Monday, January 28, 2008

Home from home

Having last week endured a three day trip to our capital city, which is called London, it was with some considerable glee and a spring in my step (not literally, although just imagine that: steps made entirely from springs, and thus whole staircases of bounciness. Great fun for those of a certain disposition) that I returned to Manchester. The relief was tangible. No really, I could actually touch it (it felt moist and quite heavy, like a damp dog with a brick encased in its chest).

Much like a dilapidated crack house or a sadistic S&M parlour, visits to London invariably prompt a quotation of the famous old line: it's a good place to visit but I wouldn't like to live there. Its vast and inhospitable sprawl, its overcrowded streets, its depressing public transport experience, its excessive prices, not to mention its BASIC ATTITUDE PROBLEM, all make it a quite impossible place of residence for a gent like me. I can't quite fathom why people are drawn to it so much, almost like moths to a packet of bourbon cream biscuits. I did say almost. I don't get it, it makes no sense. The logic of agreeing to meet inflated property values and rents, to pay excessive amounts for basic convenience items such as bread, milk and pints of ale, and to travel for over an hour to reach work because the buses and tubes are so snarled up, is completely lost on me. Why pay more for a lower quality of life? Why shell out for such misery?

When I arrived back on friendly soil and emerged from Manchester Piccadilly station into a delightfully brisk and crisp late-winter's afternoon, I was filled with a warming sense of familiarity. It was the first time I'd arrived back in Manchester since moving here and sensed real homeliness. It was quite an epiphany for me. When I refer to all of my city experience, I'm convinced it is the city most snugly fitted to my needs. It is large, vibrant and varied enough to offer everything I'll ever require to maintain a decent level of sanity, and yet is also compact enough to feel accessible and conquerable. You can walk from one end of the city centre to the other in little over ten minutes, and I like that. Furthermore, like all northern towns and cities, the good, honest folk found in its streets are disarmingly friendly and approachable. Unlike London, if you approach somebody in a Manchester street and ask where one might find the nearest skinny jeans retailer they wouldn't just look at you disdainfully and then walk off without reply. Unless you happen to ask me, which would just be plain unlucky (I would never do anything to advance the popularity of such a ghastly garment - I have certain standards). When all is said (but not done), Manchester is a far more humane settlement than London can ever hope to be.


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