I think it was the experience of Selby last week wot did it. That, and the inspirational You Are Awful (But I Like You travels through Britain book I blogged about recently. Most of the places Tim Moore visited were appealingly awful. Goole, sadly, didn’t even possess a subversively horrible attraction. My occasional flashes past the place at 70mph on the M62 viaduct had prompted not the slightest desire to exit and visit.
Which is precisely why, when lonesome Eldest Daughter was looking to play with someone, anyone, I proposed a day out to Goole.
She loved the idea, despite not having studied Moore’s writings, and we loaded up Google maps, identified a route avoiding all fast roads, and duly pootled reflectively through the flat greenness of East Riding M62 hinterlands.
After interminable circling with Drax power station ever present on the horizon in the manner of an all-seeing omniscient Being, we found ourselves approaching Goole.
I worried as only middle-class liberal-leaning artists can do about this being a rather patronising outing, and sought reassurance. “You’re OBVIOUSLY being patronising” yawned Eldest Daughter, so I threw the guilt out of the window in the direction of the fluffy white Drax clouds, and settled down to enjoy myself.
We flashed past our first missed photo opportunity: a large welcome sign proclaiming Goole: Haven of Opportunity. I might have slammed on the brakes and backed up to position Eldest Daughter beaming against this optimistic backdrop. But I was distracted by innumerable brown heritage signs directing us to a waterways museum and the Viking Marina.
Waterways? Marina? Museums and Vikings? In the middle of Yorkshire?
I was starting to think this might not be such an ironic pleasure outing at all, and that had I taken the time to research this properly, I might have found a whole section about Tourist Goole in Gateway to Yorkshire information at Leeds City Station.
Minutes later, our suspicion that this was no typical small boring town was confirmed when we caught sight of a massive Associated British Ports ad, and realised we were in fact in the largest, most important inland port in the UK.
I can’t tell you how excitedly we followed the signs to the museum.
An interminable dusty road eventually ran out of Tarmac and murderous speed bumps and led us to a hut. The museum, sadly, was only open on weekends. We u-turned in a sand and grit complex, and picked up the brown signs to the Viking Marina. The docklands scenery and industrial buildings were spectacular, and we had high hopes of the marina, though we were struggling to see the water bit of this great inland port.
The brown signs disappeared and we found ourselves peering through the windscreen at a wire gate beyond which were a mass of old barges, presumably floating on water though our sight line made this hard to assess. But nothing Norse in sight.
Jettisoning the water attractions, we headed for the town centre, and I can heartily recommend Goole for parking. It’s brilliant. Spaces everywhere you look all around the pedestrianised heart.
There was a covered market where Eldest Daughter found a treasure trove of exceedingly jokey smutty cards to send to all her mates celebrating 21st birthdays this year.
And in a quiet dark corner, a self-proclaimed Sweeney Todd barber shop looked scarily unappealing.
But outside, the public conveniences were five star quality: automated water, soap and hot air without even the need to press a button with a dripping soapy digit. The only downside was the generous amount of free-flowing liquid soap still being dispensed when the hand drier airstream activated. Eldest daughter was so taken by this amusement, she washed her hands three times whilst I tried to capture the antics on video. O how we laughed.
Refreshed and exceedingly clean, we ambled along the high street to look for a coffee spot, and were spoilt for choice. Even better, not Nero, Costa, or Starbucks in sight. We wanted authentic, so we rejected a surprisingly attractive deli, and then an Italian place, on the grounds that the coffee might be great. In the end we found some nice chairs on a bit of paving near our car, and opted for tea and hot chocolate. The whole coffee basis-for-selection was a red herring. Who on earth goes for coffee when there’s Yorkshire Tea to be had?
We could tell we were in a nice place. Despite the Cheque Centres and pawnbrokers and pound shops, it was a trusting friendly community where noone felt the need to chain and padlock a bike. Just fling it to the floor, go shop, and come back with no messing and contorting to fit a key in a lock inaccessibly trapped between spokes.
We weren’t the first to discover the appeal of the town though. The second language of the place appears to be Russian.
Now how did Russians end up in Britain’s largest inland port? Did they hit Hull (sorry Hull) and think there had to be something better somewhere? And just carried on up the Humber?