Now that I’ve visited East Yorkshire I can quite see why they were so keen to take advantage of the last local government reorganisation to break free from Hull, ditch the name Humberside and reclaim their Yorkshire roots – I’ve never been to Hull, but the word that springs to mind as soon as I hear it is ‘grim’. And Beverley is anything but grim.
I popped up there for the weekend to get a break from London to visit a friend who’s just moved there, and it was just what I needed. Surrounded by open countryside, Beverley is a lovely old market town with one of the UK’s largest non-cathedral churches at its heart.
Beverley Minster (not taken by me - the weather was too rubbish)
It’s a particularly impressive church, dating back to the 13th-14th centuries, and apparently its twin towers were the inspiration for those of Westminster Abbey. What I certainly didn’t expect to see (or rather hear) in such a place was an organist playing Bond Themes. First off we had the main theme, followed by Goldfinger, and then best (and most inappropriately of all)… Live & Let Die. Yes, Live & Let Die. In a church. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Live & Let Die echoing round the nave of a vast church played on an organ. It was truly awesome, and made the whole trip worthwhile on its own. (Apparently the organist was doing a recital of Bond Themes that evening…I suppose churches in a country as non-religious as England have to find some way of paying for their upkeep these days).
The other highlight (well, for a geek like me anyway), was finally getting to see East Yorkshire’s famous cream-coloured phone boxes – for some reason when British Telecom was created Hull & the surrounding area kept their own phone company, which is still separate today, and as a result it’s the only part of the UK not to have the famous red phone boxes, but has cream ones instead (they also lack the crown).
On the sunday we ended up in Hornsea, a little seaside resort overshadowed by its more famous (and prettier) rivals just up the coast, Scarborough, Bridlington & Whitby. I can quite see why – the beach isn’t all that great, and the town a little shabby. On the plus side though, we got a chance to see families exhibiting classic English summer seaside behaviour – After coming all this way to get to the bloody beach, I’ll be damned if you kids don’t get in the bloody sea, rain or no rain. You could have powered a small town off their shivers.
As you can see, I was quite pleased to finally get a dry Glastonbury after the previous two years’ mudfests
I’m not normally the religious type, but if anyone has any suggestions on who I need to pray to in order to get more of this:
and less of this:
…then hey, I’m happy to convert!
Bexhill-on-Sea allegedly has the oldest average population in Europe, and boy do you know it when you get there – I’ve never been anywhere that appears to have more funeral directors than it does pubs.
It’s also possibly the sleepiest town I’ve been to in England – the streets were largely deserted all day, and even at half ten on Saturday night there were only about forty people in the busiest pub in town, about half of whom were people who’d also been to see Goldfrapp. The scary thing is, when I asked the bouncer if it was always that quiet, he actually claimed it was the busiest night they’d had all year. Which makes you wonder why they needed a bouncer in the first place – anyone looking to escape binge-drink Britain should book themselves a weekend in Bexhill immediately.
All of which makes it all the more incongruous that the town also has probably the finest modernist building in the whole of the UK – the De La Warr pavilion.
I’d always wanted an excuse to visit, so as soon as I heard Goldfrapp were doing a gig there I leapt at the chance to get tickets, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Even better than the outside is the main staircase, which for me is the real masterpiece. I’m not sure the pictures do it justice, because it is beautiful.
I’ve been a fan of modernism and modernist architecture since I was a teenager, and this is definitely one of the finest examples I’ve ever seen. It would’ve been worth the trip for on its own – seeing Goldfrapp perform there as well was just the icing on the cake, as they were, as always, brilliant.
Bingley. Keighley. Shipley. Skipton.
Nothing tells you you’re in the North more than the names of the towns. I can’t even say them in my head without slipping into a Yorkshire accent, and from there it’s a slippery slope to the rest of the southern stereotypes – mills, flat caps and general grimness.
As the train pulled out of Leeds on Friday night and the thickly-accented announcer called out the names of the stations all of the above came to mind. And then I remember I had “It’s Grim up North” on my iPod.
Probably one of the hardest techno songs ever to make the top 10, it was always one of my favourite dance tunes of the 90s – the deadpan delivery of the list of northern towns (including four of the stations my train would be stopping at) over a pounding beat and samples of industrial noises – it brought all the cliches neatly together.
The thing I’d forgotten about the record is the way an instrumental version of ‘Jerusalem’ gradually fights its way free of the beats and noise to end the song as a triumphal celebration of the North, and of course the train journey ended the same way – gradually the industrial landscapes fell away to be replaced by the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Less than an hour out of Leeds (and probably less than half an hour by car) to glorious landscape of a kind you’d have to travel hours from London to reach, which of course I just had.
Ultimately the joke was on me: I think Northerners want us to think it’s grim up there just to keep the place to themselves.