What you do when your feet start to suffer because of the icky sticky oooey goooey consequences of walking for miles on concrete paths in the city during a heat wave? (I have been wearing summer dresses and ballet pumps.)
You head straight to the nearest shoe shop and beg them for help. Lo and behold! They found me these delightful sandals. Let me hype them for a moment…Lovely thick chunky sole, great for walking, rose gold soft leather straps on upper of sandal that does not rub your tootsies. OFFICE (that is the name of the shoe shop) you saved me from sore feet misery!
At this point I must mention that it was Stephen T the creator of Armageddon Cafe who inspired me to share my feet with you! He was brave enough to publish a photo of his own fine feet for the whole blogging world to see in his post below:
If Stephen was brave enough, so am I! (Any complaints about my feet can be forwarded directly to Mr Stephen T himself.)
Well this is Manchester in a heat wave:
I am going to admit that the heat is getting to me a bit now. I have been guzzling so much water and oddly, it doesn’t seem to need to escape. It does not bear thinking about.
Today we arrived at Victoria Train Station and saw the Manchester Evening News Arena for the first time since the explosion that killed twenty-two who had been attending a concert last year.
We packed a lot into our day in Manchester and we walked all the way down to the other end of Oxford Road – which was only possible because I had my new sandals. We packed in shopping, museums, and a restaurant in the evening.
We also had time to visit a gelateria. I was gasping at this point. I had not eaten anything all day because of the heat but I was craving some wonderful refreshment. They had three dairy-free sorbets. I asked for a waffle cone. I knew I wanted the mango sorbet for certain. In the end I asked for a big scoop of the lemon sorbet on the top because it sounded so refreshing. Don’t tell my Goldfinch, it is our little secret. It was so so delicious. Totally did the trick and energised me for our trek down to the Manchester Museum and beyond.
I am preparing a post about my rebellious blip as a teenager. I remember having a lot of mixed up emotions, but those emotions settled once I found something that gave me a sense of purpose and a positive outlook. I was needed and useful and was able to work as a volunteer with hundreds of happy and interesting people. Nonetheless, there were at least nine months when I was difficult for my parents. It did not last, and it is buried history. But the post I am working on will contain more details about my first affiliation with Manchester.
But right now I want to share a memory of Manchester that is still vivid in my mind over twenty years later. It is an event which almost shocked me out of childhood and made me aware that no matter how much I looked for the positives, this world needs changes on a large scale.
One Saturday in June 1996, my Mum allowed my sister and I to go shopping in Manchester on our own. This was quite a big token of trust. I was fourteen at the time. My sister Mandy was twelve but she was already two inches taller than me. I had been to Manchester before, but Mum did not know that (…I had gone with a school friend when we should have been at school). So my parents were hesitant about allowing us to go, but I begged and pleaded. I was about to start working in Manchester (doing little insignificant tasks and running errands) and I wanted to buy some clothes as I could not wear my school uniform at a record company. My Dad realized that if I was going to have to catch the bus and then the train into Manchester every time I was working, I may as well have a trial run of going into the city and learning the travel routes.
Of course my parents gave me a huge lecture on safety. Looking back, I guess allowing a fourteen and a twelve year old to head into a busy city without an adult was quite a big deal. We did not have mobile phones. But we knew how to use a pay-phone if there was any trouble. Both of us were tall and looked older than our age, especially Mandy.
We were so excited. We woke up bright and early that morning and set out on our adventure. We arrived at Manchester’s Victoria Station at around 8.30am. We walked from there along the main road to Marks and Spencers and then crossed the road and headed into TopShop. I spent all my money in TopShop, River Island and Bay. It was perhaps only half past nine when I realized I did not have enough money to buy any more clothes. But I am pretty certain I did buy Mandy and I an ice-cream in a cone. Without money we had no idea what we would do for the rest of the day in the city.
We discussed it and decided we may as well just go straight home and then we could go out and play with our friends.
As we walked away from the Arndale Shopping Center in the direction of Marks and Spencers, I said to Mandy, “There seem to be a lot of police around this morning.”
Mandy’s reply, “Duh! It is a city, of course there are a lot of police around!”
Wham!! Suddenly a police woman had crashed into me and I was on the floor clinging with all my might to my shopping bags. I was not sure what had happened. The police woman helped me up and apologised.
We were just about to turn right to head back to Victoria Station when a police man unravelling police tape barred our way and told us we were not allowed to go that way. We asked the police man which other routes would take us to Victoria Station. He said he was not sure, but he told us firmly, “you need to evacuate this area immediately. Just head in the opposite direction calmly, but you need to turn around and head away from here.”
Mandy and I were obedient, we were just a bit worried because we did not know our way around the city center. As we hesitated, we saw people arguing with the same police man. One man kept insisting he had to cross the police tape because he needed to return his library book. Another man who was so enraged that he could not go past, started to rant and yell and exclaim, “it’s not as if there is a bomb or something!”
We felt sorry for the police man, but it was not long before other police staff joined him. Mandy and I started walking up past the Arndale Shopping Center again. I can’t remember which road we turned down but eventually we managed to find our way back through side streets and down to Victoria Station. We boarded the train back to Wigan and then caught the bus to our home.
When we walked through our front door…well, you should have seen the look on Mum and Dad’s face!
It turns out that we had caught the last train out of Manchester. We had no idea until they told us and sat us in front of the television to watch the news, that a van that had been parked outside Marks and Spencers (a van we had walked past twice that morning) containing a bomb had exploded and had ripped an enormous hole out of Manchester City Center. The shops I had bought my clothes in had been destroyed.
There are a heap of videos online showing the explosion of the van. I found them upsetting to watch, so I did not want to post anything that was too disturbing. But here is a photo of the area Mandy and I had criss-crossed several times that morning, after the catastrophe caused by the biggest bomb that had been detonated in Britain since the Second World War,
It was such a bizarre surreal feeling. I found it odd that Mandy and I had no idea of the danger, we had calmly left the city and had been completely oblivious to what was going on behind us. Apparently, there were no fatalities that day, but there were two hundred people injured and just a massive amount of damage. Manchester City Center became a construction site for the next few years.
I walked through that area again several times when I visited Manchester with my friends this week. I have vivid memories of that day and I remember how they effected me for many months to come – I do think that event spring-boarded me into my little rebellious blip. I just had a lot of mixed up feelings about what had happened. I expressed it by being difficult for the next nine months. By March 1997 it was all over and I never looked back.
Since that day I have worked as a steward at large events and due to two bomb scares while I was at work we have had to evacuate thousands of people. I always took the training we had seriously and remember how clearly spoken and firm you have to be with people when you give them instructions to leave the area quickly but calmly.
There was one image I really wanted to share with you:
It felt kind of special seeing this little red fella again. You may not be able to make out words on the plaque, but basically they indicate that this red post box survived the bombing almost undamaged. During the rebuilding of Manchester City Center, it was relocated and then once the construction had progressed enough they brought the same post box back to it’s original site.
I hope I don’t need to explain the inspiration this little red fella gives.
This post is dedicated to all those who face a catastrophe and have to keep going. Some of us may have needed to take a bit of time out to get our heads around what has happened. But now others will look to us as a pillar of strength and inspiration for what we have survived (almost undamaged).
Sadly, the explosion last year at the Manchester Arena did result in twenty-two fatalities and many more injuries. I know it must be tough for those who were there that night. I remember my own emotions back in 1996. How much more so must those who lost loved ones in 2017.
Oh for a world that does not have to deal with fear and terror.
All my love….from Caramel in Manchester…xx