Shameless

March 13, 2007 at 6:18 pm 23 comments

shame

Not Nice Place To Live (Shameless)

To protect my anonymity and the feelings of those poor souls who live and work in the place, I have changed the name of a particular vicinity of South Manchester (near to the Airport), replacing it with the fictitious name of “Shameless“. Shamelessly, I have used the title of that great Channel 4 comedy/drama because, well, I think it is fitting………..

It was quite a shock to the system moving from working in the Strand in London to Shameless in South Manchester.

My apologies to all residents of the somewhat maligned corner of South Manchester, which is Shameless. It is nothing personal. I have nothing personal against underage single-moms, asylum seekers, immigrants (illegal or otherwise), drug addicts (recovering or otherwise), the mentally ill, the infirm, or the great unwashed. In many ways I fear Shameless is a vision of the future…….some kind of post-holocaust Bladerunner-like future. My point is only that, Covent Garden it is not.

That said, I do have something against drug dealers, thieves, muggers, and anti-social neighbours. And, Shameless has more than its fair share of those.

Shameless was a bit of a culture shock after the West End of London. Gone were the Savoy and Strand theatres. Shameless “entertainment”, other than that induced by narcotics and alcohol, comes in the form of Line Dancing classes held at the local Conservative Club (working class conservatism is apparently alive, well and the preserve of the over 60s and unemployed, social scroungers), local bingo halls, and, one-armed bandit arcades. Gone were the Savoy Hotel, Smolensky’s Balloon and the Coal Hole. In Shameless, you can breakfast at the drive through MacDonalds or local “greasy spoon”, while the very brave and foolish could always risk a drink in the local Benchill public house, renowned for having the hardest girl gang in the country (as shown on TV).

Shameless is a mess. Shameless is the worst example of social engineering. The best example of town planning gone wrong. Shameless was purpose-built in the 1960s as Europe’s largest council estate. Companies like the Co-op, Ferranti, Barclays and Shell were offered incentives to build offices in the area to provide work for the inhabitants. These companies did build their offices but failed, it would seem, in providing work for the locals. Instead, they provided employment and careers for people from the more affluent surrounding areas such as Wilmslow, Hale, Alderley Edge, Didsbury and Cheadle. Over the decades, Shameless became the white ghetto of South Manchester. The great unwashed and unemployed were dumped there with little prospect, less respect, few amenities and no hope. Over the decades, certain inhabitants of Shameless became jealous of the material wealth of their neighbours and crime in those areas rocketed.

Indeed, we were visited by the Shameless criminal fraternity when we lived in Alderley Edge. You have to know that Alderley Edge is affluent. It is a nice place to live. It is very Cheshire. It is the home of many a Manchester United and Liverpool footballer and their Wags. Posh and Becks lived here before he signed for Real Madrid. Its many charity shops are renowned for their array of designer cast-offs. It is known “affectionately” as Bolliwood (Bollinger) because it has the highest per capita sales of champagne in the country. Alderley Edge is just 15 minutes drive and a million light years from Shameless.

At a time when my sister-in-law was living with my wife and I in Alderley Edge and I had been working away Monday to Thursday in that wonderful concrete cow of a place, Milton Keynes, I came back one Thursday night and sent the girls to bed as I “relaxed” with a large scotch and Thursday night football on the telly. Of course, I fell asleep on the sofa, only to be woken in the early hours by the sound of broken glass. I looked out of the window and saw a car parked outside the Pine Shop that was opposite. I also saw two blokes, one of whom was, rather bizarrely, sporting a jester’s three-cornered hat, complete with bells. I assumed that it was their car and that it had been broken into. I was rather tipsy. I decided to help. So, I went outside and began to cross the road towards them, in my socks.

I was greeted with a tirade of abuse, which was most unexpected, “Just f*ck off back inside!”. In my drunken haze I became quite affronted and continued to walk towards the two guys, “What’s your problem!”. The next thing I knew, my wife was at the front door in all her naked glory shouting, “Come back, I’ve called the police”. The guys got in their car and drove off, leaving me standing in the middle of the road attempting and failing to make sense of what was going on. At this point one of the neighbours came out in her nightie and rushed up to me, “You’re so brave! My husband has locked himself in the bathroom, he was so scared…..” Not so brave as stupid.

