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Ode on a Railway Station


For over 50 years now I have arrived, and left, Berwick upon Tweed via the very wonderful railway station. The best in the world I tell the staff every time I buy a ticket. Maybe there is one better, Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore is another travellers delight. One often lands there at some ungodly hour in the morning on the way to somewhere else but there is always excellent coffee and a hot croissant. But that is Italy and this is Northumberland and whilst I rarely visit Stresa, I frequently visit Berwick. It is a cared for station with care for staff. Always a smile and helpful ways.

The waiting room is warm, comfortable and clean. Would be passengers smile and chat. I can easily visualise a captive audience surrounding a literary great standing on a border of conflict and controversy, stimulated by the vision of the old Castle from the waiting room window, the river beyond, the sea beyond the river and the walls beyond the castle reciting an Ode in praise of this special entry point.

To access the town itself, a riverscape walk entered through the newly replanted park leads onto Bridge Street. Amongst the mix of art shops, second hand book shop, organic food shop and cafes, a careful restoration is taking place of the 200 year old Wm. Cowes Berwick Cockle shop. A seascape walk takes you around the Elizabethan walls passing three galleries and a host of historical features. Or, one can just leave the station via Railway Street, pop down into the town and head for The Maltings Arts Centre with theatre, cinema and a grand view overlooking red tiled rooftops and the three bridges crossing the River Tweed. Lots of Ode material there surely. And as luck would have it a window of opportunity has opened as the poet Anne Ryland is hosting a creative writing workshop as part of the Berwick Literary Festival on that very subject. In Praise of the Ode is at St Aidan’s Hall on Saturday. On Friday at 2pm in St Paul’s Church Spittal, the playwright Torben Betts is also giving a session on his work writing for stage and screen. His drama Incarcertor was written in rhyming verse. Good Ode material there as well methinks. Maybe, at the Poetry Cafe on Saturday at 12pm a Berwick Ode could be in the air. Or, if the muse is giving, a certain little station waiting room could be host to a Pop up Ode. Who knows!

tricia Coxon