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.