Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Fourteen: The End of the Road (Trip)

Well, that’s it. Against all odds, I took myself out of my comfort zone, faced my fears and I did it.

It’s been quite a fortnight

Fourteen days, fourteen nights……..
Five Airbnbs, one Travelodge, four family homes
Fifty cups of coffee
Half a dozen sandwiches
Four Cuppa Soups
One cooked breakfast
Three fish and chips
One veggie curry
Thirty postcards distributed
Seventeen postcards received back
Sixteen pledge postcards sent
Five trips down memory lane
Endless hours of chatting
Fourteen blog posts
1500 Miles covered
£150 worth of incidentals
£200 worth of petrol
£180 worth of accommodation
3707 camera images
123 phone images
100 people spoken to
And at least three new friends

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A few things I’ve learnt along the way….

Buying a large bag of popcorn and leaving it open on the passenger seat is not a good idea if you have to go round corners – not unless you’re happy to pick popcorn off everything you’ve thrown in the footwell for the past five days

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You can’t eat sweetcorn with a biro* (well, you can, but it takes a long time)
Once opened, vacuum packed hard boiled eggs stink the room out *
A family sized pot of yogurt from PoundStretchers is not a bargain if you eat the whole lot in one go. With a plastic knife. Especially if you then feel sick for the next twelve hours **
There is a direct correlation between my mood and the level of the petrol gauge
Your Satnav is your best friend – don’t fall out with it.

And lucky jewellery really does keep you safe.

Travelling back today by a familiar route, has given me one last chance of thinking time. I’ve travelled miles and spent hours mulling things over in my head as the radio and satnav fought it out in the background.  I’ve battled rain, hailstones, wind and blinding sun.

I’ve pondered on subjects from the meaning of life to whether I could make it to the next service station toilets. In the privacy of my car I’ve laughed and I’ve cried; I’ve panicked and stayed calm; I’ve berated myself and built myself up again.

I’ve been spurred on by support from family, friends and strangers who have heard my tale.

Above all, it’s been an experience I’ll never forget, and one that has given me more, much, much more than I ever expected.

Service Station in the Sun

Thanks to every single one of you who made pledges; suggested ideas; encouraged me to start this journey and cheered me on when it was underway.

I couldn’t have done it without you.

 

*discovered at Yarmouth Airbnb

**discovered at Scarborough Airbnb

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Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Fourteen: The End of the Road (Trip)

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Thirteen: Family, Babies and the Human Satnav

After the excitement of the last couple of weeks today was a rest and relaxation day at Mareseybabes and Spamhead’s 5* Hotel (AKA mum and dad’s house/my childhood home.)

It’s always lovely to spend time at this ‘hotel’. It’s nearly fifty years since I last lived here but the sound of the birds singing in the garden still reminds me of the day we first moved in. The excitement of coming home from school to a different house and a bedroom with a window in TWO adjacent walls is a memory I hope I never lose. Even then, as a little eleven year old I loved solitary pursuits such as reading, drawing and writing. To be ensconced in my room, sat on the yellow candlewick bedspread with the radio playing and a plentiful supply of books, paper and pens was heaven. If I had chocolate my life was complete.

I still have the diaries that were secretly written (one with a tiny lock and key, totally superfluous when I read what I wrote) and the drawings and scribbled notes – poems, stories, plays that made up my life. Somewhere I have the reel to reel tapes of the interviews I did with my best friend (still my best friend today despite half a century of lives that went off in totally different directions) where we giggled and spluttered our way through chats on boys and pop groups, make up and fashion. I don’t suppose there would be any way of playing them now but it would be good to try.

Back to reality, and an invite from my brother and his wife to come and see the twin grandbabies they were looking after for the day.

I offered to drive but soon realised that Sally Satnav was a dream car companion compared to my mum. Before we had gone five yards I was being redirected, and if I thought Sally Satnav veered towards panic, she had nothing on Mary, who spent the whole journey warning me about red lights and approaching cars, with a foot pressing down on an imaginary brake at regular intervals. How I managed that thousand mile road trip without my eighty eight year old mum by my side for driving advice I shall never know.