The police did arrive. Apparently these two Shameless boys were known to them. They were high on coke and had stolen the car and come to Alderley Edge looking for easy pickings. Easy pickings this night meant breaking into the Pine Shop in search of cash. Apparently my “intervention” must have scared them off. What a hero.

Anyhow, venturing into the Civic Centre at lunchtime is akin to visiting another planet. Shameless Civic Centre is a mess of cheap shops, pawn and porn brokers, and bookmakers. The local supermarket sells out-of-date cans of cheap lager even more cheaply. This is very popular with the winos that sit on the benches all day long, among the squalid pigeons and other local vermin, drinking from their rusting cans, hurling foul-mouthed abuse at passers-by and laughing hysterically at some unshared amusement or the voices in their heads.

Shameless is the only place that I know which has two “pound shops”: Pound Stretcher, and, Pound City, where everything is a pound. Except when there is a sale on, of course. They stand in perfect competition directly opposite each other in the Civic Centre. Pound Stretcher has been there for a while. Pound City is a relative newcomer, possibly encouraged by the Government’s recent injection of £2.5 million to regenerate the area. £2.5 million doesn’t get you a lot these days, but it does buy you a pound shop and a few blue street signs that point you in the direction of the police station and the NHS drop-in centre…….The competitive triangle at the heart of the Civic Centre is completed by “Cash Generator”, where you can sell as well as buy. Yes, Shameless’ second Pawn Brokers. Shameless is the only place I know where the shops still advertise “the tick”, HP (hire purchase), something for nothing. Shameless is not so much Neverland as the Never, Never Land…..

The Pound Shops and the Pawn Brokers are amongst the most popular shops in the area, together with the “butchers” claiming proudly to sell “Manchester’s cheapest meat”. I wouldn’t eat anything that came off that shop’s shelves. It is not meat of any kind I have seen before. Meat does not come in those colours! Animals don’t come in those shapes. There is another, better butcher further round the precinct. You can tell that this one is better because they have better security. There is a steel shutter across the entrance to this shop which is permanently pulled halfway down so as to stop thieves running in, snatching a joint (of meat) and running out. You actually see old aged pensioners (or should I more politically correctly say, senior citizens) getting down on their hands and knees to enter and leave the shop. How degrading! Every Tuesday there is a second-hand “flea” market, including the second-hand underwear and swimwear stall called “Sniff and Go”. I do not joke.

Otherwise, the market is a haven for rash-inducing cosmetics, pirate DVDs and CDs (which don’t work in card stereos as I have learnt to my cost), knocked off or imitation “designer” labels (which here mean Nike, Burberry – how the mighty are fallen – or Adidas rather than Gucci or Louis Vuitton), replica football shirts, and, cheap pet food stalls. At least the local rottweilers, bulldogs and pit bulls are well cared for here. Either that, or the pensioners are eating it for themselves.

And then there are the people. You will never see any people poorer than Shameless-people on the streets of the UK. You will never see so many missing eyes, missing teeth, missing limbs, walking sticks, prosthetics, invalid carts, and Zimmer frames as on the streets of Shameless. In fact, if you care to look closely you will find that most of the local pigeon population is also disabled in some way, with broken wings, missing claws or legs and a lack of ambition prevalent even amongst this local population. Every young man seems to sport an underage girlfriend on his arm, love bites on his neck, a tattoo, a shaved head, an earring, a bulldog or similar mean-mannered critter on a lead, an attitude, and, a chip on his shoulder the size of a railway sleeper. They are often bare-chested, irrespective of the weather, and, invariably, looking for a fight. Most are stoned or drunk or both. They have come to the Civic Centre to get their dole, sign on, score drugs, or sell drugs. You give these blokes a wide berth. And the there are the girls – 14-year-old girls with too much make-up, little taste, pierced belly buttons and thongs on display irrespective of time or season. They drag multiple small multi-coloured children behind them and push smaller multi-coloured children in buggies in front of them. It would seem that every Shameless-girl of a certain age is a mother, several times over, by the time they leave school. And, they leave school early here, if they attend at all. The lunchtime bustle of the Civic is often drowned out by the maternal cry of “Kylie, f**king leave Jason alone and get the f*ck back here you little ba*tard. Not much hope for the next generation of Shameless inmates……….

