Happy New Year! In north Northumberland we have had hard frosts but, so far, have escaped snow except for a light dusting. This is in contrast to southern and western parts of Britain.
Looking back, we had some interesting trips during 2017. In September we had a week in Galloway when it rained every day but one. But it didn't stop us getting out to see the amazing number of historic and archaeological sites. This is a really interesting area.
In May we had a fantastic visit to Cyprus. In June we went on a National Trust for Scotland cruise to Orkney, Shetland and St Kilda. This was the third time we have landed on St Kilda and the second in warm, sunny weather. The passage out was very rough! I have put some photos on the Gallery page.
At the Borders Book Festival in June, I read an extract from my contribution to the Border Writers' Forum Anthology, Border Voices. This was at Melrose in the Scottish Borders and I was one of ten readers. The theme of the Anthology was 'Bridges' and my contribution was entitled 'Bridges to Heaven'.
A current project which is taking up much of my time is the inspection and recording of historic buildings in connection with the Branxton & Crookham Village Atlas Project. This is a community project administered by the Till Valley Archaeological Society with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In addition to the Historic Buildings Group, there are three other groups of volunteers dealing with archaeology, social history and oral history. There is more information on the TillVAS website—there is a link below.
My fourth book on local topics, Breamish and Till: From Source to Tweed, is available for sale, published by the Till Valley Archaeological Society (TillVAS)(www.tillvas.com), ISBN 978-1-291-58938-2 Price £10. Net proceeds of sale go to the Society.
Information about this and other books, articles and poems can be seen on my Books & Books (cont.) pages and copies of some may be bought by clicking on the blue link at the top of the Books page and following the instructions.
I had a surprise on a National Trust for Scotland cruise to Norway and Svalbard when I won first prize in the onboard poetry competition judged by Scottish writer, poet and guest lecturer, Kenneth Steven. All the entrants had to choose a subject related to the cruise and my inspiration came from the towering cliffs of the Magdelenafjorden glacier viewed from the Black Prince as she edged slowly towards the snout. I have persevered since as a non-prolific poet! This is the poem that started it all:-
Below the Sea Glacier
A towering, hanging cliff of blue and white; I gaze aloft
At changing patterns in pink-capped ice;
A heaviness of crumped and creviced shapes,
Held timeless, fixed in awesome state.
A frozen, ancient, pent-up strength; I sense the force,
The endless shifting weight behind the face;
A fractured, bursting, furious dam, suspended
In fearful, looming, threatening power.
A startling sound of splitting blocks; I whirl in awe,
At plunging, shattered, cut-glass stacks;
A thousand stabbing swords of crystal light
Slice through the viscous, inky depths.
A tumbling, plunging, roaring mass; I watch aghast
As whirlpools grow and fountains sprout,
And shuffling, crunching, sliding shards
Plunge with wild and angry strife.
A widening swish of jostling flows; I stand and stare
At whistling, hissing, rustling shapes,
As slowly, flowing, glistening, spinning,
They glide towards eternity.
© Antony Chessell
I was very pleased to have a poem in the spring/summer 2013 issue of The Eildon Tree (free from Scottish Borders Libraries). 'St. Kilda People' was inspired by a visit to the remote islands way out in the Atlantic Ocean when my thoughts turned to the people who inhabited the main island of Hirta for hundreds of years before evacuation in 1930.
I also had a poem published in the autumn/winter issue. 'Who am I?' expresses my thoughts on my genetic make-up and asks the question in the title. It does reach a conclusion—I think!