Despite all hazards we arrived in one piece and were greeted by Geoff and Cathy at the door, a crying baby apiece. We had cuddles, gave bottles, oohed and aahed, soothed and smiled, danced with them to Queen, then, thinking (despite their undeniable cuddly cuteness) how glad I was that those days are over, we left as we’d arrived – Geoff and Cathy at the door, a baby apiece.

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Ignoring mum’s ‘Whoops!’ as I backed out of the drive and off the kerb, we set off to Baskerville’s for lunch.

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A three hour sleep on the sofa this afternoon, a home cooked meal of fillet steak and a visit from my lovely niece, Lynda (with hilarious teaching tales) all combined to recharge my batteries.

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Tomorrow, I’m saying goodbye to all my London family, and (no doubt weighed down with enough food to keep me going for weeks) heading back up north to the Blackpool clan. I can’t wait for cuddles with all my favourite grandchildren. And the husband if he’s lucky…

In the bedroom, I check the flowers – daffodils, a taste of spring – and know that for now, all’s well at the 5* Hotel.

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Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Thirteen: Family, Babies and the Human Satnav

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Twelve: Travels with My Aunt

When I sorted out my original itinerary, way back in the depths of winter, Brighton was my final stop. So yesterday afternoon, as I left the Brighton seafront and set off for Worthing and my aunt’s house, I mentally packed away my cameras and prepared to unwind.  Little did I know what Sandra had planned for me.

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Dave’s 50 Year Old Painting
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Sandra’s House

As an artist, herself, my aunt is involved in several local creative groups. It just so happened that the monthly Artists’ Breakfast was to take place the following day, so we were up and out this morning as the seagulls screeched and whirled above us.

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Held in a local cafe, the Artists’ Breakfast consisted of a diverse group of interesting lively, colourful individuals.  I immediately felt at home.  For a couple of hours we drunk coffee and swapped stories, business cards and websites.  When we left I felt I’d made several new friends, and having distributed the road trip postcards for them to return meant I would hopefully hear from them again.

The sun was shining and the cold wind had dropped. It was the perfect Spring day to stroll by the sea and walk the length of the pier, and no visit would be complete without a picture or two. The cameras had been taken out of hibernation and were once more slung around my neck. I was ready for action.

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With only an hour or so before I planned to leave we wandered into the tiny shops, tucked in the arches. They were like Aladdin’s caves, crammed full of handmade goods.  We chatted with one owner who made the most fantastic light fittings, then moved next door to a lovely man who sewed scarves and hats and all manner of fabulous outfits out of recycled materials.  He told us he’d been making clothes since he was seven. I left them both with postcards, and we headed back for lunch.

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Light Art by Jessica Gill
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Light Art by Jessica Gill
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Sandra’s New Scarf
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The Vintage Emporium

As I packed up the car and hugged Sandra I thought how lovely it was that I’d been able to make this trip, and spend some time with a fabulous aunt I’d not seen for a few years.  We’d chatted and laughed and cried and hugged and agreed we’d had the most fantastic few hours.

I started the car and thought about a conversation I’d had with Sandra fifty years ago.  Undecided about teacher training or art college I’d asked her advice.  She’d been to Leicester College of Art a few years previously.

‘Go there,’ she advised, you’ll love it.’

I went, I loved it – and I met the future husband.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Twelve: Travels with My Aunt

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Eleven: Brighton

I know this will come as a huge disappointment to those of you waiting with bated breath for more tales of grubby bedding, wonky baths or dirty cups, but as the main participant in all this, I can tell you I was mightily relieved to find my room in last night’s Airbnb in Ramsgate was clean and comfortable, Kaz was the perfect host, and the house was packed full of colourful and interesting bits and pieces.

At least, I think that was the case. Half an hour after I arrived I opened my bedroom door to be hit by a smell so strong and evocative that I wonder if I actually spent the rest of the night stoned. Believe it or not, as a sixties art student, I never once smoked a joint (and I’m not just saying this because I know my mum’s reading it). When the joint came to me I just passed it on, like some adult game of pass the parcel. For some reason though, unlike cigarette smoke, I always loved the smell of dope. And last night it took me right back.

So when I went out on the landing and smelt that old familiar smell I sniffed hard, took a few deep breaths and with a smile went back into the bedroom.

