Standard Issue writers are penning a letter to their hometown. Here, Claire Jones begs Manchester for forgiveness following a series of betrayals.
There’s no easy way to say this, but I’ve been unfaithful. It started innocently enough. We’d only been back together a few years when I started feeling that maybe I could be ‘doing better’.
You’d soaked me on the way to job interviews. Your filthy buses either mocked me by sailing past the bus stop earlier than advertised, or made me late for appointments, seemingly at will. You’d closed down virtually every place I once called home, from the little underground markets selling patchouli and Indian bangles to the rock and punk nightclubs on whose doorsteps I would leave my troubles.
“Leaving you became an obsession, until every day that I wasn’t somewhere else seemed like a reflection of my own inadequacies. I’m ashamed to say I even downloaded some pictures of older, gentler towns.”
I suppose things got really complicated when I went to Twickenham for the Army vs Navy rugby match. On the train from the stadium to my friend’s house in Aldershot, I noticed how my fellow passengers were all chatting happily and wearing lovely summer clothes. I caught myself in the train window and was horrified at my heavy jacket and grey face, pained from the weight of dragging around umbrella and ballet pumps in my bag, as all those summers with you had trained me to do.
As soon as I got home I started to look at property websites. I’d heard of towns with pretty little houses on quiet happy streets. I saw that some people could actually leave a potted bay tree by their front door and know it would still be there when they came home from work. My head was turned.
Leaving you became an obsession, until every day that I wasn’t somewhere else seemed like a reflection of my own inadequacies. I’m ashamed to say I even downloaded some pictures of older, gentler towns. I resented the mash-up of architecture you allowed to spread across you in the name of commerce, until it all began to resemble the back of a refrigerator. The days I spent on your sticky streets became filled with illicit thoughts of Liverpool’s grand waterfront and the generous wide skies of Leeds. Soon I was fantasising about nights in Soho and days in Liberty.
But slowly I realised that, at my age, relocation would not be the adventurous fresh start of my dreams. I remembered how when I had lived in Chester, Germany, North Wales and North Yorkshire, my every waking thought had been of you. I missed your parks, rustling with willow branches and scattered with rippling duck ponds.
I missed your lofty galleries and the huge libraries and museums bustling with each autumn’s fresh intake of hopeful students. The way your summer nights sound like children’s laughter and every music genre that ever existed, all at once. Your glittering canals and skyscrapers. The innumerable branches of Dixy Chicken.
Most of all, I thought of how my own history is written in nearly every district of you, and how my most loved friends’ stories also began here. Your people sound like me, and only with you can I discover common ground with total strangers.
So if you can forgive me, maybe we should give things another try. If I cement that potted bay tree to the step and lay off the property rental sites, I think – I know – we can make this work.
Illustrator and writer from Manchester. Arts student and proud sister, aunty and mum. Owned by a collie. Multi-tasker.