The High Street of a North Down coastal town is abuzz this morning with charity Santas atop tractors, their klaxon horns fit for a second coming. Christmas jumpers are also out, tinsel wrapped, in queues outside butchers’ or flitting in and out of un-shuttered shops: saddlers, greengrocers, jewellery and watch repairs, then bakers, hairdressers or ‘Ice Creams to go’.
This street from another age has kept One-Click purchasing at bay. For now. It’s still a place of interaction, of social cohesion.
In the Co-op, a man greeted with ‘You back already?’ smilingly holds up a fluorescent tube and announces, ‘I am the light.’
Everywhere relief and release are in the air – from the tyranny of the rush, or the trudge through storm, hail, or Belfast’s mean crowded streets.
Today the pleasure principle rules: touch-test the firmness of last-minute vegetables or loiter over coffee observing others gathering treasure.
The sky becomes bright above a town that knows all about stables, starry, starry nights of deep silence, and Story that restores order to chaos. High on gable walls, giant King James quotes echo out as reminder. This place now part of something bigger on the cusp of arrival. The memory of tonight and tomorrow will carry many through dark times.
Everywhere, stars, snowmen or desert travellers have been stencilled onto windows. Then Nature also puts on a display.
On our way to the harbour, it seems as if a conjurer removes a rippling silk handkerchief to reveal a towering vault of sky burnished blue – into which seagulls soar above a low sun, their wing tips a luminous pink. Both the lighthouse and the whites of houses are aglow in this golden hour that will last all day. Light for the fleet to find its way home by, and for me also.
In the crackling air you can see for miles … past Ailsa Craig to a whaleback of Galloway coast rising, about tae blow. The world become a lustrous, wrap-around cinema screen.
Gulls cry, hung in the breeze. Like they always did when we lived by the sea, when we set out on other journeys. We go to see new things, then perhaps see home with new eyes.
Roy Uprichard is a retired teacher who has published three ‘Camino type’ memoirs:
- On (and off) The Portuguese Way. Celtic Connections – Galicia, Ireland and Everywhere.(2021)
- Stone and Water – Walking the Variante route of the Camino Portugues.(2018)
- Restless Hearts – Walking the Camino de Santiago. (2016)
You can view his profile on Amazon.