‘I feel so extraordinary, something’s got a hold on me. I get this feeling I’m in motion, a sudden sense of liberty’. True Faith by New Order marked a change in my life. From the Moss you could skirt through the red-bricked backstreets to the curry golden mile of Rusholme where Morrissey sang about ruffians and into glorious Whitworth Park. My luxurious Spiffing Images company bike then propelled me into the bright lights of Oxford Road and the city centre. The song even now is full of resonance and hope. My life changed in an instant as I met Giddy Zieglen. One of four daughters, born to a German father and an English mother, Zieglen stood out. I invited her to Alexandra Park one Sunday afternoon to play football. She took one look at our motley ragbag of wannabe student footballers and local Moss rastaboys and said no. However, just like the Spiffs and our hand-to-mouth existence, The Kid and I were big on resilience and perserverance. Bands like That Petrol Emotion and The Ramones playing at International 2 taught you to hang in there. A month later we met again in the old public baths at Moss Side, now a launderette. THE HORSE AND JOCKEY PUB IN CHORLTON HAD BEEN OUR LOCAL FOR YEARS BUT BECAUSE GIDDY LIVED NEARBY IN STUDENTLAND FALLOWFIELD – WE ARRANGED TO MEET IN THE PARKSIDE PUB OPPOSITE MAINE ROAD FOOTBALL GROUND. IT WAS A TYPICAL GRITTY NORTHERN EIGHTIES PUB. THE LOCALS DID THEIR DEALS AND LEFT YOU ALONE. WE ENJOYED A GOOD DRINK – MANCHESTER AND CHORLTON WERE SHIFTING SEAMLESSLY LIKE SAND IN THATCHER’S BRITAIN. UNEMPLOYMENT WAS DOWN, COUNCIL HOUSE OWNERSHIP UP. THATCHER HAD ROUTED KINNOCK’S LABOUR TO WIN A THIRD ELECTION AND PEOPLE SEEMED TO HAVE MORE MONEY. Students no longer wore donkey-jackets and dug deep for the miners badges. They replaced them with barbour jackets and red-keyed pepe jeans. The Tory party just like every Government since put all its eggs into the property development boom. Even Tony H Wilson was caught up in the euphoria, moving Factory’s headquarters from Didsbury into a £3 million city-centre pad which promptly bankrupted his company. The Hacienda became luxury flats and Manchester’s architecture today is unrecognisable compared to its industrial past. We were happy on our modest wages and grants back then. Giddy didnt need to worry about loans. Pre drugs war Moss Side was relatively safe. We drank Baileys all day Sunday, swam, enjoyed the local curryhouses and kebabs. Our relationship, always a fiery one grew and blossomed and I got a job at the Manchester Guardian. My sales colleagues had names like Ben Quigley, Toby Windsor and Daisy Chesworth. And guess what? They started to buy homes in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. Dull as ditchwater Dulwich accountant John Major brought the Tories into the nineties and England would forever be run by layers of bureaucracy and accountancy, quangos of administration, administration and more bloody form-filling. The NHS, national free education and the armed forces drowning in paperwork. Fancy restaurants like Cafe Primavera and Greens sprang up in Chorlton and The Horse and Jockey was now frequented by footballers and yuppies. It seemed as if the major city of the industrial revolution had come full circle. Despite staying together for six years, there was no happy ending for me and Giddy Zieglen. We split. The gap between Man Utd and City and rich and poor widened even more with Tony Blair’s Bolinger bolsheseviks. Then in 2010 it all changed again. The industrial raintown of Manchester is not predictable and like the brutish depths of Janice’s Chorlton chilli con carne at 3am on a midweek winter’s night, it is also unforgettable.
June 11th 1987 saw Margaret Thatcher complete a hat-trick of election triumphs. The sense of deflation the next day in my Moss Side-Fallowfield orbit was acute. Cossetted in our little lefty bubble we weren’t expecting this. Neil Kinnock had proclaimed victory at a big rally in Sheffield, Manchester was covered in Labour posters, Glenda Jackson thumped the table at a rally in a school on Platt Lane whilst Gerald Kaufman looked on, beaming his approval and preparing for the arrival of his ministerial car. Glenda was standing in Hampstead, what did she know? Manchester became a Tory-free zone and even Fred Silvester was gunned out of town. But the rest of Britain was still a long way from being ready for new-ish Labour. Ten years in fact. The next day it was hot and sunny and my head was befuddled by Spectre Jim’s Thunderbird. I watched some news footage of jubilant City workers in London clutching their brick-sized mobile phones and quaffing champagne. It was all about buying shares, accumulation and getting a foot on the property ladder. They might as well have been from another planet.
