My Journey

From mind to paper and back again.

Whitby

on May 23, 2009

That bloody traffic! We could see cars right to the edge of our vision. Unfortunately they were all travelling in the same direction. The hour and a half journey continued into its third hour as we talked about the upcoming trip to Manchester in a fortnight. Minster FM was playing a quiz and the volume was turned up and down in between questions.

‘That’s not right, it’s Elton John. The song’s called Daniel.’

‘Is it? I’ve never heard that one before.’ Andrew adjusted his seat and leaned back picking at midget gems. I held out my hand for one after slowing back down. There was a throbbing in my right ankle and knee from the constant switching between the pedals.

‘Hopefully when we get past this roundabout the traffic will ease up because it’s two lanes.’

As Andrew finished talking the voice-over on the radio came on. We thought it was a traffic update and Andrew turned the radio up.

‘This is for everyone stuck in traffic on the A64.’

We both leaned in eager for some explanation of why it was so busy. None came and the voice-over settled into an unknown song.

‘Well that’s no use; they could have told us why there’s so much traffic.’

I nodded my head in agreement and put the car in gear again. We were finally at the roundabout, four hundred yards had taken half an hour to get through. By that point I’d been driving two hours and just wanted to stretch. Other drivers got out of their cars while the traffic was stationary but knowing my luck it would start moving again as soon as I open the door.

The next section of road cleared up and we travelled through some funny named places, before reaching Andrews old boarding school that he’d been desperate to show me.

‘That’s where the girls stayed. That was a classroom. I stayed in that room on the bottom floor.’ He was barely pausing for breath as he gestured. ‘We used to run to that point over there, it’s called Ravensclaw. It’s about nine miles away.’

I moved the car to the side of the single lane to let someone else passed. I listened but the area didn’t really have that much meaning to me, I’d never seen him play on the rugby pitch or sat in the classroom working. I felt like an intruder in a world that I didn’t belong. We finished driving through the school grounds and turned back.

‘Which way?’

‘That way. We’ll see signs for Whitby soon.’

My car used all the engines reserves as I flicked into second gear for an extra boost up the hills. Not long after we had arrived in Whitby and were in the car park playing spot the space.

‘There’s someone coming out there. I’ll go round and wait.’

‘Are you sure that they’re coming out and not just getting here?’

‘Yeah, they’ve all just put their seat belts on.’

I swung my car deftly back to where the spot was, the small size of the vehicle helping me fit through the tight spaces where people had just left cars, as soon as the family had gone, I pulled in.

‘Go and pay, I’ll wait here so we don’t get a ticket on the car.’

Andrew got out and went to pay; I collected my bag and turned the engine off while I waited. After a few minutes, I started eating the sweets sat on Andrew’s seat as I was hungry after the long drive. Nearly five minutes later he returned, ice cream cone in hand and a grin on his face.

‘I had to go and get an ice cream to get the change for the machine.’ He said defending himself.

‘I’m not bothered; we’re going for something to eat.’

‘No, I really needed the change.’

I laughed and closed my door. We walked down to the harbour on to a little café called the Atlantis. The decor inside was red and white with lots of little tables cramped together; it was homely and the food came in record time. We were both half starved by the time we had reached the coast and it was well received. After a lovely meal of sausage and chips we strolled down the harbour in and out of the arcades. One arcade had a grabbing machine with a teddy in it.

‘Do you want a go?’

‘Please. I’ll get some change.’

I tried over and over to get the teddy to no avail.

‘Oh, that’s the tenth time it’s picked it up and then dropped out when it gets to the top. I’m sure it’s rigged.’

A lady passing by nodded in agreement.

‘Let’s have a walk a bit further down and have a look in some of the shops.’

I reluctantly pulled away from the machine and left the teddy that I longed for. We turned and went out of the arcade to the next amusement.

‘Can we go in there?’

I pointed to the Dracula museum. Andrew shook his head and pulled me away.

‘Why not?’

‘I don’t like it.’ I waited for the explanation. ‘I went in as a kid once and it scared me.’

I burst out laughing at this.

‘Aw, poor baby.’

‘It’s like a haunted house but it’s really scary I’ve never been in since.’

It made sense now as to why he wouldn’t let me follow the Dracula trail or buy the book back in the visitors store earlier on. I couldn’t keep the grin off my face as we traipsed to the sea front and went back down towards the bridge across the harbour so we could hike up the hill to Whitby Abbey.

‘Can we go on one of the boat rides? We have plenty of money left.’

I pointed to around five of the small boats sat on the side of the harbour waiting to take on passengers. Andrew nodded.

‘Which side should we go to?’

‘That way. There are a couple of small ones down there. Come on.’