As I went to leave this morning Kaz was still in bed. We had a bit of a shouted conversation between bedrooms before I asked her if she’d write one of my postcards . We ended up chatting for about half an hour – she from her bed, me in the doorway – about all sorts of things: my road trip, her house, other Airbnbs teenagers, politics – all very interesting.

Then off I went Brighton.

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Apart from a missed meeting with a friend (she was at a funeral – I hoped my repeated texts and calls hadn’t interrupted the service), the extortionate cost of parking (£10 for two hours!) and the fact that I couldn’t remember where I’d left my car (and I was edging up to the next £5 increment) Brighton was pretty uneventful.

I wandered along the front, looking out for likely shots. The sun was shining and the sea was sparkling.  Brighton’s appeal was obvious.

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The town was a lot bigger than I remembered from my previous two visits, the first being forty three years ago when the future husband and I had just left art college, and with the optimism of youth (and no jobs or money) had decided we would live in Brighton. I don’t remember what brought us to this decision but I do remember hitching a lift in a lorry, going to look at a fabulous flat in a huge mansion, a row and heading home again.

The second visit was when I was quite ill with post natal depression and we’d left the kids with my mum and dad in London. I think it was supposed to be a nice little break for the two of us. I must have been more ill than I thought because somehow the husband persuaded me to strip off on the nudist beach and go splashing in the waves with him. Somewhere there’s a picture of the back of me in the sea, mercifully only my shoulders visible.

I walked along to where I thought the nudist beach used to be. I wanted to ask if it still existed but decided that to do so whilst sporting two large cameras could easily be misconstrued. I must admit it brought back a few memories though.

In my panic to find the rip off NCP car park and avoid a further charge I found myself rushing past one of one of the big posh hotels, narrowly avoiding the big posh doorman, who was hailing a cab for an equally big posh guest. He looked at me aghast as I lurched on, cameras banging against my chest, and mid bite of a cheap cheese and pickle sandwich. That would have been bad enough but due to my disorientation and panic, I went back and forth FOUR times before finally identifying the correct road.

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My final call was to visit a friend of a friend who I’d not yet met. We’d been introduced to each other online by mutual friend, Buzz, who must have had a sixth sense that we’d get on. We were both on time limits so we sat in the kitchen, drinking tea and chatting as fast as our tongues would allow. I don’t think there was a second’s pause. By the time I was leaving, an hour later, I felt as though I’d known Liz for years.

Strange how you just connect with some people.

Finally, I steered the faithful Smartie towards Worthing and my bed for the night. My auntie (who’s my age and not old enough to be my auntie) has fed me and watered me and chatted and listened, until we could chat no more.

I’m in a clean, warm comfy bed.

And tomorrow I begin my journey homeward.

Seaside Towns Out of Season Day Eleven: Brighton

Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Six: A Sneaky Peek

Looking through the images I’ve taken so far, I’ve picked a few as a sneaky peek into my road trip, part one.  I had already realised that one of the lenses I’d picked up was a broken one and not the new one I’d intended to take, so some images were immediately rendered unusable.  Oh well, life and photography are both big learning curves.

The best images I’m saving for the book and exhibition.

First stop, Whitley Bay and Tynemouth.  I loved these two kids who were rushing to look over the the sea wall as the waves splashed up.  This was a couple of days after Storm Doris and the sea was pretty wild.  I watched them for a while and took a few pictures, before calling them over to give them some postcards to send back to me, and to ask if I could take a couple of close ups.  They were laughing because I’d called them over by shouting, “Girls!” and it turned out one was a boy with beautiful long, curly hair.

Pure joy in such a simple activity.

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Getting Wet
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Waiting for the Next Wave
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Simple Pleasures

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After the Waves

I think the images below were actually taken in Tynemouth, not Whitley Bay.  There was a lovely atmosphere here on a Saturday afternoon, with children playing, dogs frolicking and couples strolling arm in arm as the sun went down.

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Marvin having fun
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All the wrong settings but liked the image
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Surfers Masquerading as Sharks
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Or is it Sharks Masquerading as Surfers?
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A Last Snap

Sadly, like most other towns, Tynemouth and Whitley Bay had their share of run down buildings. On the plus side, these can be a special treat for a photographer.

