Tag Archives: Manchester

Returning to England…

It is exactly 100 days since I last set foot in my home country. Tomorrow will be my day 101 and I shall be returning via Liverpool to the hub of the North. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Landing in Liverpool is one thing – us Mancs aren’t well-known for a love of Scousers, and in all honesty, the Scouse accent does nothing for me. In fact, having once spent a holiday in Crete, where I heard one Scouse girl shout across five balconies to another Scouse girl:

“Aayyyyyyyyy, Laurrrrrrrrrrrrra, I’ve gorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaa diseeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaasssssse!”

I can safely say that I categorised all Scousers in a similar manner: easy, loud, cheap and as lovely as an orange fake tan. Sorry to any Scousers who don’t conform to that stereotype; it’s the Manc in me. It’s the ‘rrrrrrrrrrss’. I blame Cilla Black.

This is both ‘pretend’ Cilla (and watching it, I’m reminded actually how lovely she was. Great legs for an old bird!) and the Scousers by Harry Enfield. It shows you the great Scouse style and the ‘Dey do doh, don’t dey doh?’ as well as the ‘Calm Down’ that probably plagued Liverpudlians for a long time.

However, I dislike that the scouse accent has seeped over the borders into Warrington and St Helens, thus giving rise to the ‘Plastic Scouser’. A Plastic Scouser is a wannabe-Scouser. I’m thus reminded of the man a few months ago who cut me up and then put on a fake scouse accent when I was videoing him with my phone as he continued to swerve and drive badly. He’d already spoken to me as he cut me up – cut glass Bolton accent. But, by the time he got out of the car, it was full-on Plastic Scouser. Needless to say, he was not so happy when I challenged him on this. I’m sure he was trying to imply that he was ‘connected’ and that he had Toxteth or Croxteth connections. I did the whole ‘Calm down, Calm down!’ routine and he eventually got back in his car. Seriously, even I could do a better Plastic Scouser accent.

Ironically, having looked for a Scouse video on Youtube, virtually all the videos are posted by (or accused of  being) Mancs and are all quite – how shall I say? – derogatory. Virtually all of them have ‘Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey’ as their soundtrack and I’m reminded how much the Scousers love a bit of Gerry and the Pacemakers. Whilst they may have called their airport ‘John Lennon Airport’, it’s noticeable that the famous Beatle did not remain in Liverpool; neither has Sir Paul McCartney. On that subject, I’d be pretty pissed off if I were Sir Paul; they could have at least named the bus depot after him.

In all seriousness, I think it’s much of a muchness, and it’s a friendly rivalry, not unlike the French and the English – the difficulty of close neighbours with very different habits but with rather more in common than otherwise. We call them ‘bin dippers’ – as if they all go foraging in bins; we joke about their unemployment and their football loyalty. You only have to go to a Manchester City/Liverpool match to hear the worst of the songs come out. I blame all of this on ancient rivalries.

In reality, both cities have more in common than they would like to admit. Unemployment hit both towns badly, as did the 70s and 80s. Both have reinvented themselves. Both are massively proud of working-class roots, and both are fuelled by Irish immigrants.

I know the Scousers get (perhaps rightly) upset about the local ribbing, but there are many more programmes that mock Manchester in much worse ways.

Shameless is one of my favourites… although it’s less comedy and more real life these days!

And a little clip from The Royle Family – another Manchester classic!

so… what is it that annoys me?

I was thinking I could do with a list of all the things with this bit of the world that hack me off (to be followed by a list of things I love and I’ll miss!)

