The Games Day photopost is still on its way, thanks to a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w uploading process that keeps crashing out on me. Oh, and also the amount of time we’ve been spending out and prowling around York (mainly yesterday) and driving out to Leeds (today). The Leeds trip was to take a quicker-than-ideal tour through the Royal Armoury museum, then out to a TV set for a visit set up by Natasha Noramly, a friend of Donna’s (and DJ and songwriter and film composer and vocalist for Fuck Off Machete, among other things). We got to watch a few takes being filmed of a new medical drama starring James Nesbitt, an actor I rather like, and about which I shall now feel very proprietorial when it arrives on TV. Even though I know for a fact that just as The Scene I Watched Them Make comes on, someone will grab the remote and go “what else is on?” and channel-hop so that I miss it.
The weather was a uniform washed-out drizzly grey for most of the day but we drove back to York through gorgeous, mango-coloured dusk light that brought out rainbows and gave a richness and softness to the layers of cloud in the sky in front of us and the greenery around us. It was just about nightfall when we got back into York, and with this being our last night here I headed straight back out to take my last crack at joining one of the ghost tours. I didn’t get to the King’s Arms in time for the start, or indeed at all, but the tour brochure said that latecomers could join in at the Clifford Tower steps so I cabbed there, waited up the hill and cooled down from my quickmarch into town, then joined the tour in time to hear a fairly horrifying story about the tower I’d just been hanging around in front of and to learn that the stately building opposite it was once a gaol where Dick Turpin was kept just before his hanging. The execution field where he was actually executed is now a racecourse, which is probably highly portentous of something or other.
I don’t really know what I expected from York, but I’ve formed an affection for it in the very short time we’ve been here, for all that I’m aware that I have very much a tourist’s view of the place. It’s the polar opposite of home in so many ways. This area has been inhabited for two and half thousand years, while I live in a city that was founded in my father’s lifetime – hell, I myself can remember when large tracts of my hometown were literally still all fields. That means it’s a place that’s been lived in in a way no Australian city can match: it’s a place that’s become comfortably scuffed and bent around the humans who live in it the way a pair of boots you’ve worn for years will get knocked into just the right shape for your feet, the way a room that only one person uses for years will take on their personality. I’ve heard the term “city as landscape” a few times but I really grokked it when I started thinking about York: these streets are so old that they don’t even feel built any more, they feel like part of the earth as much as the river and the hills.
The Minster, the enormous church in the centre of the town, has no such homey charm. Very deliberately so. This is a building that does what cathedrals are supposed to do. From inside or out, it reminds you of your smallness in the face of grandeur, it grabs your attention, yanks it upward and fixes it firmly on things greater than yourself. Even if you’re not a believer, as I am not, the stature of the thing, the textures of its stonework, the spaces that the spires define between them, the way the tower can surprise you in the oddest places around town when you notice it gazing sternly out over the rooftops, the genuine startlement when I glanced down a short street and saw that great cliff of carved stone and stained glass filling the end of it, are still powerfully affecting.
Shipping out for Nottingham tomorrow. I’ll have another stab at picture uploads when I can. In the meantime, check out the SFSignal MindMeld on the Warhammer 40,000 universe if you haven’t already, with my colleagues’ and my own thoughts on what the appeal of the place is to writers and readers.