The Whitby and the Whitby

I’ve just come back from my first holiday outside the house since 2019, namely a week in Whitby, Yorkshire.

Unexpectedly, Whitby turns out to be very much like the overlapping cities in China Mieville’s novel The City and the City (Wikipedia link if you haven’t read it and want a quick summary). In that you are either Here For A Seaside Holiday, or you are a Goth. And people from both groups walk in the same spaces, go to the same attractions, eat at the same restaurants, and yet do not acknowledge each other’s existence.

This insight brought to you after the umpteenth time of being blanked by a citizen of Ul Seaside, since apparently I live in Gothzel, and to see me would cause them to commit Breach.

This is also not a matter of self-assigning necessarily, nor is it possible to belong to both Whitby simultaneously. I expected to be able to speak with the citizens of Ul Seaside at least when I was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, but it seems that if those jeans are purple and the T-shirt depicts Dolores Abernathy from the television series Westworld, you are too Goth for Ul Seaside and are immediately consigned to Gothzel.

There seems to be one time when it’s legitimately possible to do this (apart from if you’re a shopkeeper, who seem to be able to sell to anyone), and that’s when you’re admiring someone’s dog. You can cross over and say “who’s a lovely Staffie then?” But after that it’s back to your Whitby, and stay there.

Tiny Travelling Tales: About St George

23 April is St George’s Day. He’s patron saint of a ridiculous number of places, only one of them England, and, having been born in what is now Turkey, the veneration of him by White supremacist English people seems a little ironic.

My last trip abroad was to Athens in 2019, and I fled the UK with Brexit and nationalism and all the usual appeals to St George ringing in my ears.

After a few days of exploring classical ruins, I woke up one morning feeling the strain of all the walking and hill-climbing I’d been doing. Checking the guidebook, I opted to visit Mount Lycabettus, the highest hill in Athens, because various sources assured me there was a funicular railway up and down, so I wouldn’t have to walk.

One-third of the way up Mount Lycabettus, I began to question the existence of this funicular railway.

Halfway up Mount Lycabettus, I discovered the site where Google Maps said it ought to be, and questioned its existence further.

Two-thirds of the way up, I looked up to the top, said to myself, “should I just say I’ve made a good effort at it and go down right now?”

I could see there was a chapel at the top, so I said to myself, “If I can make it to that chapel, I’ll buy an ikon of its patron saint there.”

One-third of the mountain later, I hauled myself on to the plaza, sweating and exhausted and sore of limb, and went over to the chapel to find out who the patron saint was.

It was St George.

And yes, I bought an ikon. Not just to mark the achievement and to support the upkeep of the chapel, but as a nice reminder that he transcends his nationalist following to link the English, whether they like it or not, to Europe and beyond.


Time Travelling Tourism: London! 1965!

While at Worldcon this year, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow time travellers Galactic Journey, who report on current events in the year 1965. This has inspired me to create a day trip to Swinging London in 1965, through the magic of the Internet and archive film.

Arriving in the city, via time machine of course:

Or possibly by more conventional means:

We’ll start at the Palace of Westminster:

Then follow the Thames past South Bank:

Taking in Docklands as we move East….

Passing Tower Bridge:

Join some American friends at the Tower of London:

Going West again, let’s visit Buckingham Palace:

St Paul’s Cathedral is getting a facelift, but still open to visitors:

If you come in on the right day, you can enjoy local traditions like the Lord Mayor’s Show:

Or the Festival of London Stores:

Afterwards, maybe a little shopping in Soho and Carnaby Street:

Feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square:

Take in London’s newest attraction, the Post Office Tower:

Wander round Piccadilly Circus at dusk as the illuminations come on:

And, finally, why not put your hair up, don a frock, and attend a premiere in the West End?

That’s all from London. More time-travelling tourism later! Or maybe, sooner?