Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Water in my eyes: York memories

I was in the UK for York Festival of Writing.

At the end of the festival weekend all I wanted (I thought) was to collapse on my hotel bed and watch some undemanding TV but my taxi driver drove me through the city centre via Piccadilly, Pavement and Coppergate. Those names gave me my second wind and after five minutes inside the hotel room I put my boots back on and walked into the city.

I know York. I worked for York Archaeological Trust twenty years ago, nearly fresh out of university and clutching my classics degree. Not-Yet-Husband was finishing his PhD so I bought a tiny house in Hull and drove across the Wolds each day to work.

But my fondness for the city had started as a student. Dr Stanley took us as part of our Roman Britain course. We were shown inside the Roman Baths pub (not for the beer!) and shown the few surviving Roman parts of the city walls. York has more miles of intact walls than any other English city and it’s something that defines the place for me. I remembered, while I worked in York, reversing my estate car into a tiny space just along from Walmgate Bar – one of the few remaining places I could still park without a permit. A white van man sat across the road waiting for the traffic lights to change, watching me, knowing the spot was too small – particularly for a woman – to park in. I got it in; I am shit hot at reversing into tiny spaces and White Van Man gave me a round of applause.

Of course we went to York off duty too, for pub-crawls. In those days it wasn't all day drinking so after ‘lunch’ we'd have to go and waste time somewhere  - shopping or the cinema - until the pubs opened again. (Jeff Goldblum in The Fly will forever be synonymous with York.) And I remembered one of our friends, AP, stripping to his underpants and swimming across the Ouse while we drank pints of Purple Nasty outside the King’s Arms. I recalled games of Ibble Dibble inside the Punch Bowl.

And I remembered organising Soon-To-Be-Husband’s wedding ring to be made by a tiny jeweller in the Shambles right by Whipmawhopmagate. Who can fail to fall in love with a city with a road name like that? And how many more evocative names are there? Finkle Street, Nether Hornpot Lane, The Shambles, Jubbergate and Bartle Garth. I could go on.

Such lovely memories: any water in my eyes while I wandered about was down to the chill in the air.


Liz said...

Whipmawopmagate wins as best street name in England! Many years ago my Mum worked in a butchers there. (I've never quite worked out why she did this or how it fitted into a life where she eventually became a Vicar!) As children we didn't believe such a name could exist, until she showed us the sign on a visit there!

Jenny Beattie said...

It really does win, doesn't it? I love the mad names there. I just love York actually. I've decided I want to live there.

Bluestocking Mum said...

How wonderful. I grew up in Hull and Leeds so all my school trips and teenage memories are of York. What a magical city. I've taken my boys a few times and they love it too!

Flowerpot said...

Looks fabulous and what incredible names. A friend of mine went to the Lit FEst there too - hope you had a good time JJ and productive too!

Angie said...

Glad to see you back, JJ, and I'm loving the trip highlights and pictures. When I studied in England, we did a weekend trip to York and Whitby and I loved it. Very beautiful.

I hope the writing festival went well. xx