Did you know that [counter] people have been having a skeg at my little autonomous region?


Smoggie Power


Well if Southern England has been trying to persuade me that living here is alright then I reckon it gave up and went to the pub this weekend.

On Friday after work I travelled to Yorkshire with our Rose (third born) to visit my Ma (1931 born) who lives inYork. The journey went well but for our choice of motorway service stations on the M1. The majestic beauty of Tibshelf always gives me a buzz but, due to the almost bursting nature of my bladder, we decided to stop a bit sooner. Expecting Trowell we kopped for Leicester Forest East instead which, as my friend Andy describes it, is ‘the arse end of nowhere’.

Despite it being plastic and corporate, there’s something a bit cozy about Tibshelf and it’s a place where I’ve bumped into travelling Leeds United fans on numerous occasions and had a chat over a brew with them so I’ve grown a bit of a fondness for it. It’s smaller and quieter than the others too. So I was sorry to have missed it.

Clackett Lane on the M25 makes Leicester Forest East look like Disneyland and deserves a whole page on here to itself, I would add.

But we didn’t just make the trip for the service stations. Friday was all over and done with by the time we got to Ma's so we made an extra good job of Saturday. Well as good a job as the mad heavy queues of traffic would let us. Nose to bum cars and vans and caravans most of the way to the seaside drove me nuts but not as much as the fastest melting ice cream in the world that we bought from the other end of the car park that we parked in just past Pickering. It would have been bad enough if we had parked next to Mr Home Made Fresh Farm Whippy’s van but we were miles away from him so by the time Rose and I got back to the car with said purchases they were like cones full of milk rather than ice creams. I think the home made ice cream man must have missed out a vital chemical from the recipe when he was at home home making it.

Luckily the quaint little seaside town of Whitby was so hot that we sweated away all the stickiness from the melted ices that had dripped and dribbled all over us. It was hotter than a badger’s hot bits there and full to the gunwhales with great fat sweaty lasses covered in Newcastle United tattoos eating fat sweaty fish and chips on car park walls. How do they do it on such a hot day? And there were a million screaming snotty kids having muck daubed on their sweaty bits in the name of face painting and the driver of the Lidl Summer Fun Bus (Cliff, Una and Hank would have loved it) was handing out free ‘E’ additives just in case anyone's children were still behaving themselves and incessant indecipherable announcements from a public address system burst my eardrums and broke my spirit. I didn’t like Whitby so we bought a fridge magnet and left quickly. I could fully understand why Captain James Cook had gone to such lengths to get away all those years ago.

Further up the coast Saltburn, although busy, was much nicer. A nice beach of clean golden sand swept round the bay from the pier to the tall cliffs of the headland. Here we had some fish and chips cooked to perfection for our tea but not in a lardy Whitby lass kind of way. Here we found a really nice café from which we could see the sea and hear the gulls, just as I had imagined. Saltburn was how I would like to imagine all English seaside towns to be. Nothing fancy. Just buckets and spades and deckchairs and sticks of rock and people who contained less than two gallons of lager.

I was delighted that I liked Saltburn. I used to go there when I was a kid living in Middlesbrough. I could remember knowing I was in Saltburn in the early 1960s but I couldn’t remember any of its features. It was only about ten or twelve miles from where we lived. Middlesbrough is a strange place. Like the area where Monty Python’s Dinsdale Brothers grew up, friendly but violent is a good way of describing it. I’m glad I was born there but I’m glad I left, though I would like to go back for a visit sometime . . . as long as I could leave again.

What I really love about Middlesbrough is that it’s so beautifully northern. So much so that it is located roughly at the same latitude as the southern tip of Alaska. Unfortunately you never see polar bears wandering round Middlesbrough town centre (unless you’ve been at the crystal meth) but we ‘Smoggies’ take pride in being able to look down upon anyone born south of Saltburn as soft southern jessies.

Nourished and flushed with sea air, we drove back to York over the North Yorkshire Moors, spectacularly aglow with sunlit heather. Near Thirsk we crossed the frontier back into Southern England and immediately saw a bad accident on the other side of the dual carriageway we were travelling along. The traffic and road works piled up as we got nearer and nearer to our destination down south inYork. Today I spent most of the day driving back to Chippenham along a motorway network awash with auto psychopaths, mad middle lane hoggers, a myriad of traffic cones, expensive shit coffee in service stations and sign posts for exotic locations such as Sheffield, Derby and Coventry.

Oh how I yearned to be back in the north. Oh how I yearned for the seductive sun kissed shores of Saltburn.

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