Monday, 25 June 2018

Marratide 2018


Something of a short placeholder post until later. By which I mean: until the PhD is finished. Probably.



Walked the Marratide pilgrimage, in memory of William Martin, for the third time this Saturday gone. Strange to do it on a Saturday, having done so on Sundays in 2017 and 2016. Noticeably more traffic. Thoroughfares of Durham City chocker with early evening drinkers, easing themselves in for a night on the tiles.

At The Copt Hill, near Houghton-le-Spring, 2018


I’ll say more about the walk later. For a proper summary of the 2016 walk, see this post, which I wrote at the time. A few brief points of observation or musings:

  • ·        Not having Graham, Bill’s son, with us on the walk was regrettable, though due to recentl ill health, he was wise to remain at home. Graham did send us off in good spirits, however, with Easthope coffee and biscuits. I hope you’re able to join us again next time, marra!
  • ·         We missed the Seven Sisters, an impressive Iron Age round barrow on top of which sit a circle of trees, framing a section of the walk which overlooks Hetton. Again, it was a shame to’ve missed these trees (image below) where last year we scattered some of Bill’s ashes. That said, the three times I’ve done the walk now there have been minor differences to the route for one reason or another.
Seven Sisters (in 2017)

  • ·         Also around Hetton, before the Bogs, it was a shame to see the beginnings of a new housing development. At risk of sounding ultra-conservative about this, sight of the foundations did catalyse much discussion around land use, social housing and planning laws, which seem either absolutely static or over-zealous, and are so often stacked against those who most need to be homed. No doubt Bill would have been keen to press for more social housing, albeit in a way that didn’t further erode the precious greenbelt and beautiful open spaces of these landscapes.

Beginnings of a housing development in Hetton. Note the wildflowers.

  • ·         Pubs. The Blacksmith’s Arms in Low Pittington remains closed, though a squad of handy-looking blokes with power tools informed us of its imminent re-opening, in August. However, if The Copt Hill, 4 miles up the road, is used as a local barometer, the new Blacksmiths faces an uphill battle. The Copt Hill is the traditional first stopping point on the route, but it looks, feels and smells every inch a hostelry on death’s door. It will be sad if it shuts, but I won’t at all be surprised if we’re not parking up there for a mediocre beer next year. Near the end of the route, we stopped – for the first time ever in the history of these pilgrimages, according to Peter Armstrong – at The Gilesgate Moor Hotel on the Dragonville Industrial Estate. An animated game of dominoes was taking place as we supped lager and gathered our thoughts for the final furlong. The day was concluded with crisps and ale in The Victoria, surely Durham’s finest boozer.
  • ·         The end-point. Two times out of three now our passage to Cuthbert’s shrine has been foiled, this year because of the choral evensong. So, once again, we paid our respects to the Venerable and visited the Galilee Chapel instead.




I’m speaking at an event called Living Otherwise at the Thought Foundation in Birtley on Wednesday about Bill’s life and work. Framed around the pilgrimage, I’ll discuss Bill’s concept of the Marradharma as an important way of framing international-regional dialogue between poetics and politics.

After that, I’m head down into the PhD, aiming to have a full first draft complete by autumn, with full submission coming – hopefully – in the new year.

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