Saturday, August 05, 2006

North! We're going north, Miss Teschmacher.

Friday 4th

London to York is 200 mile, 4 hour journey, mostly along the M1 motorway. Today it was punctuated every half hour by regular slowdowns for unknown reasons. I didn't pull over till the last stretch, at a village by the name of Howden. This was probably the first time I'd set foot in Yorkshire, although I had probably passed along its southern extremes last year.

Howden wasn't really an accident. I was hoping to drop in at a local bookstore that also fronts for a small publisher dealing with works of Mervyn Peake, an author/illustrator I've admired and collected for some years. As luck would have it, they were not only closed for the summer (in the UK, I thought this meant "out to lunch") but they're actually closing down totally at the end of August. So, I peered sadly through the window before finding some lunch and resuming my journey.

We got into York a little before 4, checked into our guest-house, and then walked around to the railway station to collect Chris from his much-faster 2 hour train from London. Chris did both his degrees here before branching out into more esoteric areas like kelp-wrestling and Gea-tchy. York's town-centre is charming but not huge, so he was able to tour us through most of it in an hour.

We had afternoon-tea at the apparently famous Betty's leaving Bondi tied up outside. While it's nice to sometimes have a wall of glass to shield us from the barrage of questions he inevitably draws, it's also heart-warming seeing how many people he pulls in unattended. The photos above show a small sample of the people who came to talk to him while we were inside.

Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate, is York's shortest street, just managing to contain an entire bike-rack within its boundaries. Originally named Whit¦nour¦what¦nour¦gate = neither one thing nor the other (in Saxon), its use for the town's pillory caused the drift in naming. I recall hearing something on the radio last week to the effect that towns once had a windowless or "blind" room where drunks were taken to revive (probably before a good going over in the stocks) and that's where the term blind drunk arises. Similarly "here's mud in your eye" is a euphemism for what was thrown at you when you were in the stocks on drinking offenses....

And so .... in the evening Chris took me on a mini pub-crawl, so he could re-sample the Speckled Hen and Black Sheep remembered from his student days.

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