Remembered streetsAbove my bed, where I can’t get to sleep tonight, is a painting. An ink and watercolour panorama of the densely packed red-brick terraces of inner-city Leeds. The place I have most loved, which wound itself tightly round my heart in the few years I lived there. The only time I’ve known such pleasure and belonging in the colours and contours and atmosphere of a place. The sense of place I’ve so much missed in all the years since, in London, and so much wanted to find again.
The city has changed since then, though many of the old terraces remain. The fine restoration of the Victorian city centre and the river- and canal-side warehouses. An economic renaissance (I left in 1980 – Thatcherism, post-industrial depression – in search of work). But, as so often, an economic renaissance that didn’t embrace the whole community. There have been riots. The places where I lived are perhaps grimmer than they were then. A simplistic analysis, no doubt.
Dead bodies in the wreckage. CCTV footage. Young men reported missing in Leeds. The possibly emerging story of kids born around the time I was there, growing up in those terraces, growing up to be suicide bombers.
My daughter starts at Leeds College of Music in September. I've always thought of those northern towns and cities as friendly places, and still do, but now other thoughts come to upset that simple view. Both light and darkness wherever you look...
It is a friendly city, and a great, lively, human-scale place for young people. It still is, of course. But this is awful. I hope your daughter will realise that it isn't a different place today from yesterday. No more than London is a different place after the bombs.