Did you ever have a reputation for being good at something that, in your heart of heart’s, you knew not to be quite true? Does retirement incline a person more towards admitting to these falsehoods? Or, conversely, do we hang on to the varnished untruths because, in our retirement, we need the comfort, albeit false, of being good at something, indeed anything; so fragile is our self-esteem.
Blimey, where did all that drama come from? Well I’ll tell you, it comes from Scarborough, or at least from yesterday’s trip to Scarborough. I’d better explain. We’ve been in the habit for the four years of our retirement of visiting Scarborough once a year, staying in the same hotel and pretty much doing the same things and this is where the legend of my expertise vis a vis Scarborough has grown. Grown but not begun. The untruth began about 7 or 8 years ago (I’d have to look in my diaries to get the exact date and, for the purpose of this story, exactitude is not necessary) when, for a year or so, I worked as a psychologist in Scarborough. These, to reference Winston Churchill* were my ‘wilderness years’ except, in my case, this being the period just prior to my final retirement, I never came back from the wilderness (as Churchill did of course).
I loved Scarborough, at least out of season I did. In fact I generally like slightly, (or in Scarborough’s case very), shabby English seaside towns when the crowds have gone away. When they all came back, in what we call the summer, I didn’t like it at all but for the most part when I worked there I liked it and found it slightly surreal that I was being paid to be there. When you were having to find your way around the town to work in a number of schools, a person got to know the town very well. And this is where my reputation, as somebody who knows his way around Scarborough, came from.
For some reason I am unable to admit, it’s now probably at least six years give or take since I worked here and in those six years we have only visited once a year, so actually no, I don’t know Scarborough any better than the average seasonal visitor. The unpleasant truth became very clear as soon as we got there. True, I did find the South Bay beach and the dogs enjoyed their racing around the beach chasing a ball and we enjoyed only having to brush off sand rather than the kilos of mud that have blighted our walks over last few weeks. All I needed to do was find this nice pub I’d visited and we’d be set. Never found it. I did find a second-hand bookshop and predictably bought three books, total cost £5. So far I’m ahead and no reason to confess at this stage.
After that it was challenging. I couldn’t find our hotel even though it was the same hotel we’d stayed at the last three times. A sense of foreboding hung around. Just tell her (Mrs Summerhouse) you’re lost and don’t have the faintest idea where you’re going. Not for the first time the words, Scarborough’s bigger than you think, passed our lips. We found the hotel and didn’t get lost again because we never left the hotel.
Next day dawned bright and clear and, after a large breakfast (our calorie-controlled diet is not going well these two days but then you wouldn’t expect it to, would you?), we set off to find the very same North Bay beach we had walked the doggies on the last time we were here. How could you not find the sea? We found the place OK only problem was the beach wasn’t there, presumably covered by several feet of sea water. An expert would have known that tide times change. We do now. So back to yesterday’s beach. There was less of it but more than where we had just been.
We had a coffee we’d bought from the Scarborough Spa café with the Danish pastries we had borrowed from the breakfast options at the hotel and stared out at the tranquil sea, bliss, what could go wrong? Well, nothing at least not until we started heading for home. Mrs SH wanted to stop and do some shopping for that night’s meal at a supermarket we had passed on the way in yesterday. Excellent plan apart from the fact we didn’t leave by the same route we arrived. Scarborough had its final laugh on me and we ended up taking the Filey road along the coast as opposed to the road due west inland. I said to Mrs SH, you know I have to admit that I may not know Scarborough as well as I thought. Either I never did and have been kidding myself all these years or, somewhat worse, I did but have now forgotten, gone along with a number of other cognitive functions in my retirement years.
But either way it’s a grand place, a little down-at-heel in parts but evocative for all that. It must be special because, as I opened my phone this very morning, what do I read on the news but that that Brittany Spears is going to perform in the town. Personally I’m no fan of Brittany’s but a star is a star, maybe fading but there’s a bit of that about Scarborough because if you read the town’s history you will see that it was once a very prominent (and some say the very first) Victorian holiday resort. If you look at the photo at the top of this blog you will get an idea of just how grand this particular Grand Hotel used to be.
So our first retirement travel of the new year, most enjoyable even if I can’t quite let go of the idea that I know Scarborough like the back of my hand. I suppose the problem is that when we retire we feel that we are letting go, voluntarily or otherwise, of quite a lot and so anything that it is within our power to hang on to, well we do just that even if it does mean a little lying to ourselves and others but then that’s retirement for you, it seems to me that there’s an awful lot of denial involved.
*Last night we went to see Darkest Hour, Winston again.