Hell’s Angel

As my train approached Manchester station, seeing Angel Square lit up against the night sky emphasised how far we had come, seasonally. This occasional commute of mine has mostly been made in daylight, but now night had descended as another train hurtled past in the opposite direction.

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Attracted by the flashing streaks of this brief neighbour, (and maybe me capturing it on my phone), a man peered out of the window. He continued to look out long after the train had vanished.

“I’ve slept under those arches,” he said.

Resisting the most obvious question, which was none of my business, I instead asked “What was it like?”

“Bloody cold,” he replied. “But at least it was dry.”

That’s what it was like this night: cold and dry. I wondered if anybody was under those arches now, settling down for the night.

Angel Square, that beautiful glass modern building, is built on the site of Angel Meadow, that 19th Century slum that Friedrich Engels called “Hell upon Earth.”

Despite appearances to the contrary, maybe nothing changes. For some people anyway. Two hundred years on there are those who lie cold on the city’s underbelly, no matter how we dress it up.