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The Toy Museum that looked as though it was itself a museum piece
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Bingo on a Saturday Afternoon
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Getting a Telling Off for Shooting the Building

On to Whitby, which was picturesque and quaint, but full of tourists and a nightmare to park.

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Seagulls Rule in Whitby
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The Lookout
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A Young Singer, Braving the Wind
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Out on the Jetty
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My ‘hand today’ was holding an ice cream, not the ‘future of tomorrow’
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Fish and Chips in a Shelter, Whitby Abbey in the Background
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The skies were moody
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Lunch break for the Waitress

Finally, Scarborough, where Emma and Rich, two local photographers, were kind enough to meet me and show me around.  I loved the mix of Grand buildings, seascapes and art in back alleys.

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The Grand Hotel
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Stone and Wrought Iron
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Dusk and the Hotel Lights Go On
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A Visual Treat Down a Back Alley
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More Art
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Dramatic Skies as the sun goes down in Scarborough Harbour
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Lots of Little Seafood Stalls Along the Harbour

Onto Part Two of my adventure tomorrow – Camera batteries charged, the good lens packed, SDHC cards emptied and ready for more memories…..

Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Six: A Sneaky Peek

Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Five: A Little Trip Around My Head

In the interests of continuity, day five, a non travelling day, still deserves a short mention.

Today has been a catch up day; printing out orders, catching up with emails and texts, planning the second half of my journey, debating whether to venture out (after a wrangle with my PFC (physical fitness conscience) I decided I’ll get enough fresh air and exercise once I set off again on Thursday), throwing washing in the machine and repacking my case.

In between jobs, I got to thinking about how this long-planned trip had coincided with a big dip in my mental health.

At the risk of repeating myself (when has that ever stopped me, before??) I need to lay a little background for those who missed my Facebook post about ten days ago.  In a nutshell, I’ve suffered from depression for the last thirty five years.  After the first few years, which included severe post natal depression, a stay in hospital and several visits to a lovely psychiatrist, I did manage to stabilise, with the endless support of family and friends – and some little red pills.

Over the years, like most people, I’ve faced numerous stressful situations which, again with love, help and support, I’ve coped with.  The pills balance the serotonin levels in my brain.  They are not ‘happy’ pills, they are ‘normality’ pills, and in the last few weeks I’ve realised, despite what I thought,  I still need them.  It really is that simple.

Having pondered long and hard about posting a long, personal, confessional status on Facebook, I was amazed and hugely touched by the responses and messages, both public and private, that I received in the following days.  They confirmed my belief that we do need to pay regard to mental illness.  We do need to be open and unashamed if we’ve suffered, as so many have.  And it’s good to be honest about what has worked for each of us.  Not everybody needs anti-depressants, and not everybody needs counselling.  I’m waiting for counselling but I’m also aware that that alone is not the full solution for me.  At the age of sixty four, I’ve had enough time to get to know my body and mind, and if I’ve learned one thing in the last couple of weeks it’s that I need to trust my instincts.

Despite being a pretty sociable person, I enjoy my own company and never really mind being alone, so the last few days have given me a great opportunity to really think about things without interruption.  I’ve said before that I’m a great believer in everything happening for a reason – call it fate – and this project coinciding with such low feelings is just such an occasion.  I knew when I planned this trip that I was taking myself out of my comfort zone, I just didn’t realise quite how far I would be pushing myself through some very dark places.

Now, I’m happy to say, the fog is clearing, my mood is beginning to stabilise, and I’m feeling joy again.  My family and friends have told me they’re proud of me, and for once I’m going to admit I’m proud of myself.  I set off last Friday, feeling vulnerable and shaky, and arrived home yesterday, strong and optimistic.

 

One more rest day tomorrow, then I’m off again, for part two of this exciting adventure, which has turned out to be not just a road trip but also a winding journey around my head.

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And this is just one of the ways I recharge my batteries
Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Five: A Little Trip Around My Head

Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Three: Taking its Toll

Day three got off to a good start.  I woke up feeling better, my room mate hadn’t disturbed me, the breakfast was good (even the sausages that I’d said I didn’t want) and it wasn’t raining.