  1. Potholes. Why are there so many??! Particularly the ones on Adelaide Street and the really, really deep one on Bury Road
  2. Drivers. Slow ones. Fast ones. Ones that cut you up
  3. People who stop too close behind me. What difference does 12 inches make if you stop that much further away from me? It MAKES me want to stall on purpose
  4. The learner driver route that clogs up Bridgeman St
  5. Traffic lights that aren’t in sync. England has too many of them, and too many of them where you have to stop at EVERY SINGLE set, wasting time and petrol!
  6. The grey sky
  7. The fact it’s nearly March and there are no signs of improving weather
  8. The fact the council spends a ridiculous amount on stupid things, and then not enough on important things
  9. Buses that don’t give you long enough to overtake when they pull in
  10. Tax. Fuel tax. I’ve paid income tax on my salary – any other tax is just stealth tax. I reckon actual costs are so minimal now and tax accounts for about 80% of the products we buy
  11. The way council operatives talk to you
  12. The extortionate amount credit card companies charge, without anyone stopping them and saying they’re being ridiculous
  13. Newspapers that feel forced to spin every single story and then can’t see the irony of accusing politicians of spin
  14. Miserable faces
  15. The dirty shades of clothing Britain feels like it should dress itself in
  16. Why all new building projects are in shades of brown and grey. I realise it would be ridiculous to build everything in white or colours, but it would make it a little less miserable if there was a smidgen of a pleasant colour about
  17. The nastiness of my yellowing grass
  18. Moss in my grass
  19. Poor timekeeping
  20. Cold calls, especially for anything you aren’t at all interested in…

I’m sure more things will appear on my list as time goes on.

And the things I shall miss?

  1. The hills around Manchester, especially when they’re snow-capped
  2. The Hark to Towler, a combination of pub, music venue and pirate ship
  3. Rock Radio – nothing like Steve Berry’s banter of a morning, and some rousing rock tunes to spice up the rush hour!
  4. Manchester-friendly people, who’ll chat with you just to pass the time
  5. Northern curry houses – our best import! Trishna’s fantastic house specials, and the lovely guy who brings them
  6. Home delivery and takeaway – not that we indulge regularly, but I’m sure I’ll miss it
  7. Burger King and all its delightful burgers
  8. Hot Dog vans and the smell of fried onions outside the town hall
  9. Bolton library – France just doesn’t do libraries like we do!
  10. Manchester and city living – Affleck’s Palace, Ancoats, King St South, Kendals, Selfridge’s, Heals and all the shops, Kurt Geiger and Mac makeup. Paris is still a long way away!

I’m wondering if you can take the girl out of Manchester, but not Manchester out of the girl? It’s made me gritty and hard-working and industrious; it’s made me ironic and sharp, sarcastic and sardonic; it’s made me ‘mad fer it’ and it’s made me know how to celebrate. It’s all Buzzcocks and The Smiths, Joy Division and New Order, Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets, The Stone Roses and Oasis. It’s made me all ‘fuck you’, but all full of self-swagger and insecurity. It’s my history, my roots. Dark nights at the International watching punk bands and pretty-boy metal, goth bands and thrash; cold winter nights on the locks, sitting outside, laughing and drinking in zero degrees without a coat; fantastic chinese, thai, greek, indian, bangladeshi and british food, and more too numerous to mention. It’s the Ritz on Monday night, and Dambusters. It’s Jilly’s and the Banshee, Band on the Wall and the Roadhouse. It’s the Hacienda and the Boardwalk, Sankey’s Soap and the Free Trade Hall. And Manchester has made me outspoken, concerned with social welfare; it’s the city of Marx and Engels, of suffrage and Peterloo, of trade unions and political radicalism. It’s a city of workers, lacking charm and sophistication. And it is me.

Can I reform sufficiently to leave this behind?

Send for the Ark

Send for the Ark

It’s now eleven days of rain and counting. Steve performed his daily ritual of looking out of the window to check on his bike, then checking on the weather.

“Pissing down.” he said. He didn’t need to say anything else. There’s an unspoken phrase that now follows all of the statements we make about the weather that ‘it’s not like this in France’. Faunters groans every time there’s a mention of France, but he seemed quite chirpy when I mentioned a reconnaissance trip at half term, only asking how many days it was until the holidays. He’s only been back at school for one day, bless him. School time passes slowly.

Another added reason to get him out over there is the influence of more appropriate friends. He has a motley crew of five to twelve-year olds on the street, some of whom are already promising to be rogues of the highest order. One little boy goes crying to his dad every time Jake plays with him, and the dad invariably ends up yelling at Jake – last night Steve got involved in an almighty hoo-hah out on the street over the simplest of things. As soon as I got there, a gloom had settled over the house.

“Faunters have a good day, did he?” I asked. And then the tale began.

