Filey was a different place. A place where you could taste the sea on the fish and the earth on the chips, where you could play with parental approval on the few slot machines, where, for the first and only time I tried bacon, having a mouthful of Mary's bacon and egg pie, aged maybe 6. Although rules of respect and intimacy were still in place, global principles didn't matter, Filey was a place out of time, a place out of place, a place of respite. Even the few tawdry shops stuffed full of kitsch souvenirs had a certain pathos. In the same way as I imagine early Christian churches were just pagan temples with a makeover, these beachfront shops, of course deserted in March or November, had no belief in the gods of kitsch that they invoked.
On the North West Coast of England 'brigg' is a dialect word for a natural pier. It is a variation on the word 'bridge,' but Filey Brigg is a magnificent bridge to nowhere, made of large black rocks that stretch out Chaucerously through the bleak North Sea to Denmark. In March and November it is warm enough, wrapped in a heavy jumper and a waterproof coat to walk the deserted beach all the way along to Filey Brig. And then to walk the Brig to the edge of the sea and gaze out to Scandinavia.
You should do this with close friends and or family who are also similarly attired. It is time once again to be a child in the face of vast eternal nature. The dark, heavy clouds jag downwards like skyrocks. The wind and the rain and the spray close around you until it feels like the elements are supporting your intimate bubble as you walk along the Brigg surrounded by the black, crashing, granite openness of the sea.
You might have to shout to hear one another, you might have to watch your feet so as not to fall and slip on the sharp black rocks, you might come back with bruised knees or sodden trousers, but the conversation you have out there is holy. Held up by the giant hand of nature and under the scrutiny of a craggy Norse incarnation of the godhead nothing else matters but being together in the moment. That elemental Brig is one of two places where heaven and earth meet in North Yorkshire, and the connections that are made at that junction are elect and special.
In a cosy snug tea place along the front, in the ground floor café of a weathered victorian resort hotel you can begin to warm up and wind down. Over scones, jam and daubs of clotted cream you can begin to re-enter the mundane world of everyday adult life. Looking out of the window at the beach already frames your walk at a distance, and you might even venture to discuss the headlines of the newspaper lying on the windowsill, left there by the owner as she got up to make your tea.
And then to Bernard Bosomworths for fish and chips, with more tea, and mushy peas.
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Spring 03 issue available here
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Susan H. Case
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