Since moving to the Shropshire countryside, I find it a lot of effort to leave. That’s a good sign right (or maybe I’m just lazy?) Either way, I find that I’m busy discovering a new country lane to womble down, making new friends, trying out the abundance of local coffee shops and just being in a slow paced environment. Adopting the attitude of doing everything in my own time.
It’s been some time since I have gone back to the city, so I decided to go and pay a visit last weekend, and catch up with some friends. I dusted down my heels, brushed the cat and sheep hair off of me and I took the train to Manchester Oxford Road. Train is probably one of my most favourite forms of transport because of the views!
As the train left Gobowen, and entered Chirk, I passed the aqueduct with a beautiful river and a mass of woods and green land surrounding it. This was one of my favourite places to stop at when I first began to come up to these parts. Coming from somewhere that was blocked in by rows of houses – open space was therefore alien!
I suppose what I lack in travelling abroad I make up for travelling around the UK. I’ve got about a bit! So when the train stops at the likes of: Chester, Helsby, Warrington and a load of other stops, my brain says ‘I remember when I was X and we did X’ and this goes on for a good two hours till I reach my destination.
The train is always quiet when travelling from Gobowen to Chester. There’s a mixture of old people looking out of the window, equipped with their hiking gear and families going on holiday. Sometimes you get the local teenager looking eager to get out of their small own, with the latest (or so they think) skinny jeans and a pair of head phones. There’s plenty of room and it’s a relaxed journey.
Then you get to Chester, where I’ve to get off and change for the Manchester train. It’s a lot nosier here compared to my train station that’s out in the sticks. That’s when the no smoking, and look after your baggage notices are shouted across the platforms. Accompanied by a mass of noise from the wheels of suitcases, heels, heavy boots and some RAP music courtesy of two platforms over by a music buff (via headphones!!)
There’s definitely a change in the air – it feels different. More fast paced. And because of this, it somewhat makes me feel agitated, and I start starring at notice boards to make sure my train is on time. It doesn’t help that every 5 minutes the woman over the speaker is notifying everyone (within a 50 mile radius) of the various late trains. After the 15th time ( I counted) I had remembered all of the stops that the Glasgow train was now bypassing.
Thankfully my train was on time, and as it pulls up on the platform, you instantly see everyone begin to eye one another up. Of course they’re predicting which train door to go to. I have a method – always walk to end of the train. Everyone seems to get on at the middle, and leaves the ends free. That’s where I go, and find one of those seats that’s usually occupied with a very comfortable bag that now has to move.
This train is very different, purely because it’s a city train and most passengers are a combination of students, city workers, and that group that always seems to sit behind you, and makes you and the rest of the train listen to their sports commentary. With a mass of texting, over the phone meetings and a lot of iphone action (which makes me want to hide my 90’s phone deeper in my pocket.) the energy begins to quicken!
There were no view for me to look at because I had people sitting either side of me, and there’s only so many times that you can give them that look of ( I’m not staring at you, but passed you) every time that they meet your eyes. It did help that there were cute guys there and back to ‘not stare at.’ So my journey is spent reading the culture section of some paper that the man in the next row is reading (eye – dropping I call it.)
And after an hours journey I finally pull into Oxford Road. Not forgetting the ticket man who’s giving me some money back because he’s realised that he’d over charged me ( a pleasant chap too!) Although uber grateful, I find myself mentally hurrying him, in fear of missing my stop. Even though I’m fully aware that’s not possible. It’s that energy – rushing vibe – that’s beginning to take its tole on me.
Getting off at Oxford Road felt too familiar. It had almost felt like I hadn’t been away long enough. The air smelt the same – dry, with a hint of coffee, and oil. Buildings where still in the same place, and I grinned when I went past one of the coffee shops that I used to hide in. Purely because that was the meeting place for a lot of my first dates. And if they didn’t look like how I’d imagined them from the weekend’s clubbing antics, then the coffee shop would be my shelter. Needless to say, I drank a lot of tea!
Probably the only shock to the system was the noise. Not a bird song in ear shot, nor a moo. Instead it was beeps, sirens, bangs, loud chatter. At one point, I think I may have twiddled my ear. You know how you do when you’re trying to tune in a radio when it’s between stations?
I checked into The Palace Hotel. A beautiful place with a lot of charm, high ceilings, marbled floors and cute bar men (service with a phone a number apparently.) Yet the receptionists that looked as though they’d been on a day and night shift in one, with their curt tones and glass-like stares ; reminded me that I was missing the informal-esque of my local place.
It was great to catch up with friends! And the mid night walk to source out pizza that was just £4 for 10 inches (that would be triple back home) made the hustle and bustle worth it. Watching lots of tipsy people make a fool of themselves made me chuckle, and I suddenly had an urge to join them.
However, as I walked among the city types I could tell from their focused eyes that they’ve eaten before they’ve ordered, heck even before they’ve found somewhere to dine at. I used to be one of these people. Not appreciating the journey, the small details- just too busy getting caught up in the noise and the A + B of life. I started to feel a tug of wanting to go home.
That night, after a lot of rowdy fun, I tried to sleep with the local sound track of : clubs, sirens, 24/7 traffic and just noise. I found myself thinking about all of the things that I needed to do and started to get frustrated with myself because I had not done them. I knew then in the pitch black of the night, that city living had it’s claws in my now slower paced being. After just one night!
The next morning, Sunday, after saying my goodbyes I played with the idea of having a walk about town and visiting some old haunts, (or reconnecting with the city as my friend put it.) But I instead settled in that coffee shop with a tea and my laptop and began to write my thoughts down. I was distracted by a lady opening up her blinds from a nearby apartment block. It looked like she’d just got up, sitting on her ledge with a coffee in hand – I could tell that she was planning her Monday morning commute already.
I shut my laptop and said a silent good bye to an already bustling city at 11 am. I toyed with the idea of coming back regularly or even moving but then a voice inside my head said – what for? And when the train left, I didn’t even give it a second glance. The journey went quick, I fell asleep for most of it (too much champagne and pizza I suspect.)
When I reached Gobowen, and got a taxi to Oswestry I instantly felt a sense of relief. The taxi driver taught me some Mandarin (as they do) and I walked the rest of it home. Still clad in heels, longing for my wellies, but it was nice to walk at my own pace without anyone pushing in front!
A local couple who are in the 80’s (and in my defense hike a lot) over took me …
Home sweet home.
P.S. I will always have a special place in my heart for Manchester. It’s grungy, student – esq with a cool vibe, it’s easy to be part of! Most of all, it has a lot of fond memories.