Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Other Side.

If you look at a map of Britain, or rather the right page of a road map of Britain, then Whitby is on the far side of a vast green expanse. I caught the bus out of civilisation yesterday morning, into the panoramic nothingness of hills and isolated pubs, and the wind battered villages with names like characters in Tolkien: Gillamoor, Fangdale, Urra and Ugthorpe. The bus had to stop at Leeds station, which is like a giant pigeon loft, populated by the Greggs of humanity. It then pinballed to random towns, stopping to drop one girl at a roundabout near nowhere; or so I thought, until I saw the tops of rides over the sparse trees, and realised it was Flamingo Land, out of season. The peaks of the silent roller coaster waited, and I felt sorry for the girl who’d gone there alone.

After that the bus left the main road, and I thought that I was getting a glimpse of how backwards country people are, how hopelessly out of date, but I’d been caught out: this was Goathland, where they film Heartbeat. All the 60s fronted buildings are shuffled in with normal semis, with hatchbacks in their drives, and the steam train runs nowhere much. As does the bus route, running from grey village to soft centred town, all the time taking on two-stop passengers, none of them knowing the hours I’d spent smacking my knees on my case and waiting, vigilantly watching for the end of my chugabug journey.

I arrived in Whitby about two. Sebastian had warned me that he wouldn’t be able to meet me straight away, so I wandered around to find somewhere I could eat lunch, pulling the case I’d borrowed off Angela behind me, like it was a rattling toddler or a slow dog.

There are hardly any familiar places in Whitby, nothing you can rely on. There’s no McDonalds, Burger King or KFC, and while I normally prefer the café to those places, I also normally know the café. In Whitby, a lot of blue-rinsers and grey-chops know the cafes. Like most insults, this is unfair but deserved – because that’s how it feels looking in. There’s a lot of pubs and pasty places with their own ways of doing things; there’s a lot of fish’n’chip action, including one place with a queue down the street. Then there’s ice cream stalls and chocolate shops, arcades and museums. The town hangs on to the two sides of the valley by its fingertips – like it’s trying to crack the river open wider. I bought some chips from a quieter place in the end, and took cover from the seagulls on the jetty. It was there, as I sat watching the waves, that Sebastian found me. I’m beginning to wish that he hadn’t – more so this morning than I did when he talked to me.

“Do you believe in vampires?” He asked, after the howdyedo.
“Not really.” I said, after I thought about it. “But then a few months ago I didn’t believe in magic either. Are you about to tell me vampires exist?”
“No. I’ve never believed in them. They’re the creation of mass superstition, as far as I can tell. Amalgamated stories. I’ve never encountered any evidence for vampires specifically.”
“Should I believe in them?” I was a little confused as to why he’d asked me.
“It hardly seems worth it now. If they ever existed then they would have relied on a form of magic to sustain them, which means they would have gone the way… Sorry. Wasn’t thinking.” He pinched his head like forceps, as though casting the thought out.
“Doesn’t matter. I’m guessing there’s more to bringing me here than to ask me if I believe in vampires or not. Judging by The Dracula Experience on the seafront, I guess there’s a connection between Whitby and vampires?” – Sebastian has since explained the whole Bram Stoker thing – “But this isn’t the news. You don’t have to stand in front of the relevant building before you can talk about something. Isn’t this about Challoner?”
“It is.”
“Does he believe in vampires?”
“I’ve met a group of people who claim to have met him.”
“Here in Whitby?”
“And do they believe in vampires?”
“Yes. That is, they believe they were vampires.”

Short-sightedly, I find myself denied an internet connection at my convenience. The library and Café Java, where I'm sat now among the morning caffiene addicts, they have the only public connections in town, so I’ll endeavour to keep you informed. I’ve arranged to meet Sebastian’s defanged vampires later today, in the hopes of discovering what they know. For the first time in a fortnight I wish Samuel was with me.


Anonymous Alan Moore said...

Sounds like you're slighty bemused by Whitby and the area!
Have a look at http://www.dracula-in-whitby.com for some background information from Jonathan Harker (he's getting on a bit now!).

10:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. Whitby is the best place ever.

8:19 pm  

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