Home is where the Uber is?
What is home?
Where you live? Where you were brought up? Where you feel safe and comfortable?
Let’s give a brief timeline of my homes: Doncaster, Sunderland, Leeds, Oldham, Bolton, Stoke-on-Trent, Scunthorpe and Great Yarmouth.
Might read to you like the closing credits for locations of Jeremy Kyle guest appearances, but each has been home to me for 52 years.
This week, in my new role, as Head of Social Media and PR for a company, I got all giddy and programmed the sat nav, Apple Maps and Watch for Manchester.
What a ball ache of a journey that is.
But it wasn’t going there – because instead of relying on tech, I went old skool and asked Matt Potter, an ex pupil, whose commutes are the stuff of legend, to guide me.
His response: A47 to King’s Lynn, follow signs for Sleaford, get on the A1 at Newark, leave the A1 at Ferrybridge and follow the M62 to Junction 22.
5 hours was reduced to just over 4 because he knows more than Google Maps.
Manchester itself never fails to amaze me.
The first night I enjoyed an evening of curry and bottled water with Steve, Mark, Charlie and Anne.
Walks with Ozzy and Lars, and meeting the lovely Grogan clan.
And all had changed.
Manchester used to be a grimy, weather-beaten landscape, but now it seemed, through my Norfolk tractor spectacles, to be uber-cool.
Ancoats, for example, was a no-go zone when I lived there – now it’s a mini Manhattan; Miles Platting is being changed into “Platting Village” and those derelict buildings around Oldham Street and Tib Street are now hipster central and rebranded the “Northern Quarter”. I loved every minute of being there – even the Arndale has been transformed from a grotty mall into something pleasant.
The north is not a place, it’s not a state of mind, it’s a different universe to Norfolk.
Those roads are to marvel at – the M60 circling Manchester meaning 10 minute drives between major conurbations (1 hour would be the time span here); the people – everyone has a conversation – and no-one looks at you askance when you join in or initiate one.
Trams running through the city centre when Norwich can only boast two big Park and Ride car parks.
The multicultural diversity and harmony of its streets – no sense of threat, just the odd sight of a poor homeless person zombied out on Spice.
I must admit though it’s a running joke about the Waltons, that when we visit anywhere we want to move there, and Manchester did it for me in bucket loads.
It was home for three days – whereas Watford and St Albans at the weekend didn’t hold a flame to Manchester.
So why did I go?
I attended a networking event on Deansgate at the RBS HQ in Spinningfields.
The vista itself of the Beetham Tower and the Town Hall was worth the 400 mile round trip alone.
The event itself was good too.
After networking with new connections, after coffee and faecal bacteria in Starbuck’s, I headed to Dough to meet Steve Grogan, ex-pupil, photographer and friend, to marvel at a £5 lunch (would be £12 in Norwich), more conversations with locals and then miracle of miracle – a new rite of passage for me: an Uber ride.
Steve took great delight in demonstrating the app and its uses to me – I did feel vaguely that he was acting like my carer as he assumed (probably correctly) that Norfolk not only has no motorways, conversations, cheap lunches, but is also Uber less.
We decadently caught the Uber back to my BMW Zafira as it was christened, for £2.30, which he paid.
Shopping until 10pm in the Trafford Centre may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but Manchester allowed it, as well as more conversations in the Levi’s store as I’d fallen into northern character, attacking the sales rails with gusto.
Coming back today was a folly.
I ignored Matt’s sage advice and headed over Woodhead, under pudding skies and steep ascents behind lorries, adding over an hour to the journey.
Passing Norwich, I realised that Norfolk may be where I live, but it’s not my home and you know what, after 10 years here, it doesn’t feel like home and never will do.
You may beg to differ, but if home is a state of mind, my mind is rooted in Staffordshire or Manchester.
I intend to return – to live there and soon.
I might just get more Google search results too as a Manchester copywriter.