Springtime in Bradford

Blue Skies Over BradfordIt is generally far easier to criticise than to praise; however the reverse is true at the advent of Spring. Perhaps it’s due to sunlight coming in at a more direct angle, the dawn being brighter, the days being longer. Perhaps it’s because of the evenings during which cool, rather than cold, breezes sweep across the back porch and the bedroom windows are kept open: this means when the morning hour comes, birdsong wafts in. The cherry tree in which the birds’ nest resides has adorned itself in white and pink blossoms.

Here in Bradford, Spring is especially welcome. Winter in West Yorkshire is a sullen, leaden affair: it’s punctuated by grey skies and long nights illuminated solely by orange sodium lamps, chill that cuts to the bone, mornings which are dark and the only sound that echoes is the scraping of frost off of car windows and the frequent patter of rainfall. Spring is resurrection: yes, there are setbacks, mornings when the scratching of ice off of glass is still heard, but then there are blue skies and warmth. Last Sunday, I drove past Bradford Moor Park: families were out playing. Fathers pushed their children on swings, people from a broad spectrum of origins and socio-economic groups lay in close proximity on the vast expanse of green, soaking up the sun’s rays. I drove on and noticed the explosion of daffodils in and around the city. Winter kept us in a deep and sombre sleep, but now the earth itself seems to be telling Bradford and its denizens, “Wake up, wake up.”

This past weekend also marked another fresh start: the new City Park opened on Saturday. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the event myself as I was with family. But nevertheless, I was in its orbit: I was at the Leisure Exchange with my significant other, her sister and her partner and their two kids. It was the birthday of one of the children. We ate at Frankie and Benny’s and went bowling. My performance was pathetic, the result of years of being out of practice: nevertheless, a good time was had by all. As we emerged into evening air, there was the sound of fireworks. Bradford was awake; it was as if no one wanted Saturday to end. Teenage couples were holding hands as they walked through the narrow avenues of the Exchange to the Cineworld: dads let toddlers sit on their shoulders. Shirt sleeves were shorter than they had been. Clothing colours were brighter: browns and greys traded for azure, yellow and lilac.

I look around me as I leave for work in the morning: despite the clock change to British Summer Time over the weekend, my eyes are not quite dimmed by the resulting fatigue. The plants that my other half planted are in bloom: crocuses, clematis, azaleas. I found out yesterday that my partner left a hydrangea in the downstairs shower prior to heading off to St. Helens for an overnight trip; apparently this was to give the plant more moisture. Normally, I would have thought it being indoors in such a place wouldn’t be good for it: however, perhaps the air itself is vivifying. Its pink blossoms were in full bloom, the leaves almost bursting with green vitality. I will put it out on the back porch tonight, so it can greet the dawn tomorrow.

Spring enhances detail. I notice little things: the landscape itself seems to have softened; green fields have turned a brighter hue. In my mind I can almost hear the opening bars of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony (No. 6). Any sudden downpour seems to be only there as a prelude to rainbows. I confess that since arriving in Yorkshire, I’ve seen more of these brilliant spectacles of colour than I’d seen in many years.

Amelia the CatSo the earth renews, invites, becomes more gentle, and beckons us out of doors. My cats Amelia and Sarah Jane are not immune: last night, I let Amelia out the back door. She paused before leaping out; she sniffed the air as if she was appreciating it, and then bounded over the garden fence with a running leap. She came back later, yawning, and then curled up in the spare bedroom: sleep is easier for both cats and humans, perhaps, because one is merely drifting off to dreams rather than fighting against the chill. No doubt her dreams were punctuated by chasing more birds and sitting quietly, as is her wont, amidst verdant plant life.

The earth challenges us to be as fresh as it is. Over the weekend, my partner urged me to get a hair cut and we went to the establishment owned by Mr. Imran Khan on Killinghall Road. I sat waiting for his colleague’s attention as he finished up trimming the resplendent beard of another customer. In an adjacent chair was a young boy getting his Spring trim. His father was standing closely by, watching the proceedings: he had his arms crossed but a smile on his face, and he urged his son ever to be brave amidst some light teasing. I looked out the window: the shadows were in retreat, the sunlight glanced off of passing cars. The bearded gentleman was finished first: he threw off the barber’s smock and revealed grey shorts, a blue t-shirt saying “Italia” and a pair of sandals; I took his place. I was trimmed and lathered and shaved as if the gentleman doing the work was a sculptor trying to massage more attractiveness out of my lumpen features. He did all he could do. I felt better for it afterwards, as if I had shed an old skin.

Not far from the barbers is Habib’s restaurant, and as I drove past it on Sunday, I noticed their doors were open and the windows folded back to invite the season in. What looked like a wedding party was there: out of the corner of my eye, I saw women dressed in fine silks, smiling and chatting to each other. My other half told me that there was a bride carrying flowers. Perhaps it was an arranged marriage and love was just as fresh and new the day itself. Perhaps it was a long standing relationship which had achieved the ultimate milestone and a point of renewal.

My imagination wandered: I considered paths strewn with white rose petals as a bride and groom stepped out into the sunlight. I thought of the gigantic fountain in the new City Park and it shooting jets of water into the air. I thought again about the families enjoying the sun at Moor Park: the people cycling, the children playing. I came to the conclusion that Spring is a romance. It is like a cheerful visitor who lands on the doorstep bearing a bouquet as a surprise. It is a poem written in nature. It is a song without written notes but full of tuneful melody. I have seen many before, but as I delve deep into memory, I cannot recall one that I have been happier to see, nor felt was more rewarding. Springtime has come to Bradford. No doubt its attractions will fade and desiccate in the heat of summer, but for now, it is there to be loved.

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