I am in the picturesque town of Whitby – of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fame. In the novel, Whitby is Dracula’s choice of residence in England.
Judging from the amount of closed curtains and the emptiness of the streets this crisp and sunny morning, it is quite possible that Dracula kept himself rather busier during his two-week stay than Bram Stoker would have us believe.
On the promenade, the only people I see at ten in the morning are dog-walkers descending the steps that lead to the beach, the sand still glistening from the ebbing tide. Whitby is a town of dog lovers, which makes sense, judging from the way they allowed Dracula to run out of his ship and into the country disguised as one. I think it is fair to assume quarantine laws were fairly lax in those days.
I notice with alarm and then awe a solitary surfer launching his board past the first breakers before throwing himself on top of it. That takes commitment. Or stupidity. The North Sea is freezing even in the hottest day of summer, and today the temperature is perishing. Anyone brave enough to venture in has to be prepared to be winched out inside a block of ice, the moment of entry recorded by the frozen expression of shock and horror on their face.
Whitby has a special place in my heart. Do you remember, Ginger, it was one of our first outings together? As I drive through the town, glancing at the places we walked around six years ago, I feel a pang of nostalgia for the days when we were still flushed with the newly discovered excitement of being near each other, like a pair of kids who got the toy they really wanted for Christmas.
The snaking hill where we parked the car; the pub with the tattooed barman who looked like a real pirate, the tarnished gold glinting from his tooth as we ordered a hot cup of tea; the short concrete pier where we got sprayed by the crashing waves; the fish and chips shop and the bench where we sat to eat, battered by gale force winds and rain – it’s all still here.
Who knows, it may have even been here that Cupid himself, while skulking around the grounds of the Abbey, on noticing the two of us climbing up the 199 steps, would have waited until we got within striking range, then slowly reached into his quiver, muttering to himself ‘stupid tourists, arms around each other without a care in the world, you never know who’s about…’
I scan the beach. No sign of the surfer anywhere. I wish you were here today…