I have read so many blog posts about Manchester in the wake of the Arena bombing. Moving accounts of the city that belongs to so many people.
I have thought long and hard about Manchester. My Manchester and the journey we have taken together.
This blog post will no doubt show my age. It will also show why so many people love the place.
I was born in Manchester and I don’t know whether babies get injected with something to make the city flow through their veins or whether it is natural but through my veins that city flows.
I grew up in the suburbs and we regularly went shopping in Manchester throughout my childhood. I went on trips with school friends from a very early age and I remember feeling so cool to be in the city on my own.
We went to the Corn Exchange where small outlets sold incense sticks and alternative clothing, before the IRA bomb destroyed it, only for it to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes. Never quite the same again but where I went back years later on one of my many work lunch breaks when a pop-up boutique opened by one of the stars of TOWIE.
I remember the summer after I finished school, going to Manchester to buy clothes for starting sixth form college.
The Oasis t-shirt I got from HMV on Market Street and felt amazing in each time I wore it.
The concerts I went to-at the GMEX back in the day. My first Take That concert was there when we were on the third row and Robbie Williams waved to me and I nearly fainted with excitement.
Who remembers Shelley’s shoe shop on the corner near Boots? Four floors (or more?) of shoes. What’s not to love about that?
Afflek’s and all the fabric and haberdashery shops behind Piccadilly. Fred Aldous where I was amazed at all the crafts people could make and I bought loads of clasps and other paraphernalia to make jewellery.
My early teenage years were filled with awe at Manchester.
It wasn’t until I was 22 that I got my first job there on Oxford Road-right next to the Palace Theatre where many plays and musicals were watched as well as at the Opera House.
I remember my first day like it was yesterday. I asked the receptionist which way were the shops. I felt a bit disoriented but nearly squealed inside as I walked through St Peter’s Square and saw Kookai on the corner of King Street.
King Street. Once the home of many boutique shops as well as high street favourites. At one point there was a Top Shop shoes and Jake’s which sold amazingly different shoes before most of the shops migrated to the new Arndale Centre.
What about the thrill of walking through the tunnel of jewellery and Hermes scarves in St Anne’s passage before getting to St Anne’s Square?
Then there is Deansgate. Home to many bars and restaurants but also the icon that is Kendals whose Christmas windows really sends a festive thrill down even the most un-festive spine.
There was Daisy and Tom’s toyshop there too which unfortunately closed before I had children but I still enjoyed browsing the floors and floors of toys there.
The massive Primark where my friend and I noticed if they changed the shop around, we went in there so much. We knew which Subway chain would give us more salad and made sure we went to that one for lunch.
The bars-the cool bars, the quirky bars. The drinks after work, the clubs where I baulked at how much it cost to go in but then they wouldn’t let me in anyway because they said I’d had too much to drink.
The concerts then moved to the MEN Arena-Take That, Cher, Mariah Carey, Sterophonics, Savage Garden-my eclectic taste in music reflected in the ticket stubs I treasured.
The train journeys from Oxford Road or Piccadilly or, if I went in at the weekend, Victoria Station. My train from Piccadilly was always on Platform 14. The furthest one away. Many sprints took place to get to the train on time.
Even the pigeons are characters in Manchester-especially the one-eyed hobbling one which stalked my friend for about three years.
Having my first baby which changed my perspective of the city. Drinks after work were out. Concerts were swapped for seeing Mr Tumble at the MEN Arena instead of the latest band.
I could get all my Christmas shopping done in my lunch hour, rather than wasting time shopping at weekend with children.
Swanky stores like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols moved in and we spent many a lunch hour
stalking walking around them hoping for free perfume samples.
The culinary delight of the city-China town where you could equally get all ingredients for any Chinese meal you had planned along with cutesy Hello Kitty toys to decorate your work desk.
The Curry Mile where not only could you eat at one of hundreds of Indian restaurants but I regularly got the bus up there during my lunch breaks to buy things from Middle Eastern supermarkets where I bought massive jars of spicy pickled cucumbers because they were the only tasty thing I could eat on the diet I was on at the time.
The institution that is the Midland Hotel. You can’t help but look up at its magnificence as you get a tram from outside or cut through to get to the shops.
The joy of the Christmas markets with that distinctive smell which is a mix of cinnamon, red wine and Continental cheese.
The women I spoke to every morning in the coffee shop before work who I wheeled my pram in to see her when I had taken the baby into work-such is the friendliness of Manchester’s inhabitants.
When I went back recently and felt almost giddy to be in the loud city after the near-silence of the farm. The lady in Paperchase who spoke to me like an old friend.
My knee-jerk reaction when other terrorist attacks had happened was to not venture far. To try and keep my little family safe.
The more I have thought about it this week though, the more I have thought this is nonsense. I went back into Manchester and Warrington after the IRA bombs. If I still worked there I would have to go in-just like the thousands of other people who work there.
More than that, how can I just desert Manchester? My Manchester.
The Manchester where I want to take my children and show them where Mummy used to work.
Where Mummy used to let her hair down-well, maybe not that bit but definitely where I shopped.
Let them experience the feeling of awe at the big city just like I did.
Everyone touched by this great city will have a story and a journey-just like me. They may have trodden different paths, different bars and different shops but we all have one constant.
I will not desert you.