Monday 30 July 2012

Pie Eater

I'm giving you a million points for your stylish tickets, West Yorkshire Metro.  Then I'm deducting them all for your overcomplicated pricing system.

On Merseyside, it's simple.  If you want to hop on and off public transport, get a Saveaway.  £4.70 and you can go anywhere.  If you're just going by train, well, there's the Day Saver, but that's only 10p cheaper so you may as well get the bus and ferry options in there as well.

Head to West Yorkshire though and you get a whole bunch of different options.  DayRover, MetroDay, train only, bus only, bus and train, bus and train and pack horse,  bus and train and pack horse and the back of a man named Stuart.  On top of that, it's all much more expensive.  The Saveaway equivalent is £7.10, fifty percent more expensive than its Scouse brother.  (I'm not even going to start to try and comprehend Manchester's ticketing system.  There are scientists at CERN who have that on their to-do list after they've uncovered the secrets of the multiverse).

Grumbling slightly, I forked over £6.20 (SIX POUNDS TWENTY PENCE) so that I'd have the run of West Yorkshire's railways.  I was going for a very specific strip: the section of the Penistone* Line from Huddersfield to Denby Dale.  This is the entire length within the county border, so at least I'd get some value out of my £6.20.  SIX POUNDS TWENTY PENCE.

Lockwood, my first stop, was still in town; in fact, this is where The BF's best mate actually lives.  The station bears the scars of its downgrade in importance.  The Penistone* Line used to be double tracked all the way, but now it's just one set of rails.  It makes the stations lop-sided, often with sad abandoned platforms across the way, covered in bushes and moss.

At Lockwood, a subway under the tracks has been blocked off forlornly.  Looking at it, I'm guessing that was a nice, open gateway, until someone realised that rubbish and leaves could get through the bars.  Instead of tidying up the debris, or modifying the gates so it didn't happen, they just clamped a big heft of steel across the front and left it.  Sometimes this country can be soul crushingly ugly.

I headed down the hill into town.  Despite the weatherman's worst predictions, it was a warm and pleasant day, dry for once.  I didn't think it was warm enough to take my shirt off, but an extremely well built Asian man I passed disagreed, and bless him and his pectoral muscles for it.  The hill was almost vertical, the type where you realise your feet are at an acute angle to your body, as it plunged down into the centre of Lockwood.  Down there, the River Holme was bridged amongst small shops and restaurants.  A shop named How Bazaar won the prize for Place I'd Shop At Just Because Of The Name; a pun always wins me over.  It wasn't all gentrified though.  A large double fronted store sold workmen's equipment, a dummy in the window modelling a high-vis overall next to a display of helmets in a variety of fetching colours.

I crossed the bridge and started making my way up the hill on the other side.  I realised that this was a dreadful prediction of things to come.  As I conquered the Northern Rail map I was going to be spending an awful lot of time just staggering up and down hills.  I might need to invest in some kind of ankle support system.

I was fascinated by the way builders had dealt with this geographical nightmare.  Rather than adapting to the contours of the hill, they'd just ignored it, and had built up to a flat surface for the house's foundations.  They just dismiss Mother Nature out of hand.  It means that the streets have a weird, slightly terrifying air of being close to collapse the whole time.  A row of houses looks perfectly normal until you come to the driveway in between, and you can see that it plunges down a sixty degree slope to a parking spot about four miles away.  There are gouges in the tarmac where generation after generation of exhausts have clonked their way over the top, trying to find a piece of flat ground.

In the distance, like a strange mythological tower, is the Lockwood viaduct.  It rises up out of the trees and just begs for the Hogwarts Express to ride over the top.  We were both taking roundabout routes to the next station, just on opposite sides of the river.

I passed pretty cottages, grouped around tiny front lawns, and then more modern suburban homes with proper drives and garages.  A family were in the process of moving house, and had paused to grip mugs of steaming tea and say goodbyes to neighbours over the fence.  The youngest child chased me making gun noises and aiming two fingers.

