Standing Proud In Resilient Red

On this day in 1996, around 9.20 in the morning, a 3,330 lbs device was detonated in the heart of Manchester, the biggest bomb explosion in Britain since the Second World War.

While it devastated the city centre and injured 200, with an estimated 75,000 people present at the time it was both incredible and a miracle that nobody was killed. That was down to the bravery and rapid response of the emergency services, shop management teams and security guards who, acting on a coded warning from the IRA, had just an hour to evacuate everyone while stopping all transport heading into the city.

The last shoppers and staff were still running for their lives when the bomb went off.

I was working that morning on the outskirts of the centre, and in those days before mobile phones or internet, had no idea of the drama unfolding. I remember hearing the explosion and all conversation suddenly ceasing as we all looked at each other before heading to the windows to see the pall of smoke rising above the familiar landscape. Everyone of us knew people working in or visiting our city centre that morning, and in our silence were turning unspeakable fears around in our heads.

It wasn’t the first time, and God knows we now know it wasn’t to be the last, that our home city would suffer this way. But it could have been worse, much worse, the death toll could have been horrific.

And Manchester did what Manchester always does-it came back. It rebuilt. It regenerated.

Despite all of that devastation, the Phoenix of the modern Manchester that we know today arose from the ashes of that morning.

And, as a reminder to me whenever I see it, nothing stands more as a symbol of Mancunian strength, of Mancunian resilience, than that surviving red post box that can still be seen there today.

Rosemary’s Bay Bees

What a beautiful day it was today.

In fact, do you know what kind of day it was today? It was a Rosemary’s Baby and Fosters kind of day today.

So much so that I felt that I had to share with everyone on Facebook just how I’d passed the afternoon.

Why have you poured Fosters into a glass?! my daughter Courtney commented.

Because the glass wouldn’t fit into the can, I replied.

Obvious, isn’t it?

One pay-off to be made for the good weather at this time of year is that we have to share it with others. Other creatures, that is. A few days ago I noticed some bees flying around the end of the guttering at the front of our house, guttering that is close to both Courtney’s bedroom window and also her sister Millie’s bedroom window. Courtney and Millie are not the most bug-friendly girls you’re ever likely to meet.

When one of the bees turned up in our living room today I thought, while catching it to release outside, I’d take the opportunity to photograph it in an effort to identify the species. As it dropped onto the window ledge, I placed a glass over it (yes, the Fosters glass) and took a snap of it.

That’s right-the bee was doing what bees do and wouldn’t keep still, flying to the top of the glass. Eventually though, I got a close up.

From this, and from what I’d read when scientifically googling bee nests in gutters I deduced that the bees were most likely to be Tree Bumblebees. Eat your heart out Attenborough.

(Though don’t ask where the tree comes into play.)

And from what I’ve learnt I’ve decided not to take any action and leave them bee (😀) as it’s likely that they will leave the nest by the end of July anyway.

That’s only two months away. Eight weeks. Ish.

You can imagine how thrilled my daughters are by this decision.

Just wait until that sun is out again tomorrow, and the temperature rises, and how those windows should be opened to admit some fresh air.

I’m thinking now that tomorrow could be a Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox kind of day.

Farewell And Thank You, Sergio

Say to any blue “Ninety three twenty” and they will know exactly what you mean. Chances are that any football fan, who isn’t even a City supporter, will on reading ‘93:20’ know exactly what it refers to.

Today, before he left us behind in this rainy city, he set yet one more record to go along with all the others. A list of achievements that will elevate him above most others who follow.

2011-2021. In his very first home game, ten years ago, he came off the bench and bagged a brace. Today, in his very last home game, he came off the bench and bagged a brace.

It’s poetic. The career of an adopted Mancunian in symmetrical balance.

I can’t help waxing lyrical. Even that photograph of him climbing those stairs for the final time: the player in front has 16 on his back which was his first squad number. He follows wearing number 10, his last one.

Loved by all City fans, man, woman and child. I’m thankful that my son was upstairs while I watched the curtain closing on Sergio Aguero’s Manchester City career. He thinks his Dad is a tough guy.

Don’t Panic! Jog Quickly!

I really thought we’d made it, managed to make it through to the other side, unaffected. On May 17th restrictions are lifting, in ten days we can attend matches again. The wife and I have had our two jabs. Summer’s coming.

And then this morning, having already dropped my son off at school, I got a message from said school: There’s been a positive Covid test in Year 6 and so they’d have to close their bubble.

Year 6 is my son’s class and ‘closing the bubble’ meant that they would be sending him home to self-isolate. I’d only been home fifteen minutes after dropping him. The parent of whichever child had tested positive must have only got the test results when school was due to open.

So off I went again to pick him up. I crossed the deserted playground to the office, gave James’ name and one of the receptionists went to get him while the other explained that, though James would have to isolate for ten days, my wife and I didn’t as we were classed as contact of a contact. I really thought we’d seen the last of all this.

James came out and when he saw me he greeted me with a shrug of resignation. “So,” I began as we headed for the gates, “someone tested positive in your class?”

“Yes, someone who’s been in school.”

“Any idea who it is?” I asked.

“Well it could either be me, or . . . “

“You? How can it be you?”

Well, Ive been in school.”

“Have you done a test?”

“No.”

“Then it can’t be you then, can it?”

“It can’t?”

To test positive, you have to do a test to begin with.

He seemed to think this over. “No . . .”

“How did you find out about it?” I asked.

“We were sitting where the computers are, then all of a sudden the teachers all started panicking and running around.”

“They were running?!”

“Mrs * has a son in our school, and she was shouting to him ‘Run son!”

“She was shouting run?” I asked with some scepticism.

“Well, it might have been ‘jog quickly.’”

I’m sure that you’ve all seen those disaster movies, too, you know the ones where everyone is told to jog quickly for your lives!

Save yourselves! Jog quickly!

You could forgive me for thinking that he was being a bit dramatic, but later one of the mothers said that she’d asked her daughter who confirmed that teachers were indeed shouting “Quick! Run! Run!”

Maybe they were trying to head off all points of entry to the building, maybe they thought that the predatory virus was now chasing them down the school corridors?

Anyway, ten days start now, ten long days. Keep washing those hands. And if anyone around you appears a little off-colour then remember: jog quickly and don’t look back. They always get you when you look back.

Meanwhile, In Prestwich . . .

I managed to get this photograph yesterday while we were driving through Prestwich. It’s a mural, created in 2019, of Victoria Wood, who was born in that town.

Heading North is of course a compulsion with me, too, though her full joke includes the punchline: “Even in Tesco, I head straight for the freezer cabinets on the back wall.”

Seeing it took me right back to the 80’s, laughing at this northern ballad of frisky Freda and the poor, beaten Barry. Give it a watch, those of you not from the north of England may have to give it a couple of goes to catch the lyrics. Google may help, too!