I’ve always liked Manchester, having spent nine years living near the city, it’s lodged in my psyche.
It’s lodged again, with me, now looking, flirtatiously, and with feckless abandon, for copywriter jobs Manchester.
I worked there, in Manchester you see, in three schools from 1987 to 1996 and I recall all with great nostalgic fondness. Many of my ex-pupils (ranging from the age of 35 to 42, before the Safeguarding red button is hit) and ex-colleagues made my 50th last year, and the east coast of Norfolk was awash with Manc accents, northern bonhomie and humour.
We felt we had to return the favour last year by venturing north for the first time in 7 years.
The journey itself over the Woodhead Pass was awe inspiring for the two children whose idea of a mountain is the not so local hill, Beeston Bump in Sheringham.
What a transformation that city had undertaken since we bid adieu in 1996.
I recall vividly the train journey from Piccadilly to Oxford Street very well back then as a highlight; a Gothamesque cityscape of red brick and glass, glinting with sunshine and rain.
Other memories – the buzz of Oxford Road, Rusholme, St Anne’s Square, John Dalton Street and the walk through the desolate Shudehill where Raquel on Coronation Street was left standing forlorn on a no-show blind date.
It’s all changed though.
The Northern Quarter was unrecognisable: it was a car park, a few cheap restaurants and Bangladeshi / Pakistani wholesalers of saris, I remembered, back in the late 80s.
Not any more.
The NQ is now awash with trendy bars and eateries, with Dough alone being worth the 8 hour round trip.
The Arndale Centre too felt brand new. Had it been demolished and rebuilt? No. But it was modern and bright compared with the post-apocalyptic dump from the 80s.
It’s a place my two children and I could return to (the wife needs some persuading) – their abiding memory from three days there was how friendly and warm everyone was. Everyone – from random strangers in a lift to retail and restaurant staff – had conversation in them.