We walked by the Land of Green Ginger and past The Blue Boy and The Star of the West. I have forgotten almost everything I learned at university in Hull but the names of the special street and the city’s old town pubs stay with me still. The William Wilberforce, named for the Victorian anti-slavery campaigner,is now a Wetherspoon’s chain pub. At least it is still open.
It is 35 years since I was last in Hull city center and the intervening decades have not been particularly kind to either of us. Both of us have had a couple of dodgy makeovers and a few substantial knocks: we are not what we were.
In 1979, I was an 19 year old student, fresh faced and optimistic. Poor old Hull was fighting and losing the Cod War with Iceland. A third of the city worked at sea. When the fishing rights were lost, Hull’s jobs went with them. The city, on England’s grey and blowy east coast, has since been dubbed the worst place in the UK. Hull suffers soaring rates of crime and obesity. Its schools are more u-bend than sink.
Now, cheeringly, Hull has been designated the 2017 UK City of Culture and so the Hull Truck Theater company, the Ferens art gallery and the whaling museum will presumably be joined by lots of other venues showcasing all kinds of arts and talents. Perhaps the jewelry makers and artists will come back to the Land of Green Ginger. Perhaps 2017 will be a great year for Hull and for me. I hope so.
We drove up Spring Bank past my student digs in Morpeth Street where I used to share an unspeakable toilet with five boys I didn’t know and one I did.
I wanted to check out the Polar Bear, my regular haunt in my halcyon days in Hull. The pub is still there but no longer opens at lunch time. Unlike the rest of the city, it seems to have weathered the last 35 years remarkably well and, from the outside, was exactly as I remembered. I peered through a window and found the ornate and bulbous Victorian wooden bar just as it was. I saw the rose-pink upholstered crescent-shaped booth where at lunchtime my brown-eyed boyfriend and I used to clutch ham sandwiches, pints of mild and each other. He would lean in close and sing me the songs of Ol’ Blue Eyes. He sounded just as good as Sinatra. My favorite was Deep Purple.
On a dull day on a dilapidated street corner on the outskirts of England I treated myself to a deep purple dream. In the mist of a memory it all wandered back to me, breathing my name and making me wistful for a moment or two.
The jollier pictures below were taken this week in Bridlington, another haunt from student days and cheerfully unchanged.