The sundered town beside the sea

Inhabitants of North and South Shields each call their town 'Shields', as do the local newspapers the (South) Shields Gazette and the (North) Shields Weekly News. Growing up in North Shields I thought of South Shields as somewhere distant and strange. It certainly never occurred to me that the two Shields might be parts of a single divided town. In my twenties I was a regular visitor to Berlin and became fascinated with the divided city which, during the Cold War, we thought of as the place 'nearest the realities of the age'. Did my interest have its roots in the unrecognized division of my own childhood home?

In his poem
'The town where I was born' James Kirkup (born in South Shields) describes his '"almost daily journeys" on the Market Place Ferry as "an enchanted voyage . . . loaded with lust and library books". But he also suggests that the division of the town in some way explained and reflected his own sexual ambiguity and sense of alienation.

And now I see it was from that divided town, that Scylla
and Charybdis my lightning-struck divisions came -
the ambiguities of being, thought and action.

It tugged my heart, my loyalties, my dreams, my passions
in opposite directions - made me love and hate
the sundered town beside the sea, beneath colossal skies,

made me cherish and abhor my roots, my origins
my faults, my gifts, and even life itself. I became that ferry
on the great river rising to a sea of doubt and death."

1 comment:

  1. North of the river is better, but the other Shields does have the wonderful "Conversation Piece" and a better view across the river