Friday 5 October 2012--Win and I have each passed through Schiphol, Amsterdam's airport, numerous times since we spent the better part of a day
here in 2004, trying to sort out the consequences of a one-day strike by Norwegian air traffic controllers. This is the first time we've been here
together in the nine years since, and we're both much more familiar and comfortable with it. We both still get a kick out of the overhead voice telling
us to "mind your step" at the end of the moving walkways.
We land at Newcastle under sunny skies. I was originally planning to go directly to Seahouses, but Win has never been here, and I think he ought to see Hexham and Hadrian's Wall first. Going to Hexham gives us a chance to shop at Argos. Our rental car, annoyingly, has no jack for plugging in the iPod, so we need one of those little radio transmitter interface thingies. Argos comes through, as always, pulling up the appropriate item from their vast crypt.
Speaking of crypts, we visit Hexham Abbey, and I finally get to visit theirs. It isn't vast at all, but surprisingly small. The crypt is the only surviving part of the original 7th-century church built by St Wilfrid, the current edifice above it comprising constructions from the 12th, 13th, 15th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Wilfrid traveled widely in Europe, and was inspired by the stone churches of France and Italy; but skilled stonemasons were scarce in this remote region. Down in the crypt, it's evident how Wilfrid got around that--the cut stone is Roman, taken from the long-abandoned fort at Corbridge. Likely the stone was redressed and recycled in later medieval construction, and perhaps elsewhere around town. A striking example is the gravestone of a Roman soldier named Flavinus, found in 1881 in foundations laid in the 12th century, now on display in the south transept. How it was used in Wilfrid's church is anyone's guess.
To the Wall we go. I park at Steel Rigg, and we walk along to the east as far as the first milecastle before turning back. I know this short stretch will give Win a representative look at one of the better segments of the Roman wall.
Then it's north to Seahouses, where we find our B&B (a new one for me) and rest a bit before going for dinner at the Bamburgh Castle Inn, where I perform the nodding-off-in-my-beer trick. [My handwritten journal entry made there appears to read "ARRIVED SAFELY AT NCL AND LOOKED AT HADRABIS WALL AND HEXHAM BACG" before ending abruptly.] We manage a couple of pints at The Olde Ship and another thoroughly unnecessary one at the Black Swan before turning in.