‘You’ve lived here ten years,’ says my wife (or ‘the’ wife as she’s known in these parts). ‘How can you possibly say anything negative about York?’
The daffodils bloom brightly beneath the sweeping city walls and there are enough old buildings to keep a coachful of Americans snapping and flashing like a Hollywood premier, blocking the pavement whilst you try to nip to HMV during your lunch break. When it’s sunny – which it sometimes is – it’s a glory to behold. But if you want to live in a postcard, choose one of those Donald McGill creations bulging with saucy innuendo or a nice beach scene replete with golden sands and trembling palms.
York has museums galore, places of interest and many impractically narrow snickleways. Jorvick celebrates the blood-curdling brutality of the Vikings but never shows them with horns on their hats, slapping the faces of schoolboys across the globe and, particularly, the aforementioned American tourists who have, after all, come a long way and have no interest in historical accuracy. Other museums also dance on the knife edge of credibility: a Quilt Museum which makes no attempt to explain the meaning of the word ‘tog’ and a Museum of Early Music which makes no attempt to explain the meaning of Chris Moyles.
And then, if you have time, it’s off to the tourist attraction where Guy Fawkes was probably born; the tourist attraction where W H Auden may have written some poems; and the tourist attraction where Judy Dench may have eaten a sandwich.
In short, the whole region has succumbed to a cheesiness that puts the wen in Wensleydale. But, when asked if it isn’t all a bit touristy, the average Yorkie will doubtless answer: ‘Nowt!’
This inability to give a coherent response is quaint but they are a hardy breed defined by their razor-sharp bluntness and a pathological determination to call a spade a spade. An invaluable skill, perhaps, when your ancestors spent their working life underground foraging for lumps of coal, but less of an evolutionary advantage when it comes to maintaining the social interaction required to keep the lights on and the fluoridated water flowing.
And it’s not very polite.
They are friendly, of course, (to each other) and – like the rest of their northern kin, doing all the work so that we southerners don’t have to.
But the main appeal of York – well, to this southerner – was the property prices. After all, you can buy half the Shambles for the price of a modest two-up-two-down in the south. But beware! Once you’re here all the treasures in York Minster aren’t enough to buy an empty box of Swan Vestas in Godalming.
And then what can you do to go home?