Wednesday, 18 April 2007

London, Berlin, Bradford

It's funny if you look at the following websites how attractive Bradford is made to look. Yep, it does have all the things pictured in these links and some of the architecture is fantastic.

http://www.bradford.gov.uk/default.htm

http://www.stockdill.freeserve.co.uk/bradford/

But it has a big gap in the middle where a big part of the city centre used to be with a massive fence around it. It reminds me of the Berlin bunker area that was cordoned off while they argued about the nature of the holocaust memorial. It's possible the whole Berlin thing was prompted by my appointment in 'Little Germany' and my route that took me along Hamm Strasse. An uncharitable view might suggest that it was from a very little bit of Germany that its name derives: perhaps somewhere in the Dresden 'ground zero' some time around 1944 but really it can be quite nice if you keep to the beaten track. I'm told that Bradford put in a bid to be the European city of culture for 2008 but nothing happened and it stifled the development somewhat but only after a considerable amount of demolition. The fractured aspect of the current city centre leads to weird juxtapositions of things like a magnificent cathedral or the civic centre surrounded by run down shopping precincts full of Cash Converters, stolen mobile phone fencing establishments and amusement arcades.

My walk also gave me a good opportunity to realise that just because the sun is shining up here, it doesn't mean you're going to be warm. Everyone else had only shirts on but they are a) not southern 'poofs' and b) probably insulated with extra layers of chip fat or something.

The residue of Bradford's industrial past is everywhere. Converted or derelict mills, mill owner houses, worker accommodation and chimneys define every view. Whenever I talk to people about the possibility of buying somewhere up here though they say: " Check the post codes." Some areas are reputedly pretty much no go areas for police and outsiders but it seems pretty tame compared to Peckham or Plaistow so maybe it's all relative.

In one respect, though, Bradford is very much like strolling down a Parisienne boulevard: Everyone up here smokes.

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