There is dog shit everywhere. Literally everywhere and I mean literally in the true sense of the word, not the bastardised ‘I literally blew up with anger’.
Coils of mesmerising size, shape and variety line the alley leading from the train station into town-we point amazed, strangely impressed-constipated dogs, dogs with diarrhea, big dogs, little dogs, dogs who have clearly eaten something green-all have chosen to empty their bowels here, untroubled by owners with little shovels and small warm plastic bags.
An auspicious start. It gets better once we reach the high street-it is amazingly busy-this is a rather isolated town in the Yorkshire dales, an old town built mostly of grey and it blends in with the winter sky. But where you normally on a February Saturday expect the general shuffling Saturday shoppers, Skipton is bustling like Armageddon has just been announced on North West Tonight.
Throngs of people of a certain age merrily bustle down the narrow high street lined with worthy independent shops-there is a National Trust shop and despite the recession, people are cooing at bird feeders and books about castles. Clothes shops sell either windproof , waterproof and fashion proof coats or smart two-pieces -yesterday’s fashions at tomorrow’s prices.
As usual, after an hour on a train, sitting doing nothing, I am filled with a ravenous hunger. Skipton has a lot of places to eat. They are all full. Full to brim, bursting, saturated. I was keen to go to a veggie café; Wild Oats in the high street-there is an earnest polite queue leading down the staircase into the whole-foods store. The Italian we try is also full -all around me people eat, shop, eat, shop. And oh so smugly. I decide I hate Skipton. My companion and I have the normal argument over where to eat but then find in a fork of the high street, an Italian called Brodys with a sign advertising pizza, garlic bread and salad for two for a tenner. It is in an ornate Georgian building with a white wedding cake ceiling filled with ladies who lunch and well-fed wholesome families. The service and the food are excellent and I like Skipton again.
After lunch, the urge for a walk -and suddenly there is dog shit everywhere again. We try to look up at the castle but are too fearful for our shoes. The castle from the canal looks disappointingly well kempt-almost as if it has double glazing-I prefer my castles wild and windswept ruins with chunks of falling masonry, blood and rust stained irons but Skipton castle looks as smug and well cared for as the women in Brodys. My roof is in worse condition. I would have liked to go inside but we have little money, it having gone yet again on pizza and train fares like some low rent Mafioso.
We are on a winding little path by the canal-a little waterfall appears and some charming little houses and beyond we can see fresh countryside, the sort that looks like it is virginal especially compared to the dog shit and litter but we have little time to stretch out into the unknown due to the haphazard train service. Maybe one day though.
The Royal Oak is nearby, near an apparently very famous pork pie shop (‘well, you would think the pies could be hot, at least,’ someone bitterly complains outside in the aggrieved tones you would expect of someone who had found her first born Sweeney Todded in crisp pastry)
I ask in the Royal Oak for a glass of red wine. ‘No, sorry, w haven’t got any’, says the woman in friendly co-miseration. Next to the Royal Oak is an off-license. I can see wine from here. It is a nice looking pub though, all wooden floors and sofas but the rugby is on loud on a big screen and the only paper is the Daily Mail. Outside someone is dressed as a Christmas tree.
We decide to oh so carefully wind our way past the Tesco’s, Morrison’s and the dogshit and go back home. Good night Skipton-you are a rather lovely place but I don’t think I will be rushing back somehow-and it’s not you, it’s me. And the poo.