This article is a follow up piece from my video interview with Joe Hufton, Artistic Director of Northumberland theatre company November Club last week.
A beautifully written guest post by Sarah Fae who volunteered to lead participants 'Walk in our Shoes' by November Club as a participant over summer.
It's been really interesting to hear experiences from audience members and participants in Northumberland as we emerge out of our worldwide pandemic. As you'll read from Sarah Fae's article, her unique experience of Walk in our Shoes was extraordinary and gives us permission to slow down our own pace and imagine walking with her as she retells it...
The Real Pilgrim by Sarah Fae
History seems to exist as a blue print for what not to do. As the saying goes “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and it appears (via the mainstream media) we seem to be caught in an endless cycle of poverty, scarcity, war and illness.
So when I heard about the opportunity to cross the Causeway at Holy Island with November Club I jumped at the chance to blow away the covid cobwebs. Gathering by Beal Coffeehouse the brief was simple; to talk about local history whilst supporting the 30+ pilgrims walk across the sea.
I’m lucky to live on the other side of Holy Island at the final stop on St Oswalds Way right by Heavenfield church so was already well versed on his legend. Although little is actually known about young Oswald due to his exile on Iona due to political upheaval.
Leaving Beal under bright blue skies I was confident I had the narrative nailed. I knew what I would say and when I would say it.
Then I met K, as soon as I stepped off the tarmac, toes touching the tepid water, he appeared by my side. Sensing he needed to speak I told him he was safe with me and so our journey began.
As a child K had left Syria leaving everything/one behind to find refuge in Istanbul.
Finding work as a tailor working twelve hour days, seven days a week just to cover the basics meant he had to leave his studies behind. This, he said, was the hardest part for a self-professed geek.
Softly he spoke his story of sacrifice which led him to the North East and then we belly laughed loudly about how pease pudding was actually just ‘Geordie hummus.’
They say that learning from personal experiences should always come second to learning from the experiences of others since there are thousands of years to draw upon. This made meeting K on that sunny Saturday in August all the more poignant as just over 1400 years earlier upon that iconic land Oswald was forced to flee his home too.
Leaving the sea and arriving at Holy Island was a welcome relief. It takes a lot of concentration to walk barefoot for 3 miles!
Somewhere amongst the sharing of towels and the removal of sand from between my toes I open up my phone, ‘unfolding refugee crisis in Afghanistan as Tailban take control of Kabul.’ I look back to Beal and then at my new friends, how long were we out there?
A few words written in the shadow of Lindisfarne Castle on 14.8.21 inspired by K whose story I will carry with me always.
Intrepid tepid toes
time for truth to be known
as Northumbrian sands
embrace the sound
of your mother tongue.
Not of King but of kin
and how unholy war
placed you on our shore
the real pilgrim.
About the writer; Sarah Fae lives in a chapel on Hadrian’s Wall spending her time writing poems, stories and articles on spiritual and social issues.
After ten years in education working as a SEN Teacher she left to pursue her writing career and in December 2020 published her first children’s book ‘Ghost the Christmas Stag’ with Silverwood Books. ‘Ghost’ is inspired by her experiences with a wild white roebuck close to her home in 2019.
The story is written in rhythm and rhyme told through the eyes of young boy ‘Hector the Forest Protector.’
A portion from each sale goes towards re-wilding efforts in Northumberland and the Scottish Highlands; on that note she is also quite partial to a good gulp of Glenlivet with a splash of ginger!
You can find Sarah on Instagram;