Brief encounter

Conditions being forecast to be good, late on Saturday we walked down to St Mary’s lighthouse to watch for the Northern lights.

Over the past week, we’d walked across the country east to west following the Hadrian’s Wall trail. It had taken six days for a group of friends to cover 84 miles from Wallsend to Bowness on Solway. Our daughter and son-in-law picked us up on the far side of the country and whisked us back in just over two hours.

Showered and fed, we were ready for an evening stroll. The tide was out, leaving the causeway to the lighthouse clear. The others, with better eyesight than mine, decided they would walk onto the island. This was an adventure too far for me, so I waited in the darkness beside the sea.

I had been standing alone for a while, cold under the starlit sky, when I heard footsteps behind me on the causeway. I looked around and saw the dark outline of a warmly wrapped man, hood forward over his face. For a moment, I wondered whether I should shrink further back into the shadows, remaining hidden from his view. I decided against this strategy and spoke out, confident in the good nature of most people. ‘Hello’, I said, closely followed by an apology as he jumped in shock, having been quite unaware of my presence.

He set up his camera, waiting for the light display that never came. I explained that I was waiting for my family to come off the island. As we left, I wished him well and mentioned the beautiful photograph of the lights over the lighthouse which I had seen a few years ago, on the front page of The Guardian. ‘Oh yes’, he said, ‘that was one of mine.’

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