I think that you get a flavour of Shameless from one particular episode that sticks in my memory. It was Easter weekend. My wife and I were going to Habitat, which meant driving through the heart of Shameless. The council had attempted to brighten the place up by planting lots of daffodils. Shameless was teaming. Shameless was teaming with hoards of women and children armed with carving knives and decorating scissors stealing armfuls and armfuls of these daffodils. I can only assume that vases were the favourite items shop-lifted from Habitat that day…..

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Entry filed under: humour, rant, wythenshawe. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (Part 3) Refugees and Undesirables

23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve Campbell  |  September 5, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    I grew up in ‘Shameless’, and recognise many of the locales and characteristics you refer to in your musings. However, recognising that sharing my thoughts and opinions on such matters won’t change (or help) anything, I much prefer to keep my gob shut. Also, I have no idea what the education system is like in the glorious London of which you speak, but my ‘Shameless’ education has taught me that when you write ‘teaming’, you actually mean ‘teeming’. You’ve also spelt ‘conservitism’ wrong by the way, which is surprising considering your origin and obvious political leanings.

    Like you, these people cannot contol where they’re born, or the social environment in which they’re raised. These people weren’t born with scars, drug or alcohol problems, or indeed missing eyes, and by the time they’re old enough to do anything about moving away, all ambition and hope has invariably been sucked out of them. But many people do ‘get out’, and I am one of them. Having said that, all the people I’m still on friendly terms with in Shameless are honest, hardworking and, above all, good people. One of these people to which I refer sent me the link to this diatribe actually. You’re making peremptory generalisations above, and some pretty sweeping statements too.

    So, who’s to blame for areas of the country similar to Shameless, for they are now many? The government of the day? The local council? The government of the 1960s? Or the inhabitants of Shameless themselves? And if the area you moved from was so great, how did you come to be in Shameless in the first place? Work you say? Is there no work in glorious London then..?

    So well done anonymous scribbler. Give yourself a big pat on the back for the condescending judgement you’ve just passed on an area and its people you admit to knowing nothing about. I wonder why you wrote this piece anyway? To ingratiate yourself with your fellow smug Southerners perhaps? Because if I’m wrong about that, the only other reason I can objectively discern would be to simply upset the residents of an area you’ve already decreed as being deprived enough, but why would anybody as intelligent as you wish to do something like that?

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  • 2. Steve Campbell  |  September 5, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Oh, I forgot to add, I’m proud to be a proletariat from Wythenshawe. Especially if the alternative is growing up with a silver spoon in my mouth, keeping all my eyes and teeth, but ending up like you…

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  • 3. Middle Man  |  September 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    My thanks to Steve for passing by and correcting my spelling – I admit that spellcheck has made me lazy over the years.

    Steve, I do think, however, that you are guilty of sweeping generalisations and wide-of-the-mark assumptions yourself. My politics are left of centre and I grew up in inner-city Birmingham in a working class family. I got to Wythenshawe via hard work and a scholarship to Oxford University and a job with Shell. Unfortunately, no silver spoon to help me on this path. I had to make my own luck.

    Also, if you read my post again, I was not really blaming the people for their situation. Rather I was just describing what I have observed after 15 years of working there. Some of my best friends live in Wythenshawe still today.

    I am sorry you took offence and even more sorry if I offended you.

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  • 4. Steve Campbell  |  September 10, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Ah, here you are. I was beginning to think you’d barricaded yourself in against the neanderthals surrounding you…

    Such sweeping generalisations on my part are an easy mistake to make. Although I accept what you’re saying about your background and political views, anybody reading your blog for the first time would no doubt come to the same conclusion as I did.

    So you’re not “really” blaming the people for their situation? There’s no backing out now, you clearly are, and the statement in your reply illustrates this (if not clearly). Not “really”!?

    You say some of your best friends live in Wythenshawe. So, are all your experiences of working in this area bad then? Have you only suffered all the terrible things you describe above, with nothing positive ever happening to counterweigh all these heinous incidents? Surely you’ve at least had a few good times with your friends, or witnessed acts of benevolence in all this time? If this is the case, why have you decided to simply concentrate on the negative aspects of Wythenshawe? The blog would at least have been minutely interesting if you hadn’t!

