I have a client in Harrogate who I visit every couple of weeks, travelling by train. I went up there a couple of days ago, and as I’d had a particularly hectic couple of days before hand was able to reflect on something that I’ve thought about occasionally in the year that I’ve been visiting Harrogate. And that is that it’s really pleasantly slow compared to Sheffield.
Don’t get me wrong; I love Sheffield – probably not as much these days as I used to do but it’s still my favourite city. I don’t particularly like the bustle of cities; I’ve always commented that London is great to visit but I’d hate to live there. A few days in London used to leave me exhausted – mainly due to dodging the oncoming streams of pedestrians – wherever I walked I always seemed to be heading in the opposite direction to everyone else! But now I find Harrogate has the same relationship to Sheffield that Sheffield has to London for me, and I love it!
I think the busiest place I’ve encountered recently in terms of lots of people squeezing through a gap has been the exit to the railway station, where for the last month or so there have been about half a dozen railway staff checking tickets when we leave the train from Leeds. after that it’s typically pretty plain sailing. The best thing for me about walking through Harrogate is that most people seem to be walking at a pace that allows me to avoid them easily if necessary and for them to change direction without the figuratively speaking ‘squeal of shoe-leather’ and rapid stumbling out of your way that has started to be the way of getting around major city thoroughfares.
Things just go slow in Harrogate – an I mean that in a nice way. I’ve yet to experience ‘after dark’ but the daytime progression around Harrogate is made easy by a combination of heavily pedestrianised streets and a one-way system that seems to work – from a pedestrian point of view, at least! The local coffee shops seem to have a different pace as well. Basically, don’t expect the speed of service to be the same as Sheffield or London. It isn’t – the chilledness also works in the shops as well, along with a friendliness that seems to be disappearing from Sheffield.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with slow. I’d started to forget that over the years. I was born in a small town, lived for a while in a city as a student and then moved to Sheffield – a smaller and slower city – to make my home. Trips to London and Edinburgh reminded me that city life is faster than I expect.
A friend recently reminded me of the ‘slow food movement’ after I grumbled about poisoning myself with yet another take-away meal, and perhaps it’s the time for a ‘slow-life’ movement to come out of the current economic slowdown. Does saving 10 minutes really matter that much? Can’t you just organise your day to leave a little earlier, get there a little later, loiter and lurk, smell the roses, look at the buildings, watch children play. (OK – I appreciate that in Paranoid Britain the latter has it’s own difficulties…)
There is a famous poem by WH Davies:
Let us join the go slow and stand and stare.