Annus Mirabilis! A wonderful year, a miraculous year, an amazing year! Maybe it’s a little florid for Hull, but essentially correct. This year of culture, 2017 will be a great year for Kingstown. We call it Hull, after the river it sits on; however, its real name is Kingston upon Hull. Kingstown was a town chosen for greatness by King Edward I all the way back in 1299, when wool was the most important export. In the annals of future history, 2017 will be the year in which Hull was given another chance for showcasing its major export, culture.
The culture of Hull is not in your face, but often like the city and its people, solid and understated. Annus Mirabilis has referred to many ideas and discoveries throughout history, from the glamour of reign of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain in 1492, to Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity across the river in 1666 and on to the 1905 papers of Albert Einstein. Yet, it also refers to a poem by the Hull laureate, Philip Larkin, written in 1967. It is a fairly dour piece like most of his work and consisted of only twenty lines. The last stanza reads:
So life was never better than
In nineteen sixty-three
(Though just too late for me)-
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
Larkin was both happy and sad about the new culture and expressed both in the poem.
Nineteen sixty three was also the year that my parents moved permanently to the Hull area to start their new careers- though at 11 months I was not fully able to put that emotion into words.
Larkin, like Hull, was not totally accepted in his time. He did not use flowery metaphors, scintillating similes or towering hyperbole to create amazing images. Plain words, often rough, created stark images of the injustices he saw in life. The city of Hull is a little like Larkin; it has great culture and history to give to the traveller, as long as they are not looking for the elegance of a Versailles or the Pomp and Circumstance of a London. Hull may be the Marmite of the North, but love or hate; it will leave a strong taste in your mouth. Annus Mirabilis!
By Jeremy Spencer