This morning I have Woodpigeon’s song ‘I Live a Lot of Places’ in my head, and as I put the album on – an album released in either late 2008 or early 2009, whichever source you consult – Google Photos showed me some images from late November and early December 2008. My first winter in Manchester.
It’s not hard to look at those frosty, misty photos and feel a good dose of nostalgia. It was pretty cold, mind you. But Manchester opened up and offered up a hundred little places to call my own, or to share with like-minded folks.
I moved to Manchester in September of that year, and proceeded to start a new life there, with my best friend living elsewhere in the same halls of residence, and with the vague notion of studying at university providing a core to the reason for moving there in the first place.
Did I move to Manchester to go to university, or did I go to university to move to Manchester?
As the cold winter wore on – my first in that northern climate – my small room revealed itself to be rather cold. The single electric heater had a timer switch – did that put it on for an hour at a time, or for half an hour? – and I became adept at pressing it from under my duvet using the extended leg of a camera tripod before I finally had to get up.
The walk from Daisybank up to my university buildings took me along or through Whitworth Park and I’ll always associate the reddening, browning leaves with the red bricks of the buildings thereabouts. Across the road was the imposing Manchester Royal Infirmary, reminding me that my grandmama (who trained as a nurse in Nottingham) grew up not so far from there.
I remember sitting in the university library overlooking All Saints Park on cold, frosty mornings like these, unable to shake the connection it made me feel with the grids and squares of Christchurch. That city played on my mind a lot during those years I lived in Manchester, from my visit earlier in 2008, to the devastating quakes in 2011. But it wasn’t long before I’d spent enough time in Manchester’s libraries, bars, high streets and backstreets that it all began to embed itself into my mental map, and to make sense to me.
Now I find myself these many years later, stumbling into places in other towns and cities which make me think of Manchester’s red bricks and basement bars and lingering signs of industry; its mix of gentrification and dilapidation.
I received my advance copy of Woodpigeon’s Treasury Library Canada during that first winter in Manchester, not long after the photos above were taken, thanks to our involvement with PULP, the university’s student magazine.
It was an instant hit, right from those opening snare hits in the intro to the opening track. And this chance encounter with their album would lead to two occasions where John and I had Woodpigeon come and play a live session for us, first at PULP magazine, and again for our show on Levenshulme community radio station All FM. Good times.
With a head that’s today full of Manchester – and, constantly, New Zealand – it seems pertinent to add that M and I are moving away from London this week (though not our jobs), down to the south coast.
I’ve lived in London for six years, and M nearer fifteen. This move has been in the works for about eighteen months, initially held up by the current situation. As usual with these things it feels both long drawn out, and suddenly happening all at once.
It will take a while to mentally readjust to our new home town. But I am very excited about it all.
I live a lot of places, indeed.