Spitfires on the Line.
I’m in the middle of making a short series for Radio Four with producer Mary Ward-Lowery about a series of journeys we’re taking along the line drawn by Prof. Danny Dorling of Sheffield University which divides the north from the south.
We have met some wonderful people, including the sagacious Sir Michael Darrington, esrtwhile boss of Greggs, the orchidaceous psycho-geographer Tina Richardson in Leeds, the makes-you-glad-to-be-alive poet David Morley in Warwick, and, in Louth, the funniest man on Earth, top biscuit entrepreneur Graham Fellows.
Danny Dorling is a little vague about the exact moment the line hits the Lincolnshire coast; ‘Somewhere between Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe,’ he told us; but if you look closely at the map, the line seems to cross the coast round about Tetney; very close to where the Meridian Line leaves the coast heading north on its journey up from Peacehaven.
So Mary and I drove out to Cleethorpes, and then south a few miles to Tetney Lock. On the way, we listened to Vikram Seth on Desert Island Discs. He chose as his favourite recording nightingales singing in a Kent wood in 1942. In the background, the sound of bombers on their way to Germany. It is incredibly moving.
I know a recording of nightingales when I hear one, because my friend Richard played me lots in an Oxfordshire car-park in the absence of real ones. And I know the sound of a bomber because shortly after the show ended, a Lancaster bomber flew over the car; and while we were interviewing some dog-walkers out by Tetney Lock (which we had finally chosen as our ‘starting point’), two Spitfires in formation flew low above our heads.
Apropos of nothing this story, I guess, except to say that this is the kind of coincidence that is so hard to pull off in fiction, even though they happen in life everyday, and to notice that the RAF are still much easier to hear in the countryside than nightingales.