ANGEL OF THE NORTH
Although it was quite late the traffic when the concert finished was still hammering on and so I took a chance and just stayed parked up in the coach park. I think Newcastle and Gateshead might be fairly renown as a bit of a challenge at night-time, but I must have been in the cultural area as I spent a reasonably peaceful night apart from the contining traffic and regular emergency service sirens, but as soon as it seemed the late night revellers had left, and before the early morning services started coming on shift we left.
It was well before dawn, but I did want to see the Angel of the North before leaving the area so I set the postcode I had been given in Gateshead and started off. I must admit I was surprised at the look of the Sat Nav map, but what do I know of the area? Absolutely nothing. As I said it wasn’t until mid morning yesterday the penny dropped that Newcastle was on one side of the Tyne and Gateshead on the other and the big green bridge joining the two was the Tyne Bridge.
The Gateshead road system, especially the bit by the the Sage Gateshead is complicated to say the least, even after I had missed the turning once it was very easy to miss it again from another angle, but Strict Lady performed sterling work and soon had me back on the right road, though I did ignore her injunctions to turn right and right again up any little side street. So backwards and forwards through the still sleeping streets we ploughed, then abruptly she announced we had arrived. As it was patently obvious we hadn’t I checked and the post code was not the one I had entered, I reset her, and watched carefully this time as she did exactly the same, so firing up the laptop I found some online directions, switched her off and we arrived safely.
I have to say in the star-twilight of the pre-dawn sky the dark silhouette of the enormous figure had that certain something that stirs the soul. Whether it was being there alone in the slightly eerie darkness of the windy ridge, or if the intention of the artist was getting through to me I am not sure. But later in the day, when lost yet again and I could have revisited in the daylight I chose not to.
Who was it that said - never try to replicate the perfect experience? and if no-one did they should have, and consider it said.
I found this poem on the web, which I think sums up the figure and the history of this area excellently
What would Adam make of you pet, set
With feet in concrete, ribbed wings braced against wind.
I can see Eve, Moses and all the Apostles heads against sky, craning
stretched necks at the size of you, coppered, blazing in the sun.
We're tellin' them, all of us,
the ghosts beneath earthbound roots, picks still in hands,
bosses and salt skinned shipmen, women who wailed at the sea.
Tellin' Mary and all that lot in the stable,
Tellin' Judas and McCarthy,
Tellin' Kennedy and Shepherds on the old old hills
Tellin' them that we ain't done yet.
You're a messenger all right pet, I bet
Your voice of steel heralding a new millenium
starts such noise and singing in all of God's choirs, praising as
your head towers with the rest of you, chained, fearless in the rain.
We're yellin' at them, all of us,
The soot choked grandas, spines curved from crawling,
Lasses and leather skinned wives, kids who don't cry in a fight.
Yellin' that we're here and we're stronger
Yellin' futures and fortune,
Yellin' birth and don't forget us on the old old hills
Yellin' through the rain, soaking wet.
The Romans footfall echo on your ribs pet, let
History call to travellers, passing on the ancient road.
Can you feel Jesus, Ghandi and all of the Prophets, screaming
God voiced through the strength of you, challenging, shining in the dark.
They're sellin' the message, all of them.
The age old saints and the new born saviours,
Children and those not born, boys who run with forever.
Sellin' them the story of survival,
Sellin' faith and eternity
Sellin' diamonds of courage from the old old hills.
Sellin' all the truth they can get.
I'm glad you're an angel pet, yet
You're human, feet in the clay, head in clouds.
I can hear people, multitudes, all of humanity, coming
Toward the bronzed light of you, watching, lighting up the world.
I know, you're tellin' us, all of us
From the first to the last and to those still to come,
Warriors and sleeping peacemakers, lovers who cry at the dawn.
Tellin' two thousand years and just beginning
Tellin' love and forgiveness
Tellin' Jesus' wisdom from those old old hills
Tellin' peace that we all can get.
Poem by Jackie Gleeson
originally written for St Mary's Church, Wallsend