I went to Manchester to see a band I used to follow 25 years ago as a teenager. I had a few hours to kill before meeting my old partner in crime so I got to have a wander round some old haunts.
I lived here for just over a year in 1990-91 and it’s the place of many of my blocked memories. The site of so many happy events I can only touch on fleetingly. There on the tip of my mind so tantalisingly out out of reach. I’m hoping the walk will unlock a few.
I arrive in the middle of a rain storm, hail the size of golf balls, lots of thunder & lightening. Storms I love but I find that I’ve arrived on the evening of a parade for Alex Ferguson, legendary Manchester United manager, is having his retirement parade. Born & bred in Leeds, there has always been a rivalry between the two football clubs and it’s hammered into you at an early age to have Man United. Leeds fans are quite vocal. The only other team I’ve ever known to be acceptable to friends who follow is Liverpool
When I first arrived in Manchester many moons ago I would often wonder (to myself, never aloud!) if it was possible to tell if I was from Leeds by the way I walked or looked? What would they do if I walked the streets in a white top in a city famous for red & blue. I’m not crazy enough to find out but it did use to amuse me.
I arrived in Manchester 3 years into Fergusons leadership. They weren’t doing so well then and there was certainly no rich foreign owners. Leeds on the other hand were about to win the league (then Division One). Now Leeds languish in the middle of a nowhere league and Manchester rule the football world. It’s funny how things change.
A little break in the rain gives me just enough time to stop by old place of work. I don;t go in, just stand and stare at the building from across the road. The Portland Thistle hotel, the lowest level job I ever had (one of several chambermaid jobs in a 2 year working trek across the country) but it’s probably one of the few jobs I’ve ever loved doing.
I was 18 years old, just left home, no cares in the world, spending my tips on concerts and music. Looking at the outside of the building it doesn’t seem to have changed but I’m not going to test this theory by going in. I don’t want to burst the bubble of happy memories.
The hotel has five floors of rooms and I can picture young me very clearly campaigning to clean floors two and three. It didn’t take long to figure out the first floor was for those needing the cheapest rooms, people with no money left for tips. Floors four and five had the suites and was host to a few famous people. None of these would ever leave tips either. The floors I wanted (and got) were always full of those who had saved that little bit extra and were always grateful for your service. Always guaranteed to leave a tip however small. And thanks to a contract with American Airlines I was often left gifts of airhostesses flight packs. They got them on every flight and so always left them behind. I don’t think I bought any shampoo or shower gel for a year!
My all time favourite tip though was a goodie bag from a Clinique convention we held. The women whose room I cleaned gave me her pack as a token of thanks as she had so much of the stuff herself. It was worth around £150 then. Interestingly I still use their products to this day.
There are probably so many tales from this time, I wish I could remember them all. But these little ones are enough for today.