Sheffield

On Tuesday I went to Sheffield. It was the first time I had ever been there. In the journey of getting there I also broke my duck of visiting Manchester, being caught in the windy valley of the esoteric Victorian train shed, glass fronted and bustling with hundreds of similarly commuting patrons. The journey was interesting as it was enthralling, being built upon old and older train stations.

Manchester Piccadilly is how I'd imagine a Railway Station to be if it had been built by Escher. It was a labyrinth of platforms, switches and signals randomly collected together in a way that mimics a Lego set being tossed onto a carpet. The shoutings of railway guards, the over enthusiastic ticket inspectors and the clinical but always wrong announcers had me hooked - a world away from the simple platforms and 4 trains an hour of Aberdeen's central station.

And it led to me to ponder the difference between an English city and a Scottish city. Ours are smaller than English ones, given that our population is spread over an area not too dissimilar to England's but a fraction of the total people - the number of people in Scotland could easily fit in London's vast boundaries. Manchester was massive - the number of trains that entered that city are directly proportional to the number of people wanting to leave it.

So Sheffield is more comparable to Aberdeen as it only has one train station. Unlike Glasgow, which has the largest urban rail network outside of London, Aberdeen has but two stations, only one inside the city. Built in a valley, Sheffield was cut off from the most of Britain by the thing called nature, until several tunnels and mountain scaling motorways later, it became the hub of Steel production.

Like Glasgow in the 1980s and Aberdeen in the 2010s, the main industry left Sheffield for warmer and cheaper climes. The city I visited was a marvelous mix of random roads, canals and tall buildings dotted around a complex city scape not unlike a road planners nightmare. Pedestrian walkways lead to nowhere, tram lines are side by side with pavements, buses drive in pedestrian areas, a ring road that is actually not a ring...

Sheffield was a place that made me happy to be leaving it - not that is was an unlikeable place, but somewhere that I'd find it hard to fit into. It is so much like Aberdeen in it's style of construction and it's failing purpose, but not enough like the bustling wealth and partisan feelings of the citizens to make me feel at ease there. Aberdeen has the small town mentality with the amenities of a middle sized city, whereas Glasgow has the big city mentality with the size of an English town. Sheffield is somewhere that is a place you go through, go past, not to, and the fact that most, if not all of the companies at the graduate fair that I went to were from out of town, says a lot.