Carefully skirting the echoing clamour of the sea-front amusement arcades, I came across a sign for a divertissement which appeared to be just the ticket for Mrs W's jangled nerves. "Visit the Hatherleigh," it urged. "Experience the thrill of life aboard a deep-sea trawler without going to sea." Despite scouring the harbourside, there was no trace of this maritime treat. Later, I discovered that the sad incuriosity of the Scarborough crowds had forced the Hatherleigh to slip anchor. For all I know, the vessel is now offering an insight into the world of deep-sea trawling to more inquisitive folk in Reykjavik or Valparaiso. After being thwarted in this way, there seemed no alternative than to take a berth aboard the High Velocity. At precisely 10:45am, I squeezed into a row of seats immediately behind the master of the vessel and we trundled out to sea. Mrs W waved frantically from the harbourside. I waved back. It might have been a scene from A Night to Remember.
Coasting through the harbour gates, I noticed that there was a metal bar attached in front of each seat. It was obviously superfluous since we were travelling at such a gentle pace. But once in open water, our helmsman let rip and I found myself clinging onto the rail with maniacal strength as the boat buffeted through the waves at 35 knots. After executing a particularly severe swerve, the pilot turned round, presumably to check if he still had a full complement of passengers, and I found myself staring into the wrinkled, dead-pan face of Walter Matthau. After allowing us a blurred glimpse of a drilling rig which seems to be up to no good in Scarborough Bay, he heeled the boat in another violent turn. Once again, I caught a glimpse of the familiar hangdog features. "It were great," exclaimed a fellow passenger as we tied up at the dockside. "It's the third time I've been on in five weeks."
"Glad you enjoyed it," shrugged Captain Matthau, who surprised me by his Yorkshire accent. The time was 10.55am.
Noting a slight tremor in my hands, Mrs W expressed scant regret at missing out on this brief but stimulating voyage. We went for a reunion celebration in the Harbour Bar ice-cream parlour. A sign in the window quotes no less an authority than Michael Winner that "the best ice-cream in Britain is to be had at the Harbour Bar in Scarborough". Its art deco premises are decorated with a host of encouraging, if slightly dubious, slogans, dating perhaps from the Fifties. "Get Fit By Eating Ice-Cream Every Day", declares one. "A Milk Shake Gives You Double Nutrition - Milk and Ice-Cream", affirms another. While slurping a delicious scoop of vanilla ice-cream in a sugar cone (80p), I was told of Mr Winner's visits. "He came all the time when he made a film here and has popped in several times since." And what's the favourite lick of the millionaire cineaste? Does he lash out pounds 2.50 on a knickerbocker glory? Or indulge in a foot-long mega-cone for pounds l.85? "No, he always has the same. A small vanilla. 50p."
We mariners were intrigued to read on the front page of Fishing News that a golden-coloured haddock was caught off the Isles of Scilly by a Newlyn skipper. Following this exciting news, I thought I might be onto a scoop when presented with a brace of black cod last week. But my benefactor quenched my excitement: "They always change colour this time of year, to match the seaweed." As with a surprising number of anglers, he isn't keen on eating fish himself ("I can't abide the smell"). This is the same chap I wrote about a few weeks ago, who fishes from the top of 600-foot cliffs at Flamborough Head. "I fell off t'other day," he casually told me. "Didn't go all the way, mind you. I fell onto a ledge 15 foot down. Carried on fishing, of course. It was only during the night that I realised I'd twisted something and went off to the hospital. The wife wasn't best pleased. I'm alright now, mind. Now, when are you going to come out wi' me?"
Lured by the irresistible claim of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway that its line passed through Newtondale Gorge, "Britain's answer to the Grand Canyon", we boarded a splendidly wheezy train at Pickering Station. The labels in our ancient carriage had a Proustian potency for those of a certain age. One informed us that the wood interior was "Weathered Sycamore, England", while another admonished, "Gentlemen: Please Lift The Seat". As our steam locomotive clanked northwards, making a sound like a frantic sand dancer, the sultry heat of the day imparted a lethargy to most passengers - except for the train buffs, who danced round as if they had ants in their pants.
In traditional fashion, they spent most of the 18-mile journey leaning perilously out of windows. When I took a peek outside, thereby gathering a generous accumulation of anthracite smuts, I saw a host of other heads protruding from the train like hairy fruit. The railway fans clicked and scribbled as if their lives depended on it. I even saw one carefully focussing his camera on a sheep's bottom protruding from the bracken.
Newtondale Gorge was an impressive spectacle. Though not quite the Grand Canyon - it's rather greener - the chasm had an unexpected American association. We were surprised to see the peculiar, sandcastle-like structures of Fylingdales Early Warning Station (they replaced the endearing golfballs a few years ago) peeping over a ridge a few miles further on. Most people got off at Goathland, which has become the focus of a major industry based on the TV series Heartbeat, but we pressed on to the terminus in the village of Grosmont. I just had time for another ice-cream, on which our loco bestowed a large lump of clinker, before we started our return journey.
It was back in the shop at Pickering Station that I saw the most remarkable spectacle of the journey. Under a notice stating "Made In Britain With British Coal", there was a fleet of model locomotives wrought from the very fuel that powered them. For pounds 17.99 apiece, you could choose from "Mallard" and "The Flying Scotsman", among others. `They're incredibly popular," asserted a woman behind the counter. I expressed my bafflement at the detail of the carving of the wheels, buffers etc. "I think they're molded from coal dust and resin," revealed my informant. Though I don't suppose the manufacturing process uses vast quantities, it's nice to know that someone still demands British coal.
No sooner had I returned from my choo-choo trip than I read the obituary of another weasel with railway connections. Roy `Weasel' James, who died at the age of 62, was one of the dwindling band of the Great Train Robbers, but I doubt if he deserved his much-prized honorific. Before working as a "wheels man" (getaway driver) on the mail train job, James was a member of the "City Gents" gang, so named because they wore bowler hats and false moustaches. Now, I ask you, what kind of weasel is it that needs a stick on 'tash?