Berry Brow was a bit more downmarket, a bit less special, but still had that commanding view over the valley.  Its houses were workmen's cottages, its pubs were stout and square, with plastic lawn chairs outside for the smokers.  Just before the station high rise flats emerged above the treetops; the view from the top floor must be like being God.

There's a layby for the station, which was being used by a taxi driver as I passed, playing with his PSP between calls.  I took the station sign pic quickly.  I'm not keen on the Metro logo - that M is just too plain for me.  It's utilitarian rather than understated.

Down below, there's a platform and a bus shelter and, pleasingly, an ironwork noticeboard.  The Penistone* Line Partnership are extremely dedicated, and throughout my trip I'd see the fruits of their work - a signpost here, an ad for music trains there, some guided walk brochures.

I took up residence in the shelter and continued listening to my audiobook, Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman.  Astute readers will have noticed I am not, in fact, female, but it doesn't matter: the book is frequently hilarious, often obscene, and thoroughly thought provoking.  It got me riled up in feminist fury, even though, as a man, I could have just spent my time being thankful that I never had to get to grips with Tampax.  When a teenage girl arrived on the platform I wanted to grab hold of her and demand that she not give in to societal pressure to wax her vagina.  I didn't of course, because I'm not mental.  Well, I am mental, but I'm sane enough to know what things will get me arrested for sexual harassment, no matter how much you shout "I was trying to save her from the patriarchy!"

Fortunately a train arrived and saved me from all this, taking me to Honley.  Again, the Penistone* Line Partnership had been at work, decorating the fence with textiles from local schoolchildren.  (They were framed of course - they hadn't just scattered a load of old hankies about).

Like Lockwood, there was a closed off subway.  While that was ugly and basic, the gate here was red-painted and pretty.  It was the difference between town and country; the assumption that the people in the city didn't deserve nice things.

Having said that, Honley doesn't have a proper station sign, but Lockwood does, so I think Lockwood wins.

Instead of going up and over the hills this time, I walked down into the valley, following the course of the river.  Civilisation had clustered into the narrow gap.  Houses and factories wedged themselves into the space beneath the hills and the shore, with a spindly road threading between them.

Further along, I was reminded how this pass would have been exploited.  There was a toll bar, listing the charges for the turnpike road through this area.  Because really, where else would you go?  You had to pay the charge whether you wanted to or not.

The prices were broken down according to what transport you were using, how it was powered, and whether you had livestock with you or not; looking at the complicated series of charges, I began to wonder if this was where West Yorkshire Metro got the idea for their pricing structure.

My next station was Brockholes, which is Anglo-Saxon for "badger anus".  It was located at the end of a modern housing estate, its access alleyway barely visible between the executive garages.

Inside, that lopsidedness reared its head again.  The working platform at Brockholes is modern and clean; red and silver steelwork, plenty of seats.  Nothing exciting.

Across the way, though, it's 1954.

Brilliantly, frustratingly, whoever bought the old station building has decorated the train-side part of their house with old enamel signs and railwayana.  They've made their home into a time capsule.  And all us boring commuters can do is look across the track and wish we were over there, perhaps smoking a pipe in the General Waiting Room and chewing on Spratt's Ovals (I assume they're some kind of sweet?).

They say the grass isn't always greener on the other side, but in this case, the other side was most definitely a better place to be.  I almost resented my platform for being so rubbish.

Stocksmoor tried its best to make up for Brockholes' deficiencies, giving me a second platform and two tracks.  This is the point where trains are able to pass one another and, sure enough, another train arrived on the opposite platform a moment after mine.

An excitable grandmother kissed her grandson goodbye and scampered abroad while a dozen hard hatted workmen disembarked.  They all headed up to the top of the ramp before huddling for some kind of briefing.  I was too embarrassed to get any closer to the sign, in case these intimidating heaps of masculinity noticed me and took the mick.

