Northside: Ten Thousand Baffling Signposts in Preston, Lancashire

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To Yorkshire and Lancashire for a few days, to research a historical novel. I walked around Halifax with a 1905 Ordnance Survey map in my hands, and became so lulled into an Edwardian mindset that I was nearly killed while stepping on to Church Street. In my head, you see, there were hardly any cars about the place. Later, in a cafe, I was reading my map, boldly labelled "Halifax, 1905", while a waitress looked at me in some concern, deciding whether to speak up: "Your map's a bit out of date, love."

Halifax inhabits the present and the past simultaneously, like a time-travel experiment that's gone slightly wrong. To put it another way, every building in the town used to be something else. Accordingly, during my visit, what used to be the mansion-like main building of the train station -- now part of the Eureka Museum -- had been given over to the Halifax Children's EcoCity project. And with those two words "eco" and "city", the organisers defied you to object to what had become of the station. But it could have been much worse--it could have been a mobile phone shop. I also noticed that ravers in the Platinum Room are actually occupying the old Theatre Royal.

Platinum Room... The name might have been designed specifically to wind up misty-eyed fogeys like myself. But no matter, because Halifax is beautiful: a gold-coloured, 19th-century industrial Bath, surrounded by eternal green hills. …