Stormy Weather

I always think you can tell a lot about a place from its signs.  In the south of England, we were warned to keep to the path and stay in control of our dogs.  In North Yorkshire both the tone and the message are gentler.

And who can resist a village that allows sheep to graze freely?

The signs are in keeping with the people, who are warmer and friendlier than southern people.  On our first night we had a long and spirited conversation with the B ’n’ B owners about Brexit. They voted to leave because of their perception that people can come into the UK from other EU countries and collect generous benefits without having to work.  This is a widespread belief that we heard repeatedly.  Not surprisingly, there’s almost no data to suggest that these fears are founded.  In fact, British citizens claim more in benefits in other EU countries than vice versa! The issue of EU membership is one of the most obvious differences between the north and south, with northerners generally opposed to the EU and southerners generally supportive of membership.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as warm as the people. It was “unsettled” as weather people like to say: torrential downpours in North Yorkshire, and cool and cloudy in the Yorkshire Dales.

One misty morning we managed to get out for a moor walk where the heather was in bloom.

But by lunch time the rain was sheeting down, so we drove to the seaside village of Robin Hood’s Bay.  The village is a maze of narrow, higgledy-piggledy streets that spills down a steep hillside to the North Sea.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, Robin Hood’s Bay was a hotbed of piracy. Apparently, the houses are connected by cellar tunnels.  It’s said that stolen goods could be transported from the bottom to the top without seeing the light of day.

As someone who has lived on the coast, I can only imagine what the tides must be like to warrant this seawall

We also visited the pretty town of Whitby, which is more than 1000 years old.  It’s famous for its black jet  — the fossilized remains of monkey puzzle tree.  Jet was popularized by Queen Victoria who wore jewellry made from it after the death of her husband.  The town also inspired Bram Stoker to write “Dracula,” which has resulted in brisk business for Goth tourism.  More conventionally, it’s famous for its seafood.  We can attest to the superiority of their oak-smoked kippers (yum).

We suspected that Monty Python had visited Whitby, and based their skit about the Arguments Office on this sign in the old part of town. Perhaps they did, but, prosaically, the yard is merely named for the Argument family.

Finally, we headed to Staithe, another pretty fishing village, with a Captain Cook association.  As a boy, Cook worked here as a grocer’s assistant before tossing in life on land to become an apprentice in the Merchant Navy.

After three days, with no break in the rain in sight, we decamped to the home of our friends Stu and Debs in the Yorkshire Dales.  The Dales is a national park located north of Manchester and east of the Lake District.  There we practiced the time-honoured response to rainy weather:  good wine, good food (prepared by Debs who is a brilliant cook), and good company.  We even had a couple of fires (in July!) in the “snug” which is a lovely British term that should be adopted by Canadians.  A snug is a small, comfortable room with a fire to which you retreat when the weather sucks.

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