Darts and Fish Dories


I remember that summer day with college chum Jim Carson when we arrived at Newbiggin by the Sea. We were traveling up the east coast and had passed Newcastle upon Tyne with the intended destination shortly of Bamburgh Castle. (I had seen pictures of this historic structure in National Geographic, as from its promontory it faced ancient winds and enemies from the North Sea.)

We had purchased newspaper fish and chips after registering in a beaten down but friendly frame hotel. An old retiree approached us on the dock and easily began a pleasant conversation. But the Northumberland dialect was the problem:

"Zo, ye are Canucks are ye? Whoot a zurproise! Yewzed te be mony Canucks 'eere, doon tha shorr. Soobmarrin baze. Durn tha warr. Near Blyth." Jim looked at me totally speechless. But the cordiality of it all soon got us over the bumps.

Satiated with the haddock, chips and malt vinegar, we returned to the hotel just in time for the warming up of darts and soccer choruses in the small pub. The owner and his son challenged us to a round, no money on the table. Setting down my Bass Charrington, I stepped up to the line and gave it my best. For years in our basement at home I had relieved my studies flinging away at a dartboard. But these two NEVER missed. Jim shared in this exercise of desperation. Our opponents managed to be most cordial as they whipped us. A couple of hours passed in male conversation. Little alcohol actually being consumed in the pleasant exchange. Off to bed up the creaky staircase.

Next morning I resolved to rise early and get down to the beach. My first time ever at a seashore. (Jim had had the Florida trips with family.) There I beheld a scene generations old. Small dories coming in with the catch of darkness, and villagers, baskets in arms, bargaining for fresh fish. I sat in the sand, took in the banter in that strange and happy Northumberland sound and smelled the brine. There was an inner registration of the sea, touching in me my mother's Danish roots.

And the next day...Bamburgh, looking down from the parapet on acres of sand and surf.

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