I found myself strangely cheered by the information that the Shambles had been awarded the high accolade of Britain’s most picturesque street. In fact, I secretly felt a little proud.
The numerous times when I have been visited by friends living the hard and fast life of university in the big city and had to defend my rather sheltered life amongst the pensioners of York has made me a little weary. What they fail to understand is, it’s the crumbling and nostalgic air of York that makes it so endearing, and it’s nice to know most Britons share a similar opinion.
At times, when I should probably have better things to do, I enjoy just musing down the darkened cobbled street, perusing the variety of fudge shops as though re-enacting a scene from a BBC Dickensian costume drama. It provides a welcome break from the concrete jungle that is the The University of York campus.
Call me nostalgic, but it is heartening that the smaller things in life are still celebrated, that people still appreciate the ‘prettiest street’. After all, over 11,000 people took part in the voting and that’s no small feat. We live in a time when everything is focused on the future, building newer and more outrageous buildings made out of recycled tin cans and painted as crudely as possible. Beauty is forsaken for innovation, and to avoid losing sight completely we need to step back from time to time and appreciate the simple, the ‘picturesque’.
As a born and bred Londoner, where my local high street boasts an extensive range of pound shops and halal butchers, it is still something of a treat to be thrust into the musty and ancient environment of the Shambles, which seems to have somehow evaded modernity, while shopping for shoes on a Saturday afternoon.
While most reading this will undoubtedly dismiss it as irrelevant and out-dated sentimentality, there are other benefits to living in the vicinity of the most picturesque street in Britain. Stumbling inebriated home after a night of debauchery, one would usually attract disparaging looks of scorn from those few sober members of society who happen to still be up and about. However once you enter the Shambles, instead of being a symbol of the trashy disintegration of today’s youth, you become absorbed by the picturesque, and transformed into a figure of class and high moral standing.
So in these supposedly dark times of ours, let us celebrate the pretty and the picturesque. Here’s hoping that certain members of the Pirates of the Caribbean cast will be similarly enchanted when they come to visit in September.