Funeral On The Border
We travel all day on dark motorways.
And come to Wark north of The Wall.
The land where grandparents used to play,
And old stories seem a little too tall.
We've all come on this dark winters day,
From Sutherland, Lincs, York, and Skye.
Norfolk and Wiltshire, and then we say.
The Battlesteads' price is too high.
When I was small they had a fire in the bar.
Men in cloth caps would smoke and gaze far.
They'd lean in to hear, finger in ear.
So sound of Somme trenches might disappear.
Now charge up your Tesla, under red lights,
So the dark sky observatory isn't too bright.
Our gorgeous dinner has local sourced bites.
And the whisky and wine are just right.
In the breakfast car park cousin's eyes.
Judge our status and wealth by car size.
We hug each others grey haired wives.
And reminisce on our different lives.
Then drive out from Battlesteads, turn left.
Joined by the local four wheel drives.
Border men suited in mafia black.
To give Gordon their final respect.
Policemen show us the way to go.
The field where cars are parked. Row on row.
We're family, so the crowd lets us through.
Whispering, who they think, could be who.
They're sons of Moss Troopers, Vikings and Reivers.
Red Coats, Jacobites, and cottage weavers.
Their stone land fit only for grass and trees.
And Gordon's turbines, turning with the breeze.
In the church there's only standing room.
With dozens outside among the tombs.
We sit together on a family pew.
While the organ plays tunes, I forgot I knew.
Do you ken John Peel at the break of day.
By yon bony banks and yon bonnie braes.
It's owre the border awa'. Awa'.
Wi its Yetts, an' castles an' a'. An' a'.
Wark once had a pub called the Yett.
It's real name was Station Gate.
Fifty years back I drank with my Father.
He told them stories of war and Africa.
I knew Gordon's infinite jests and jokes.
Not his leadership of local folks.
Eulogies said innovator, creator.
Worker, mediator, legislator.
We watch as he's laid in Tyndale earth.
Laid in the land he loved since birth.
By people who knew his work and worth.
Through tears we remember, his gentle mirth.
Of course we'll keep in touch. We promised.
A timber truck roars by from Kielder Forest.
Put flowers on my grandmothers grave.
So many leaving, we have car park delays.
Then our convoys cross the North Tyne.
Past dead rail lines and icy pines.
Over the hills, not far away.
Birtley Hall, with a canny buffet.
I drop my wife and sister, not too late.
Then park on ice, up Piper Gate.
My family were all border bred.
Now grand parents, aunts, and uncles, are dead.
An old man, perhaps younger than me.
Assumes that I'm... A posh absentee?
I was born here but left when I was small.
And I don't get his accent at all.
There's standing room only in the hall
I elbow slowly through the munching brawl.
Large kitchen women are told who I am.
Tea, sausage roll? Sandwich? Eggs or ham?
I don't understand a thing they say.
It's far too long that we've been away.
Or is it just me? Because my wife...
Talks like she's been here for all of her life.
There's youths know songs of Whittingham fair.
Flown to Paris and Rome. New York Time Square.
And every beach you can lay a towel on.
But strangely, never been to London.
My wife Hoovers up the family news
Whose born whose died. And who knew.
Births and funerals. Everything changes.
Or perhaps life only rearranges.
Back to Battlesteads. Dinner to die for.
We cuddle in bed, waiting to snore.
Remembering days of African youth.
Watching stars through the chalet glass roof.
Gordon's death was sorrow, not calamity.
He'd had a good life, friends, and family.
No. My problem with his death, you see...
Gordon was the same bloody age as me.