Though the inhabitants of Holderness, those draughty flatlands to the east of Hull, might not be best pleased at being described as "a geographical appendix", it has to be admitted that Patrington is out on a limb. Vicinities in Yorkshire tend to be rather more spacious than in the rest of England, so it took us almost two hours to reach this theological Cape Canaveral. When we finally got there, St Patrick's was no disappointment - the 189- ft spire is the nearest thing to a Saturn rocket in stone you can imagine. Apparently, there are 200 carved faces peering from the host of 14th-century arches in the interior. By my reckoning there were 201, since my companion's phizog - which entertainingly combined illumination from her crimson nose and percussion from her chattering teeth - had more than a touch of the medieval grotesque.
I failed to share Mr Jenkins's feeling of imminent transcendence, but in one way, St Patrick's is undeniably close to the stars. The two substantial cookbooks (pounds 5 apiece) issued by the church to boost funds contain a glittering constellation of celebrity contributions. From Lord Lloyd-Webber's Parsnip & Apple Soup to Cilla Black's Special Prawn Cocktail (melon balls make it special), it is one of the most impressive works of ecclesiastical gastronomy since Parson Woodford's Diaries. I'm sure Sir David Frost's Mignon de Veau Jacques-Rene now makes a regular appearance on the tables of Patrington. How touching to encounter such modest offerings as "Salmon a la Botham!" (requiring "one freshly caught salmon") and Steak Forsyth, which Brucie explains is "named this way on the menu of the Wig & Pen Club". By coincidence, the two Davids, Bellamy and Steel, both propose Welsh Rarebit. Those about to be grilled by John Humphrys may have their sinews stiffened if they bear in mind that his favourite dish is a concoction called Tatatuna: "Roast one large potato. Scoop out and refill with lots of onion and tuna fish..."
Since one of the cookbooks is entirely devoted to desserts, this might explain why St Patrick's remains resolutely earthbound. It would be a tricky job taking off when the congregation is weighed down with Sir Cliff Richard's temptingly named Transkei Mud or John Major's Chocolate & Chestnut Gateau. Similarly, the statuesque figure of Sir John Harvey- Jones suggests that his Lemon Pudding is a decidedly down-to-earth dessert. But for ballast of proven effectiveness, what could surpass the Apple & Rhubarb Almond Sponge advocated by the gravity-bound balloonist Richard Branson? Obviously, there's no danger of soaring heavenwards with a slice of that on board.
Though I once lived nearby, it was the first time in quarter of a century that I set foot in Hull. With the exception of a tawdry new shopping mall, the place seems much improved since my last visit. A sparkling marina has brought a touch of St Tropez to Humberside - though the host of nightclubs on the dockside suggests that it will be less than peaceful in the small hours. Sadly, since the construction of the celebrated suspension bridge, ferry boats no longer dock at Corporation Pier. It used to be one of the joys of local life to sip a beer while chugging across the swirling brown stew of the Humber - indeed, a pounds 5 tip to the barman enabled the imbibing to continue all day as you shuttled between Hull and far Lincolnshire and back.
However, I was delighted to discover that one of the city's most engaging facilities has survived the passing of the years. Overshadowed by a giant gilded statue of King William III on horseback, Hull boasts one of the most magnificent gentlemen's lavatories in Britain. (The statue bears the apt inscription: "Our Great Reliever".) Inexplicably, Mrs W chose not to accompany me on my exploration of this subterranean backwater. She missed a treat. It is a cornucopia of polished brasswork (even the door hinges gleam) and richly ornamented porcelain. The Doric columns framing the WC's are topped with scallop shells, while the slate-sided urinals are irrigated from glass-sided cisterns. I would have liked to remain longer, but it seemed wise to depart when my note-taking aroused the attention of other visitors who were not primarily concerned with aesthetics.
Though it still thrived when I lived there, Hull's fishing industry is now little more than a memory. I could find scant trace of what was once the city's glory, though I was pleased to see a couple of fishy references in the city's excellent Ferens Art Gallery. A painting of a fish stall by Joachim de Breuklaer (1530-74) bore a knowledgeable caption noting that "saltwater fish are on the left, freshwater fish on the right" and an exciting exhibition of new-wave British art called the Mag Collection (it gives the RA's Sensation! show a good run for its money) included a photo of an octopus lying on a bed of velvet.
However, on emerging from the gallery, I was delighted to find a cod on the pavement. A handsome cast of chromed bronze, it turned out to be one of 30-odd life-size sculptures which make up an imaginative trail called the Fish Pavement. They include a marble monkfish in Whitefriargate, a cast-iron squid at Exchange Court Alley (geddit?), a mackerel at Holy Trinity Church and a pilot fish outside the Pilotage Office. But my favourite finny art-work is to be found on an electricity sub-station. An electric eel of course. All the fish are gorgeously executed - but I wish I could find the real thing in Hull.
Introducing its free guide to "The 1998 Season" ("a perfect purse- or wallet-reminder of events not to be missed"), Yorkshire Life magazine sniffily opines: "There is, of course, an element of one-upmanship about the Season. So while Wimbledon is part of it, Wimbledon Football Club is not. You might accuse us of snobbery, we think of it as discernment." It is interesting to learn of the exclusive gatherings so carefully selected for the north's creme de la creme. I imagine that tiaras and cummerbunds will be obligatory for the Guided Fungi Walk in Lyme Park on 21 October. Similarly, the top-drawer is sure to congregate at the International Beatles Festival held at Liverpool's Cavern Club on 26 August. But who can doubt that the most glittering social event of the year will occur on 27 June when the World Worm Charming Championships take place at Willaston near Nantwich. Black tie only, pleaseReuse content