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Reflections of a working writer and reader




Half-term here and York is oozing with tourists. I was leaning against a wall waiting for my lift. A friend had already passed and commented that it looked like I was waiting for trade.

Next there’s two women and their kids and they’re standing ten fifteen meters away squabbling about direction. The elder one tells the other, ‘I’m gonna ask that guy.’

‘How do we get to the Norvik Viking Centre?’ she asks. ‘Can you help us?’

‘You mean the Jorvik Viking Centre,’ I tell her.

‘Or the Minster?’ the other woman asks. ‘The Minster would be better for us, because we’re going to that museum.’

‘Which museum?’

‘The museum just round the corner from the Minster.’

I think. It takes a moment. ‘Sorry,’ I say, ‘I don’t know where you mean. But I can tell you how to get to the Jorvik Centre or the Minster. Where do you want to go?’

‘We’ll go to the Norvik Centre,’ says the first woman, and the second woman nods a reluctant agreement.

‘It’s the Jorvik Centre,’ I tell them, and if you go to the end of here and turn left you’ll see it.’

‘Where that bus came from?’ the first woman says. ‘That’s the Norvik Centre down there?’

‘Yes, but it’s Jorvik. The Jorvik Centre, with a J, but sounds like a Y.’

She thinks. It takes a moment. ‘So we turn left where the bus came out and that’s the Norvik Centre spelled with an I?’


‘I dunno,’ she tells me, suddenly becoming impatient. ‘You’re the one telling us where to go.’

3 Responses to “Tourists”

  1. Jim Winter says:

    Reminds me of the lady I met in downtown Cleveland several years ago who wanted to know what time they set the river on fire.

    “Huh? That was an oil spill in 1969.”

    “Don’t kid me. My husband and I drove up from Alabama specifically to see them set the river on fire.”

    Never mind the Rock Hall, which was only five blocks away. She came to see an environmental disaster from 35 years before.

    I swear to God it was the same hick lady who told me in New York two years later that I had to know the subways because I had an authentic Brooklyn accent.

  2. john baker says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Jim. I’ve always attracted them. I don’t think it’s a special talent. They’re ever watchful, looking out for a vacant lot.

  3. Thomas says:

    Haha. Nice one. Tourists… Have you been a tourist before? 😉