    As explained, I grew up in Wythenshawe. I could write a book on the negative things I’ve seen. And been involved in. But you could say this about most areas of Manchester if you so wished these days. I’ve also seen skin-headed youths helping old ladies across the road, tattooed men coming to the aid of children falling off their bikes, two youths bringing my pay-packet (containing £200 cash) back to my workplace when I’d dropped it in Sharston, people returning my mother-in-law’s purse, with all the contents intact, when she lost it at the local shops. All manner of positive examples I could describe when discussing the inhabitants of Wythenshawe. I feel this is important, and should be recorded here, for the benifit of anyone who isn’t familiar with the area reading your one-sided nonsense.

    And as for the daffodil incident…that never happened did it? You’re asking us to believe that the savages were sat at their windows waiting for the council men to leave, and then all came out, en-masse, to steal the daffodils just as you drove past? Utter garbage.

    I moved to Old Trafford after leaving Wythenshawe. This area could be described as being ‘worse’ than the area I left. Yes, I understand life can be hard for these people, and many of them break the law and sink to desperate levels merely to obtain a few quid. Even here though, I witnessed many acts of good human nature.

    Something you can’t deny is that your ‘piece’ was overwhelmingly negative. Try to imagine what someone from far away would think reading it, or indeed someone (like me) from the actual area would think. Yes, I am offended. You simply aren’t giving Wythenshawe a fair crack of the whip, and concentrated on incidents that no doubt happen every day in many other areas of the UK. With this in mind, please share with us some positive aspects of Wythenshawe you’ve had. You must have at least one…?

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  • 5. Middle Man  |  September 10, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Hi Steve,

    No not barricaded, just a few days leave and a few days travelling with work………

    Let me say from the start that the “daffodil incident” is indeed true. In fact, my posts do not contain any known/deliberate factual errors or lies. The daffodils in question were on the corner of Styal Rd and Simons Way.

    While I sympathise for your concern about the lack of balance in my musings I still reserve the editorial privilege of slanting any post how I so wish. Actually, I guess that means that I d not sympathise. Do you expect Eastenders to be balanced? Do you expect the C4 programme “Shameless” to be an exact and accurate portrayal of life in Wythenshawe? Of course you don’t. And, neither is my post.

    That said, you CAN find me saying nice things about the inhabitants of Wythenshawe in posts such as “Ladies Who Lunch” And, I also admit that my references to growing up in Erdington and Handsworth also have a particular biased slant to them. If you read my post on “Fighting Part 2” , for example, you may understand why I did not describe all of the nice things about my school when telling the story of how a boy died in my arms. It is called creative licence.

    I have a tag search set up for “Wythenshawe” . I look forward to being notified of all your positive posts on Wythenshawe so that the universe can become realigned 😉

    BTW – I will give a positive endorsement for Wythenshawe Hospital – the casuality department has been great on the times I have had to take colleagues and friends there, and, they were fabulous when my mother-in-law had cancer treatment there.

    And, I am told, it is still one of the Mecca’s for plane spotters……..

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  • 6. Steve Campbell  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:13 am

    Now you’re just being silly. I was in Wythenshawe Hospital A&E on Monday with my 8-year-old son, after he had been hit by a car outside our house. We waited four hours before anybody even looked at him, and then they shone a light in his eyes and sent him home without even inspecting his injuries. I had to take him back yesterday because one of the cuts has now become infected. Fabulous??? You’re having a laugh mate. Unless the doctors there only prioritise care for casualties with a similar plummy accent to their own.

    As for ‘artistic license’….wouldn’t it be ever so nice if you could state this at the very beginning, for the benefit of people from the area you’re slagging off? You’re presenting this as true-life! And, are you sitting down? I’m sorry, but your account of life here and Eastenders are both as fictional as your daffodil story.

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  • 7. Middle Man  |  September 11, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Steve,

    Genuinely sorry to hear about your son. Hope all is well.

    Must admit to a chuckle about “plummy accent” – I’m a Brummie for chrissake!

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  • 8. Steve Campbell  |  September 12, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Alright then…dummy accent.

