/kæsƏl/ vs /kasƏl/
17.10.2016 - 20.10.2016
On Monday, we resigned from our jobs as renovators and Simon de-bearded himself before we set off to explore more of Yorkshire. We found our way to Scarborough and got down to the serious business of enjoying being back beside the seaside. Scarborough turned out to be a fabulous example of how the Brits do beaching. The ferris wheel and the rides were all shut for the winter, but the bright lights and music of the 2p slot machines (essentially casinos for children – and big children too) were lining the harbour, interspersed with fish and chipperies and milk bars. Some crazy people were actually bathing in the sea – but surely they didn’t still believe that it was a cure for epilepsy, apoplexy, hypochondriac melancholy or windiness? And in the British tradition, there was a cliff lift, because heaven forbid you should have to walk uphill or walk upstairs to leave the beach. If you are coming for the health benefits of the spa or the healing sea waters, surely you don’t want to be greedy and demand the health benefits of exercise as well!
The next day, Simon wore shorts. He is known for his positivity and optimism, but even he admitted that it was probably not the best decision he’d ever made. But the sun was out, and as long as you found a spot that wasn’t being buffeted by the ‘sea breeze’ (i.e. galeforce winds), it wasn’t too bad. Well it wasn’t too bad for me, anyway.
We made our way via Anne Bronte’s grave up to Scarborough Castle, where our Historic Scotland membership came in handy again after a long hiatus – hooray for half price entry to English Heritage sites! The views were grand, the history was interesting, and the audio guide was free. Excellent.
Back down at the harbour, we went to Alonzi’s Harbour Bar, a milkbar stuck in the 1950s and purveyors of excellent knickerbocker glory sundaes. They contained fruit, and were therefore a totally legitimate option for lunch, right? We strolled the streets of Scarborough and considered ourselves to be experts of the 2p slot machines, allowing ourselves to gamble away the princely sum of two pounds. Fairly sure we haven’t got a gambling problem. Yet.
We got into the seaside spirit of things and had fish and chips and mushy peas for dinner. Because Britain. Probably not our best day from a dietary point of view, but very relaxing and enjoyable nonetheless.
At breakfast the next morning, we were bailed up by an elderly gentleman who insisted on conversing with us by giving us random snippets of conversation. He had apparently been staying at the hotel for three weeks (goodness knows why!), lived in a suburb near Armley where some sort of activity he didn’t approve of was occurring at the old church across the road, and had a cousin living in Australia – but he couldn’t be any more specific than that. He was mildly amused by one of the housekeepers’ habits of putting a ‘no smoking’ sign on his pillow each morning – “I ain’t never smoked in that room once, I have smoked in other rooms but they had better windows.” Once he told us of his plan to go to Whitby, we quickly abandoned our tentative plan to go to Whitby and focused on getting to Alnwick Castle instead. Alnwick – pronounced /ænƏk/ for all you speechies playing at home – was the home of the Percy family, and currently owned by the 12th Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The gardens had been landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and even in the misty rain it was a beautiful setting for a castle. The state rooms didn’t win me over, I’m afraid. The constant message was supposed to be “welcome to our lovely family home”, but all I heard was “look at all the expensive things we have and don’t touch any of our precious paintings”. It seemed to miss the warmth of a real home, but didn’t have the mystery of a historical building or the ridiculous opulence of a palace. Outside, though – that was where the charm was. The views across the Aln River – supposedly moved at the request of the first Duchess of Northumberland – were bucolic and peaceful (except when someone started doing target practise with the local birdlife). I enjoyed a lovely stroll along the small section of the ramparts that was open to the public, and then found a hilarious puppet show version of the story of ‘Harry Hotspur’, a rendition that was complete with brilliantly stereotypical English and Welsh accents and modern slang. Gotta love when a medieval knight writes a letter to his cousin (who happens to be the king) and says “I’m going to kick your butt if you don’t pay me”. At last – a good story about the characters of the past, instead of just showing off their wealth.
We finished our visit of the castle with a tour that focused on the films and television shows that had been filmed at Alnwick Castle. Despite the cold, this was excellent. The guide was hilarious, and sounded just like Ross Noble (who is from Northumberland – so kudos to us for picking the accent correctly). We learned about the filming tricks from Harry Potter (I & II), Blackadder (I), Star Trek and Downton Abbey. We also watched some lucky punters having their very own broomstick flying lesson in the same place as Hazza P learned to fly his broomstick. How very authentic.
By the time that was all over, we were cold and the clouds were threatening to make us very wet as well, so we farewelled Alnwick and tootled on to Coldstream, a teeny-tiny way over the border into Scotland. We stayed with Sylvia and her Swedish husband, and the next morning Simon was in his happy breakfast place thanks to Sylvia’s serving of cheese and tomato and homemade bread. I was in my happy breakfast place too – gotta love that yoghurt and muesli combination.
We snuck back into England (sh, don’t tell anyone) and visited Bamburgh Castle – because you can never have enough castles. Bamburgh won me over by being strategically located right by the beach (well done, Northumberland coastline) and by having a free carpark strategically located at the bottom of the hill. Sure, the paid carpark halfway up the hill was only two quid for the day… but the two quid we saved on parking could be much better spent on peanut butter.
The castle itself had impressive state rooms, and a quaint little military museum, but the main attraction was the view from the castle walls out over the beach, towards Lindisfarne. The rain obligingly stayed away during our visit, and the sun engaged in a constant battle with the clouds which made for a dramatic skyline and stunning backdrop to the castle. Unfortunately, as we walked back to the car I managed to drop my camera, breaking the screen. Damburgh Bamburgh. The camera remained functional – but now an element of guesswork would have to be added to my photography. Stay tuned for unintentionally arty, off-centre photographs. Selfies should remain unaffected though, which I’m sure will be a relief to you all.