In the early part of our relationship in York I vividly remember the Sunday we walked around the entire city walls, not that they are entire, but still pretty substantial remains stretching for about four or five miles. You can get some fantastic views of what’s left of old York, and particularly the massive Minster that dominates everything – architecturally, not spiritually any more.
These kind of small adventures seem so easy when you’re just starting out with somebody, it’s only later on when it becomes difficult to rouse yourself from in front of the bloody telly. Happy memories of exploring York as a child are so powerful in the mind that at some point you will always go back and walk the walls again, even if there’s a gap of twenty years.
Jess is from Milton Keynes, which means she doesn’t have any childish thoughts stored away about Romans, Vikings, the Middle Ages, and all the way through to the age of steam and beyond. She is good at showing a polite interest though, while always at the back of her mind harbouring guilty ideas about visiting a new fashion shop or trendy bar.
‘This is one of the best views you’ll ever get.’
‘What, anywhere ?’
We were standing on the walls not far from the railway station, looking back over the Ouse towards York Minster.
‘In England anyway.’
‘My legs are tired. Why do they have all these gaps in the walls that mean you have to keep going up and down steps ? And they don’t even have fences to stop you falling off in some places !’ complained Jess.
‘Just try and enjoy yourself; at least the sun is shining. We can stop for a coffee in a little while.’
I knew that Jess was secretly enjoying our long walk, or that’s what I half-believed; and I was planning a surprise visit to the posh cafe Betty’s, even though we were heading in the opposite direction towards Micklegate Bar (one of the places they used to impale the severed heads of enemies).
Those were the days when we didn’t even feel the need to go abroad for stimulation – a clear, bright Sunday morning and an invigorating stroll with the beloved was more than enough. It was quite fun walking too close to tourists on the walls as well, so they almost toppled-over onto the grassy banks below. Round Old York Green Banks I View – that’s how we learnt the colours of the rainbow, in the days before Internet and mobile phone.
We did eventually duck into Betty’s when it started spitting with rain, and shared a Fat Rascal with some rich, strong Peruvian coffee. I couldn’t help noticing how good the waitresses looked in their black dresses and freshly laundered white pinafores – perhaps something we could try at home !