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My quiet room mate..😄

I picked up the car from outside Whitley Bay Comrades Club, where the balloons were still flying from the night before, set up the satnav and let my little Smartie take me on my way….

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The only problem with a satnav is when it gives you a choice of routes, and you’ve no way of checking which is the best.  I went for the quickest, and didn’t realise till I was well on my way that it involved the dreaded Tyne Tunnel Toll yet again.  This time I would be prepared.

At the first red light I unzipped my purse and peered in. Two £2 coins, a few coppers, a 20p and a 10p, not the £1.70 I was hoping for. Not to be daunted, I swung into the next garage, bought just enough petrol to get me the right change from a £20 note, extracted the £1.70 and put it in the coin holder by the steering wheel. Smugly, I drove towards the toll booth and threw in the coins. £1.50 registered. ’20p’ flashed up on the screen. I glanced in the mirror at the growing queue behind me and scrabbled desperately in the coin holder for the missing 20p. It wasn’t there. I knew I’d thrown the correct money into the scoop. A car hooted behind me. Angrily, I grabbed a £2 coin from my purse and threw it in. The barrier lifted and little Smartie edged forward. Tyne Tunnel 1: Jill nil.

I thought Whitby would be small and compact and easily accessible. It wasn’t. It took me three circuits of the town, two bridge crossings and four tours of packed car parks before I finally found a space and headed off with the trusty cameras.

Much as I loved Whitby’s quaintness it wasn’t really what I’d been expecting – yes, it was picturesque, yes, it had some interesting little shops (which I sailed past with only a quick glance – today was all about pictures, not purchases) and yes, it had boats and seagulls and crammed together houses. Maybe it was all the tourists that put me off.

Despite the filling breakfast, I knew I had to sample fish and chips in Whitby. It was an entertaining meal as the couple behind me were obviously in the early stages of a relationship. I lived through his divorce with him, his sadness and anger at the loss of his dogs (his ex wanted them even though she NEVER walked them, and then he went to pick the kids up one day and the dogs were gone. The ex had got rid of them. Cue long, significant pause) Meanwhile, it was obvious to me that the woman just wasn’t interested. In him or his divorce. She was making comments that subtly sided with the ex. Unfortunately he didn’t realise and ploughed on. I left before she’d given him a decision on whether she would join him on holiday. My guess is no.

 

 

Back to the car and three more tours of the car park in an effort to get out, finally following a large sign which stated unequivocally, NO EXIT THIS WAY. There was.

Next stop Scarborough, where I was anxious to check that my pre booked Airbnb was still available after messages from me had gone unanswered. Following the Satnav I found myself in an area that I can only describe as ‘dossy’. It was a square of grand houses that had seen far, far better days. Every front garden was full of rubbish – broken tables, chairs, bottles, cans, fag ends – and amidst the rubbish were pairs of scruffy looking men, smoking and looking menacing. My heart sank, and I actually felt quite intimidated. I thought about some of the less salubrious areas of Blackpool and decided I could cope with my own familiar run down areas, but not these in a strange town.

Being the sort of person who never lets anyone down I decided I’d just have to grit my teeth and stay the one night I’d booked. Stepping over broken glass, I approached the front door with trepidation. There was no doorbell or knocker, only a keypad whose code I wasn’t privy to. Feeling eyes boring into my back I knocked. There was no answer. I walked back to the car, sent a message cancelling my booking, and desperately searched for another room. Which is how I ended up feeling like I’d stepped back into Reidy Street when I arrived at my hastily booked room to find half eaten spaghetti hoops on the table, four naked children running around the house, their dad watching footie and mum apologising for the chaos. It’s a shared bathroom, there’s no lock on the door, and I need to be out by 7 in the morning as that’s when they go to work. I don’t care, it’s clean, warm and safe.

I’m now laid on the bed, surrounded by empty yogurt pots, cuppa soup packets, laptop, phone and cameras. I’m shattered from an afternoon being shown around Scarborough by a lovely couple who volunteered through my Kickstarter campaign.

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The McFlurry that kept me going……I must be feeling better

 

Tomorrow I’m homeward bound where I’m going to upload images, prepare for Road Trip part two and sleep. For a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seaside Towns Out of Season, Day Three: Taking its Toll