My dad’s friend, whom he had meant before I was even born, lives in Northern England. Having tried and failed to meet up in London, she invited me up to her place for the weekend. She, her husband, and two-year-old live in a small little village outside Leeds. I arrived on Friday evening and spent the night playing with her son and, after he was put to bed, talking with her well until midnight.
The next day, she and her husband were determined to give me a taste of the Yorkshire they knew and loved. They took me to Haworth, the home of the Brontë sisters, to see a Victorian Christmas market. “People dress up in period costumes,” they advertised. “It’s a real piece of local culture.”
To get there, we drove through the moors and several small Yorkshire villages. I stared out the window, transfixed while their boy stared at me before falling asleep. The weather was dreadful yet dreadfully appropriate considering what this area is known for: overwhelming melancholy and passion.
It was dark upon the misty moor. We bumped along the winding roads as oppressive clouds drifted in the sky above us. The wind whipped through the hills, pushing us along as we moved faster and faster through the North English countryside. This is the home of the Baskervilles, of Catherine and Heathcliff: these gloomy fields painted in rusty reds and intense greens, populated by fat sheep and crumbling ruins.
Once in Haworth, we wondered around the twisting streets for a bit, looking in on a couple old-fashioned, local stores. But no matter where we looked, we couldn’t find the market. After warming up in a craft fair held at the community center, we found out that they had cancelled the market due to the weather. They had apparently tried it last week but the wind blew away the stalls. So we briefly stopped at the Brontë Parsonage, taking time to look down at the dismal, damp graveyard, before moving on.
There was a pub that we had passed on the way that they decided would be a nice place to have a late lunch. Situated on a hillside, it looks over the moors, a view, my dad’s friend assured me, was absolutely beautiful in the summer. Even now, though, in the mist and dying light, it was still breathtaking. They were having a kids’ Christmas party inside (complete with coloring, candy, and Santa Claus), something that we weren’t aware of but was still a pleasant surprise. So we talked and relaxed over a pint while their toddler made Christmas cards and ate his fill of chocolate.
It was dark by the time we left (meaning it was around 4 ‘o clock) and they decided that we had enough time to stop by Salts Mill in Bradford. This expansive structure, located next to a raging river, was at the heart of the area’s manufacturing back when North England dominated the Industrial Revolution. Considering, by some accounts, it’s the largest industrial structure in the world and an amazing work of practical architecture, it’s shocking to learn that in the 1980s, the city was planning on tearing it down. The artist David Hockney teamed up with someone else and eventually saved the mill from destruction. They then transformed it into an artistic space for the community, filling it with a bookshop, an art supplies store, and a couple restaurants and then decorating it with Hockney’s original work.
My dad’s friend’s husband used to live in the area so the two knew the place well. We strolled through the floors, and as they kept an eye on their son as the sugar worked its way through his body, I went off on my own, admiring the architecture and the artwork and browsing through the shops. After walking through the gallery of Hockney’s latest digital artwork at the top of the building, we rounded up the toddler and the stroller and went home.
After the two-year-old was put to bed, the evening ended with a bottle of wine, snacks, more conversation, and a mockumentary. They are such wonderful people. I’m grateful that they took me in and I had a chance to meet them.