I always write about familiar, often achingly familiar subjects. So this one has proved a challenge. I have begun asking people for writing requests, with complete freedom of choice, and the latest is Robin Hood’s Bay. I have never been there, but thanks to my Uncle Pete who is approaching awesome nonagenarian status, I now want to go. Very badly. It had me at ‘networks of smugglers tunnels beneath the winding streets’. Even a cursory glance in to the place has shown me that it is steeped in a vibrant and wonderful history, and Pete has given me his own astute insight in to the place. As I am writing about a subject close to his heart, I will also say a little about the chap himself. Before I begin however, I want to thank him for being a wonderfully vibrant part of my own life, and along with so many other things, for his honesty in being the first person to call me a little shit to my face, and helping me to mend the error of my ways as a boy. Cue booming laugh (hopefully).
When I pressed Pete via texts for insights in to the Bay, with his signature wit and warmth he explained that in all probability he was conceived there (adding, I’ll bet with a grin, chuckle and twinkly eyes), that he was there at the time. As a rookie RHB enthusiast I would hazard a guess that he most probably was. Something of the place must be in his blood, my reading hs shown me. You see, I’ve always known Pete to be a lover of both technology and of people, and it is plain to me that the Bay transfuses in to its born (or conceived) and bred residents a passion for both. Pete is the very definition of a technological silver surfer, and is unnervingly skilled at drawing people in to debates and discussion. As a Victorian counterpart, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe had those same skills. One of the earliest photographers in Britain, he captured the daily lives and times of the residents of his beloved bay. My brief research in to his photography has shown me that he is one of those few artists who has true empathy and understanding of people ( and that is also Pete all over). It is clearly a magical place.
Another aspect of this beautiful, winding-laned haven is the fierce feeling of community that its history seems to exude. Pete tells me that during a particularly vicious storm, the residents of Whitby dragged the town lifeboat up on to the moor, hauled it accross, then down to the shore with sheer brute force, even through snow blizzards and darkness. Only a very special place could inspire such an event. The gem I really love though is the rivalry between two respected fishing families, that was temporarily suspended during times of mutual danger, difficulty or upheaval. Pete actually met some of the members of each family. I suppose that this must be one of the perks of having been around for a good while.
I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface of this lovely place, and I am hungry to go and see it with my own eyes later on this month. I’ve been struck by many thoughts and ideas as I’ve looked in to this special bay, but I am left with one enduring one. What a fabulous thing to have a lifetime affinity with somewhere (perhaps even from conception)! I have a place that is so special to me that it feels threaded through my very veins after 33 years, but to have had over 80 years of memories of it? Remarkable. Thank you Pete, for introducing me to a National Treasure Trove. You are no less valued.
© Tom Tide 2016