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Travelogue I14

July 8, 2016

Never having ventured farther north than London, I was, in a way, taken aback by the sprawling profusion of life in Sheffield. As I alighted from the train for my first steps in the North, as the English had dubbed it, I found myself in what remained of an industrial city post-industry. Certainly, a cathedral called the city home, and the old city-center had sprung up around it. With sufficient attention, it would soon become clear, however, that Sheffield’s layout had shifted with the years as new development flowed with a meandering network of diverted streams, canals and culverts to a new center, a steel mill and blast furnaces at Kelham Island.

If the shift from Calvary to Kelham promised fruitful material for mindful digression, I felt the need to call myself back, for I had appointments to keep that day. After a few moments’ turning about, I was able to locate the sign pointing the way to the railway station exit nearest the station’s taxi stand and short-term parking. As promised, my travel companion for the next week awaited me with a car which he had borrowed off a colleague. In truth, I had come north with a greater purpose in mind than mere pilgrimage to the Steel City. For, in truth, our destination lay farther north still: an island in the Hebrides, off the coast of western Scotland, of which we had spoken for near two years in something of a fever dream.

My companion, G., had sighted me from some way off and firmly clasped my hand as I crossed the last few meters between us. Circling the car, we found room for my hulking rucksack in the boot and set off for his home a little outside the city-center. As we settled into conversation and catching up, I pushed down those introverted tendencies to which I had given full rein in my weekend in London. From here on out, my thoughts and speech would have to take clearer form, for to leave them in their rambling ways would consign them to the ranks of the uninteresting or incomprehensible, much as if I had simply left them inchoate. If I wanted to share this experience with my traveling companion of the moment, I would need to come back down to earth in a measure and my language with it.

The car began to mount a steep incline, and G. pointed a number of the city’s main features out. From our rising position, I could see that hills rose on all sides of Sheffield, some more affluent than others. It was midway up one such hill, neither the best nor the worst off, that the companion brought the car to a halt and I found myself before my shelter for my lone night in the city. Looking the street up and down, I noticed that most residents made their homes in Victorian rowhouses. These constructions boasted considerable brickwork, from facade to foundation, and resembled in great measure those which I had seen in the railway towns between London and Sheffield. So could even the most unobservant soon familiarize herself with perhaps the most popular strand of English architecture.

Safely parked, we left the car and stepped inside just long enough to set my things and freshen up. The day would be a long one.

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