Today I went into Malton to carry out a few necessary transactions. Usually I am only in town on a Saturday so I quite liked the idea of seeing it during the week. It made me feel like the heroine in Brief Encounter, off to town with her basket and list to buy some thread, eat lunch and watch a film, then fall madly in love with a stranger at the railway station. The possibilities were endless, and more exciting than waiting for a bus and worrying about whether I’d still be able to get hold of the Radio Times or not.
I hadn’t been into Malton for a few weeks so I was looking forward to a leisurely wander around town, poking into charity shops for bargains and picking up items from my list. I thought I would try and go for a coffee half way through just in case there was a handsome stranger who needed some company with his caffeine; or at least I could rest my feet and pretend to read the paper while listening to other people’s conversations.
It’s August, so of course it’s school holidays. On the plus side this meant I didn’t have to take school finishing time into account when deciding which bus to catch home. In term time if you catch the 4.30 it’s packed with lively teens, and you can end up getting quite grumpy with the incessant ring tones and shouting. It’s the same on pension day really. On the down side, I did worry I’d be wading through frenzied mobs of bored youths simmering in the heat and damp of a showery summer day. It was quite a shock, therefore, to discover how quiet things were in town.
On a Saturday there is usually a fair old bustle going on about Malton, and queues for the coffee shop, and for the post office, and at Butcher’s Corner where everyone waits to cross diagonally. People are chatting with neighbours and friends and hallooing across the street to one another, and generally giving every indication of a vibrant local community, if only to moan about the state of the Milton Rooms or the headline in the local paper.
Today the shops were quiet. The usual cheerful service was missing; staff were more prone to gossiping than helping customers (I like it that in Malton shop staff are helpful and friendly and often remember you from the last time). The old Museum was behind scaffolding, although I admit this would also be true at the weekend, and lots and lots of shops were closed and empty and peeling their paint in a rather dismal and depressing fashion. When it’s busy the number of empty properties is less obvious; today a new charity shop had replaced the shoe shop, but was still half empty and rather dark and sinister.
I finished all my shopping so soon I got the bus back an hour before I had planned. Maybe everyone who was not at work had taken the chance to nip off to the coast because it was a lovely day. Maybe they will all be back next time I go into town. Maybe Monday in Malton is just like that.
In December it will be busy again. First of all there’s the fair. Then the Salvation Army starts playing in the square to raise money for charity, and the market is busier than ever and everyone is rushing about and cheerful and a little manic. There are the lights to look at as it gets darker, and window displays and sometimes it snows in a very picturesque way. Everyone has to bundle up against the cold, and dashes about with clouds of breath steaming from their mouths, carrying parcels and presents and food. Malton is in its element in the depth of winter. I just don’t think summer suits it at all/