Are you going to Scarborough, fair?

[The emphasis in that sentence is in the comma…]

Until last weekend, I’d only been to Scarborough once. I was there 8 days, thanks to the 2008 Methodist Conference and a role looking after international representatives (including, notably, Bishop Committee and Bishop Zebedee…). At the time I blogged about it quite a lot, probably because it was a semi-traumatic experience. The sun didn’t shine very often; I spent a long time sat in a bright orange chair listening to reports that made little sense; very few people my own age were present; and I was musing the likelihood that I was about to be jobless. As I recall, I spent a lot of time traipsing along the beach in the rain as it was the only place I could get a decent phone signal. Scarborough’s only redeeming feature was discovered on my last day there – the Heavenly Chocolate fudge shop, which merited a blogpost of its own.

On Friday night I passed through Scarborough en route to the retreat weekend and was glad to be there for all of 10 minutes, while organising lifts to the retreat centre. On Sunday, we arrived at the station for a train to York, only to discover that we’d just missed one and there wasn’t another for 2 hours. Two, whole, hours. I was miffed to say the least.

However, it seems that on a sunny Sunday in spring, Scarborough is actually rather pleasant and there are plenty of ways in which you can entertain yourself. (Even when the heavenly fudge shop is deemed to be slightly out of reach.)

You could call that sunbathing, but barely any skin is visible.

For a start, there’s an extensive sandy beach, with donkeys.
The beach is at the bottom of a steep cliff (as is often the way with beaches) and can be reached by cobbled streets or a zig-zagging path through a Victorian garden. Given that we were carrying many bags, the opportunity to lie about on the sand was something of a relief. However, the thought of carrying them back up the path was rather daunting. Which leads me to another excellent Scarborian diversion – the Cliff Lift.

For 75p you can travel up the cliff by tram (well, they call it that, it’s actually more of a funicular). Utterly genius. It takes about a minute, but is quaint, charming and run by people who are simply fascinated by a group of travellers from that there London. (We had a nice chat about London trams while waiting.) Seriously, this little jaunt made my day and kept me smiling on the 2 hour journey from York to London, where a dog had to moved from my designated seat and whose smell was constantly discernible.

Oh, and a final reference to the title. Appropriately, on our trek back to the station, we heard strains of Scarborough Fair being played on panpipes. No trip to Scarborough is complete without that.

Done & dusted

Conference is over. But, despite blogging some of its eccentricities, I’ve clearly missed a trick. I’ve just looked at the Church Times blog’s article on Conference (in the midst of General Synod and GAFCON sagas) and they’ve highlighted the biggest eccentricity of all – the cakes.

As Dave Walker writes:

Saturday 5 July: No cake reported
Sunday 6 July: The Vice-President, an eccles cake
Monday 7 July: The Methodist Relief and Development Fund – apple and honey cake, then fruitcake provided by the Methodist Minister’s Housing Society
Tuesday 8 July: Iced sponge supplied by MHA

(The links are to the Methodist Church’s diary of Conference.)

Actually, I didn’t get to taste any of them, though the MRDF one looked particularly yummy. But it’s true, Methodists do like their cake – lots.

Incidentally, I’m a tad disappointed that Dave Walker hadn’t mentioned me in his list of bloggers blogging Conference. But that’s probably a good thing. After, it’s not that interesting really.

Things to do whilst conference is in closed session:

1. Go to the bar, as instructed by the General Secretary. It’s not often you’re directed to alcoholic establishments whilst at Methodist events – so make the most of it.
2. Trek around Scarborough trying to find a highly recommended fudge shop.
3. Locate fudge shop, have hot chocolate in lovely little cafe whilst waiting for fudge shop to open.
4. Buy 5 different varieties of truly amazing fudge from aforementioned fudge shop.

Honestly, it’s the most bizarre place. Think of a chocolate bar or other similarly yummy confectionary item and this shop has encased it in fudge. Talking to the girl behind the counter, she said that her boss comes up with new ideas every other day. The “heavenly” in its name isn’t a lie.

I bought (small quantities!) of: vanilla fudge with flake; chocolate fudge with after eight mints; vanilla fudge with curly wurly; Jack Daniels fudge and my personal favourite, vanilla fudge with toblerone – as shown below:

From the gallery

As I’m not a represenative at Conference, I get to sit up in the gallery (in rather narrow, but squishy, plush orange seats) with a great view of what’s going on below.

Over the last three days, I’ve been struck by the types of people that are sat up there. There’s the usual suspects – other members of staff and off-duty stewards – but then there appears to be a significant number of older people who just seem to be on a day trip.

My suspicions were confirmed when one of my colleagues mentioned that a couple from his church were staying in Scarborough for a few days specifically to go to Conference. They’d even bought copies of the agenda. Very, very odd!

As predicted…

…I’m having to resort to McDonald’s wireless to stay in the real world.

Fortunately, there’s one less than 5mins from the hotel and their hot chocolate seems to have improved lots. They’ve got some interesting people in Scarborough though.