There are quicker ways from Stocksmoor to Shepley, routes that are more direct.  I had to make a detour to visit this place though:

How could I not?  It sounds utterly epic.  It's impossible to say THUNDERBRIDGE without doing a deep-throated voice like a man off a film trailer.

It wasn't epic of course: it was just another pretty Yorkshire village.

What did surprise me was how quickly it became wild.  Stepping out of the village was like crossing into a wilderness: trees sprung up around me, high cliffs rose into the sky.  There was no traffic, no sound at all, except for the gentle soft rustle of the trees and the bark of random birdsong.

It was entrancing and not a little bit intimidating.  I was a single human amongst a threatening, dark nature.  We think we've tamed the planet, cut it back, bent it to our will, but we're nothing next to the trees and the plants.  I thought back to those abandoned platforms, already choked with weeds, the concrete cracking as new trees burst through them.  Another fifty years and they'll be gone completely. Forests frighten us, the dark mesh of trees that lean in to hide the sun.  They huddle and scare.

I was glad to step out of the darkness and onto a much busier road, where the council kept the branches cut back and neat grass verges had been carved into the sides.  No-one else was walking this way.  There were plenty of buses though, one, two, three, choking out thick diesel fumes in my face, followed quickly by heavy trucks.  A chain of motorcyclists were playing out Easy Rider fantasies in our green and pleasant land: it was hard to believe they'd be listening to Born to Be Wild on their iPods when they passed cute little country pubs.

I hit the suburban crawl.  This part of the country had very definitely been wrangled into shape with polite lawns and 4x4s.  They'd commemorated the Millennium in their own way:

Either that or someone really old was buried on the village green.

A turn in the road and I was heading back down hill again, down towards another bridge.  There were lovely large houses, a lot of them now old people's homes, but some had been upgraded with entryphones and electronic gates.

Shepley's another one with two platforms, though in this case they're splayed awkwardly either side of the road bridge.  The Huddersfield-bound platform featured artwork by local children; but the platform I was going to, the Penistone* bound platform, was just plain and a little bit dull.

There was a slight moment of patented social awkwardness as we pulled into Denby Dale.  I waited by the exit doors with two other passengers, a young girl and an old man.  The button lit up, and the old man pressed it, but nothing happened.  The girl and I exchanged looks.  We didn't want to reach past this clearly frail old man to push the button properly and humiliate him, but, you know, we did want to get off the train.  We stood awkwardly a little longer, before the girl reached up and pressed it.  Still nothing happened.  Now the conductor was looking at us, and we sheepishly concluded the door was broken and hurried off at a different exit.

As I left the station, the guard himself pushed the button and the doors sprang open obediently.  Hmmm.

Denby Dale sounds like it would only be visited by Thomas and Friends.  It's quite difficult to take seriously but, as it turns out, the village had a lot to offer.  There was a proper village centre with banks, shops, cafes.  Even a little second hand bookshop.  I also read - on one of the many information boards - of the town's fame for its pies.  Apparently, Denby Dale likes to commemorate momentous incidents in history by baking an enormous pie - the last one was for the Millennium.  Personally I would rather have a massive amount of pastry over a boring old monolith, SHELLEY.

I love pies: I love really hard, crusty baked pies filled with hot steaming mounds of meat.  I love the gravy soaked under crust too, still slightly stiff but every pore is filled with flavour.  I will not countenance, in any way, the "pot pie", where someone just chucks a lid of pastry over the top of a bowl of filling.  THAT IS NOT A PIE, and I will not stand for it.  I felt the residents of Denby Dale would agree with me - it is, after all, the home of the Pie Hall (the village hall, paid for by a giant pie in the Sixties).

I was just wondering where I could lay my hands on a decent meat and potato pie when the summer decided to give up the ghost.  With a crash, the sky collapsed, and soon the village was being drowned by a downpour of Biblical proportions.  I took solace in the nearest dry place:

The "gum tray" is a nice touch.  Shows you how classy they are.