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  • 9. jOAN  |  April 30, 2009 at 5:06 am

    I cannot believe this of Wythenshawe. I went to Yew Tree school in 1948-1952.I rode my Bike from Royal Oak through Wythenshawe Park Hail Rain or Snow every day.In summer they had Dancing on the green near the play ground area. It cost sixpence to step inside the rope to waltz or quick step to a live band.Sounds very old fashioned I know. Later it was Friday night at Cholten Palais or the Ledo in Sale. I lived in Sharston 17 Norwell Rd. from being a babe till I was 11. I t was always a working class area, but they were mostly good hard working family people. I left Manchester in 1969 with my Husband and 2 children to live in Australia to give my kids a better life and I have never missed the weather. I have never lost my English accent I am proud to say. My maiden name was Joan Faulkner I feel very surprised and very sad having read this site

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  • 10. Middle Man  |  April 30, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Dear Joan,

    Thanks for visiting my site and leaving a comment. It is indeed a shame – I guess the result of ludicrous social experimentation and devastating town planning in the 60s.

    Please hold on to the accent! 😉

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  • 11. patricia  |  June 8, 2010 at 11:42 am

    This sounds like a sad commentary on an area that was a comforting home for so many of us after the war damaged bombsites some of us saw as littlies, but without any fear other than seeing the coalman come up from the cellars in Collyhurst.
    I left WP in 1965 for Benchill before leavinghome to join the bobbies until migrating to Oz in 1970 after marrying Peter Bradshaw from Ellenbrook Road and staying with David Corcoran who was then over there with his wife Myra who are both backin the Manchester area.
    I have some lovely memories of Wythenshaw with trips to the avroe factory, the river Bollin baths, pinching pears and/or apples at the end of Woodhouse Lane, maypole dancing at the church on the same lane and gathering tadpoles on the vacant land that became simonsway. What a lovely free and happy life we had.
    BTW my nameis Pat neild if anyone remembers me I would love to hear from you. I’ve lived in Oz since 1970 with regualr trips back ‘home’

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    • 12. Paul Gallagher  |  May 30, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Hi Partricia. I lived in Woodhouse Park, opposite David Corcoran and his parents (Dennis and Margaret) in Dinmor Road, up until 1965 when we moved to London. I have wonderful memories from this time: swimming in the river Bollin, aircraft spotting at Ringway, and of Woodhouse Park Junior school. You might remember my elder sister (Lynne Gallagher). My younger sister, Karen, often contacts Dennis and Margaret.

      As for the article in question, I believe the description is exxaggerated beyond any sense of proportion. The author is working on the usual British press principle “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.

      Anyway, drop me a line if you feel like it.
      Paul Gallagher

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  • 13. Katie  |  February 27, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I’m so annoyed at reading this!!!

    I own a house in Northern Moor and although we are in a position to move to a bigger house in another area there is no way we will any time soon. I grew up in a wealthier area not far from here and have lived in leeds and in manchester city centre but this is without a doubt the friendliest place I have lived! My neighbours are so lovely and I think that the men here have excellent manners, which you hardly ever see in the surrounding areas of Disbury and Altrincham!! I think that the majority of children are brought up brilliantly, often by mothers who are not completely career driven. I love it here and would recommend it to anyone, especially those who want their children to grow up grounded. Its a shame that the writer of the original post has had so many bad experiences here…one has to wonder whether he is slightly ‘wet’!

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    • 14. Middle Man  |  February 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

      Dear Katie,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I’m sorry you were annoyed. I wrote this post some time back to illustrate the contrast with London and the personal journey I had undertaken from inner- city Birmingham, Handsworth, Oxford University, London and Wythenshawe. The events I describe are accurate. If you read my other posts you will understand that I have the utmost respect for those inhabitants of Wythenshawe that stiff to support themselves and better themselves. I cannot say the same about those who do not. I am glad that you’ve landed in a place surrounded by good people. Long may it be so.

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  • 15. Anonymous  |  March 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

    What a patronising silly man who wrote this blog!!

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  • 16. Sam  |  December 5, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I live in benchill and its nothing like this blog portrays..granted you get social problems on every council estate but this is not an accurate description of wythenshawe or “shameless” as you like to call it atall :/

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    • 17. Middle Man  |  December 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Sam, this was an account of my arrival in Wythenshawe some 19 years ago. It is a genuine recollection of my experience at that time. I am glad that things are no longer the same.

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      • 18. Paul Gallagher  |  May 30, 2013 at 8:42 pm

        This description of Wythenshawe follows the usual British gutter press principle: “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. I was brought up in Wythenshawe in the 1960s, but have returned a few times to look around. And I did not see any of the horror images that you describe so vividly.

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