Friday, 16 November 2012


  My mother has done incredibly well to remain defiantly independent in her third storey flat at the age of 93.  But  in the last few months her health has sadly taken a turn for the worse and the decision was reluctantly made that she should stay in the Care Home where she is now on a permanent basis.
  So today  Pat and I  had the unenviable task of  starting to pack up her bits and pieces and prepare for the move.  
  I took a break from filling boxes with the accumulated paraphenalia acquired through the decades  to complete a 6 mile "nostalgia run" ; a chance to see how the area I was brought up in compared with my memories from  45 years ago when I ran the streets of Higher Blackley, Manchester.  A runner was a rare sight back then; not like now.
 The start of the run took me down a set of steps laid down over 50 years ago to facilitate access between the upper and lower estates on the hillside. A hillside we climbed every morning on the way to St. Clare's Primary School.  My mind went back to the morning when my school mates were talking about a new second TV channel which they had been watching called Granada.  They now had 2 TV channels! We didn't even have a television set.  Now I have one in almost every room in the house!  So, ner!
  I ran on and around the estate where I was lived  between the age 6 and 18.  A 1950s "new" estate which featured a circular road ; the scene of several informal "road races" we kids enjoyed as a form of street play.

  I ran on and came to the house where my mam and dad had brought the 4 of us in the '60s and '70s along with my "nana".  By chance I spoke to the lady who lives there now (with just her husband) and asked her, in jest, what had happened to the front lawn I had toiled over for so many years.  It had been paved over to provide a space for their car.  
  Few people had a car on the estate when we lived there. Everything on the estate seemed so much smaller than I remembered it.  Even the street  where we played "farmer, farmer, may I cross....."
appeared so much narrower.

  I ran on into Heaton Park and up the hill towards Heaton Hall. A hill I knew so well from Sunday afternoons spent doing solo hill reps in the summer under the guidance of my Sale Harriers coach, Alan Robertshaw.  Little did I think back then I would still be capable of running up that same hill  some 47 years later. 
                                                                   Only not so fast as I did then.

I ran on and passed the field behind the hall on which I  completed my reps, training for  steeplechase events, , dragging park benches into position to act as make do barriers; looking all the while for park rangers.

I ran passing the reservoir embankment, onto towards the Commonwealth Games croquet venue and turned down to the field where I  had my very first race, the Manchester Schools cross country championships of 1963; a race which earnt me a very unexpected place in the city team and started my whole running career off.
 I ran on, exiting the park and passed the site of Heaton Mills where I had worked for a summer as a teenager; despatching printed cloth all around the country.  The mill is no longer there. The land is occupied by a Sainsbury's car park.
 I ran on in bright warm, November sunshine, passed the old house again ,  back up through the estate, back up the "new" steps and back to the block of flats which features large on the North Manchester skyline.  

    A block of flats where my mam spent so many good years alone but is                        very unlikely to see again.   But she'll have a new place now  and when we've filled her room with the contents of some of the boxes we filled yesterday she'll hopefully regard it as her new home.

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