paul magrs wrote:Growing up in County Durham, I was quite used to Whitby as a place for day trips. It was still a considerable distance away, up several very steep roads. I’d think of the drive as a going-back-in-time (I think, because of the fibre-glass dinosaurs they used to have nearby, at Flamingoland zoo.)
But Whitby was like going back in time for a glimpse of the Victorian era. Even as quite a small child I was aware of this dark glamour.
If it was fine we would sit on a dock eating fish and chips out of the paper – the whole family sitting there, watching the sunset. If it was poor weather, it didn’t matter. It even seemed to add to the experience. The abbey looked even more sinister; even more dredged up from the past. We walked the many steps up to the abbey and we went down to Robin Hood’s Bay, which was like some miniature, toy town sliding slowly down into the sea. Both places had good book shops, which was always a big consideration for me.
As an adult I’ve returned many times. And I was increasingly aware of the literary links – Dracula and Alice and even the Brontes trekking out for a rare sojourn. In my ‘Brenda and Effie’ books there is something at the heart of Whitby that works on the imagination of its inhabitants and creates real magic. And I think that is true in real life, too – in the effect that the place has on people who visit there. When you’re there it’s like walking among ghosts. Affable ghosts on holiday, but spooks nonetheless.
I always wanted to set a novel there. Using the grand old hotels, the little guest houses, the tiny cafes. Something that involved magic and mysteries and some of that literary heritage. Some of that Gothic past. The witches and ghouls of local legend, too (specially in the local press anthologies of such tales). So, on visits in recent years I wandered and soaked it all up. I walked everywhere and visited all these curious places. (In the museum – a weather forecasting machine that works with the help of leeches on leashes, leaping up in glass chambers! Wherever you look here, there’s something macabre. Cheery, but macabre.)
Last year we visited during a blizzard. Early March and it was difficult just walking down the street. But it was still bracingly infused with magic. It’s become – as in the classic question that all writers are asked, sooner or later - the place I get my ideas from.
Paul Magrs will be appearing at Whitby Library, on Saturday 28th April from 7pm. Tickets area £2 including a glass of wine, and can be purchased from the library or by calling 0845 3006687.
Never The Bride is published Review, £7.99 PB.