I’d been in Leeds for three nights. Catching a train, I was leaving behind a patchwork of blue sky and white cloud. The people I was destined to meet were warning me about the typical Manchester weather that lay in wait for me.
Sitting there, seeing the world rapidly passing by my window, it was hard to fathom. After all, Leeds isn’t that far away from Manchester, is it? They’re both northern cities.
It was a concern too, for the people I was to meet were fellow Prestwich Heys fans at a home game for us, and a lot of rain normally meant that the game would be off due to a waterlogged pitch.
I was meeting my wife and children there, too, for our football games are a family affair. I sent a text to Jen, enquiring about the state of weather, and her discouraging reply prompted my own: I’m in light trainers, bring my boots with you.
They’re walking boots, I should add, not football boots. God forbid that I was intending to play!
We hit the rain just before Stalybridge, and the skies got darker and the deluge heavier the closer I got to Manchester, a familiar, dispiriting dark pall hanging over the place I call home.
We arrived and I donned a waterproof jacket before alighting the train. Immediately on leaving Piccadilly Station I stepped into a large puddle, almost strategically placed to snag the unwary. I’d been in Manchester thirty seconds and my foot was soaked. It truly felt like home.
We have one large golfing umbrella which Jen was going to bring with her, and now back on home turf I planned to get another so all four of us would be covered. That’s if the game went ahead.
The game will go ahead, was the welcome comment added to our supporters’ messenger group. With the new drainage the pitch is holding up well.
With time on my side I took brief shelter in a Starbucks close to Piccadilly, sitting with my latte at a bar situated against the large front window of the shop, perfect to watch this wet world go briefly by.
And that world going by appeared serenely oblivious to the weather we were experiencing. Girls in short skirts and crop tops, guys in shirts and summer shorts, hailing each other and hopping between bars. I watched them as I drank.
The generational shift. Sometimes I think I’m still cool, but I’m not. I’m getting old. This world is yours. This wonderful, swarming, metropolis is yours. And you won’t realise it until you are sat here one day, like me, maybe disapproving, maybe in relief, passing the baton on yourselves.
I could wile away the time here, people watching, being all philosophical and a touch fatalistic, but I had somewhere to be. I calculated what time I’d need to leave to make the match, finished my drink and set off. The heavy rain had thankfully subsided into a light drizzle, and, as if the city wasn’t wet enough, I paused briefly to watch the fountains in the grassless Gardens.
Sports Direct. That’s where I’d get my umbrella from. It was just five minutes away so I headed in the direction of the store. Again oblivious to the current conditions, I encountered along the way a man with bleached blonde hair and high heels, further enhanced by blue cut-off denim shorts and a black net stocking top that showed off his nipple piercings, singing loudly “I know he loves me . . . “
Yep. I was back in Manchester.
I got my umbrella and I got the bus, meeting the family in time to make the match with half an hour to spare. We filed through the turnstile, the kids talking football and my wife talking catch-up.
It was great, I thought, after being away for a few days, to return to a place I love doing what I love with the people I love.
In the midst of this sentimental reverie, standing pitch side, the clouds opened up again. But my umbrella didn’t.
No wonder those bastards wouldn’t let me try it by opening it up in the shop! Bad luck my arse!
But it couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. The match started and we cheered on our team. The pitch was perfect and so was the moment, the one working umbrella covering our children and my son’s friend. And once more I thought of the generational shift, of these young supporters, just beginning, perhaps, a lifelong association. The lifeblood and the future of this, our adopted club.