‘Fish and six’, my father said, when he meant ‘fish and chips’. I am fairly sure that this is a North-east phrase, but I am happy to be corrected. Phrases you grow up with sound natural: you don’t question their provenance or origin. (Another one is ‘six and two threes’. I used this in Milton Keynes with three non North-Easterners, and they fell silent. ‘Don’t you mean “Six of one and half a dozen of the other”?’ said one of them. But I’ve been saying ‘six and two threes’ all my life without thinking. A colleague from South Shields, indicating she had no preference, said ‘six and two threes’ to me the other week. I realise that this too really must be local.)
It was a rainy day yesterday. My daughter, visiting the North-East, was up for a trip to Whitby, which I have either never been to, or (more likely) went to a very long time ago. Its scale surprised me: I had expected something on the lines of (say) Gorranhaven, not a sizeable place. Whitby has cannily adapted to extend its season from the summer months to include a late October and also spring festival of Goths, drawn by the fact that the place has a Bram Stoker connection – I am almost tempted to go there in four weeks to see Goths in four figures wandering the streets. Perhaps they will include a new breed, ‘steampunks’, a pair of whom I saw in Birmingham two weeks ago. They’re Goths, but they wear cod-Victorian clothes, including stovepipe hats (males only).
But Whitby is also famous as the fish-and-chip capital of the country. Quite a number of the fish-and-chip places claimed to be the most famous purveyors of the edible pair, but I had been tipped off that the Royal Fisheries in Baxtergate was the business. Channel Four lists it in its Top Ten. I’m not actually a huge fish-and-six fan, but we gave it a shot, and it was great – no grease whatsoever, and colossal amounts. It was one of the first times my daughter and I had had an afternoon out together since she was a pre-teen (the dread ‘access weekends’, which actually I think back to being some of the happiest days of my life). We even indulged in a bit of tat-hunting in second-hand shops, which is hard, as the charity shops are far better organised and well-lit than most first-hand shops these days.
Like many people, my daughter was foxed by the local geography. ‘Why,’ she asked, ‘are they talking in Yorkshire accents and not Geordie ones?’
‘Because we are in Yorkshire.’