05 June 2017

On the 1636 from Leeds to Manchester Piccadilly

In the station it's all grey, 1960s functionality, with the only colour provided by the cheery orange of the departure boards, flickering with trains for King's Cross, York and Hull. The London train is running late as usual, but a dozen or two are more hopeful of a more timely Trans-Pennine journey. A three-car train shows up on time, and we emerge from the station into a brick valley of Victorian industry and portakabin lots, which soon give way to terraces and suburban council tower blocks, and within five minutes the train is speeding through the Lancashire countryside. The woman sitting next to me holds a long mobile conversation in Italian, or more a one-sided monologue, insistent but musical. After Dewsbury we cross a broad canal and graffitied railway underpasses decorated with regional bragging. The air temperature rises with no air-conditioning and no windows to open; teenage girls loiter in the aisle, waiting to leap into the fresh air at Huddersfield with their fresh shopping spoils. One final stop at Stalybridge is soundtracked by the gossip and singing of excitable girls, speculating about the setlist of the Manchester benefit concert for the Ariana Grande victims. In the outskirts of Manchester the train passes industrial sites and two-up, two-down terraces, converted warehouses and grey suburban churches, as we roll towards Manchester Piccadilly. The station and the city trams outside are jammed with happy concert-goers, and Manchester is humming with activity.
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