Denby Dale was the end of the line for me anyway.  It's the Hough Green of West Yorkshire PTE, right on the border with South Yorkshire so passes from both sides are valid here.  If I wanted to carry on down the Penistone* Line I'd have to buy another ticket, and it had taken me long enough to work out which one to buy already.  So I leaned back in a comfortable leather chair, sipped my beer and stared at the hot Northern builder who was eating chips in curry sauce two tables away.


I'd hoped the rain would have let up by the time I'd finished my pint, but it was still relentless, so I braved it out and dashed through the village.  I did have an overcoat, buried at the bottom of my rucksack, but I figured that by the time I'd got it out and pulled it on I could have been at the station anyway.  I almost ran through the village - not going the whole hog for the sake of my dignity.  I will say this for Denby Dale, if I ever need to buy a fibreglass sheep for my lawn, I'll know where to go.

I'd gone a different way to the station this time, via the main road, and so I got a better view of the village's largest landmark.  Sadly, it's not a two hundred foot high monument to Champion Pie Eater Desperate Dan, but is instead the Denby Dale Viaduct, which carries the railway over the River Dearne.  Silhouetted against the swirling, tumultuous grey clouds it took on a Satanic edge; it became a pathway for demons to cross the sky.  Quite a change from the bucolic charm of the Lockwood viaduct earlier that day.

I settled into the shelter on the platform alongside other similarly soaked pedestrians.  I didn't mind.  The plus side of the BF being back in Huddersfield was that I could get him to take me and Peter out.  I knew I had an evening of good food and wine ahead of me.  Frankly, I felt I'd earned it.

*There is still absolutely nothing amusing about this name.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Brown Town

My mum is coming to visit next month; she makes an annual trip north for a couple of days.  Consequently the Bf is leaving the country.  He and my mum are like magnetic forces - it's impossible to bring them together.

His usual trick is to head abroad with his friend Peter.  Berlin, Prague or, in the case this year, Cologne.    This takes a ridiculous amount of co-ordination and evaluation and organisation.  The D-Day landings had less thought put into them.  Every single aspect of the trip will be pored over and considered; every travel website on the net will be consulted and compared.

It's all too much for me.  So when the Bf went over to Peter's home town of Huddersfield to sort it out, I decided to find something better to do with my time.  I cadged a lift over on the M62 but jumped out in Huddersfield town centre so I could go collect some train stations.

Though I'd been to Huddersfield loads of times, I'd never really looked around.  It's one of those things that happens when you know someone in a town; instead of getting to wander and discover, you get targeted hits.  You see what they want you to see.

My first impression was how brown the town was.  Liverpool is Portland stone white, while Manchester's red brick.  Huddersfield was brown.  The buildings were all made of the same stone, even the new ones, giving it a uniformity.  It was hard to warm to.  The stone was unsympathetic, and years of heavy industry had tarred and stained it.

The colour came from the residents.  It was graduation day at the local Uni, so the streets were filled with happy, laughing students.  Gowns and mortar boards were everywhere, along with glowingly proud parents.  I ducked into an outdoor mall - what used to be called a shopping precinct - and pushed against the flow of joyful faces.  Not even the PA system playing Bryan Adams could ruin their mood.

Outside the library, there were men playing chess with giant pieces, totally serious faced.  I was delighted.  I've never actually seen this happen in real life.  Especially interesting was the players; not tank top wearing nerds, but rough working class men with dirt under their fingernails.

I went inside the gallery so that I could better experience the culture of the town.  Oh, all right: I needed a pee.  I only looked round the galleries out of guilt for using their loo.  There was an exhibition involving a giant inflatable, and then some plastic sheeting on the floor with a video of some people talking monotonously.

