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a blog by Chris Barrow

The lonely city

First time out for 13 months.

There is no doubt that my visit to Shrubbery Dental Practice in Worcester yesterday was a total pleasure and I want to thank Sally-Ann, Jessica and Katie for making my visit so fulfilling.

It was great to be back - being Chris Barrow - touring their lovely building, saying a quick hello to a few team members and then spending 4.5 hours talking about some serious business growth stuff and having a few laughs along the way.

The travel there and back by train was another experience entirely.

I am going to start by thanking my lucky stars that all of my connections were made successfully, despite the signage indicating that my last leg of the morning, from Smethwick Galton Bridge, was cancelled due to "animals on the line" (we'll never know - the train arrived).

However, my first travel since lockdown in March 2020 revealed that, in the absence of the majority of business and domestic travellers, all you basically have left is teenagers, students and millennials.

My main line journeys from Stockport to Wolverhampton in the morning and Birmingham New Street back North in the evening were largely deserted, as were the stations themselves. It was sad to see my favourite Stockport Station Starbucks closed and in darkness.

The moment that had me the most pensive was a 45-minute stop over last night at New Street.

Normally that concourse is a hive of activity, as travellers mingle with shoppers and queues form at every eatery.

Last night, a silent arena populated by a few belligerent youth in hoodies and the inevitable city homeless, more than one of whom approached me for cash during my brief stay.

It was as if the veneer of the City had been stripped bare, leaving revealing the underbelly of those less fortunate who have nowhere else to go.

My practice visit was a joy.

My travel was depressing and sad.

I've been isolated and insulated for a year.

Wednesday had me counting my blessings again.

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