‘That’s the Mancunian Way’

There’s a poem by Lemn Sissay written on the side of a takeaway on Oxford Road in Manchester.

I took a photo of it the day I moved into my student halls 12 years ago. The sky was a brilliant blue – unusual, given it was early September; ironic, given the words painted on the wall.

Today, its prose seems more poignant.

Manchester is a city often mocked for its inclement weather, its reputation wrapped up in near-constant drizzle and Morrissey-like misery. But there’s more to the heart of the North than stereotypes of swaggering scallies and 24-hour party people, as last night’s events have shown.

In the wake of yet another cowardly attack, Mancunians have responded in the way only they know how – with strength, with solidarity and with the no-nonsense attitude borne of living where it’s “grim”.

When a suicide attacker targeted an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, killing 22 people – some of them as young as 8 – taxi drivers took gig-goers to safety. Hotels and strangers opened their doors and homes. People rescued children who had become separated from their grown-ups.

The outpouring of support on social media has pulled us together, both in terms of love for the city and in the thousands of pounds already raised to help those caught up in the attack.

I live in Leeds now, but my heart is in Manchester. The five years I spent in Rusholme, in Fallowfield, in Victoria Park and in the Northern Quarter, were some of my happiest. I think back to that day in 2005 when I arrived at Whitworth Park with a kettle, a crap laptop and a box of cornflakes and feel the same excitement I did then every time my train pulls into Piccadilly station now. This one feels personal.

When I woke up this morning, I had no words. I can think of a few choice ones now that it’s sunk in, but I’ll leave the talking to Lemn Sissay:

“When the rain falls, they talk of Manchester. But when the triumphant rain falls, we think of rainbows. That’s the Mancunian Way”.


Animal magnetism: a #13for2013 mixtape

One of the wonderful things about growing up in the ’80s was being a child of the mixtape age.

The CD player came out in 1985 but only posh people had one, so the rest of us made do with a melodic education in a 5 x 7 box.

So in homage to those days spent unpicking magnetic tape from tangled spools, I submit my animal-themed, albeit digital, mixtape, as challenged by my fellow blogger, GemStGem.

1) Stay Here and Take Care of the Chickens – The Wave Pictures

The Wave Pictures recently revealed at a gig that this track is inspired by the Humphrey Bogart film, The Enforcer. They mysteriously added the phrase, “Stay here and take care of the chickens,” could have any number of meanings, depending on who you imagine is saying it… Discuss.

2) I Wanna Be Your Dog – Iggy and the Stooges

In the video montage of my life, the years I spent picking myself up off the floors of dingy Manchester bars will have this as the backing track. And I always felt rough as a dog the next morning, so it seems fitting.

3) Pussyfooting – Fujiya and Miyagi

No, not the ambient album of a similar name by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, but a song by a trio of Brighton boys. Their songs rarely make sense, but their hypnotic style is a grower. See also: Cat Got Your Tongue, if you’re feline inclined (pun intended).

4) Hounds of Love – Kate Bush

A cross between a Twin Peaks outtake and a bad dream, the Hounds of Love video pulls off melodrama in a way only Kate Bush can. Crazy bitch.

5) What’s a Girl To Do? – Bat for Lashes

Not chosen for its ‘bat’ reference, but because Natasha Khan spends the video riding through a dark forest followed by bikers in animal masks. Perhaps she looked to Kate Bush for inspiration?

6) Gold Lion – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

According to Wikipedia, the song ‘Gold Lion’ was named after the two ‘Gold Lion’ awards won by an Adidas advert for which Karen O contributed vocals. I really hope this isn’t true cause because I really like this song and now it’s tainted with the brush of capitalism.

7) Elephants – Warpaint

There’s no mention of the word ‘elephant’ in this song except in the title, but some of the high notes are at a frequency only dolphins can hear, so it’s a double-mammal whammy in my book.

8) Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio

At last, a song whose literal title reflects its lyrics. None of those metaphorical smart-arsey allusions, what we’re dealing with here is a man turning canine at the mercy of the moon. That being said, the lyric “writhing under your riding hood” crosses the line between literary and letchy.

9) Concrete Jungle – The Specials

Someone once had a habit of describing London to me as ‘ConcreteJungle.com’, which I always found a bit bizarre. Not because they were wrong, but because I’d never heard anyone say ‘dot com’ with sarcasm. Incidentally, The Specials do seem to be describing your average night out in Hackney, so maybe she wasn’t that far wrong.

10) White Elephant – Ladytron

Granted, not one of their best tracks. To make up for this I’m going to share a fact about the phrase “white elephant”, namely that it is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. Not to be confused with the phrase “elephant in the room”. Extra points for the animal masks in the video, which were a bonus I was unaware of until just now.

11) Urchin – She’s a Roller

I’m trying to win the Obscure Animal Award with this track. Urchin were together in the late 70s for about as long as it takes to say “lager shandy and a packet of crisps.” But before frontman Adrian Smith found a far more lucrative career in Iron Maiden, he was the brainchild of Urchin, and an urchin – according to the Oracle otherwise known as Google – is a medieval word for ‘hedgehog’.

12) Would You Like to Swing on a Star – Bing Crosby

On the surface, nothing to do with animals. But you’re wrong! It’s all about animals! Fans of Hudson Hawk will understand, Bruce Willis just wanted a cup of coffee…