I grabbed Andrew’s arm and started tugging as I walked along the harbour to a little blue boat I’d seen. When we got there we found that it was just about to set off. We paid our money and boarded the boat off the wobbly platform. We sat down and started talking to one of the men on the boat. The man gave us the history as we sailed to the harbour mouth, under the bridge and out to the bay, passing the lighthouses on the piers. The boat had been a Lifeboat and had saved numerous people in rough seas. We sat listening to the stories in awe as the man showed us the photographs of the little boat in the rescue attempts. Soon after the talk changed and he pointed out the direction of Iceland and Russia to us and he explained how the little bell buoys worked. I sat jotting down the different meanings of the bells for my scrapbook, listening to the explanations before moving on to the little port’s history.

‘We went passed the Magpie pub earlier, people were queuing outside to get a seat, we ate at a little café called the Atlantis.’

The man stood and thought for a while.

‘I haven’t heard off that one, where is it?’

We tried to explain to no avail. When we got off the boat he even asked others that had lived in the little town for years. None knew of it.

‘Are you sure you have the right name?’

I took out the receipt and showed him the name, nodding as I checked the top. He shook his head and laughed as he still didn’t know it, from then we called it the disappearing café for it was just like its namesake; the lost city. We thanked the men for the boat ride before we left to embark on the journey up the steep hill to the Abbey.

‘One, two, three, four…’

‘What are you doing?’ Andrew had a smirk on his face as we stepped up towards the ruins at the top of the hill.

‘Counting the steps. You said there are 199 steps to the Abbey.’ He laughed out loud this time.

‘That’s not these steps. They’re on the other side.’

We got to the top of the hill. Five past six, we’d just missed the last entry to the Abbey. We looked around outside, took some pictures and wondered aloud as to how someone in the 1400’s could destroy a building so big with no machinery when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

‘These are the steps. Look, someone’s marked the numbers.’ Andrew said as he pointed the way back to the car park. We descended them with care before the journey back home. As we reached the bottom we saw an elderly couple, hand in hand, entering the tea garden we’d been in earlier and I couldn’t help but hope that Andrew and I will be doing something similar in our years together, but as this is our first year the day was just as special as if it had been our seventieth year together. We drove home and talked of the events of the day and when we pulled into the driveway we were exhausted, both of us were ready for bed as soon as we got home.

Total Word Count: 1570

Commentary

When I began this assignment and indeed this block in the Work book I thought a lot about how life writing is formed. I have read narratives, journals and even diaries written by the biographer themselves and some that were written on behalf of the person the book or excerpt was about. I tried activity 22.7of the workbook (1) and really enjoyed the final piece that came from it so thought to use that for the basis of my assignment. A biographical piece written through the eyes of an inanimate object, only to find that the amount of fiction involved was too much. I then wrote a piece that was split in diary form, similar to that of Bridget Jones’ Diary(2), a more recent success in life writing. This piece was different but when I asked fellow students to review it, they all said the same thing. That it was lacking something and no-one was able to put their finger on precisely what was missing. I went back to the course book and read chapter 21 again. I like writing narratives and faithfully reread the narratives suggested in Activity 22.2, I found ‘The Death of a Naturalist’ (3) not to my taste and as I didn’t enjoy reading that type of piece it made sense for me not to attempt to write one similar so that ruled out the poetry option. The excerpt from ‘Cider with Rosie’(4) had me hooked from the start as it involved me as a reader and the dialogue gripped me. ‘Giving up the Ghost’ (5) didn’t quite take my liking as much as the last as it seemed to me, partly a biography about the author and partly an autobiography about her godmother. I decided to follow the narrative that I preferred of the three and write a biographical narrative about a recent day trip I had with my partner to Whitby. I used Activity 22.1 in the workbook to start my piece off and I set down to work and once complete I again messaged the piece to a few students I knew would give me an honest opinion, they preferred it but most thought the end a little rushed. I edited through, cutting out spelling and grammatical errors before tending to the closure of the piece, for this I used a fictional technique as I wanted to close the piece with no lose ends. I reread chapter ten of the workbook and although it didn’t help me with the ending, it did help me with the start of the piece as I decided to change it so it began in media res which for me draws the reader in automatically as they want to know what is going to happen next. I kept to a timescale of one day and although didn’t include the entire day’s events, I used the most apt ways to move the piece on in time without boring the reader with all the little details and even showed what could be happening in the future with the old couple walking hand in hand into the tea room.

Total Word Count: 520

References

1, Creative Writing; a workbook with readings. Edited by Linder Anderson, Routledge in association with Open University 2006.

2, Bridget Jones Diary, Helen Fielding 1996

3, Death of a Naturalist (Seamus Heaney, 1980, pp.12–13) (Page 51/52 of Creative Writing, A workbook with Readings)

4, ‘Cider with Rosie’ (Source: Laurie Lee (1962) Cider With Rosie, London: Penguin, pp. 9–10.) (Page 429/430 of Creative Writing: A Workbook with readings)

5, ‘Giving up the Ghost’ (Source: Hilary Mantel (2003) Giving Up the Ghost: A memoir, London and New York: Fourth Estate, pp. 20–5,) (Page 560 – 563 of Creative Writing: A Workbook with readings)

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