It’s been quiet around these parts for a while now, and heck, how I’ve missed blogging. But I’m settling back into something of a routine now, after a brief but beautiful visit to England with Sebastian.
It was a visit crowded with firsts. Our first holiday abroad as a couple. Sebastian’s first time on a plane, his first time to England and, perhaps most fear inducing of all, his first meeting with my parents. Unsurprisingly they were quickly won over by his Swedish charm, gentle eyes and killer smile. The man who’d needed several beers and a double whisky before saying hello shed his nerves like old skin, and laughed with my family like he’d been a part of it from the very beginning.
I first talked to Sebastian about Whitby when we first met online last year. We rambled on about horror movies and I bragged about the small coastal town being the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. I’d always been so proud that the little seaside town was on my part of the English coastline, and I was dead set on giving him the tour during this voyage.
The town was my special place from a very young age. When I was small enough to think that I was the luckiest girl in the world to get £1.50 pocket money a week, I would regularly be taken to an exposed clifftop caravan site to stay with my Grandmother who’s fanaticism about Whitby rubbed off on me in a big way.
The slender, cobbled streets were tucked up with shops (back in the day we referred to them as ‘the hippy shops’) filled to the very rafters with colossal chunks of quartz, intricately crafted dreamcatchers and exquisite silver jewelry finished with jet, a form of fossilized wood found in the cliffs.
I would spend hour after hour threading my way through the crowds, finding precious trinkets that I could afford, many of which I still hold onto today. When I was about ten years old, I started to truly appreciate the link between Dracula and the town, and started making a twice yearly pilgrimage to the Goth Weekend.
In among ‘the hippy shops’ sat plenty of squat, traditional English pubs, with rafters so low most had to tip their head at some point, and ale so dark and thick it made foreigners want to toss their passport into the fire and settle in for the long haul. The old fashioned bakeries offered rustic, home baked English goodness like flapjack and rich fruit cakes, and the cafes set battered boards outside with painted menus offering fish and chips with a cuppa and a slice of bread and butter. That’s how it’s done in Yorkshire.
Whitby was our first port of call on our holiday, and when I arrived with Sebastian last week, (after an illuminating get to know the parents/boyfriend car trip where Sebastian fell head over heels for the Yorkshire countryside, and we all realised that when a Swede says fox hunting it actually sounds like something especially rude…) I wasn’t surprised to see nothing had changed since my visit last year…or my first childhood visit twenty odd years ago. And there was something specially comforting about that.
I couldn’t help feeling a little puffed up as I guided Sebastian around the town. We demolished small mountains of chips, mounds of mushy peas and huge portions of fish freshly caught in Whitby and battered to perfection at The Angel Hotel. I showed him the spot where Bram Stoker sat and took in the view of Whitby Harbour, and was inspired to write his most famous work and we appreciated the Whale Bone Arch, a set of blue whale jaw bones which were erected to honour the men of Whitby who had risked their lives in the seas in and around the Arctic.
We climbed up the weathered 199 steps – he counted them all, I’d done it before – and wandered through the ancient graveyard enclosing St Mary’s Church. I stood with him and together we showed our appreciation for the ruins of Whitby Abbey with slack jaws and wide eyes. I encouraged him to follow me over a fenced off section of a cliff walk, and scramble down an old ladder and craggy slope to reach a part of the coastline only visited by sea birds.
As the dark started to pour in from the sea and we walked for the final time through the cobbled streets on East Cliff, the eerie atmosphere I’d always known and loved about Whitby began to intensify, and I started to play a scene in my head, that of the doomed Russian ship the Demeter crashing on the shoreline, and the Count disembarking from the vessel in the form of a great black hound.
It didn’t come as an enormous surprise when Sebastian told me that he’d fallen under Whitby’s charm, but I did feel my entire body tingle, and I agreed with all of my heart when he said we ought to have a second home there. I’m remaining optimistic that, for a few months a year, we’ll be spending afternoons braving the winds on the clifftops, and returning to a cozy living room to drink tea and eat fish and chips in front of a crackling fire.