The Generational Shift

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.

Storm Lore And Sundry

I’m getting old.

Yesterday, a clap of thunder woke me in the garden. The last thing I’d known was that I’d been reading a book in the shade. Looking up, I could see that there were clouds up there, obscuring part of what was otherwise a bright blue sky.

But they were white clouds, empty of rain. The few rounds of thunder was the only anomaly to that warm afternoon.

Later, I heard that there’d been flooding in Altrincham and Rochdale which is, what, ten minutes away from here? They had been besieged by downpours while we hadn’t had a single raindrop.

This afternoon, however, we got the full works: thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

I do love a good thunderstorm, and consider it a waste if one should occur in daylight hours.

I’d never been afraid of storms, even as a child, though I know many people are. I can recall my brother and I, back in the seventies, going around to my grandparents’ house and asking my Gran if we could play that game again.

“What game?” she asked.

“The one where we all sit beneath the table.”

The previous week there’d been such a storm, and my Gran, susceptible to omens of doom and taking no chances, would hide beneath the dining table until it passed. Taking us with her for company.

I wonder now if she’d ever heard of that old custom of leaving both the front and back door open, so that any lightning or thunderbolt would pass through the house. I think she’d probably have seen that as tantamount to making an invitation. And, even if she did indulge in such a practice, she’d of course have to cover up all mirrors and shiny objects that were known to attract lightning.

If you should be caught outdoors in a storm, it was vital to know your tree lore, such as:

Beware of an oak

It draws the stroke

Avoid an ash

It courts the flash

Creep under the thorn

It can save you from harm

I think we’d be best off staying indoors, though, covered mirrors, open doors or not.

In the current climate, battling this virus as we are, our social distancing measures have worked well in the good weather that we’ve been blessed with. Queuing outside shops, two metres apart, one person in, one person out, no more than two inside at any one time. . . . under regular deluges such as this one, today, I have a feeling that all order would break down, despite our good intentions.

To test this theory, I chanced our attic window a few inches to see what the shops down the hill were like. There wasn’t a single person outside any of the shops, and it looked like there were several people huddled inside the chippy for shelter from the almost horizontal onslaught.

Just as I thought. Never mind Corvid-19, the last thing you’d want to catch these days is a chill.

Musings At A Bus Stop

Shelter. That’s maybe all man has ever wanted. Shelter; warmth; food.

I’m huddled beneath a bus stop in what I regard the centre of my town. It’s not the town centre, so to speak, maybe not even the exact geographical centre, but historically, and spiritually, I think it’s the centre.

And even spiritual centres have bus stops.

A heavy rain has swept in from the coast, tail-end of a hurricane, no less, and I’m here, having emerged from the warmth of the library, watching a river of litter and leaves pass by on their mission to clog the drains.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m waiting for a bus. I’m stood at a bus stop, after all. But no, I’m waiting for my wife to pick me up, this was just the nearest spot to stand out of the rain. I hope a bus doesn’t arrive, that would be awkward.

Have you ever seen children in a supermarket? Young children, I mean. If there is one walking down the aisle, say with his or her Mum, and another child turns into the aisle, they stand there checking each other out. A bit like dogs do. Without the sniffing, of course. Neither smiling nor speaking, they just stand there, sizing each other up.

I’m not sure why I’m thinking about this now, it’s not like I’ve even been to the supermarket, but anyhow, here’s my wife, pulling up, windscreen wipers going ten to the dozen.

A Storm By Any Other Name

For the first time, the end is in sight. I’m nearing the completion of the first draft of a novel, but it’s a double-edged thing, for I can see just how much is left for me to do in the next draft.

I let out a long sigh. Small steps, I tell myself. A chapter at a time.

The rain  hammers hard against the window. The night presses in, intrusively. The wind builds in increasingly strong gusts. I can hear something being blown around out there, something heavy. Liable to do damage. I’ve been out once to secure a slamming gate that was in danger of coming off its hinges. I’ve put off  putting the bin out until morning, it wouldn’t last five minutes before it’d be over, spewing its digested contents all up the street.

This is the first real storm of the season. It has a name. We’ve started giving our storms names much in the manner that the Americans do with their hurricanes. We may as well, we anthromorphise everything else.

I can’t remember the name. I’m sure it’s a male one. Stanley? Harry?

It doesn’t really matter. It will hopefully blow itself out in the night, its anger spent in the unseen hours. Tomorrow I will get up to find a calm, dampened, recovering morning.

I shall call her Grace.

Rain Reigns, Sayeth The Poets

For those of you who have my book Heading North, you may be familiar with the first sentence of the foreword:

I am a northern guy.

For those of you who don’t have the book, I have a feeling that you can read the foreword over on Amazon for free. I haven’t checked this, though, so don’t hold me to it.

As a northern guy, in particular a Mancunian, I have become quite accustomed to rain. We have many ways of describing the types of rain that we experience (by types read measures):

it’s spitting 

it’s drizzling

it’s pouring 

it’s chucking it down

it’s pissing down

(And you wonder that I’m a poet?)

I’m sure there are many more, such is the rich, colloquial tongue of my local bards, but these are the most common refrains.

From around lunchtime today our old, precipitous friend rolled in, on this-the final day before the looooong school summer holidays. I hope the kids do get some good weather, especially for my own sanity, but, as a northern guy, I have a confession to make:

I have learned to love the rain.

Really.

My friends think me insane, but this is the weather that I have learnt to associate with home. Returning from sun-kissed lands and arid deserts, the slow transition from blue skies to slate-grey cloud outside the airplane, water gathering on the panes, serves as the welcome herald of north-west England, the hilly ground in which my roots are sunk deep.

Who doesn’t love to watch a deluge, or feel rain on your upturned face on a balmy day? Or sit calmly reading on a stormy night, torrential downpours battering the house?

And there is one more boon: our wet summers help to deter the into-early-hours garden parties and roaring quad bikes that disturb the neighbourhood and keep the kids awake.

I know, I know – I’m getting old.

Bet that rain isn’t good for rheumatism.