It’s only in the last year since moving from inland to the coast that I have begun to appreciate the desolate romance of an out-of-season seaside town. Walking around empty streets, passing the anonymous shutters that hide an ice cream stall or a hokey clairvoyant, you remember the energy of the crowds but you also enjoy the silence. Walking around an empty, closed up seaside town is like going to a school in the evening after all the kids have gone home, or when I used to clean offices in York at two in the morning. By day these places are bursting with kinetic energy, like a waterbed with a thousand leaks being jumped on, but when it all settles down you can press your cheek against cold stone and feel the distant vibrations of a bear in deep hibernation. The back and shoulders barely move, the breathing is soft to non-existent, but you sense the faintest poke of a heartbeat. When I cleaned the offices and warehouses in York in the dead hours, wearing six layers and sometimes so cold that my bleach turned to gel, everything seemed to find a voice. Desks, floorboards, doors, ceilings all clicked and pulsed back to a natural state. One factory I remember terrified me, particularly the locked wardrobe at the end of a corridor that I NEVER turned my back on. I would hoover backwards. I knew I was totally alone except for a building free from humans finally stretching it’s muscles.
Whitby reminds me of a spare room filled with inelegantly stacked boxes. Houses and churches seem to sit unevenly on top of each other. In summer it can be unbearable, but in the close season you can remember the true character of the town. The narrow streets stop being bottlenecks and become medieval portals again. The famous steps can be navigated without the soft hum of voices counting, in the vain hope that several hundred years of history have been incorrect and that 199 isn’t the true number. Blasted by a brutal North Sea wind, and dodging showers, I walked amongst the ghosts. Whitby is home to an inordinate number of men who look like stereotypical Victorian sailors, a town of a thousand Buster Merryfields, and you wonder how many of them are real. I tried to take a photo of one as he sat, peaked cap thick beard and pipe, but the muttering and the one working eye boring a hole through my forehead convinced me otherwise. I’m bona fide, I’m not from London
The words are trickling out, slowly. My recent entries have been unfocused blasts of raw emotion, the better to get something out after periods in the wilderness. Photography is nice but writing will always be the main passion. I feel energised as I did clopping around Whitby’s empty streets today, sad to have missed the goths but happy to absorb the dust via osmosis. Introverted alleyways no longer have to perform. The town can now return to staring out to sea. Without wishing to have delusions of grandeur (and wouldn’t that make a change), I think I know how the town feels right now.