It was fun going to Manchester last week – I hadn’t been there for about ten years and everyone told me that I would be amazed by the way it has changed in that time. Well, there are certainly a lot of new buildings and, sadly, a few old friends have disappeared too. Mostly, the modern buildings are fine. I liked the new hotel that has been built on the site that used to be the Free Trade Hall and full marks to the hotel porter who not only let me roam around the new building but gave me a book on the history of the site. Good old Manchester hospitality. The new Hilton Hotel, towers upwards in a rather elegant way too as you can see above.
I got used to turning corners only to find that familiar places had disappeared and there was a profusion of building sites and, I suppose, inevitably, a lot of new car parks where there were once friendly but tatty old buildings.
There were the trams too which have transformed the city centre making sense of the roads and keeping them clear of the old traffic jams of my memories. Strange how the re-introduction of old technologies can give the place a modern feel.
In truth, I found a lot of the new buildings a bit international bland and I got bored with all those new hotels. Even blander were those little squares with their concrete benches and pestilence of hanging baskets which try to make everywhere feel like a suburban back garden when all I really wanted was a bit of inner-city excitement.
The canals looked great though with the water almost clean and the pathways newly paved and manicured. Great to see too that the place hasn’t got so trendy that all those old men on bikes have been banned from view.
There are still loads of handsome brick buildings….
..but these days, they are looking smarter and many of them have been given the space to breathe – almost as if, at last, the city has recognised the beauty of ugly Victoriana.
It was good to see though that my old workplace at Granada Television was still there even if it has been crowded out by other taller buildings and now gives off the aura of having seen better days – which of course it has.
I was based here for more years than seems possible and Manchester has been the scene of a lot of fun, excitement and drama for me over the years. Walking around town, I couldn’t but remember some of the old days and I was happy that, once you look beyond the glossy new offices and hotels, it is really the same old scruffy place…..
….where shabby streets still avoid pretentious showiness and where you can still wander in search of no-nonsense fun in disreputable establishments.
For me, after I had regained my bearings, Manchester was mostly the same old place, full of fond memories and full of friendly Mancunians always ready to join in conversation and share a joke. It was good to be back.