A Sense Of Place

'On the Edge' was the theme of this year's Berwick-Upon-Tweed Literary Festival. Read all about it on http://www.berwickliteraryfestival.com/. This town is on the edge of both England and Scotland, and of land and sea. What the organisers did not realise is how, in one event after another, the importance of place would come to the forefront.

Alistair Moffat, author of 'Scotland: a history from earliest times' revealed this story almost entirely by talking about places. Louise Ross, the crime fiction writer whose first novel 'Holy Island' was an Amazon bestseller, locates all her mysteries in Northumberland. She explained that the plots unfold, not only from the nature of the person she portrays, but also from the nature of the place in which the crime takes place.

The Northumbrian piper Alice Burn accompanied the poet Katrina Porteous in her presentation on 'Two Countries' (also the title of her book published by Bloodaxe Books). This threw light on the shifting relationship between landscape and community. Her long poem about 'The Refuge' on Holy Island poignantly captures this.

Archeologist Richard Hingley bid us experience the Wall built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. This wall was nothing to do with Scotland and England, which did not exist. But, as it has been restored over the years, it tells us much about unity in diversity, about the spirit of a place, and of how communities flourish when they feel protected and yet can travel to the next place.

I am told that the Simpson clan came from the Borders. So I visited the Pop-Up Museum's 'Tales of the Borders'. David Simpson told a story on film. I learned that much of this area was once known as 'The Debateable Lands', since locals claimed it as their own, and not as part of either Scotland or England. Wilson's Tales of the Borders, a publishing sensation in the 19th century are now being re-issued and put on the internet. http://www.wilsonstales.co.uk/

Perhaps certain pious friends think 'What's this sense of place to do with faith?' Ah, my friends, if you don't know where you are, you will not know where you should go next.

I am a Simpson who next week receives the keys of a residence in Berwick near the river Tweed. This river, that carries so much wonder, history and gunge of Scotland flows into and shares it all with England before it becomes purified and freed by the healing salt of the vast ocean that goes to the world. Jesus modelled for us the idea of standing in a river that flows from the Source to the world. As we learn to be as we are, and to flow, we come to a greater reality. So help us God.

Posted at 03:25am on 24th October 2016
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