The train arrived on time. Enough time for a quick hug, a fond farewell, and then the two friends were parted. Who could know if they would meet again, or under what circumstances. They had not quite arrived at the stage that life was taken for granted, but they were old enough to know that there were no guarantees. Wisdom had taught them to enjoy the moment, and to hold lightly the memories they shared. They looked back at those years fondly, but never with rose-tinted spectacles, they were way too pragmatic for that!
They’d laughed that day, over a rather ridiculous hat! Not even a real one, but one an artist had stuck on the then Princess of Wales, commemorating her arrival at Alnwick station in 1908, on a rare royal visit to the seat of the Percys of Northumberland. The only other woman in the scene, presumably the Duchess of Northumberland and and not the vicar’s wife, was wearing the most magnificent hat, the light and shade caught precisely by the artist, but Princess Mary’s, they’d tittered, “looked like a mauve blancmange!”‘ Which was a pity really, as the striking colours of her outfit, and the artist’s otherwise excellent use of light and perspective, made her and not the future king George V, the focal point.
They were sitting in what had been Alnwick station, before Beeching made his beastly cuts. Since then Alnmouth, on a much more recent royal visit -though no doubt once again linked with the Percys, had been renamed Alnmouth for Alnwick. Later that same day, the two friends stood on the platform, thankful for friendship which had spanned four decades (“can it really be that long?”), excited, but not fearful or daunted, about what the future would hold. There was no telling where, this side of heaven, these two friends would meet again. God willing, it would be in the not too distant future, and in Northumberland, for surely this was -and is – the most beautiful part of England.