This past weekend we returned to our retreat, our weekend getaway location: Whitby.
Yet this weekend was the first weekend that we didn’t peruse the shops, or stroll down the promenade. This weekend was Steampunk Weekend.
My darling husband took me some months ago to a Steampunk weekend in Hebden Bridge, which I have to say, getting there was a challenge. That particular visit was mostly to have a sniff around their market and get a feel for the genre. We had a great time and liked the fantasy theme so we decided to take the plunge next time around. I don’t believe it was very long before he booked us for the February event in Whitby and we were planning our outfits. Of course, at the Hebden Bridge event, I found a spectacular frock coat so I was already committed.
Friday we trundled off, after carrying out a plethora of various errands that needed doing, like getting our cat Xena her medications and visiting his father. I have to say that I enjoy long travel in the car much more than I do tooling around the city. I find that Leeds drivers, frankly, suck. But out on the open road, I’m much better and not quite a frothing at the mouth, seething madman. The trip out to Whitby only takes a couple of hours and the time passes quickly for us.
We arrived at the hotel, which we’d made a break from our routine and picked one close to the venue up on the cliff. This is probably one good reason we never made it down into the harbor: steep roads and walks, or lots of stairs. I unpacked the car so he could get the room sorted while I took the key and parked in the lot. I wasn’t really prepared for that little bit of happiness. First, the gate swings out, so I had to move the car back. Then the bays aren’t marked on the ground or the wall. It’s on a cone near the space. Okay, so car parked and last of the luggage in hand, I walked into the hotel.
The problem with refurbishing a century-plus old hotel is that things don’t quite fit where you need them to fit. This is why I took one look at the elevator (lift for the Brits) and thought, “hell, no”. The elevator was minuscule, two people with luggage if you’re quite intimate, but four people, and you’re going to have some groping going on. Not to mention that it was slower than molasses going uphill in January. So, stairs it is.
Up the stairs I go, thankfully only to the first floor (second floor for us Americans), and the room is right off the stairs. Great big grand stairs, I might add! I was going to like this. The room was grand, spacious, not too modern, and … well, cold. Another problem with retrofitting an old hotel…. single glazing windows. But they did have big heavy curtains to draw so we wouldn’t freeze at night. It was certainly a nice room, but there was no way to adjust the heating so, I made a visit to the front desk, inquiring about the heating and they said they’d send up a heater, which they did. I don’t really believe it did anything but give us a false sense of warmth, judging by the size of the room, so it was a matter of believing that we had each other to keep warm.
The first day had nothing going on for the Steampunk Weekend, thus we relaxed in the room. While my husband took a nap, I decided to try to replace the lenses in my primary glasses. The screw was stripped so I made a foray into the harbor to try and find a place that might have an eyeglass repair kit containing screws. I showed up at Boots, which was the only thing open at 8 p.m. and they didn’t have any. Fair dues, I’m getting used to small town disappointments. So I trucked my ass back up the slope to the hotel. Then there as dinner to come.
Previously in the day, after arriving, I’d gone down for a cig out in front of the hotel. As I was looking out over the bay, a tour bus arrived, blocking my view, much to my chagrin. I did notice a large collection of elderly folks disembarking the bus and lugging their bags into the hotel. So you can imagine my fit of giggles when it was time to go down for dinner.
We arrived at the restaurant and were seated. I looked about and thought for a moment that we’d wandered onto the set of Cocoon. With the exception of a few grandchildren (and the staff), I think we were the youngest people in the room. We did meet a sweet couple who sat next to us, as it was very much a buffet style table and you had no choice but to sit next to strangers. We tried to make their experience as special as we were having.
There was this one waiter who was positively captivating. He was one of these people that you just can’t help but notice. To say he was handsome wouldn’t do him justice. He was stunning. It wasn’t until the next night that we’d get to talk to the people serving us and find out that he was Hungarian. And simply gorgeous.
Dinner was good that night. We finished with our meal, thanked the lovely staff and headed back to the room to relax for the night; he took the elevator, I took the stairs.
As expected, my insomnia hit that night so I was up at stupid o’clock in the morning. I staggered downstairs, bleary-eyed, and tried the door so I could have a smoke. Bolted shut, well, damn! I didn’t see anyone at the desk but there was a walkie-talkie, so I hit the button and a man came scurrying from behind the partition, newpaper in hand. I inquired about the door and he said to just unbolt it then bolt it when I come back in. I swear, Britain is the only place I’ve ever experienced a hotel / manor house / bed and breakfast being locked up tight for a night. Considering this is the inspiration for the novel Dracula, I suppose they’re still worried about vampires.
The next morning, breakfast and then getting ready for the Steampunk market. We donned our outfits, did a look over in the full-length mirror like proper gay men and with a nod of approval back and forth, headed out to the pavilion. A few of the people which we’d met at dinner and when I was smoking were milling about as we walked out, complimenting us on our gear. The walk to the market wasn’t long or far, and quite enjoyable with the sea lapping at the shore below us.
Suffice it to say, we did have a good shop around. I was sans chapeau, so I had to get a hat. With the number of milliners at the market, who could choose. But I found a great hat right at the first booth. I didn’t know my hat size so I had to try on a few to get the right fit. As my frock coat was a dark deep purple, I needed something fitting. The gentleman produced a black top hat with a covering of iridescent purple feathers in the band. It was accented with brass chains and pearls (and a veil). The fit was perfect (with a little tweak here, squish there, twist there). We tucked the veil up into the band and the hat was sold.
Next was glasses. My normal glasses are more fitting for a Matrix re-enactment so I needed something fitting to Steampunk. I found one vendor who had lenses dark enough for my eyes, but we were going to look around. There were a good number of knick knack stalls, and lots of clothing to choose from, which I avoided because we’d be bankrupt if I stopped at just one of them. There wasn’t a large selection of glasses dark enough, as we looked around.
We stopped for a drink and I decided to go back for the goggles that I saw. Drink and relax done, we headed to the lower floor to peruse their items. More food, more crafts, more clothes. We came across a card reader which was the father of a friend my husband knows. He was giving a lecture later that day so we decided to go to that. But my husband wanted a card reading so he went to that, while I continued my look around. Once he was done with that, we went for a cup of tea (for him) and to get some walking sticks (for me).
Next on the agenda was the lecture. Ray was fantastic. He read the people in the audience and even pegged me although briefly. When the show was done, with much applause, I had a chance to chat with him while we walked back to his booth. He seemed to pick up on my magickal nature, which is rare for these mediums. Thus I deemed him quite real. We talked shop about cards, magickal practices and the like. And this is when I realized that it seems my power is coming back finally.
After the lecture, we decided to head back to the hotel. Once again, husband naps while I play games on the iPad. My brief trips downstairs for a smoke almost always garnered a compliment from someone who’d seen us in our outfits. I don’t think I had my photograph taken more than that day. I woke the husband in time for dinner, we had our meal, which was sub-par this night. But we had the gorgeous staff to offset that.
That night we decided to try out the ballroom, as we couldn’t get tickets to the Steampunk show. It had been sold out and we tried our level best but to no avail. So the ballroom had an entertainer, who was fairly moderate. he got the people up and dancing so he couldn’t be all that bad. But when it was time for bingo, we had to call it quits.
Sunday we headed back after breakfast and the trip was great until we hit the outskirts of Leeds. Blood pressure through the roof, check. Profanity slipping liberally from the lips, check. Seething growls of howling hatred emitting from driver, check. It seems that we were home again, to our lovely cats in our lovely home.
To the staff, a great thank you for the superb service and charming conversations: Istvan, Lazslo, Alexandru, Michael, Laurie and Alexandra.