The Spell of the North

My journey ended at an old coaching inn on the north coast where I’d booked a room. By this time the storm which had hounded me for two days had escalated into thunder and lightening.  The hotel seemed deserted and shabby. Eventually I found a drunken Mancunian slumped in a corner of the bar.  He told me he was in charge while the landlord was away.  He showed me to my room which was a squalid motel style hovel tacked on the rear of the main building. There were no curtains, no heating and a broken lock on the door.  I was contemplating the stains on the ceiling when the lights went off and a ripple of thunder shook the room.  The Mancunian arrived with candles in a jam jar and a hot water bottle. Later he cooked me a fish dinner on the gas cooker and it was surprisingly tasty.  He told me power cuts were not a common occurrence and referred to the area as ‘God’s own country’.   The dining room door was wedged shut with a heavy fire extinguisher to stop the wind blasting it open.  The old building moaned and groaned in the storm. My bedroom which opened directly outside was so cold I went to bed with all my clothes on, including my coat.  I’d taken care to prop an armchair under the door handle so no one could enter but still I got little sleep.  Every time I closed my eyes I could see the road unfurling and the glare of white lines. Once again I wondered what on earth I was doing here.

By morning the electricity was restored and I saw the hotel had a certain ramshackle charm. Outdoors the sky was an astonishing blue and the light sparkled like diamonds.  There was the scent of snow on the way. My fever had subsided as had the storm. I ate a huge breakfast while looking out at an empty beach. I felt happy and free for the first time in years.