I was in Manchester on Saturday for the first time in many a moon. It was a really warm day and the city was looking at its best. The streets were swept, the shops looked enticing and the sun was glinting off the Manchester Eye. Everywhere there were people relaxing and enjoying the space. There was a real buzz about the place and I felt like I belonged.
That’s not as unlikely as it might sound. I did my degree in Manchester and although my time there was before the urban boom and pre-bomb, the basic shape of the city is still familiar. Sadly, I only had an hour or so to mosey around but in that time something significant struck me. It’s not like Leeds.
I know. Ridiculous thought. Of course it isn’t. They are different places grown up in different ways and with differing histories. But there was something going on in Manchester that isn’t happening in Leeds. As this fleeting impression began to take a firmer shape in my mind, I started to look for specific things that might explain it.
Manchester is certainly bigger, its centre more sprawling but it seems to been have developed in a more consistent way which contrasts starkly with the somewhat ad hoc style that Leeds has. Manchester’s public spaces are more continental in feel, its shop fronts wider, its finish more opulent. And it has a much wider cultural society with far more going on than we living over the hill have.
Eventually however, it finally dawned on me what was really making Manchester different to what I am used to in Leeds. It was the people. Everyone had a certain style. Whilst fashion was being followed, I didn’t see great gangs of identically dressed youths. Although it was hot and people were dressed for the weather, I didn’t see any jaw droppingly hideous ensembles.
And that was it. People in Manchester are just cooler than people in Leeds. And I wanted to be part of it. Not the cool bit. I’m far too long in the tooth for that. But the bit about having easy access to a city that’s on the up. And that drags me back to one of my greatest fears in life – that I will leave Ilkley in a box!
Ilkley is a beautiful town. It has fabulous amenities and spectacular countryside on its doorstep. It has easy access to other places and is yet small enough to make it a remarkably safe place to bring up children. I can’t imagine that it could be bettered on a whole range of things. But it is a very small town in a small part of a small country in a huge world. I didn’t actively choose to live here. It just sort of happened to me but as accidents go I really can’t complain. I could have done an awful lot worse. But when I go somewhere that reminds me of how different other places are, it makes me feel claustrophobic and a little bit trapped.
I’m not saying that I would want to move back to Manchester specifically. I don’t. It’s more that I want to experience living in other places before it’s too late. I suspect that only then will I feel that I have made the most of my life. And if I say it often enough then who knows? One day it may even happen.