Taking The Leeds

This is becoming a long term relationship. Once a week I commute between Leeds and Manchester; forwards and backwards; linear and cyclical.

As I approached the train, waiting on the platform in Manchester Victoria, the lines from Robert Johnson’s Love In Vain came to mind:

When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind/When the train, it left the station, with two lights on behind/Well, the blue light was my blues, and the red light was my mind/All my love’s in vain

Maybe distance gives you a penchant for the blues. The separation from all that is familiar.


All I need to pass the time on these journeys are two windows: one to the outside world racing to keep up beyond the glass, and one to an inside world constructed within a book cover.

 I had picked up a copy of The King In Yellow earlier for a couple of quid.

The first four stories in this collection are linked by mention of The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which induces despair or madness in those who read it. 

 It was not what I was expecting, though. This is a book of two halves-the first being stories of a weird and macabre type that gradually fade away during the remaining stories which are of a romantic fiction style. 

My preferences are those from the first half. I guess you have an idea by now that I’m that kind of guy. The Repairer Of Reputations, The Mask, In The Court Of The Dragon, The Yellow Sign, and my favourite The Demoiselle d’Ys. These were up there with M.R James and my favourite Le Fanu.

There was a woman in the seat opposite me. I caught her glancing at the cover of my book, much in the manner that I often do. Whenever I see someone reading I am filled with a curiosity about the book that is holding their attention. 

Due to the theme connecting these tales, I thought it could be appropriate to warn her:

“Beware the King In Yellow!”

“Beware the infernal influence of books!”

But of course I didn’t. I imagine she may have sounded the alarm for an emergency stop, and Lancashire to Yorkshire is an awful long way to walk.

Later, my business in Leeds done, I caught a return train home to Manchester. Last week I returned under beautiful blue skies as captured below, but this time it was gloomy and raining, my journey moving through a deepening Autumn.

And yes, I loved it.

Back in my home city I caught a coffee and finished my book, shaking off a travel induced lethargy, before emerging into a darkened metropolis. All around familiar landmarks, monoliths against the sky, were lit up in a futile attempt to hold back the night: blues; yellows; reds.

The blue lights were my blues. The red lights were my mind. Is my love for Manchester in vain?

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A Town Not Called Malice

Sometimes I feel a longing for the coast. Or perhaps somewhere more rural, away from the built up concrete confines of my city. This occasionally intensifies into a desire to move to such a place permanently. These are idealistic episodes and don’t normally last too long, for roots are important to me.

But even when traveling through less scenic routes I get curious about other places. It is easy to get superficial, inadequate views of the towns that we pass through, and in our ideals wonder if they could hold an appeal.

Recently I was on a train heading to Manchester from Leeds. Passing through the train stations the landscape began to open out. There was space between the fixed points of these two urban sprawls. The sky, for once blue, lifted the spirits, and there were jackdaws—always jackdaws, scattered upon the fields.  These birds have become something of a personal totem to me, and these familiar friends accompanied me along the way.

We rolled into Hebden Bridge.  This place always looks charming, though I have yet to explore it. There was only a handful of people waiting to board the train here. They looked like walkers ( hikers, I mean, not zombies). They got on board and we moved on.

The next station on our linear amble was the market town of Todmorden. I have wondered about this place also. From my limited views it looks like a nice place to live, but as I said earlier, superficial views are inadequate to get a true feel for a place.

Then, from my window I saw this sign, set back upon a hill:

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The letters stood there like a miniature version of the famous Hollywood sign. I didn’t know why it was there, but it felt refreshing to be greeted by a (literal) sign of positivity. I searched on Google and found a news reference to it. It seems that some of the town residents were erecting these signs to counter the news that hate crimes throughout the country were on the rise. What a great idea, providing a bit of balance by nailing their colours to their provincial masts.

What noble endeavours, what admirable gestures. Who wouldn’t want to settle in a town that salts its perimeters with the grains of compassion?

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