March 18, 2019
So with a little trepidation I traversed the North Yorkshire Moors to join Peter, Mike and William for a heavy weekend in Whitby. They were driving down from Edinburgh on their annual cultural exchange. I say heavy because two days are spent drinking and eating things that anyone hoping to reach a normal retirement age would assiduously control. To accelerate the reduction in lifespan all was consumed in excess.
A weekend including 45mph winds and a Saturday with a 96% chance of rain were anticipated. Last year it was the ‘Beast from the East’ and so plans for outdoor exercise remained flexible. However after ‘checking in’ to the apartment it was off to ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ for a bite to eat. The party had already consumed some bottled beer imported from north of the border. Starting as we meant to go on we adjourned to ‘The Ship’ for our 2019 inaugural pub pint. Now slightly lubricated dinner was eaten and Mike reaffirmed his friendship by commenting that “a Yorshireman is like a Scotsman but with all the goodness squeezed out of him”. The meal was excellent although there was considerable muttering, from the Scots, about paying £5 for an ice cream dessert. My muttering was about why, with flowing beer, a bottle of red wine was ordered?
Left to right – me, Peter, Mike and William
Surprising was that the threesome, in five years, have never had the fourth invited person return the next year until I showed up. Brief summaries were given on the previous cast members and Mike was especially disparaging about Alan who’d observed “you all eat and drink too much”. Another, Jim, crossed a red line by having oatmeal or similar for one of his breakfasts; clearly only carnivores with a death wish are welcome. I made a mental note to step up.
So with some cycling planned for the next day, in possibly torrential rain and gales, we resolved to take it easy on the night with alcohol. Naturally with all the beer and wine consumed with the meal we couldn’t walk past ‘The Jolly Sailors’. As usual William was appointed bursar. Given the considerable responsibility of managing the repeatedly emptying kitty he was like a small child on Christmas morning as he returned from the bar with four pints: it had only cost him £8. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he planned on returning to Edinburgh to change his name by deed poll to Sam Smith. These were downed and the long walk to the apartment was planned but a fatal attraction to ‘The Buck Inn’, next door, was too hard to overcome and we became acquainted with another dead Yorkshiremen, Timothy Taylor.
This was a karaoke bar and much bellowing ensued to Queen, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Kool & The Gang, Oasis and The Spice Girls.
We now did return to the apartment and as I had rejected Peter’s advances to sleep with him, due to a shortage of beds, I evicted William and Mike from the living room and set up camp by blowing up my airbed and unpacking my sleeping bag.
On Saturday I was a little ragged after a mediocre night’s sleep and earlier indulgences but I was considerably lifted by all three reporting similar fragility. Maybe anno domini was catching up with them? When dressed we walked into town to feast at ‘The Singing Kettle’, a ‘greasy spoon’ par excellence. With all our cholesterol levels restored we returned to the apartment and found our bikes. The plan was to ride south on the cinder track that connected Whitby and Scarborough. By being an old rail route up until 1965 it would be rolling but never have any serious hills.
I think the last time I rode a mountain bike I had a full head of hair. As a consequence as we set off I was trying to find where all the gears were and realising that I was riding on muddy tracks replete with puddles in rain with no mudguards. I think we were only about a mile down the track before I was splattered and sodden beyond belief.
The ride was terrific and we soon arrived at Robin Hood’s Bay. Not content with an intended 32 mile round trip we went off the route and descended to the sea. This was the easy bit. Girding our loins we returned up the hill, the gradient was monstrous and near to the top approached 30%. I could turn the pedals but I felt at one point that the bike would tip over backwards. Truth be told that had I not faced the prospect of remorseless ridiculing I would have got off!
So on we went down the track, in the rain, and enjoyed the coastal views.
Eventually ‘The Hayburn Wyke Inn’ came into view and a much needed sign indicated ‘pub’. I needed a drink as my water bottle was covered in grit and I had used most of its contents to sluice my spectacles and computer to assist visibility. At this point William got a puncture and I was de-gritted by a helpful Mike who couldn’t believe his luck at pouring cold water onto me.
We spelched into the pub and enjoyed a sandwich and some soup. Judging by the amount of mud I left in the Gents, after cleaning my cycling kit, I would expect to be banned. A roaring fire enabled some drying or at least making things that were sodden warm. Alcohol was eschewed except for Peter having a half to humiliate the Braveheart twins.
Michael enjoying being photographed…
The ride back to Whitby was splendid but I got caked again and on the outskirts of Whitby managed to get a puncture. A very cold walk through town followed looking a real mess to the flat where I bagged the shower first. Some clothing was too muddy to bring in the flat but other items were lobbed into the washing machine.
So if my own sport was a challenge then my other sports teams were having even less success. Leeds United lost a ‘must win’ game and England rugby union played two matches over 80 minutes — the first they won and the second they lost. This wouldn’t have mattered had it not been against Scotland! Mike and William went from morose resigned torpor to animated shouting delight in 10 minutes. If I do get invited for 2020 I shall check the Six Nations fixture list prior to accepting (as I can’t bear seeing such happy men).
