In Leeds, no one can hear you scream.
When faced with events too harrowing to compute, the human brain slows everything around it down to a manageable speed, whilst enormous quantities of adrenalin are simultaneously secreted around the body in order to cope with any potential trauma. It is an extraordinarily sophisticated defence mechanism, initiated unconsciously and, for the most part, it works. But not always. Yesterday, I went to Leeds.
I’ll begin with a caveat. If you, like me, have ever had faith in the notion that the fragile infrastructure of the UK’s urban planning will always be driven by some of the greatest minds in the field, think again: It’s not. Anyone who has had the poor fortune of attempting to navigate the West Riding’s principal settlement by car will back me up on this. Leeds City Centre is a vast, sprawling metropolis that has unsuccessfully stitched the very old to the very new, and neither one of them is gonna budge when it comes to compromise. How very Yorkshire! So when councillors Cox and Evans got involved with the CAD kids to keep the traffic flowing, the result was, and still is, one of the most appalling, dehumanising travesties of our time.
On arrival, it looks pretty slick. All the major arteries head neatly towards the centre, but before you know it you are force-fed into the obscenity that is the Loop. Here, the satanic offspring of Hieronymus Bosch and JG Ballard has been made flesh in the most destructive pact since the Coalition. Previous motorists, who have failed to correctly negotiate the Albert Speer-inspired horrorshow they have unwittingly stumbled upon, lie in various states of decomposition inside the cabs of their own vehicles, some taken violently by bitter, frustrated passengers and others by their own hand, the alternative being more of the same. And why is this? Well, put simply, because it is IMPOSSIBLE to get to wherever it is you need to be:
Me: I’d like to go over there, please.
Loop: Certainly. Now, veer off in the opposite direction until you come to a roundabout the size of Switzerland. You have approximately 0.6 seconds to decide which one of eight possible exits to take. All the signs will be at least 150 metres above the road and the traffic will be baying for your blood, so probably best to wing it. Oh dear, you’ve taken the by-road to Wakefield. Unfortunately you now have to drive 1.6 miles to the next exit and come back the opposite way. No, not down there, that’s for buses and HGVs and will take you into the pedestrianised zone. Reverse down this one way street until you come to the next feed. Yes, it is busy so be careful. I’m afraid you’ll just have to head towards Ilkley until you come to another roundabout. I know, there’s loads of them. When you’ve worked out which one I’m referring to, get into the left lane. Oh, you’re in the right lane and there’s four others to cross. Never mind, just do what everyone else does: Pull up onto the verge, kick the crap out of your car, kick the crap out of anyone in the vicinity and weep like a baby. No amount of adrenalin can save you now…
And yes, it’s true: The whole shebang happens in torturous slow motion. It’s her absolute, magnificent slap in the face. In Leeds, no-one can hear you scream.