What’s your name?
What do you do?
I work in an office. It’s large, open plan, 1960s style with harsh lighting. There are no plants on the desks but there is an air of muted desperation (then again I’m writing this on a Monday morning). The other three temps and I sit in an area by the lifts, together with the only permanent PA (they seem to hate the word ‘secretary’ these days). It’s almost ten o’clock in the morning and I’m on the north side of the second tallest building in Manchester, bored out of my mind. Who was it that said ‘Only the boring get bored’? Bollocks. I challenge anyone not to be bored in my place.
The views here are amazing though. On a clear day you can see to the Peaks, the Pennines, the moors, everything. Of course, if you lift your head the lawyers see you and stare at you balefully. They don’t give you anything to do, that would be too direct and honest, instead they gripe and complain and say we’re not up to scratch. As far as we’re concerned, since we’re agency paid (and low paid at that; I calculate we’re earning a third less than any ‘PA’ in the company) we’re doing okay. You could say, ‘Pay peanuts, get monkeys’ but that would be unfair not only to me but to the other women here who, like myself, are ‘of an age’ and are coincidentally at the crossroads of major life changes. We have at least one hundred years of secretarial experience between us, and apart from the occasions when we get a little menopausal on each other’s asses, we get along just fine.
The morning ticks by, people tap on keyboards, drink lukewarm machine-bought drinks and wait for lunchtime. It’s enough to make you want to take up smoking again. I’ve recently (very nearly) given up and although it’s hard, it’s not been as difficult as I thought. After almost forty years (Jesus! I should be dead already…) I imagine my lungs are shot. A recent episode where I found I couldn’t breathe at all gave me such a fright. There’s also the fact that pretty soon I’m going to be a foster parent. I don’t want to smoke around children.
Later I look out of the window as the sun is setting and the whole of South Manchester looks afire as the sun dies, shortly before a great grey bank of cloud sweeps in to bring what the weathermen like to call ‘blustery showers’. Manchester is just lighting up; a ribbon of red lights show cars beginning to leave town. Buildings are aglow and although I’ve always thought of it is as a small city, I realise how wrong I am. Manchester is huge. The centre itself is negotiable in thirty minutes or so but the outlying areas spread on and on…
Where do you live?
I live with my husband and two cats in Chorlton-cum-Hardy which to my mind is just the nicest place to live. We’re in a neat little cul-de-sac with neighbours who seem to have come straight from a Sunday evening serial. I think we’re the second oldest residents on the street but we get along well with all the thirty-something couples of many persuasions who populate the tiny houses. We are all cat people; the felines themselves are friends too and pop in and out of each other’s houses with abandon.
Tell us the story of how you ended up in Manchester
It’s a sweeping tale of epic proportions. Two young star-crossed lovers meet at Blackpool Tower in 1982 and the rest, as they say, is geography... Actually, we moved to London first and stayed there until the commuting and stress got the better of us. We decided that being close to the people you love beats the hell out of spending up to four hours a day getting to and from work. We came back up North, moved close to our respective families and got back in touch with our nieces and nephews. That was the deal right there, having those kids in our lives made everything good, and now that they’re starting to have kids of their own the joy is unbounded. We moved to Manchester in 2003 having visited our niece and nephew while they were studying at the University. It was love at first sight. Everything about the place seemed right; the size of it, the places to go, the people. I remember having just visited Chorlton and saying to my husband, ‘Why aren’t we living here?’ So we moved here. We haven’t regretted a day of it.
What’s great about this city?
I’ve always liked urban life and though I don’t do as much socialising as I once did, I like the fact that when I do want all that, it’s right outside my door. Restaurants, bars, parks, you name it, they’re a five minute walk from where I live and I show the place off to visitors as if I built it myself. I love Manchester for the light rain-shine on the dark night streets, the sudden squeals of young girls on a night out, the lovely young faces on the tram first thing in the morning. I love the markets, the chats you can have in any shop, whether it’s a newsagent and a prince of the East selling you ten fags and bemoaning the fact that he can’t give them up either, or the sweet young girl in the Craft Centre in the Northern Quarter who tells you all about her cat so before you know it you’re showing her the photograph of ‘your Lily’ watching telly.
What’s not so great?
Crime. Sorry folks but a great many people out there think it’s okay to nick your stuff and right now they seem to regularly target Chorlton. Our house has managed to escape so far in our eight years here but my husband’s car has been broken into twice. Four of our neighbours have been burgled though, and one has been burgled three times!
Do you have a favourite Manchester building?
Probably the John Rylands Library. I love the fact that it’s in the middle of Deansgate amongst all the brash new stuff in Spitalfields but stays aloof and apart. I do like modern architecture but I don’t get the Urbis Building. Chetham’s Music School is a favourite too. Ordsall Hall in Salford is fabulous. What was I saying about modern architecture...? I love Salford Quays too but to my mind Manchester does the old stuff much better.
Do you have a favourite Mancunian?
My favourite Mancunian is my nephew Greg who is a proper genius and a decent human being to boot. Although not born here, he loves the place. He is also one of the main reasons we’re in Manchester and he’s helped us to appreciate the city more and more.
What’s your favourite pub/bar/club/restaurant/park/venue?
In Chorlton: Bar 480 for the model soldiers, Dulcimer for the roaming band of musicians who play Irish music there occasionally and Escape for a last tipple before going home. When we do venture into Manchester for a drink we like The Peveril of the Peak, The Briton’s Protection and Sam’s Chop House. The Deaf Institute is also a favourite. We don’t eat out much, but Leo’s in Chorlton has some of the best Italian food I’ve ever had – including in Rome. We live near Chorlton Park, which is just lovely and we’re not far from the Water Park which is also amazing.
What do you think is missing from Manchester?
Can’t think of a thing, honey.
If I was Mayor for a day I would …
Make all the Public Transport free.
Who else would you like to nominate to answer this questionnaire?
My friend Karen and my husband John.