Believe me… your humble narrator is just as sick of eulogising about York as you are no doubt sick of reading about it. These may be the last words on the matter, but I’ve never been one for making promises I cannot keep. If you feel you’ve heard this all before, then now is the time to close the entry and get on with your day. For the rest of you, I should explain why York is so important to me. It is linked to why I am clambering, slowly, to get back.
There’s nothing like a captive audience. What I like about this picture is that even the statue of Constantine seems to be completely enthralled by this Japanese tour guide, addressing a moderately disinterested group of students. Some of them are looking at him and listening. A few of them are looking at the Minster above them with a mix of awe and confusion. Some of them, particularly the pair to the right, are looking at me taking a photo of them and probably wondering why. The reason why is the person crouched towards the middle-right. I thought it would be nice to get a photograph of someone taking a photograph. I also liked the comparison of the small tour guide, watched over by a statue, yelling loudly in his native tongue about the Minster (I’m guessing… I don’t speak Japanese, but he’d be a pretty crap tour guide if he was talking about Westminster Abbey).
Ultimately, as with everything we strive for as a bumbling, defecating species, it is about connections. Which brings me onto York.
As hard as it might be for you to believe, when I was seventeen I was a colossal arsehole. You might think I still am now, but it was nothing on my teenage self. Leaving school and taking a gap year was very much genesis for my personality as it is now – not a completely new state of mind, but actually a rediscovery. I left school and reduced my list of friends from twenty or thirty to five or six. I rediscovered literature, rediscovered decent music, basically I did everything I’d been threatening to do as a small child before hormones, girls, rebellion and the Ministry of Sound got in the way. But my hometown was not the most forgiving place for those looking outside of the box. Daring to be outlandish with your dress sense was close to a capital offence. New music couldn’t be found in the clubs and bars; it was on the shelves of the soon-to-be-closed independent record shop, and on the back pages of music magazines.
Having rediscovered a version of myself I was comfortable with, and rediscovering writing as a pleasurable thing to do, it just needed a place to be able to express myself openly. To be able to go to a nightclub wearing eyeliner, jumping around to Pulp after six cheap ciders, and not be looking out for the cheap gold signet ring swinging for your face. York didn’t create the person I am now, but it allowed him to breathe openly and to be openly creative.
These places are all important. They are very visual emblems of my own growth from a deeply irritating little wanker to a deeply irritating little writer. Without York, and the feeling that anything was possible, I may never have decided to pursue writing as a career. And without writing, I may never have decided that other creative outlets were available to me and not simply a waste of time. Photography. Painting. Anything is possible with the confidence to go and do it.
I drive home from work along the seafront, at a point where the tide presses hard against the sea wall. Often, I drive under the arc of waves that burst up and over the railings, falling onto my car. I emerge from a tunnel of water and salt mist, always smiling at the drama of it all.