Yesterday marked a whopping 38 years since I wrote my first “proper” poem. You might think “why and how does she remember?” Thing is, I’m great at remembering birthday and anniversary dates so this one extra date isn’t hard for me to keep in my brain’s calendar.
I mentioned my poetic anniversary to friends as we sat outside Cullercoats cafe Sea You There enjoying the sunshine and our lunchtime sarnies yesterday. I took them to the Watch House opposite to marvel at the monthly food fair and told them about future poetry/music gigs I’ve got lined up in my favourite seaside venue.
We spent the next few hours walking up to St Mary’s Lighthouse and back. We commented on the calm sea, the paddleboarders in Cullerfornia Bay and the seals basking in the sunshine on the rocks behind the lighthouse. I bought us ice creams and we laughed at the Monkey’s Blood sticking my debit card to the machine as I tried to swipe.
I told my friends I’d be watching Lyra when I got home. I knew Channel 4 was screening Alison Millar’s documentary about the murdered journalist Lyra McKee and I wanted to sit down and concentrate on it. I did. What a film. It’s four years since Lyra was shot in the head filming and making notes at a night time disturbance in Derry.
Millar’s sublime documentary mixes film footage and audio of Lyra the journalist plus delightful, funny moments from her family’s archive of Christmas celebrations and her first communion. There’s footage too of the night Lyra died as well as her funeral packed with politicians from all parties. Even though Stormont wasn’t sitting, Lyra’s death forced DUP and Sinn Fein to be on the same pew.
I caught the sun on my afternoon stroll to St Mary’s and my hot face the colour of Monkey’s Blood was soon covered by tears as I watched Lyra. How can someone who is alive and articulating on the screen be dead? It doesn’t seem possible. Her partner, family, friends and countless admirers will keep her work and her memory alive.
I wrote my first poem on the 15th April 1985 in Northern Ireland. I have an abiding interest in “The Troubles” and how they affect the island of Ireland and the rest of the UK. Perhaps the recent 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, Joe Biden’s visit and the continued silence from Stormont will insire me to write. Who knows but I wish Lyra was still here to blog, type and TED talk about Ireland. She is an inspiration. Thank you Alison Millar.