Once when I was sitting on a train between Sheffield and Manchester, a girl wearing a red blouse took out a notebook and began to sketch. In short, sharp grey lines she picked out the fields that sloped away from the train window. The train moved fast but she kept an eye on her own scene developing in front of her, made of the snippets of scenes that the train left behind.
If you have never travelled on the train between Sheffield and Manchester then you will not know that it travels through The Peak District National Park. The Peaks separate two of England’s most popular cities like a mother holding each hand of two siblings who might otherwise argue but equally they like to know each other is there, only a certain distance away. The landscape between big brother and little sister is filled with farmland that has befriended moorland, it is an upland that climbs up and down as you travel. In summer the hills are painted purple with heather. In winter left beautifully bleak until a cover of snow lays over them, changing their contours.
I was intensely jealous of the girl in the red blouse as she formed her own special relationship with the landscape zipping past the window. I have done this journey dozens of times and I never tire of it. This journey was preceded by dozens of car journeys and I miss my little, old car that manoeuvred its way across the Snake’s Pass. There is a certain point on the A57 coming out of Sheffield (you don’t have to travel far) where you turn a bend and the green hills are there, sprawling, from city to country in an instant. The physical changes of the landscape are the transition, a preparation for the transformation. In little sister Sheffield I am the younger innocent. Although growing up, the Yorkshire softness will always be there. Manchester is a city of the night where as a student I explored every avenue of what it had to offer and I seek its edginess.
Now as I travel backwards on the train, I think of ways I can speak to this landscape like the girl in the red blouse. I think she was someone I would have liked to have met.