I was in a sad mood on Scarborough station last Friday evening, perhaps because of the looming war, signified by the suspension of the left-luggage facilities at the station.
I had a couple of hours to kill, so I climbed on a train to Filey. Everyone down south has heard of Scarborough even if they can't say exactly which county it's in, but you can only expect a recognition factor of about 65 per cent for a place like Filey.
When you get off the train there, you see a sign giving the town's history, which begins something like: "In the Eighteenth Century, Filey was a fishing village with a population of just 500", which sets up a narrative tension, creating the expectation of great subsequent expansion, but in fact Filey only has about 6,000 people today, none of whom were about as I walked down to Cobble Landing.
On childhood holidays at Filey, I was mesmerised by a grotesque customised tractor - with engine high above the wheels - that dragged the fishing boats into the water. Now all I could see was one ordinary tractor parked next to the boats. But I had come to verify another memory. As a kid I had gone shrimping in the rock pools of Filey Brigg, which had teemed with all kinds of flitting, scuttling things.
I haven't had much luck when peering into rock pools of late, and it was important to me that the ones on the Brigg should still be full of life, so I stepped on the beach and began making for them. A dog-walker watched me, and I suppose I cut a familiar figure: the soul-searching loony. As I trudged along, dusk was falling, and I became aware of the single row of light bulbs illuminating the front like a pearl necklace.
On the Brigg, I squatted down and looked into some pools: there were mussels, barnacles, but nothing in motion, as far as I could tell in the gloom. I spotted a lone fisherman and walked towards him. He turned out to be from Hull, but knew the Brigg well. "There isn't half as much in the pools as there used to be," he said.
As I walked back, the fisherman faded from view, the dog-walker was gone and the only sign that George Bush had not, by his masterful diplomacy, brought about the end of the world was the flashing of the lighthouse on Flamborough Head.
I walked into the bar at Cobble Landing, which was all lit up, but there was no one to be seen. A record was playing: a nice version of an Irish folk song. But then something stirred near the spangly curtains of the small stage, and I realised this was actually a man (the proprietor, it transpired) singing along to a karaoke track. "That was really good," I said, when he'd finished. "I thought it was a record." And he grinned at me.