Obviously Janice got all her economy bacon and other fine foodstuffs from Makro. Bulk-buying, having originally been imported from India was big business. Yet the food chain was a real mystery to me. The Kid and I stayed at Janice and Macca’s for five years, and one thing you were sure of was a hot square meal for supper. IN THE SUMMER OF 85, BOB GELDOF AND BAND-AID WERE ON OUR SCREENS. THERE WERE MASSIVE PARTIES IN MANCHESTER, THE CHARITY INITIATIVE CAPTURED THE NATION’S ATTENTION AND THE MUSIC WAS EVERYWHERE. YEARS LATER WHILST LISTENING TO ‘FEED THE WORLD’ ON THE RADIO, IT DAWNED ON ME THAT I HADN’T ONCE REALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THOSE STARVING CHILDREN, DIDNT SEND A SINGLE PENNY AND WAS EFFECTIVELY OBLIVIOUS TO THEIR SUFFERING. And still I loved the stuff – witness Matt Graham and A.Jude discovering Lebanese, Persian, African and Soviet Bloc cuisine. It held me in its RAPTURE, but as my luck ran out, a new perspective opened up. In 2002, jobs in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia and Rijeka in Croatia came to an end. I had a roof over my head but couldn’t find employment in Croatia for love nor money. Then at Easter my only debit card was swallowed. No one wanted to help so I took my last two dollars down to the local shop and bought a loaf of bread, a slab of cheese and a small bottle of Hrvatska ale. Two days later there was a morsel of cheese and an inch cube of dry bread left. Strange feelings of euphoria took over. I went for a long refreshing seaside walk and slept like a baby. The next day feeling strangely optimistic, I took the 3km walk into the town cente where brightly coloured coca-cola girls were handing out fizzy orange drinks. I grabbed two. The walk home was tiring and the next day, apart from the obvious hunger, I started to feel nauaseous. My thought processes had radically altered and Solzhenitsyn’s novel ‘The First Circle’ was remarkably clear and erudite. I guess I was de-toxifying my body and lost two stone in weight. FORTUNATELY I was by then a guest, either of Croatia’s Majesty or tin-pot Government, not sure which. I spent a surprisingly calm week in a building over the Adriatic which curiously looked exactly like Alcatraz. Here we were fed delicious soup and plenty of bread and cheese. Since that summer of 2002 I have always thought more carefully about food. Stunningly simple drinks like nettle tea – and if I occasionally create my signature dish ‘pasta personified’, I am accused by friends of an almost autistic fascination for the ingredients.
Uptown magazine was a copycat of Time Out or City Life, but communications guru Chris C had grown the mag to a point where they were prepared to employ a couple of chancers, namely A. Jude and Matt G. We were principally hired as cold-calling, door-steppin salesmen, but our remit as restaurant reviewers was to tap into the lucrative Manchester eating-out market. Editor Nigel de Ham was a true visionary and we hit it off immediately, developing a full page of foodie advertorials next to the popular chatlines page. Uptown was not yet upmarket and whereas I approached this new challenge as ‘lets eat loads of free food and get pissed regularly’ , Matt Graham told me in no uncertain terms that restauranteurs were serious people who should be respected. Our first review of Italian Cocotoos, followed by the Turkish Bosphorous left us in no doubt about that. We were dealing with highly creative and intelligent entrepreneurs. Manchester had fine Lebanese, Indian, Syrian, Persian and European cuisine and it hadn’t happened over the last fifty years by accident. We struck the right chord. Respect. Even now I am amazed by the depth of Matt Graham’s world knowledge. We were treated with kindness and patience and frequently drank coffee with complimentary cognac long into the night. My education of life received a timely boost and our final review included an observation of a restaurant just off Oxford Road. Two waiters working like swans, they effortlessly glide between the white table-tops whilst furiously paddling beneath the surface in the name of good service. Although Uptown folded and we both moved on, Manchester’s world cuisine grew and flourished and the 24 hour party people found nourishment and sustenance from within.
