time I walked along the cliffs at St Bees, heading down to Fleswick Bay. You can sometimes find semi-precious stones: moonstones and tiger’s eye there, but that day I heard groans and chuckles vibrating underneath my feet. I stopped. Yes. Muffled noises seemed to be coming from the earth and grass I was walking on.  I carried on, still wondering about what could be making those noises! Anyhow, I spent time down on the beach, searching for semi precious stones, taking photos of the strange and haunting human-shaped sandstone and watching gannets dive. When I got home I googled cliff-nesting birds and their calls and discovered it was puffins I’d heard.

This morning I recalled that moment and those sounds and wondered about the faith those baby puffins must have, leaping off the cliff for the first time with their parent. A leap of faith, survival and trust.

I’m glad the full moon kept me awake and lively, recalling the sounds I’d heard that day on the cliffs of St Bega.

 Jan Fialkowski)

Silecroft Beach and Black Combe (Photo credit: Jan Fialkowski)

'Nowt good ivver comes round Black Combe'

I enjoyed listening to Eric Robson online just now, talking about the Millom poet Norman Nicholson … took me back to memories of getting the bus to Millom, as a child, holding Dad's hand, walking to St. George's Terrace to visit Dad's cousin, Uncle John Murphy (oldest altar boy in town, died of a heart attack on the altar steps of the Catholic church, swinging the incense holder ("God love 'Im, he'd 'a bin glad to go that way!). Dad pointing out to me Norman Nicholson, 'see that fellah there, chick? the whiskery man? that's Norman Nicholson, he's a poet, doesn't speak to anyone.'

And inside Uncle John's and Aunt Mary's terrace house, in the back kitchen, a fire burning in the small black leaded grate, kettle swinging on the hob, the iron hook fascinated me. And the green and white check frilled bit of curtain, hanging across the high mantel piece… I recall seeing the slag banks burning in the evening when we were on our way home to Ulverston. Mam telling me that like your Dad's Mam, Norman Nicholson's Mam also came from Cornwall. Later learning that the Cornish tin miners came to Lancashire and Cumberland, bringing with them their expertise.

Sometimes, Mam and me would get the bus to Millom, visit the Murphys. We'd get off the bus at The Green, walk round the ruined Castle, before heading into town. 'Nowt good ivver comes round Black Combe' is the saying. But, I used to think, as the train swung out of Millom station, and us heading up the coast to Nethertown for our annual holiday in the cliff top bungalow, Borneo, that we did, and we were good, sometimes, weren't we?

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Geraldine Green is a freelance creative writing tutor, mentor and published poet.  She lives in Ulverston on the Furness Peninsula Cumbria, where she was born. Her latest collection, 'Salt Road’ was published by Indigo Dreams in September 2013. Geraldine is currently working on a new pamphlet collection, A Wing and a Prayer, as part of her post as writer-in-residence at Swarthmoor Hall. She is a guest tutor at the Hall and also at Brantwood, Coniston.

Geraldine Green’s Blog - geraldinegreensaltroad.blogspot.co.uk

More poems by Geraldine Green - www.western-lakedistrict.co.uk/geraldine-green-poems

Millom - www.visitcumbria.com/wc/millom/

St Bees - www.visitcumbria.com/wc/st-bees/

Norman Nicholson Society - www.normannicholson.org/

Whitehaven - the perfect day out
Millom & Black Combe

Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.