Like all tales of episodes on our street, it is long, convoluted, meandering and often unending. Getting to the bottom of who did what to whom is often impossible. Suffice to say we are quite sure the general French population don’t go out on the street swearing at nine-year-olds, shouting the odds and cursing like navvies. The most resistance we’ve had so far was a surly look from the elderly gentleman across from my dad’s place. And, as far as I could tell, that’s his general demeanour and has been since he was born. His dog is exactly the same. Come to think of it, so is his wife.

But Jake played quite happily during the holidays – finding a couple of neighbourhood children to play with. That said, it is more difficult entirely to insult people when you don’t know the language, and if La Maman of one of the neighbourhood children decided to swear vociferously at Jake, he’d be totally oblivious. In the time-old tradition of children on holiday, Jake managed to find three friends on the last day. Such is life. One of the smallest ones looked most forlorn as we packed up Jake’s scooter and departed. Surely it doesn’t all devolve into ‘such and such did so-and-so’ like it does here?

The in-fighting on the street is somewhat comical to an outsider. Some children aren’t allowed to play with others over long-held grudges. Other children fall prey to the resident scally chav, a.k.a M.C. Little Man who fancies himself as the new member of N Dubz or some such grime/rap ensemble. MC Little Man managed to convince one girl up the street to lend him her bicycle for a day in return for a biscuit. I wouldn’t have minded but it was only a pink wafer, and when she got the bike back, he’d kindly slashed the back tyre. MC Little Man and I have a running grudge – he threatened to smash the dog with a hammer. The Molly Dog is a cross-Rhodesian ridgeback/bull terrier, so she’d make short work of him, but still, it was entertaining. I turned around with the Molly Dog and said “Come on, then!” and MC Little Man ran away and hid. I like getting threatened by thirteen-year-olds. Not entirely sure what the Molly Dog would do to MC Little Man other than drown him in saliva and lick him to death, but she’s much like me. Feisty and ferocious-looking with a hugely soft centre, completely crazy to boot.

Still, she’s good at keeping the less desirable elements away from you when you’re on a walk. One mother on the street is worried about all the ‘Peter-files’ who might live in the area. There’s a lot of discussion at the top end of the street about who’s a Peter-file and who’s not. Accusations fly thick and fast about various matters, but it’s the fear of child molesters that keeps gossip going.

So between the five-year olds with swearing parents, the Peter-files, the resident scally chav and several other ne’er-do-wells, it’s a running battle that needs a permanent umpire or referee. And it’s a long way from leaving Jakey to fish on the river or play football with les enfants of the village. Les Enfants Terribles are definitely on this side of the channel in this case.

Plus, when you’re a nine-year-old with a scooter and new French friends, you only need two words: “Attendez!” and “Maintenant!”

It’s hard work justifying uprooting a nine-year-old who isn’t particularly keen on going, but the street gives us enough reasons to make it a valid decision.

Also, the reality has set in. I’ve got a bit of work to do on my house before I’d consider it sellable. I seem to have neglected several essential plumbing matters. Thus, you can get cold water from the bath, hot water from the sink (and a trickle from the bath) but the shower head doesn’t work and neither does the cold tap. The water and radiator heating went on the blink some time ago and I don’t use the downstairs toilet as it leaks terribly. On the negative side, these will all need fixing and will all cost money, but on the positive side, at least I’m used to functioning without proper water supplies. It bodes well.

However, I’ve got a snagging list to do of all the other things that will need doing here before I’d feel happy selling it, and some of them are going to be a pain. New stair carpets, new tiles. Despite this, though, a lick of paint here and there and it will be good to go. If I get it done before Christmas, we’ll be able to put it on the market after Christmas. Here’s hoping for a strengthening pound, a diminishing euro and a buoyant housing market. Somehow, in the midst of recession and credit crunches, I doubt it. I find myself looking at our current Government and wondering how it all went so wrong. I wonder if the French hold Sarkozy in such contempt. As an outsider, I kind of like the man. He’s flamboyant in a charismatic kind of way. I don’t know his views or policies, or whether France holds him in regard or not, but all I know is that even the misanthropic English pundits can’t find much to say about him other than commenting unfavourably on how Gordon Brown compares.

Time to start reading French newspapers and getting the low-down. I do wonder, however, whether that will leave me just as cynical with French life as it does with English? Le Monde, here I come.