‘Reality’s a dream, a game in which I seem to never find out just what I am. I don’t know if I’m an actor or ham’. Percy Bysshe Shelley was on my compulsory reading list at the Poly, but I had chosen Pete. Far removed from the world of The Buzzcocks was a man named Keegan. Ged had played for Man City and King Kev was a world star, but without Alan Keegan, of AK-OK Disco fame, our Manchester lives would have been immeasurably poorer. Spiffing Images Design placed their headquarters in the front room of Mad Dog Overend’s new terraced home in Moss Side. On the borders of Fallowfield lay the AK-OK empire – KEEGAN WAS NOT CAFE DEL MAR IBIZA OR MINISTRY OF SOUND – HE THOUGHT BIGGER AND WAS A NATURAL-BORN ENTREPRENEUR – OF IRISH BLOOD BUT SOUTH MANCHESTER EXTRACTION – HE MADE DELBOY OF MOCKNEYLAND LOOK LIKE A CHEAP SOUTHERN IMPERSONATOR. The spring of 87 was surprisingly bright and airy and our U-locked company bikes were primed and ready to go. We were surprised to find that Keegan’s offices were also in a front room – his Mum’s. Outside was a fleet of glitzy, shiny white Mercs and limos, a kissogram karoake get-up in the garage. As Mum disappeared to make us a nice cuppa, a wave of spiel sales patter hit us. ‘Think big boys, I was small once LIKE YOU. Graft a bit and you too can have an empire like mine’. I was dying to ask for a kissogram demo but Mrs K kindly brought out a siver tray of darjeeling and chocolate McVities. Years later I bumped into him whilst selling dodgy ad space for Uptown magazine. He drove me up to Harpurhey – ‘I am buying this club’ he said pointing to a large gothic building in north Manchester – ‘and creating the new Hacienda. Do you still do graphics mate?’
‘Under pressure… raining down on me… people on the street… de da do da’ – so sang Bowie on Albany Road in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. And then on a hot summer day, it all kicked off. TKFC that legendary football club that just couldn’t help losing had thrown The Great Summertime Emotional Party a week before. A night of rapture, students falling in love, falling through hedges wearing gladioli in their back pockets, glugging Janice and Macca’s home brew. Extraordinary joy on the streets of Chorlton – a suburb where The Bee Gees had been raised, the incomparable Georgie Best had digs and Curly of Coronation Street played guitar at the local Irish Club. Yet nothing had prepared the citizens of Chorton for this. Mad Dog Ovie was first out of the blocks – there is a revolution – it is Russia all over again, it’s 1917 – they are feeding the people. The kids are on the street. ‘Where?’ DOWN BY SAFEWAYS. AN OVERTLY CAPITALIST AMERICAN FIRM, SAFEWAY HAD OPENED A NEW STORE NEAR 25 ALBANY ROAD. THERE WERE BAGELS, ICE BUNS, BROWN AND WHITE SLICE ALMOND BAPS, EVERY KIND OF BREAD KNOWN TO MAN WAS BEING CONSUMED BY THE HUNGRY BURGHERS OF SOUTH MANCHESTER. Overend quoted ex Manc resident Engels, passages from Marx, sonnets by Shelley – but in a flash, all the bread had gone and we were back in Thatchers England.
In February 1987 we met Mr Mike Bhatt. We had trawled the streets of Fallowfield, Rusholme and the Moss on our company bikes for work – Spiffing Images Design had just started to turn a profit so The Kid and I ventured into dark, dank Deansgate. An entrepreuner long before the TV shows of Masterchef or The Great British Bake-off, he owned The Deansgate Indian restaurant. He was a maverick restauranteur with local art on his walls and a penchant for additive-free cooking. With Commie Ken we later became waiters for him, but first he fed us royally on his pristine white-clothed tables and commissioned the most amazing posters which warned the public of the perils of msg colourants and additives. We were enthralled. One night after an exceptional dopiaza with saag aloo and spinach bhajis – I noticed my company bike had been nicked. On the five mile car journey back home to Moss Side, Mr Bhatt launched into a rant on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, obese kids, the Big Mac food culture, starvation in his home country of India, the grip of pharmaceutical companies on the food chain, aspartame and sugar artificials. When we reached the Moss headquarters of Spiff Images – I breathed a sigh of relief.
