Day 35: Fucking Manchester

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It occurred to me this week that Fucking Manchester is the last song I ever wrote about being young. The song was inspired by an actual weekend Laura and I spent in Manchester, shortly after we got together. We drank a lot, stayed up late, and were so excited to be there that we strode around the streets shouting ‘FUCKING MANCHESTER’. In the daytime we went in search of the Hacienda and Canal Street. At night we looked for places to go dancing and, to our delight, ended up hanging out with a Liam Gallagher lookalike who called himself Dog and led us to a club that played New Order and the Happy Mondays.

Being me, I still managed to describe this hedonistic experience in a way that sounds a little bit sad, as summed up by one of my favourite ever write-ups, from Paul Lester in the Guardian: “Live Forever it is not, although in its evocation of youthful yearning and sense of nostalgia for a time yet to pass, maybe it’s not as far removed as we first assumed.”

I’m currently in Edinburgh for the festival, and I keep seeing couples who make me think of us in Manchester – stumbling around, wide-eyed and in love, thrilled to be there and with each other. It’s lovely to watch, but not something I miss. These days I am more excited by islands than by cities. I’m here to earn us money, and am writing this from a train home in the early evening, after one sensible glass of wine at the kind of reception where I would once have happily taken up all the free booze on offer. Laura is in the Hebrides renovating the house with a sense of purpose that fills me with awe. In our different ways, we are both laying the kind of life foundations referred to in verse two of this song but on a deeper level than I could have understood or aspired to when I was younger. We are no longer ‘floating high in the air’ like in verse two, but instead digging into the earth.

I wrote this song, quite deliberately, as a postcard to my future self. We’d had an amazing weekend and I wanted to create a souvenir, hence all the very specific Manchester references, from Factory Records to – again, typical of me to throw in something sad – the aftermath of the Manchester bombing. I sometimes wish I’d written more songs like this, about other trips we went on together to Turin, or Krakow, or Paris. If I hadn’t written Fucking Manchester I might have forgotten about the moment we had together in the John Rylands Library, gazing in wonder at the Rylands Library Papyrus, a ‘fragment of paper that is older than we’ll ever be’, and wondering how to make the most of our own tiny fragment of human history.

This is how it starts, with love and hope in our hearts. Fucking Manchester.

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