The train ride to Leeds


Here comes the train conductor; “Tickets from Sheffield, please,” he shouts. His name is Mike as his name badge tells me, and he is the trains’ deputy manager. “Thank you.” says his dreary voice once more as he passes by.

I hear a man on the phone telling his friend his train gets in at 2pm. He says he is going to Bradford. “Can we get that car today?” he asks; “I’m not gonna get to see Emily for the rest of the week.” Long pause. “Yep, yep, yep, bye then, yes, bye, bye.” He sighs and gazes out of the window. He puts his headphones in, strokes his short beard and chuckles to himself.

We pass an array of buildings and people rushing along the pavement marching by on their journeys. Then a mass of closed down shops and old abandoned buildings outside Sheffield. Abandoned and forgotten.

Next on the journey we pass a mass of fields, up and down the green landscape goes, it seems a million miles away from the derelict sights of the edge of Sheffield. Small trees, tall trees, big puddles, sunny spots. Winding mud tracks show the route the tractor must have taken this morning. Yorkshire’s greenery at its best, yet there are no people in sight. As we continue we are surrounded by trees, twenty foot in height, bare and brown against the bleak March landscape.

In the middle of a small hilly field, at the side of the track, an orangey brown animal hides. It’s long, thin face and pointed nose sniffs the ground. It’s tail looks like it has been dipped into a tin of white paint. The fox turns towards the train as we pass by.

Already at Fitzwilliam, this train moves fast, more fields and cottages attract my attention. Another phone call on the train. “The meeting went well,” shouts a loud, deep, masculine voice; “Yep, I think we can safely say I nailed it!” He chuckles a deep hearty laugh. “Okey dokey Jane, yes I will, enjoy your weekend.” A woman sat near to him says; “You’re more chuffed than I thought, good on you Tim, you’ve worked hard.” He laughs; “Yes I guess I have lass.” They are quiet again and then they both laugh heartily. I wish I could see their faces.

We arrive at Wakefield Westgate, two big churches and a mass of high rise flats greet us, several factories surround us as we approach the station. A mix of old and new red-brick buildings.

A tall, Asian lady comes into the carriage, dressed completely in black, with a short black skirt that just covers her upper thigh. She wears long black boots and must be about 40. She walks the full length of the carriage, sighs and sits down on the one available seat for two. A ginger haired man, not much older than 20 gets on at that end of the carriage, he heaves a bag above his head and strokes his whiskers before sitting beside the Asian lady. I wonder if they will start up a conversation.

Leaving Wakefield we move past more red-brick builds and are once more engulfed by high trees and a wall of grass. The next thing we see is a busy motorway passing overhead and instead of empty fields, we have a landfill sight.

The woman next to me has nodded off. I hope she wakes up before we get to Leeds, in about five minutes, I do not want to disturb her post-lunch dozing session. We’re approaching now actually, yes, there is Elland Road stadium, and we have just passed a mass of abandoned buildings. The city is lovely, right?

Yet more offices are shooting up around Leeds as we approach the station. I think I had better wake up my neighbour.

“Excuse me.” I say; “This is my stop, we’re at …” typically I am quickly cut off by the sound of the tannoy announcement. “*Ding, ding, ding*. We are now arriving at Leeds station; please have your tickets ready as ticket-gates are in use at this station. Thank you.” The woman stirs; “Ugh, erm, yes, sorry.” she says in a soft Arabic voice.

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