Yesterday afternoon, at around 3:00, just before sunset, a friend and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive up to the most northerly point on the UK mainland, Dunnet Head. It was such a beautiful, crisp, bright day, it seemed a shame not to get out somewhere before dark, especially on a Saturday.
Many are under the illusion that John O’Groats is the most northerly point, as it is at the ‘end of the road’ from Land’s End and host to many charity walks, runs and cycles. However, it is this more dramatic and high moorland a number of miles further that can claim the true title of ‘The Most Northerly Point of Britain’.
When we got to the cliff edge, the mist was rising from the sea into the crisp air, creating an atmosphere of mystery and such beauty. It was all I could do to stop attempting to capture it with my small Leica camera. For a while I paused from taking photos to try and drink in as much as I could before my teeth started chattering and it was time to move.
My friend and I managed to make it up to the look-out point before the sun dipped behind the horizon and the moon took it’s place as star of the late November show.
We made it. Just in time. Sometimes it pays to be spontaneous. It was 4:00 and we decided to go to the nearby hotel to have a bite to eat before making our way home to do a little more work.
By 5:30 the moon was very high in the sky and there were distant lights of ships out at sea on this clearest of evenings.
Then this morning I got up to witness the first real frost of the season - a result of yesterday's cloudless advent skies. I woke later than I would have liked to see the sun casting its light on the frosty landscape, but I slipped into my warmer clothes and boots anyway, and trekked out to catch the last of the light before the sky was covered in a blanket of cloud.
The early part of the day felt fresh and still. I managed to alert a group of lapwings as I came tromping down to the beach through the frosty grass. They immediately flew off in their usual erratic group flight patterns, out over the bay.
The ducks were the next to take note of my presence and quacked away in a noisy flutter.
Aside from the birds, and the steady movement of the incoming tide, it was as though the seaside was waiting with baited breath. For what, I don’t know, though I suddenly became aware that today is the first day of Advent - a time of anticipation and hope.
What are we waiting for?
Well, that’s the cloud coming in....
Time to head back home for a coffee.
As I now sit in my chair, writing, and drinking my coffee, there seems no better way to finish off this blog post than with the following advent poem by Christina Rossetti:
This Advent moon shines cold and clear, These Advent nights are long; Our lamps have burned year after year, And still their flame is strong. “Watchman, what of the night?” we cry, Heart-sick with hope deferred: “No speaking signs are in the sky,” Is still the watchman’s word.
The Porter watches at the gate, The servants watch within; The watch is long betimes and late, The prize is slow to win. “Watchman, what of the night?” but still His answer sounds the same: “No daybreak tops the utmost hill, Nor pale our lamps of flame.”
One to another hear them speak, The patient virgins wise: “Surely He is not far to seek,”— “All night we watch and rise.” “The days are evil looking back, The coming days are dim; Yet count we not His promise slack, But watch and wait for Him.”
One with another, soul with soul, They kindle fire from fire: “Friends watch us who have touched the goal.” “They urge us, come up higher.” “With them shall rest our waysore feet, With them is built our home, With Christ.” “They sweet, but He most sweet, Sweeter than honeycomb.”
There no more parting, no more pain, The distant ones brought near, The lost so long are found again, Long lost but longer dear: Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, Nor heart conceived that rest, With them our good things long deferred, With Jesus Christ our Best.
We weep because the night is long, We laugh, for day shall rise, We sing a slow contented song And knock at Paradise. Weeping we hold Him fast Who wept For us,—we hold Him fast; And will not let Him go except He bless us first or last.
Weeping we hold Him fast to-night; We will not let Him go Till daybreak smite our wearied sight, And summer smite the snow: Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove Shall coo the livelong day; Then He shall say, “Arise, My love, My fair one, come away.”
('Having devout faith, Rossetti composed a great number of poems that celebrated the season including amongst others In The Bleak Midwinter, which we now know as a popular Christmas carol. This selection is one of several verses she wrote about the period of Advent. The themes of watching and waiting are revealed to have two meanings, as not only does it relate to the darkness of the long nights at this time of year, making things in the horizon difficult to be aware of, but also as Advent is viewed as a time to recognise the coming of Christ once more.' Lisa Spurgin, The Reader)