I don't want you to think I am an ignoramus.  I did my best.  I read the captions and studied it and did the art gallery furrowing of the eyebrows.  But frankly, it looked like a load of pretentious shite to me.  I actually like modern art, but this seemed to tip into that box marked "more pretension than substance".  The rest of the galleries were standard municipal authority artworks: some nice watercolours, a Henry Moore, something by a local.  I whizzed round them in double quick time, meaning that I got back to the girl on the front desk after about five minutes, which was embarrassing.

The building, though, was lovely; nicely maintained and designed.  It reminded me of a small, brown version of Anton Furst's design for Gotham City Hall in the Tim Burton Batman; there was something monolithic about it, and those faceless forms outside just added to it.

I avoided the various shopping centres - about four on one street - and instead ducked down a side alley.  It's a shame that our general fears about getting raped and murdered mean there aren't many little back alleys left.  I always find them far more interesting than the main routes, in the same way that back streets tell you more about a town.  It twisted left and right before depositing me by the war memorial.

I'm going to start with an obvious truth: Huddersfield railway station is awesome.

I've been having a discussion with diamondgeezer via e-mail about whether it's better to have a rapidly expanding efficient network, or an architecturally interesting one.  He loves the DLR because it goes all sorts of places and it has ambitious expansion plans it can achieve because it's so simple and cheap.  I love the DLR too, but I wish it had decent stations, ones that didn't stink of will this do?  "Why can't we be like the Victorians?" I exclaimed, slightly hysterically.

Huddersfield station is a case in point.  It's completely over designed for what is, let's be honest, a relatively unimportant Yorkshire town.  For some reason, the Victorians decided to build a ridiculously huge portico, a couple of epic wings and an enormous doorway.  It shows the power the railways had back then, and their importance.  It's ace.

I do have a couple of complaints because I am, at heart, a very negative person.

The first is: there's no station sign.  That big, nicely laid out plaza is all very well, but there's nothing to actually tell you this is the railway station beyond that silver BR logo.  You have to take it on trust that people will know what the symbol means.  It also meant I had nowhere to pose in front of, dammit.  Harold Wilson just wasn't enough.

My other complaint is that it's been restored.  Yes, I know: I'm always whinging when stations are ignored, and then one gets a load of cash chucked at it and I still whinge.  The thing is, they've gone all twenty-first century on the inside.  It's minimalist white walls and subtle inlaid lighting and LED screens.  The outside is pure Victoriana but the inside is like the bridge of the Enterprise.

They've preserved some of the nineteenth century-ness of it all, but not enough: it's like Liverpool South Parkway in there.

I got my ticket and walked onto the platform.  Huddersfield is an east-west station, with long through platforms, which gave me an impressive view of the Pennines out of the end of the train shed.

I crossed over to the middle platform, where a couple of trainspotters were perched on the end.  They took a photo of a passing freight train, then packed up and left.  I got the feeling they'd been waiting all day for this one train.  Bless.

The rest of the station's simple enough.  I was pleased by a sign for the "buffet" - yeah, none of your fancy cafes or shops here; it's a station buffet, mate.  I hoped you could only buy disappointing stations and a cup of tea from a hatchet faced woman ("Cappuccino?  Where do you think you are, London?").  And there was some lovely old fashioned signage over the entrance to the pub.

I was headed for platform 2, a little stub close to the tunnel mouth.  I was ridiculously early, which gave me a chance to have a look round.  The local rail user's group have decorated this platform with some simple little art pieces and a community notice board.  It was a pleasing sight.

Nope.  There is nothing funny at all about that name.  Nothing at all.

Thursday 19 July 2012


Holidaymakers have helped make some railway stations become more than they deserve.  Small towns, towns that anywhere else in the country would have a couple of platforms and a tiny ticket office if they're lucky, end up with completely out of proportion behemoths.  Scarborough's station was colossal, compared to the quiet little town around it.

