Geography

A tour of four cities.

Oxford

is a story told backwards, forwards and in the wrong order. It’s old, new, and something else entirely, delicate spires jostling with chain stores for dominance.  Dreams are made and broken here, as is fudge. Walk the streets, see if you can make them meander underneath your feet. Just… don’t ask about the university. Damn tourists.

Sheffield

finds itself on the greyest days, has most character in rain and soot. Interesting folk, there, interesting indeed. (Steel in the city. Steel in the lungs. Steel in the people.) It’s a good city – smart but sturdy, changing with the ages. The odd boarded-up window and soot-stained brick have been left behind in the race for modernity; they stare at you, melancholy, waiting for owners that will never return. (Flat caps, worn-out eyes in young faces; tip of the hat and colourless tones.)

Then your friend tells you that Sheffield was where she bought a six hundred pound pair of shoes, and the spell is broken.

London

watches over its people, its lifeblood. Watch the strange and the stranger, the harried, be-suited businessmen and the “businessmen” hiding in back alleys; avoid the tourist traps. Touch bricks, breathe soot – let it embrace you, the newest import, new blood and new bricks to build this ever-expanding city.

Look over the bridge, into the water, and remember that there are still things behind you. There are still things to pull you back.

Birmingham

is broken, somehow; something in the building of it went wrong and was never quite corrected. Yet its people muddle along regardless, speaking five different tongues for every street, finding family in shop windows and pubs on rough corners, with rough people.

Your friend can certainly buy a six hundred pound pair of shoes here – remind her that a fifteen-year-old was shot down last year, right in this spot. The blood has long been washed away; it’s red under her Manolo Blahniks.

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