The boys had despatched a few bottles prior to visiting the ‘Black Horse Inn’ and then it was onto ‘The Endeavour”. Here my newly confirmed status was confirmed as I was trusted with part of the kitty and directed toward ‘Mr Chippy’ to buy four portions of fish and chips. I bustled out of the pub feeling that I had been promoted to something as lofty as ‘Form Monitor’ and discharged my procurement responsibilities with much pride. William, who’d been struggling with some bodily emissions, was eyed with apprehension as he forked his mushy peas. With our meal complete we progressed to the quiz. I compile and circulate a general knowledge competition. I think it’d be fair to say that I enjoy this more than the competitors but they grin and bear it.
Mike wasn’t aware that our future King and his wife had beget a daughter let alone what they called any of the three children. He came third. I had thought that the other William would walk it but Peter won. (Not the result I was aiming for). I expect my exclusion of sport, contemporary culture, politics and reality TV helped him. Being gracious in accepting his title of ‘Quiz Meister’ he derided Mike for actually thoroughly reading all the questions and considering all the multiple choice answers (not that, in fairness, it appeared to help him much).
With this part of the schedule completed it was off to ‘The Elsinore’ for the main event. The place was heaving; a blues band was belting out everything between B B King, Memphis Slim and Thin Lizzy. Looking around this busy place I found some seats whilst William went to the bar. I asked the woman already sat at a table if the places were free and she said they were. In retrospect it was probably a mistake on her behalf.
Peter followed me to the seat and I said “Peter, this is Miriam and Donald”, “Hello Miriam, I’m Peter”. Now her real name was Julie! (school boy error falling for that one Pete!) Julie was from near Doncaster, probably about 60 years old and in Whitby for the weekend, staying at a hotel with her husband. I fell foul of Julie quite quickly when I asked if the 12 year age difference between her children was due to a second marriage: it wasn’t!
Peter, asked where they specifically lived and then as you would, on your first date, went onto Wikipedia to discover all you could about the Isle of Axholme. It had an interesting land drainage history and Peter was now interrogating the poor woman about a 17th Century Dutch engineer who initiated changes to the watercourse. In fairness to Julie the fightback started from here.
As an obviously great judge of character, she observed that Peter was ‘a reet gobby shite’ and, with a perspicacity that was also impressive, continued “you remind me of the most boring fucking person in class”. Attempting to retrieve his fragile relationship Peter now switched to vegetables. Obviously. With his forensic research of the Isle of Axholme he opined that she came from somewhere important as it was the capital of broccoli production in the UK. “I don’t give a shit”.
Knocking back the rest of her chardonnay she announced their departure to ‘The Station’ pub. I did ask whether when we followed she’d be in the lounge or saloon bar? She ignored my question. However, at this point some chemistry was found: with our resident babe magnet – William. A kiss was placed on the lucky youngster and then this vision of loveliness exited our lives forever.
Mike, ‘Miriam’, William and me
William whilst obviously lucky in love, on occasion, had less success with the (completely bald) landlady. On returning two ‘off’ pints was asked if he ‘liked sex and travel’ and as the proprietor was happily drinking said slops at the end of the bar the fault lay with Mike and William. Dipping back into the continuingly dwindling kitty they migrated to the elixir that is Camerons.
So how much had I consumed? I’d ducked a couple of rounds by having ‘halves’ rather than pints. William had broadly kept pace but Peter and Mike’s consumption kept them at the head of the peloton. The band finished and a return to the apartment couldn’t be postponed. Here Mike leapt into action and made cheese on toast on his remarkable home made bread. Despite this kindness Peter was not overly grateful or constructive; when Mike sought guidance on how to turn on the grill – “There’s only two knobs to choose Mike and as you’re used to playing with one knob what’s your problem?”
Our excitement was truly pathetic when Mike found a jar of Branston Pickle lurking in the cabinets. A bottle of wine was opened. Obviously. I didn’t imbibe and as you can observe neither did Peter who contributed little to the discussion on flour, various seeds, yeast, salt, brown sugar and warm water that Mike lovingly mixed for his bread.
Well past midnight (again) Master Chef finished and the boys departed. I set up camp. The next morning involved our usual heart attack on a plate.
The day was glorious and the Famous Three strode off for a cliff top walk. A little jaded from my adventures, and a little lame when it came to hiking, I bade them a fond farewell and shuffled up the hill to the car where I pointed it in the direction of York.
Regular WhatsApp posts advised that their walk went well and involved a ride on a bus! Their drive back north had traffic challenges but Edinburgh was eventually reached.
Yet another memorable weekend and I must record that the band at ‘The Elsinore’ finished with ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. They certainly were. Epic