Chrissie’s jumper was without doubt a tribute to Peter Saville’s notorious record sleeve design for New Order’s Blue Monday. The story goes that his innovative artwork was so expensive to produce, that despite selling millions, Factory never made any money out of the record. As a Business Studies student, Chris no doubt learned much from this tale. Be wary of designers with fancy ideas.
1986, and Manchester, The Hacienda and the burgeoining Polytechnic were thriving – so The Kid and I decided to try something new. Looking back on it, the testing training sessions with swarthy action-man instructor, Joe Diamond were a walk in the park compared to what would confront us in Shropshire. I had read A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman but NOTHING COULD HAVE PREPARED US for the huge truckers with their dirty fingernails and reassuringly massive and calloused hands ‘Eight sugars please love, is that tea properly mashed?’ Janice’s economy bacon eggs red squirt sauce and Warby’s whitebread were simply dwarfed by this motorway cafe scene and we set fair for the task in hand. A muddy airfield in Shropshire loomed over the horizon and at 7am we donned our parachute gear and prepared to jump – Joe Diamond had prepared us well, singling out The Kid and I as student slackers for extra jump and landing practice. I don’t recall how we picked up Jester Jane or rather how she ferried us around the streets of Mold in her snazzy Peugeot sportscar but I do remember she drove recklessly around those hairpin bends, breaking all speed limits playing ’50-50 who-blinks-first’ with white van man as we careered away from the airstrip – her throaty chuckle and manic stare are as clear as yesterday. When the parachuting was over she ghosted back into ordinary Manc life. ‘We could be heroes, just for one day – we can beat them for ever and ever’ so sang Bowie and it really felt that way as we drove over to Chrissie Boy’s pub near Wrexham. Chrissie Boy Rowlands or Win to give his his full name, drove us around Manchester in an impossibly retro and cool Triumph Dolomite – for someone so good at all sport, what struck me first was his modesty. He was fiercly competitive, the best driver I have ever seen apart from Jester Jane, depending on how you like your driving. He played rugby for Sale, effortlessly and showed class whether it was in billiards or for TKFC. That day by chance after he had parachuted with us, we were invited to his Dad’s country pub. Probably only once in your life do you get that total hero’s welcome – broad-shouldered burly welshmen with handsome smiles buying you a pint of Brains Special, treating you like a soldier returning from the trenches. Unqualified heroes who had stared death in the face cocked a snoop and deserved a flagon of welsh cider. Most of the refreshment that evening was liquid. The three of us handled all the attention with surprising modesty and the memories of Jester Jane and Chrissie Boy live on.
(REMEMBER, SUNDAYS WERE HELP YOURSELF AND COOK YOUR OWN BRUNCH DAYS) curiously that year, niece Tracey, a down to earth northern lass had caught my eye and would frequently stay for the weekend with her Aunt Janice – (I had just discovered Saturday Night Sunday Morning and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner plus Room at The Top and was obsessed with all things gritty and northern) – Morrissey every day is like Sunday… In 85 Teenage Kicks FC was formed in the backyard of our local Chorlton-cum-Hardy church. We were a healthy ragbag of young Mancs, softlads, students, ex-Man City pros (one) and fellow travellers. Around this time we attracted an inordinate amount of publicity – Pulp magazine, Granada TV and especially BBC North West became obsessed with a team that simply couldn’t stop losing and one Sunday, Bob an avuncular bearded radio journalist recorded us for over an hour in the adjacent car-park and we even dragged over a peripheral player, Mad Dog Overend who in his new job as a social worker gave forth on transactional analysis, Freud and guilt theories and still our BBC pal didn’t want to leave us. Finally the wafting aroma of economy bacon, beans and scrambled eggs with industrial Warby’s bread induced us to do a runner. We legged it back to St. Clements road with the journalist standing there in the Manchester rain.