Straight Outta Salford

Was supposed to meet a friend for a pint a few weeks ago but couldn’t because he was wary of coming down to Salford, and thanks to the Condition I couldn’t get up to Chorlton. The guy objected to the broken glass near the King’s Arms, the siren song of the night and the proximity of rough estates.

And suddenly I saw the area with fresh eyes. I have been afraid of going out for a long while – but not because I was scared of gangsters. I was scared of tall buildings, busy roads, large congestions of people – I’ve written enough about how your fear priorities get completely skewed. The fact is that I wasn’t born here. I’m bourgois through and through. People look at me and think I’m a Chorltonite. My career prospects, my vocal intonation, my career background and prospects all bear the stamp of the progressive middle class.

And yet even in the worst months of the Condition I always felt much safer here than I did growing up on the suburbs of Cheshire. I only had trouble in Salford once, in October ’07, pre-Condition and trekking up to the Lowry for some Manchester LitFest event. A guy in a basketball shirt, clearly intoxicated, weaved across the road and tried – badly – to mug me; in the end I just walked straight past him, telling the guy that I couldn’t help him out: well, in so many words.

Since then – nothing, and I’ve been restricted to Salford rather than Manchester for some time, for obvious reasons. At the residents’ group meetings I hear horror stories about people getting held up by knifepoint and car parks teeming with hookers. Yet I just don’t see it. Have I been too long in the ghetto?

I don’t wish to conclude that fear of crime is illusory, or that I’m too scary and intimidating to be approached – I stand five foot eight for fuck’s sake. Maybe my Dickensian overcoat and battered shoes tell the local scrotes that I’ve nothing worth stealing. No, it’s more likely than I’m not paying enough attention to my surroundings, being a daydreamer – and I always have been.

Also, I’ve been doing twice weekly walks into town, up to Deansgate and the Cornerhouse. There are still peaks of anxiety, I’m still using the backstreets and most of the city is still closed off to me. The agoraphobic is like a beleaguered general losing more and more battleground to enemy forces. You have to keep up the momentum, and fight for every fucking inch. So for the moment Piccadilly, the Town Hall, the Northern Quarter, the student quarters of Fallowfield and Withington, the posh quarters of Chorlton and Whalley Range – for the moment, I’m still not going. I’m just not going. But it is getting easier and easier to walk into town and I’ve finally kicked bottled water. And at least I made it to the old local.

cornerhouse_4

Guess where I am?

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