Y is difficult.
I thought ‘Yellowstone’ but having done Jackson earlier I’ve touched on that part of the world. We loved Yellowstone in truth, spending an unconscionable amount of time watching an American eagle feed its young, precariously perched high on a cliff across a valley.
We marvelled with everyone else at how nature does gaudy in ways man fumbles to emulate. We sat enthralled, watching our watches and with half an eye on the auditorium that is Old Faithful.
There is something supremely ironic how we talk about the randomness of the natural world yet we have erected an arena around a natural phenomena with the confidence that only arrogant man can exude that the geyser will always spurt in time for the next show. It’s rather as if someone conceived the notion of training thunderstorms to provide the timpani accompaniment to Stockhausen and then booked a world tour.
Or maybe Yeovilton, a nothing sort of place in the West of England where I once went to an air museum – this back in the early 1970s – and saw a Spitfire up close and personal. Throughout my boyhood the Spitfire was revered as much as the fighter pilots who flew it in the battle of Britain in 1940. Part of the film ‘Reach for the Skies’ about a wartime ace was filmed at the green near my primary school; a Spitfire stood, tantalisingly out of reach at the top of the drive at Kenley Aerodrome, still an active RAF base in the 1960s so barred to small boys even one as inquisitive as me. I so wanted to see, to reach out to a Spitfire. It was, to this small excitable child a hero figure – like Churchill – of Odysseusian proportions. It had to be covered in magic dust, to glow in the dark, to throb with knowing. I was largely disappointed at the utilitarian colour, the bent panelling, the clumsy rivets. ‘This saved us from defeat?’ though a small boy. Frankly I didn’t see how.
Or Yarmouth, a grubby holiday resort on the east coast of East Anglia, about as far East a you can go without speaking Norwegian.
When I first stayed at the Textiliste’s home, just outside Norwich, we spent a day in Yarmouth at the funfair and on the beach. Mostly it was a a respite from the Inquisition at her home as her parents tested my resolve. Like Margate and Scarborough there is something deliciously seedy about coastal fun parks that are dotted up the East coast of England. It is as if Graeme Greene scripted their exitisience with minor hoodlums glowering behind the candy floss stands.
Every young man should take his girlfriend there at some point as a test of their relationship. As Kipling didn’t say: If you can find fun amongst the tawdry tat, and still enjoy an ice cream made from processed fat, then all the world will be yours, my son.
Or perhaps Yoxford. A strip of a town on the A12 in Suffolk that we drive through on our way to our place in Blythburgh near the Suffolk/Norfolk border. I would have described it as ‘mostly harmless’ with a neat line in Town signs, save it was where I was pinged for speeding – 37 mph in 30 zone.
To avoid the dreaded ‘Points on the licence’ I elected to take a speed awareness course. In and of itself the course was interesting, informative and unexceptional. What was memorable was the evidence that we are One Nation. We all breathe and speed, apparently. Of the 50 or so people in the room, there were representatives of all major racial groups, every sexuality, at least five of the seven major world religions, ages ranging from the minimum of 25 up to a couple of Methuselah lookalikes. And from the accents and muttered languages I’d guess the number of birth nations in the room covered at least a tenth of those signed up at the UN.
But eventually it was obvious. Y is for York, a city to the north east with a deep history. Interestingly Noelle Granger, whose A to Z is here, has picked York in Maine with an equally compelling story to tell.
Do visit York if only for the Minster, a wondrous act of faith, both ecumenically and architecturally. Or the perfectly named medieval shopping streets of the Shambles – imagine a sixteenth century brand consultant helping devise a name for the new retail area outside the Catherdal. ‘We toyed with The Hopeless, and the Minor Disaster but in the end we settled on Shambles. More homely.’
Currently too the National Quilt Museum is hosting an exhibition curated by the Textiliste. Here. It only goes on until May 9th so hurry hurry. And after stop at Betty’s for afternoon tea. Trust me. It’s excellent.