Day: 271 & 272
Towns / Cities Visited: 179
Countries Visited: 30
Steps Taken Today: 18,972
Steps Taken Around the World: 4,379,423
Stretching our sleep in out as far as humanly possible, we eventually rolled out of bed, packed our bags, scoffed a helping of complimentary breakfast provided by our host, and folded ourselves back into the car. In fact, our stay in Gordon had been so brief that it would come to be that I would retain absolutely no pictorial memory of the place anywhere accessible in my mind by the time I finally had a chance to regale you with this tale. Trust me, I’ve tried. No photo, no prompting from my partner, can draw forth a single shred of recall. At this point, I’m of the opinion that the memory of this fleeting waypoint has given way to any of the countless song lyrics, television and movie quotes, or work recipes that take up the majority of my internal RAM.
Now, I know geographically speaking, the UK doesn’t look like somewhere it should take a long time to get places. I mean, you look at a map and think, ‘well we only have to get from here to there’, but the truth of the matter is, unless you’re going between destinations joined by major motorways, things tend to take far longer than you might expect. Imagining that the mainland of Britain is a dinosaur, today would see us make our way from the top of its chest to just above its belly button. Yes, I do understand that given dinosaurs are reptilian they wouldn’t have belly buttons, but bear with me. That seems like a fairly short journey, except that once you add in traffic, rest stops, rural roads, and the ever-shortening days of winter, it’s actually a whole day affair. The journey was as pleasant as a zip along British motorways can be, with an uninspiring stop at McDonalds for a quick lunch, and a pop into a Tesco superstore closer to our accommodation to quickly pick up some cheap supplies for dinner and replace a few pieces of clothing which, after so many months of travelling, were fast becoming more hole than attire.
By the time we actually reached our Airbnb in Roos, it was dark, which is always fun when trying to locate house numbers in dimly lit streets on properties set back on their blocks and not furnished with numbered roadside mailboxes. Okay, peeved local, I understand we are going slower than you may have liked, but we don’t have the same gay abandon as you do to drive these streets with our eyes closed, and no amount of blinding us with your high beams is going to speed things up. To say we were pleased to be tucking ourselves into bed after an easy bout of chicken soup making, would be an understatement.
A good sleep and a solid breakfast saw us ready to face the world again soon enough. So, what was today’s mission? Well, as some of you may know, my partner and I are currently writing the first book of our fantasy pentalogy, and although today wouldn’t see us going to any major landmarks or hugely exciting cities, it would see us do some hugely important location research. Without giving away too much, a portion of the book is set around the mouth of the Humber River, albeit some 1500 years ago. Seeing the opportunity to give our readers the most realistic reading experience, we had set aside a day to scout the terrain, and see if anything inspired alteration to the already well formed novel we had sitting in its second draft stage in our suitcase. Call it dedication to the cause.
With that in mind, we began our adventure with a drive down to the tiny town of Withernsea, just north of the river, before taking the road left out to the coast. Hopping out of the car where the short, wave eroded cliffs of England’s east coast give way to the Atlantic, we looked out over the water, searching not for something which existed in reality, but a space for our fictional world to place something. Out there, between the whirring offshore windfarms, our minds played out scenes only known to us for now, our minds logging it all and our cameras snapping images in case that memory failed. I’m sure the man successfully catching fish from his clifftop perch was a little dumbfounded why two tourists had come to this place in the middle of nowhere to capture the sight of wind turbines, but perhaps one day he’ll read this and it will all make a little more sense. Until then, I imagine we will simply remain eager looking renewable energy enthusiasts.
The Withernsea coastline was not the only area we wished to investigate, and thus we were soon back in the car, passing through the town of Easington until we reached the beginning of the Spurn Peninsular and the national park which encompasses it. Drawing closer, we were soon to discover that, despite hoping to go all the way out to Spurn Point, it would not actually be possible as the peninsula, unbeknownst to us, floods at high tide. Interesting. The phenomenon may have only begun after a storm in 2013 but with a little artistic license that might just work.
There was a final location we wished to visit, and that was one of the towns on the southern bank of the Humber estuary, Grimsby. To reach it though, we would have to head inland to Hull in order to cross the Humber Bridge, and so off we went, weaving through the stop start traffic of the city, traversing the span of the suspension bridge, and heading east again until we reached our destination. Our desired destination was not the inner town, but rather the river itself, and figuring there was no better way to spend an overcast afternoon than eating fish and chips on a gloomy British beach, we headed off in search of food along the most coastal main road. Unfortunately for us, with it being the off-season, the first few we passed were closed, in spite of it being a Friday. Just as we were about ready to pack in all hope, the calls of our rumbling stomachs were answered by a little family owned shop just outside Cleethorpes.
Sustenance acquired, all that was left to do was to head to the beach. Of course, by beach I mean the closest reachable bank of the estuary which was sitting unromantically at low tide, all shallow puddles and uninspiring scenery. It mattered very little though, the steps we sat on, the factories in the distance, the shop which provided our lunch, all of this was 1500 years away from the time we set our chapter in this area. We were here to see the way the river flowed, and how the shore curved. We were here amongst man’s handiwork to see the little bit of nature remaining betwixt it all.
As I sat playing out scenes in my mind and shovelling lunch into my mouth, I was pulled pleasantly back to reality by the sudden appearance of a dog, rounding the blind corner of the concrete steps and bounding, owner-free, in our direction. Being an avid dog lover, to put it mildly, I quickly befriended the lanky beast, taming it with the traditional combination of pats and fried fish. Eventually, he was followed by his ageing gentleman owner, left in the dust by the bountiful energy of his faithful friend, and he seemed a strange mix of shocked and amused that he was sitting beside me, given that apparently ‘he doesn’t go up to anyone’. Hey, what can I say, I must just emanate dog love on a wavelength only they can read.
A few scouting photos of the area later and our mission was complete; the long walk to the car feeling shorter when filled with excited chatter as we discussed our proposed tweaks to the story given our newly gathered information. The drive back to our Airbnb and the cooking of dinner was similarly filled with discussion so as that by the time we sat down to our meal a solid course of action had been formed.
Stabbing the morsels of pasta on my plate, I considered just how invaluable this day had been to us as aspiring authors. To an outsider, it must have just appeared as a collection of obscure destination visits, but to us, it was the purchase of a more realistic canvas on which to paint out tale: a precious tool with which, when carefully wielded, would allow us to construct a more realistic setting for our readers. As happy as I was, it was sad to acknowledge that we simply did not have the funds or the means by which to visit every location our intersecting stories take place. That each one would likely be missing the subtle elements even the most careful internet research cannot provide; the ‘you have to be there’ kind of details we had gathered on our day’s adventure. In acknowledging this reality though, it created in my heart a buoyant hope that our first book would be successful enough to help fund more extensive first-hand research for the second, and a deep desire to do the incredible places we write of justice in portraying their individual beauty to the best of our abilities within our limitations.