Filey, meanwhile, is an even tinier town, but it has an impressive roof and a forecourt and an ironwork bridge.  It was the home of a Butlin's, and all those people needed to be kept dry and warm while they waited for the train home.  The holiday camp closed in the Eighties though and now Filey has an out-of-proportion station it doesn't need.  But bless them for keeping it.

It's not perfect though.  The absence of all those Butliners means that they've had to cut back on facilities.  You can't buy a ticket here, as you can see from the subtle, understated signage on the ticket window above.

From the outside, the low frontage has a subtle charm.  It's marred by a badly tarmacced forecourt, and its position behind a dodgy row of shops.  Step out of the station and instead of a pleasing vista of the town you get to see fire escapes, service entrances and extraction fans.

It would have been nice to have visited Filey itself; head into town and have a root around.  But I had places to go, stations to collect, so instead I turned left out of the driveway, crossed the tracks and walked out of town.

I quickly got an estimation of what kind of town Filey was: old.  Not architecturally or historically, but demographically.  The houses on the way out were bungalows and semis.  They all had impeccable lawns and driveways, garlanded with ornaments of all sizes - wishing wells, gnomes, rustic bicycles with flowers in the baskets.  The cars outside were sensible Renaults, polite Vauxhalls, neat little Ford Escorts with shiny windows and the gleam of a well waxed paintwork.  They were all being maintained by nice old men and women filling up their days with busy work.

I passed the high school.  It was just called Filey School, which amused me; it reminded me of those ads you got by the side of the pitch in Billy the Fish - "drink milk", "eat food", "smoke tabs".  It was utterly prosaic.  I suppose in a town full of the elderly there's not too many kids around to attend.

Avoiding some idiot who had parked his Range Rover on the pavement, because he drove a Range Rover and therefore ruled the earth, I left the town.  Now I was striding into proper countryside, the genuine, rich world of Yorkshire.  I had images of Emmerdale Farm and James Herriot in my head; cows mooing while Nick Berry arrests a loveable scamp for shoplifting a Gerry and the Pacemakers 45.  I crossed a roundabout and stepped onto a public footpath, excited at my first glimpse of scenery.


A thick, rutted track ran in a straight line beside a grotty hedge.  I'd managed to pick the one day in the whole week where it didn't rain, but the comprehensive drowning the nation's suffered meant that the path was still wet and slippery.  White stones embedded in the ground to help the tractors get purchase didn't help me.  My Doc Martens skidded on their too-smooth surface, and I realised it was easier to just walk on the grass in the middle, even if I did spend most of my time hopping over stacks of dog shit.  I can only conclude that the dogs of Filey are all about four metres tall, judging by the piles of excrement they left behind.

I could see Hunmanby, my target, off in the distance, so all I had to do was walk in a straight line in that general direction.  It was a bit dull if I'm honest.  No curves or twists.  The only moment of interest was when four teenage girls came in the opposite direction, their wellington boots at odds with their tiny shorts and high ponytails.  They sulked past me, not meeting my eye, clearly planning what bitchy remark to make about me once they'd passed.

I clambered over a stile and met with this sign:

I wasn't sure how to react to that.

It didn't say Don't cross this field.  It was just letting me know there might be a bull around.  I couldn't see it so I assume this was a pre-emptive strike against anyone who tried suing the farmer after they were gored.  "You were warned," he'd say over the hole in their lower abdomen (in my head, all farmers act like Farmer Palmer from Viz.  Viz shapes a lot of my perceptions about the world).  What was I meant to do if a bull charged me anyway?  Was I meant to stand my ground or run?  I couldn't remember.  I once had a horse charge at me and I stood my ground; it ran around me.  Mind you, horses don't have an enormous great pair of horns sticking out of their forehead.  Is there a Country Code app I can download for my phone?

My mind wandering I pushed through a copse and came out on the edge of Hunmanby.  There was a bench (In Memory of Peter Reed) so I took a seat and sipped some water.  Across the road a tiny old man, as wide as he was tall, was mowing the lawn with a machine that looked like it had been invented  to attack German soldiers on the beach at Normandy.  His braces held his grey woollen trousers high on his round stomach, lining him round the middle and making him look like a Pokeball with a head.

