Thursday, 2 October 2008

999 - Welcome to the Whitley Bayou

Whitley, east of Newcastle. Mistaken for Whitby once too often - a local dead man, be-coffined, by train, bypassed Whitley's funereal welcoming committee, and continued south to Whitby, whereupon Whitley decided to append the word 'Bay' to its name, and thus surnamed, grew recognised and big.

It's a one time tourist destination, with a Scottish fortnight once a year when the factories closed, and thousands upon thousands spilling into the town and pleasure parks, onto the beach, and up to the lighthouse. A playhouse. A Spanish City, with pleasure dome, coronetted at present by scaffolding (it's set for a repaint).

You can still buy Whitley Bay rock at the newsagents on the high street, or a cup of tea and an outsized muffin at the Rendezvous Cafe, halfway along the beach to the nature reserve and caravan park. But the town is deep in transition. It's no Xanadu, or not an obvious one, anymore.

This is not a bleak blog. It's not about scrabbling to find a new name for Whitley Bay. It could be about uncovering an old one. Names have meaning. Meanings last. Meanings last longer, and stay truer, than the names we give them.

Whitley Bay has a thousand meanings, and I want this blog to uncover and document them. By recording them I want to celebrate them, to show that I believe in them. The Whitley Bay thousand (the 'thousand' is arbitrary) could be a thousand people, working secretly and in public, to reimagine the town. Or it could be a thousand actions, or prayers, or events, or angels, whatever you understand them to be. These are my thousand: you'll know of a thousand more.

This blog is not about worrying whether a dead man stops in Whitley Bay, because Whitley Bay is for the living. Whitley Bay is, as it always has been, alive.

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