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…..
Entry filed under: humour, rant, wythenshawe. Tags: addicts, Alderley Edge, benchill, benefit culture, cheadle, didsbury, drug dealers, hale, immigrants, porn broker, pound shop, rant, social engineering, unemployed, wags, white ghetto, white trash, Wilmslow, wythenshawe.