I’ve spent very little time living outside of the Manchester area. When I have been away, not having an ‘M’ postcode on my address has felt odd, like when there’s a missing letter on a shop sign.
So I’ve always come back, sniffing my old haunts until they’re familiar again, happily settling down in my bed, content that a city I know so well is just the other side of the door.
That’s not to say the place doesn’t sometimes infuriate me. The tonic of leaving for a while, if only for a few days, to see things from a different perspective, is essential for my well being. Each time that I return I notice something has changed, as Manchester and Salford are nurtured by the tonics of ambition and investment, to ensure their growth and future health.
I’m sitting in an office in the Greenhouse, discussing this with healthcare PR Justine Rawlins.
“Manchester needed to change. It couldn’t rest on the laurels of a good music scene in the 1980s. It had to up its game, which it has.”
As she speaks, her pet Schnauzer, Pete, looks up from where he is resting by the desk, as if he is about to say something, but then he puts his head down again.
“I was one of the first people to move into this building, and I’ve been here over five years now. I grew up in Davyhulme and moved back after being in London for 15 years. New clients don’t think you’re insane if you have a Manchester address any more.”
Pete stands up and ambles about the office for a few moments. It feels for a moment that he’s sitting in on the interview, about to intervene if he doesn’t like my line of questioning.
“London has so much wealth, it’s like a separate country sometimes,” she continues, “I like the pace of Manchester. Fast enough without it being like London.”
This time Pete properly looks at me, and comes over to have his head ruffled.
“Pete’s become a star,” says his proud owner. “Down the corridor is a company called Animal Direction, it does pet casting for commercials and filming, and they do some work for Aldi. They’re a German company and he’s a German dog so they asked if Pete would promote a pet range and dog beds. He was nationwide in all the stores during the summer. He was too big for the Christmas jumpers though, so he’s lost out!”
Once he’s had some adulation Pete settles again.
“Because I work with pharmaceutical companies, I travel to places such as Italy and Switzerland a lot. It reminds me that it takes as long to get from Heathrow to Canary Wharf, as it does to get to cities here in the north. I can’t see myself leaving in the foreseeable future, so, for Manchester, it’s all going to be about how much money gets spent up here, as opposed to the south.”
“Does Pete, a Manc dog, travel with you ever?” I ask.
“I really should get him a pet passport,” she replies. “I do want to do that. He normally stays at my mum’s when I go abroad. But then we’re very happy just going for walks around here, across the bridge when it’s all lit up at dusk. It keeps us healthy. Maybe the only thing I need to do is get him a bigger bed to lie in.”
And then somehow, he knew it was time for me to take his picture. Perhaps Manchester, or Salford, can make stars of us all.