Time to head back south.
By Parson Thru
Driving west across Yorkshire. Probing for the slip-road – A1M, southbound. The South. I think about what I’m leaving. About family. Distant in our own little ways, but pretty much all the family we have. I think of North Yorkshire, off to the right. Villages and towns scattered among hills and across the big flat plain that once held a scouring glacier. Lost little hamlets that give the sense that you haven’t really arrived anywhere.
Places that once felt like home.
Now just places to pass through.
Still, something in me feels like turning right. A1 North. Dishforth. Leeming Bar. The A170, slashing across from Scarborough to Bedale, Leyburn and the Dales. “Now then, Veterinary.” The A59 out to Blubberhouses, Skipton and curving right towards Kendal and the Lakes.
Did you know that the fearsome Eric Bloodaxe was allegedly caught escaping on this road, dressed in women’s clothes and put to ‘t sword by Alfred the Great’s son? “We won’t ‘ave any of that ‘round ‘ere young fella-me-lad. Taste sum cold English steel.” It all happened somewhere around there. I digress.
I could press on past Northallerton – invisible administrative centre – through County Durham, inspiration of a hundred sad stories about mines whose seams run out under the North Sea (my mother’s a sucker for them), and up to Newcastle, whose second syllable only the locals emphasise. A day’s drive will take you on past Sedburgh or Jedburgh (one east, one west) and Holy Island, on to Edinburgh. In thirty-five years I made it there three times. Not a bad average.
I am drawn. By blood or by nostalgia, I know not which. But I pass a tired sign for Hazlewood Castle – home of perfect wedding days (we don’t worry about the marriage anymore) – and slip into the lane for A1M (South), my current home, and work. My half-one meeting won’t wait for trips around Swaledale or views of Lindisfarne across the fished-out sea. Vikings had the best of it, anyway.
North Yorkshire – the North Riding of old threadbare textile maps – swings into my door mirror behind a Scania hauling Mercedes cars. I could have carried on to Leeds, ten miles west and place of my re-birth. Home to most of my dad’s family – my cousins, childhood Christmases and eventual estrangement. Oh well. I press on south.
Off to the right somewhere, my aunty and a cousin. Poor souls. Two of the nicest and most wronged people I ever met. But I tell myself I don’t have time to stop – half-one meeting with a Director – can’t possibly be late. Silenced mines, uneaten Pontefract cakes and Haribo. The place is a shit-hole. I’ll call next time.
I settle in for the long drag. Lorry-spotting. Slipping Robert Earl Keen into his slot – not heard him for a while. Wiping intermittent rain from the screen and a tear from my eye. Time to head back south.