Saturday, 20 August 2011

Traipsing Around the U.K.: Hull

And then it was off to Hull. Now this city gets a bit of a raw deal. It's true that it's pretty much on the road to nowhere, and it was voted Britain's crappiest town to live in a few years ago. But it also happens to be my birthplace and since I left at nine months and haven't been back since, it seemed time to make a pilgrimage.

I don't know what I was expecting to feel; nothing jarred any memory whatsoever. So I did what I usually do when visiting a new city - walked the streets, looked at architecture, grabbed a latte, popped into the art galleries and museums and browsed through a bookstore. I was only there for a few hours but it was definitely worth the trip. So for all those naysayers, here are some nice things about Hull.

1. You are greeted at the train station by a statue of Hull's most famous poet and librarian - Philip Larkin.

2. It has a really beautiful church - Holy Trinity - which is 700 years old and the largest (in area) parish church in England.
3. You can get some pretty good fish and chips in the city and the waterfront is in the process of being revitalized.

4. The Ferens Art Gallery is lovely. One of their exhibits was of David Hockney's massive painting Bigger Trees Near Warther, made up of fifty separate canvases.

5. There's a tiny street called The Land of Green Ginger said to be the inspiration for Winifred Holtby's novel of the same name.

My tie-in book purchase was a play called Toast by Richard Bean, who grew up in Hull. It's an amusing and slightly surreal story set one night in the canteen of a Hull bread factory as its assortment of workers take various breaks during their night shift. They have an extra large order to fulfill, the ovens are overheated, and tempers are rising just as much as the troubling batch mixed with too much yeast. I very much enjoyed reading it, as much for the humour as the dialect; it would be lovely to see this staged or listen to a recording, if only to imagine what I might have sounded like if I'd stayed and grown up there.

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