Two Cities Laid Low

A few posts back, I shared some photographs of a journey I made between two Northern cities, Leeds and Manchester, when the country was on the brink of lockdown. I had to make the return journey last week (essential travel allowed) and, with the UK now a month into lockdown, I took these photographs to share with you all to document these unprecedented days. I probably, hopefully, will never have the chance to see my city like this again.

This first one shows the seating arrangements in my local bus station, to enforce the social distancing. Only the opposite end seats were available, first come first served (though there weren’t many takers).  An unenthusiastic game of musical chairs.

Again, on the bus-alternate rows of seating available. The driver taking my fare said it was the most he’d taken all morning.

Manchester, message delivered.

Looking towards the usually notorious Piccadilly Gardens.

Market Street.

I saw neither tram nor cycle, just the odd jogger taking their allotted moment of exercise.

When a passing bus departed, the city fell into a strangely hushed tone.

St.Anne’s Square, scene of much mourning and festooned with flowers following the Arena bombing.

Deserted thoroughfares.

Many shop doors and windows wore similar sentiments from their owners. Some just a stark notice that no goods or money were left on the premises, in lieu of any opportunist thieves moving into the city.

Not a drinker in sight.

Moving now towards the train station.

The statue of Gandhi outside the Cathedral. The only figure caught in motion.

Ever since the lockdown the weather has been glorious. The place would have been swarming with shoppers and drinkers and more.

Looking towards the Football Museum, symbolic of the sport that has now been suspended.

I could take a photo in the middle of the road, with little fear of trams or vehicles.

Looking towards Angel Square from the rear.

Victoria Station. Could it be that I was the only commuter?

More social distancing, now musical urinals.

Sinks too.

There was only me and this railway worker.

Only for essential travel

The train I caught had originated in Liverpool, passed through Manchester and was bound for Edinburgh. I alighted in Leeds, the station there similar to the one in Manchester.

Leeds. Snippets of conversations that took place with the few people that I encountered I intend to print elsewhere.

Millennium Square. Manchester and Leeds-two northern cities laid low by an invisible foe.

Flies In The Ointment; Jackdaws On The Grass

Apologies are winging your way if I’ve not replied to your comments or visited your blogs recently. I’ve had a little fly in the ointment, so to speak, which is non-technical jargon for I’ve been having problems with WordPress recently and I haven’t a clue why.

I’m writing this post in the hope that it has now been rectified, and if it hasn’t, well, there’s only me reading this and you guys are none the wiser. Please let me know.

A couple of days ago, at a motorway service station, I was walking down a corridor, flanked the whole way by a glass window, whilst seeking out the Gents. At the end of the corridor a little girl was loudly banging on the glass. “Look, Daddy, pigeons!”

Her father, wearing the forlorn look of one waiting for his wife to come out of the toilet, a look I knew only too well, replied: “They aren’t pigeons, darling, they’re crows.”

As I passed them both I too glanced out at the birds.

Actuallythey are not crows, I thought to myself, they are jackdaws. 

And, with a certain smugness:

And I should know, being, unknown to you, the anonymous author of the City Jackdaw blog.

I didn’t say this, of course, for who was I to destroy the little child’s fantasy of her all-knowing father.

And besides, at that moment in time, I couldn’t even get City Jackdaw to work.

 

Shoplifters (Allegedly) Of The World Unite

Dialogue On A Train or Shoplifters Of The World Unite

It was as the train pulled into the station that I became aware of them. As I approached the end of the platform a male voice, nasal and northern, called out, “Hey, mate, does this train go Rochdale?”

The train was destined for Leeds, but it did indeed call at Rochdale, a few stops down the line. The lad that was asking looked like he was in his early twenties, thin, hooded and probably on something. A girl sat hunched against him, head on his shoulder, clutching a drawstring bag as she gazed blankly at me.

I nodded in reply to his question and he clicked his fingers. “Buzzin‘!”

I got onto the train, taking a seat and a book from my shoulder bag with an optimistic intention to read throughout my journey. The young couple took the seat in front of me. Or rather, she did, he remained stood in the aisle as she started to ferret around in the bag. He leant over to see the contents she spread across the table, pulling some of them towards him.

“Let’s divvy it up, babe,” he suggested.

Can I take some of those ankle socks with me?” she asked.

Here,” he said, no doubt divvying up the socks. I was wondering why they’d be sharing ankle socks. I couldn’t picture him wearing any.

Here’s me Gucci baby,” she said. “The box is well nice innit? Got me fake tan. You can put that on for me later.”

A woman carrying hand luggage approached the lad from behind. Suddenly aware of her presence he spun around. “Oh soz darlin‘” he moved out of her way, as the itemised list from his beau kept coming:

Here” she said, “you take the Ann Summers.”

Jesus.

And don’t forget your fags. What time do we leave?” she asked, looking through the window as though only just aware we were still in the station.

What’s it fuckin’ matter?” he replied. “We’ll get there. I’m gonna have a smoke. Stop drinkin‘.”

I wondered if he meant that when he got to Rochdale he was going to have a smoke and stop drinking. Or was he covertly drinking now? (Yes, by now I’d given up trying to read as this dialogue went on in front of me.)  But then he hopped through the open door onto the platform, turning his back against the breeze as he lit a cigarette. His life-changing rejection of alcohol was perhaps a spontaneous add on, past-present-future somehow morphing into one continuous muddle of conversation.

In his absence the girl went quiet, sighing deeply. I considered my book again. Would it be worth starting a chapter? I glanced up at the time on the electronic notice board on the platform just as 14.47 changed to 14.48-the time of our departure.

The lad, cutting it fine, flicked the cigarette away and jumped back on the train, the doors closing behind him. He entered the carriage just as the train began to move. “Babe-wake up! We’re goin’ to Rochdale!”

Off we moved into hell.

 

 

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

a hollowed out,
    rictus grin
    placed prominently
    at this liminal time

a curious crossroads 
    of old and new
    with but a cursory nod
    to the peaceful host 

frail shelter
    from this Samhain storm
    a rail of russet leaves
    and borne
    the broken limbs
    of oak

and scorned
    a single flame,
    faltering.


©Andrew James Murray