I was in Manchester yesterday. That's interesting, I hear you yawn. I know what you're saying, but being as southern as they come going up north is still a huge treat for me.
Over the past 15 years I've been to Manchester about a million times, but as mentioned in a previous blog entry, my first visit to Manchester wasn't until I was 25.
The main reason for deciding to go was to do the now defunct Granada Studios Tour. But we were also going to see a few friends of Mrs P who lived up there. A couple who lived in Didsbury and a single clubber who lived in the middle of the city. This was exciting.
At this time Manchester was the throbbing music hub of Britain, with the Happy Mondays and the rest of the Madchester scene dominating the airwaves. It was November, we borrowed my brother's car, Thatcher resigned while I was paying for petrol on the M6, we stopped at most of the services along the way and took our time as the north slowly unfolded before us. I still get excited when you see that sign that says 'The North' on the motorway. Back then I felt like an explorer. I had no idea what lay ahead but I knew it was going to interesting.
Not that I thought it was all going to be Coronation Streets, but with a grandma from the back streets of Wigan who'd lived down south at this point for more than 50 years, my image of these northern towns made the Road To Wigan Pier look like Hollywood Wives. The stories she told. I imagined beggars in rags. I was surprised.
The Granada tour, though okay, was by no means the highlight of my trip. I still own the Connections mug I bought and I have pictures of us in the faux House of Commons and under giant furnture and of course on the fake other Corrie set they'd built for the tour. At least I'm pretty sure it was a fake. I've been to the real thing many times and I don't think it's the same one. Anyhoo, I think the site is now a science museum. I miss seeing the big Granada sign on top of the Granada building these days though.
The big surprise was Manchester itself. Our friends had a great place in Didsbury, our single clubber friend had an amazing central loft. The pubs and bars were buzzing and groovy, the shops were ace and everyone was super friendly. It was different to London, very different, with its own identity and culture. It wasn't trying to be London. It was doing its own thing. To my amazement I had found a proper big city. Wow! I wanted to move there at once.
It's changed a lot of course, and now is even better and I'd still quite happily live there. We never made it, but I wouldn't be averse. It sounds silly to have thought this way and I now know the cities and town of the north very well and one need not remember one's passport.
This song has a chilly, autumnal feel about it, and whenever I'm in Manchester it pops into my head. Of it's time certainly, but to me is sums up that whole slightly edgy, nightime Madchester feel of the city when I first knew it.
We'll never see its like again.