Whitby 2009 – 8

The sky is overcast again today and the pavements are wet but it is not raining at the moment. The gulls are already calling back and forth. There is still some wind but the river is calmer though it remains brown. I haven’t packed away my rain jacket as I think I will need it.

I spotted L J and Jane below on the walkway earlier but now there is only L J. Jane must be about other business.

We went for breakfast at the Grape Vine Cafe and I gave the proprietor a SilverTiger card because we liked the place and had been well served there as well as kindly treated. When we return to Whitby one day, we will certainly pay them a visit.

We thought we had seen a business near the station offering left luggage services and went off to look. On the way we saw L J and Jane on the walkway and tried giving them some bird seeds. They didn’t to know what these were and shrieked at us for disturbing them.

L J and Jane shrieking at us for disturbing them
L J and Jane shrieking at us for disturbing them

We couldn’t find the left luggage sign so either we imagined it or they were not open yet. Back at the hotel, they said they were happy for us to leave our bags with them, neatly solving our problem.

As it has begun to spit with rain, we are back in the room. At 10:30, check-out time, we’ll take the bags down and find something to do while waiting for our train which departs at 12:41. From where I sit I can see the gull pair still on the walkway. Perhaps the weather is a disincentive to action.

Around 10am we thought of going up the hill to the museum. So we took our bags downstairs and stowed them for retrieval later and then betook ourselves to the bus station to await the number 5 bus to take us up the hill.

We waited a long time and the bus was evidently very late. In the end we gave up on that plan and walked back along the seafront then went to Mills Cafe for coffee. The last day of the holiday is often messy like this. There is time to kill before the train but not enough to do anything interesting.

In Grape Lane there is a book shop called Endeavour where they were advertising maps of Captain Cook’s voyages for £2 and Tigger, who likes maps, wanted to buy one. So we walked to Grape Lane, bought the map and then went to The Dolphin to collect our bags.

Opposite the train station is a pub called The Station Inn. I think the building was the railway station once upon a time, so it seemed as good a place to wait as any.

As we crossed the bridge for the last time, L J was still on the walkway below. Of Jane there was no sign.

At the Station Inn we drank J2Os and then crossed to the station just after 12 noon as the train was pulling in. We waited until everyone disembarked and then went out aboard only to be summarily sent off again by the ticket inspector “While I tidy up.” I can tell you that no “tidying” took place: he was just being a jobsworth.

We were eventually allowed aboard at about 12:20. Our journey is in 3 parts: Whitby to Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough to Darlington and Darlington to Kings Cross. We have seat reservations on the third train and not on the others. At Darlington we have only 10 minutes to make the change, including finding out which platform to go to and moving to it if necessary.

The journey went well and the train changes were easy. We found that our reserved seats on the Kings Cross train were not together so we ignored them and got a couple of seats with plenty of leg room right next to the luggage racks.

At home everything was as we had left it and we soon had the kettle going for tea. This evening we are going to Spices in Chapel Market for an Indian dinner. This should recompense us for the disappointments experienced during our trip.

Tomorrow I will go and pick up Freya from her holiday home. She will no doubt tell me all about her experiences for the next two days, as usual.

Through the window, I see the traffic of the Pentonville Road, not quite the same beautiful scene that we have become used to over the last week, but it has its compensations: it is home and I love the place.

This has been a good holiday, due in no small part to our large and comfortable hotel room with its panoramic view of the river and the quays. I could easily have spent more time in the room watching the flow of the river, the opening and closing of the bridge, the coming and going of the boats and the movements of people and vehicles in the streets and along the quay.

There was enough to see in the region to tear us away from our observatory and push us onto buses yet we didn’t manage to see everything. There remain places to see for other expeditions.

Whitby itself is a pretty and attractive town. All tastes are catered for but the more garish elements are largely concentrated in one place. Though the Indian restaurants disappointed me, we discovered two real gems: Moutrey’s Italian restaurant and the Grape Vine Cafe, both in Grape Lane. Humble Pie ‘n’ Mash also deserves an honourable mention for its simple but good fare in a decor that is welcoming but also interesting.

Whitby, of course, will be forever associated with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Inevitably, there are references to this in various locations in town but they are few and discreet. Whitby’s citizens seem to care for and about their town and to show good taste in the way it develops. Tourism plays an important role in the economy but so does its fishing industry and this perhaps induces a sense of the realities of life that some seaside towns have lost.

Early morning: Whitby as I will remember it until we return
Early morning: Whitby as I will remember it until we return

I hope we can find time to return to Whitby and that we will not be disappointed when we do.

Finally, I must say how much the stay was enhanced by L J and Jane. It is one thing to watch birds about their activities but quite another when you are able to recognize a particular individual and follow his progress. Behaviour patterns hitherto observed as the apparently random movements of the group, suddenly take on shape and become more meaningful.

When I first spotted L J with his shrivelled right leg, I didn’t give much for his chances of survival but as I watched, I soon saw that not only did he manage to get by but that he was positively thriving. Nor was he at the bottom of the pecking order: he was quite capable of defending his territory and chasing away trespassers.

I shall miss L J. Our last sight of him was in his familiar place on the wooden walkway as we crossed the bridge for the last time. How do you take your leave of a gull whom you have come to know, whose life you have observed for a week and whom you have learned to admire for his courage and tenacity in overcoming his disability but who is oblivious of you and uncaring of your existence? You simply walk away.

Herring gulls can live for 20 years or so and I am sure we will return to Whitby well within that time span. Will I see L J again? The odds are against it, I think. Though he does not know it, he has made a positive difference to my life for which I am grateful.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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2 Responses to Whitby 2009 – 8

  1. Claude says:

    I went to Whitby twice, once last year and once three years ago. Loved it! You did such a good job with the gulls!

    • SilverTiger says:

      Whitby is a good place for observing gulls because they come so close to people. I have lots of photos of gulls from this holiday, too many even for me (a gull lover) to post!

      In many parts of Britain lesser black-backed gulls seem to be colonizing territories hitherto occupied by herring gulls but not in Whitby: I saw only one LBB the whole time.

      I also saw kittiwakes nesting so close to walkways that it was possibly to photograph them feeding their chicks.

      L J gave me some intriguing insights into gull behaviour that I hope to follow up.

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