When I opened my curtains this morning onto a non-descript autumn day, I found a rainbow waiting outside my window. Traditionally my view is nothing spectacular: a road, and houses in all directions. If I’m really lucky I might get to hear bird song over the new developments’ machinery.
New houses on green land, new houses on flood plains, new roads, new shops. Irritating drivers, thoughtless pedestrians. I might as well live in a fantasy world.
No one listens just outside of Hull any more than they do inside it, I suspect. Yes, City of Culture 2017 lots of things happening, not all of it ‘Hull’. Yes there’s that stigma again. An understandable one for those of you from Fantasycon who happened to have survived the meal offerings at Scarborough’s Grand.
Hull? Isn’t that the place the PM just compared to Detroit? There’s a lot about Detroit I like, but I do worry for the city up the road when targets are placed on things so few get. A bit like Shoreditch, and planners designing roads for towns they’ve never been in.
Yet, despite all these negatives and changes – be they wanted or forced upon us – I’m surrounded by endless references to worlds that don’t exist and a culture that cannot be bought in or rebuilt at any price. Even though ‘outsiders’ are trying. Generations ago the town told a king to ‘do one’, a true rebel revolt waiting to be found in the history books. And that’s not the only one.
While the politics at a local level might belong in a dystopian novel along with the rotting boats along its beck, buildings born from fishing wealth inspire Georgian alternate history tales down streets where Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell would be quite at home.
Inspiration for Lewis Carroll lies in wait at one church, while Tolkien’s touch is everywhere. Under-crofts and ancient churches treasure their secrets, next to narrow staithes hiding murderous lore of their own. The source of the town’s multicultural world building stares us in the face as we pop in to Maccy D. The essential component to any fantasy novel, the ‘barter town’ market trades under many faces. The nightlife would give Bladerunner a run for its money.
The future veers out across the Humber where its bridges are swallowed in paranormal mist.
Avoiding its miserable mud as the fog rolls on, the ghosts of Romans still search for their missing mosaic. Further along, over lost raised walkways, souls continue their pilgrimage to towering standing stones. Secret rooms buried in rubble uncover the forgotten meeting places of the elite and still standing pubs hold tight to the conspiracies plotted there. Pillar boxes maintain their guard for the airships while buildings draped in tattered canvas plead for a hero to rescue them. Shelters crumbling into an eroding coast are blinded by the hazey sun while pirates saunter back down the estuary.
There’s so much to complain about these days, yet we take so much for granted. Like an unexpected rainbow filling a grey sky with colour.
So I’m quite happy living in my fantasy world, and I’m certainly grateful for the endless inspiration. Its global and diverse population are a great source for characters and conflict. That unsuspecting hero? Hull is one great big community that won’t turn its back on a friend.
Of course the rule for Hull is you don’t mock Hull unless you’ve lived it. Everyone Back To Ours, is the phrase for the coming year so you can’t say you haven’t been invited.
Snubbing it? You can probably do one. 😀