At first, Hunmanby could have been anywhere in Britain.  There were 1950s corporation houses, some of them with the front drive paved over to accommodate a second car.  A postman dashed up the driveways, iPod in his ears, keen to finish his round as quickly as he could.  Three people stood on the  path, gabbing, a Jack Russell lying at their feet with his head resting on his paws.

Rounding a corner, however, I found perfection: the halcyon image of England.

Pub.  Church.  Red phone box.  White painted fence above green grass.  The gentle incline of hills in the background.  The only thing that could have made it more perfect would have been Steed and Mrs Peel coming round the corner in a Bentley.

I was grinning.  It's weird being somewhere that looks like it's imaginary.  Is this what it's like at Disneyworld?  Real, and yet fake?  Of course the people here were far more convincing - not actors who trained to do Pinter and are trying not to let you see the despair in their eyes as a four year old clambers all over their Cinderella frock.

Past the pub it opened up into a wide village green surrounded by cottages.  The war memorial was sat at the edge, next what must have been the only two Goths in Hunmanby trying to look miserable even though they were clearly living in a dream.

I walked through the whole length of the village to get to the station, and it didn't let me down in any way.  It was pretty from every angle.  A Co-op inside a converted church, a B&B covered in flowers.  Even the residents seemed happy, as two old dears emerged from a shop and headed for their car, hand in hand like teenagers.

"Are you driving, then?" he said when she firmly stepped to the right hand side of their Peugeot.

"I think that would be for the best, don't you?" she said, intriguingly.  I wondered what he'd done.  Had he nearly mown down a child on the way in?  Was he really drunk?

The Old Station House was now definitely a private home, but they'd done it with respect, unlike some people who seem to buy houses next to railways and then complain about all those annoying passengers.  The fences were discreet and the house was well maintained: a gate into the garden from the platform was marked Private in a sign shaped like a British Rail lozenge.

That station house was nothing compared to the one at Bempton, next along the line.  It was painted white and ridiculously grand.  I couldn't work out why such a lowly halt had such an impressive structure built for it.

The rest of the station was resolutely unimpressive - just a single platform with a shelter.  It didn't even have a decent sign.

If I hadn't just come from Hunmanby, Bempton would have been charming.  As it was, it seemed perfectly decent but disappointing.  The pub was being refurbished; the post office was on an inconvenient bend; the shop was up for sale.  It was nice enough but not the vision of perfection that was the village next door.

There was a petrol station selling free range eggs from an honesty box under the road sign.  In fact, there had seemed to be an awful lot of places selling free range eggs from the roadside.  There must be a national egg overstock I didn't know about.

Isn't that a bit... racist?

I could have walked from Bempton to Bridlington.  It was a fair old way though, and once I arrived, I didn't think I'd have much time to have a look round.  So I got a bus.

I lowered the average age of the passengers by about thirty years when I boarded.  It had seat belts, which was a new one for me, and left me unsure; was I required by law to wear them, or was it just a hint?  I didn't bother in the end.

A cheery couple got on as we entered the outskirts of the town - "off for a walk down the prom", they told the driver.  They carried a thick smell of cigarettes with them, a smell that was embedded deep in their clothes, and spent the whole trip into town hacking and spluttering.  I felt like taking them to one side and explaining where "emphysema" and "lung cancer" came from.

The bus did a tour of the town centre before it reached the station, so I got a good view of it in passing. I wasn't enamoured by what I saw.  Pound shops and faded storefronts.  Peeling paint amongst a strange one-way system.  I headed for the front and found Scarborough's evil twin.  While that had been classy, elegant, pretty, this was unapologetically brash and common.

