How not to end a week in Whitby…

Whitby Abbey courtesy of English Heritage

It is our last night in Whitby and how we have loved this place of history and hills, herring gulls and steps, looked over by Yorkshire’s most famous ruin, etched in black against the clifftop sky.

And mostly loved traipsing up and down those 199 steps five or perhaps six times, as well as discovering another lung-stretching tipple up from opposite the marina.

Loved visiting that glorious ruin, the beach and piers west and east. Loved crossing the new footbridge craned into position last February on the east pier, a modern gangplank to the final curve of pier.

Loved walking to Sandsend for breakfast on the only grey blowy morning, as mostly the sun shone from a blue sky, more Marseilles than Yorkshire.

Loved a trip out to Robin Hood’s Bay for fish and chips and a beach walk with a clifftop return; loved visiting old friends in Scarborough (pay attention to those old friends). Loved staying bang in the middle of town in this cosy cottage so close to everything, with its sturdy door and two locks (pay attention to that door and those locks).

Another good discovery has been the Waiting Room pub at the station, a small but perfectly formed real ale bar perfectly suited to this smallish but imperfectly formed man who likes a holiday pint.

Today we have already visited the art gallery and the museum, had fish and chips at the Magpie, explored the shops, had a final holiday ice cream, before returning to the cottage for an afternoon doze.

Now it is time for a valedictory pint. I grab the keys from the mantlepiece and we step into the alleyway, both yawning.

You’ve got the keys, my wife says sleepily. I do but they are the wrong keys. Before the words are out, she has shut the door. My phone, car keys and the right keys are all inside.

My wife needed this holiday to step away from Planet Stress, and now she is back in orbit, clinging to her phone for buoyancy. The locksmith won’t come because it’s not our house; the holiday company is shut for the night and has no emergency number; and politely we are told it’s not a police matter.

So how and where we will spend the night? An online search suggests Whitby is full, and why wouldn’t it be, but bloody hell.

As my wife panics, and I try this panicking lark, we avoid blaming each other – one of us shut the door, one of us picked up the wrong keys, one of us insisted on visiting that bar one last time. We have to do something, I say, and suggest phoning our friends in Scarborough.

They rescue us and we spend the night in front of their log burner, chatting, eating rescue cheese on toast, drinking wine and watching music programmes on BBC4, going to bed tired and sans toothbrush. In the morning they drive us into Whitby and we get a spare key from the letting company, managing to clean and clear up before the cottage owners arrive to clean and clear up again.

In a day or so, it’s another story to tell, recounting our narrow escape. But for a fretful hour or so, we slipped through the cracks, secure one moment, homeless the next, and wondering what to do. A small example, it is true, but still unsettling.

Honestly, Whitby is great and worth more than a day out. Just don’t pick up the wrong keys.

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