Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sentimental Journey 

A sentimental journey, and a slow one too, boarding at Lancaster, then calling at Carnforth –
“You’ve been a long way away.”
“Thank you for coming back to me.”
“Yeah yeah. Now just bloody leave it, will you?”

- Wennington, Bentham, Clapham, lovely lovely Giggleswick, Long Preston, Hellifield, Gargrave, pausing twenty minutes while an engineer with a hammer whacked a buckled rail back into shape, then Skipton, Grim Keighley, Bingley, Shipley, before alighting at Leeds.

The dales were heart breakingly beautiful as ever, even more so viewed from a rickety old train carriage, station after dozing station, sultry in the afternoon heat, the sidings a best in show of fox gloves and dog daisies. We rattled past chicken shacks and chimney stacks and billboards for sex toy shops.

In the shiny metropolis we dumped our bags at the hotel, then dawdled round the centre, dropping by for EnormoPizza by the piazza, sunshine blasting through plate glass windows as if from a ray-gun, and background music rudely shoving its way into the foreground. I confess I was a bit grouchy what with the heat and the noise and poor sock selection.
At one end of the restaurant a dozen or more blinged up ladies (Football Managers’ Wives? Thrusting Entrepreneurs?) were enjoying a boozy afternoon, all preposterous handbags and glitzy outfits, raucous and confident, a Beryl Cook or Lucy Pepper made flesh.
Think Sex In The City, but with women who can put away their dinners. Maybe, we wondered, this is how they spend every afternoon.

In the evening we strolled up to the University to watch The National – brooding with bruised tenderness and turbulent passion, much like myself, of course – and they were terrific, ditto.

Morning found us drifting round the shops, but we’re not really the kind of shoppers the developers had in mind, so the experience was kind of wasted on us. It was as if you'd parachuted Anne Atkins into Blackpool Pleasure Beach, slipped her a tenner and told her to go have fun, we'll meet you later in McDonalds.
I mean – shopping? Why on earth do people bother? Having said that, there was a pleasingly odd sort of Japanese Ikea equivalent where I bought a shirt meant for a man more slender, and Girlfriend spent a happy few hours rubbing stationery, but that was about it.

We lunched by the river to the gentle sound of estate agents sobbing and wondering whether they’d ever sell a chic riverside apartment ever again.
Office workers ate sandwiches under a sign that urged “Go throw yourself into the sea,” and we observed the shattered remains of Leonard Cohen’s guitar gently floating downstream but sadly not the man himself.

Then we caught the train and did it the other way round. It was just like being on your holidays.

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