I went to the sea wall and followed it to the end.  Grim-faced teens necked luridly coloured bottles of alcopop as I passed.  The air stank of chip fat and cloyingly sweet toffee.  The dodgems had just one car in motion, two tiny little girls piloting their car round and round in a circle.

It was horrible.  It was as though someone planned a seaside town, but decided to suck any sense of fun or charm out of it.  And it was packed!  There were people striding up and down, most of them wearing too few clothes, enjoying this single dry day.  But no-one looked like they were enjoying it.  No-one looked happy or smiled, except for the very youngest of children.

I decided that most of these people were here on that most British of notions, the enforced holiday.  That instead of waiting until they could afford to go somewhere decent, or until the weather was better, they'd just booked a week away "because it's better than being here."  They'd gone to Bridlington because it's next to the sea and it's got some amusements and an arcade that'll keep the kids quiet so what more do you want?  It was just a change of scene, a break, a week without work.  That was all they wanted.  It hadn't occurred to them to go somewhere they might want to go.  It was just "this'll do."

I had two hours to kill.

I did another tour of the front, but frankly it was getting me down, so I found a pub, the Hook & Parrot.  It was all nautical themed, with the walls covered with nets and pictures of sailing boats.  The barmaids were gathered around a clipboard inside, loudly debating their shifts.  There was a surplus of mammaries; acres of heaving breasts made me think that perhaps the staffing policy was based on cleavage rather than competence.  I grabbed a window seat with my pint of beer, but soon moved as dozens of tiny flies battered against me, trying to fly out of the bright window.

They were playing a CD of soundalikes - close enough to the original to fool you, but saving on the expensive royalties.  At first, I thought that was  Marti Pellow doing Love is All Around, until I realised the voice was too harsh and cruel.  The Scottishness was being affected.  The Paul McCartney doing Pipes of Peace was too high, and as for Karen Carpenter... The real Karen Carpenter was in possession of a voice so smooth you could have tobogganed down it.  This woman was having a good try, but she was harsh on the top notes.

In the corner, a man slammed down his hand and crushed another fly.  "Well done," said his wife.  Then they went back to sitting in silence.

The bar manager checks with a man at the bar eating cheesy chips.  "£7.99 for a bucket of five bottles of Fosters.  What do you think?"

"Yeah, it's good.  Wetherspoon's do that an' all."

"No they don't."  She looks suddenly doubtful.  "Do you think I should make it £6.99?"

"Cheaper than Wetherspoon's that way."

I couldn't stand it any more.  I finished my pint and left, passing two women with pushchairs ordering double vodka and cokes.  It was a grim, miserable place, and the only good thing was this:

...because they got the font right.

I decided I'd rather wait on the platform for an hour.  The station was a fair way out of town, tucked behind a Tesco, and I didn't have high hopes.  The sign was out by the road, on a level crossing, with a dowdy looking fence and weeds.

It turns out Bridlington station is bloody marvellous.

Well done.

As befits its holiday destination status, Bridlington has a larger than usual building, and it's been restored with a great deal of care and love.  While Scarborough has been updated, Bridlington has been enhanced, with the Victorian elements cleaned and given respect.

They've installed a glass wall at the far end of the waiting area, and it gives the station a balmy, Winter Gardens feel.  And I always love it when you see a sign for the "Buffet" in a railway station.  Not "shops" or "restaurants": a good, old fashioned, station buffet.  The fact that the one here is railway themed and all sorts of pretty is just a bonus.

I'm considering a job with Northern Rail just so I can work in there.  And look!  A working clock!  It's not that hard, is it?

It was all so adorable.  I wandered around with a wet grin on my face, loving every moment.  In a way, I was glad the town was so awful, because it drove me to the station early and gave me plenty of time to look round.

I crossed to the far platform and took up a seat in the sun.  It had buoyed me, rescued the trip from an ignominious end.  The warmth baked my face.  There were more stations on the Yorkshire Coast Line to get, all the way down to Hull, but this seemed like a suitable place to stop.  End on a high.