I'm really looking forward to being back in Greater Manchester this weekend. Almost 10 years in the great county of Lancashire has been interrupted by the last 8 in equally stunning Sussex. However,telling friends that I'm returning north this weekend has produced expressions of pity and a looks of concern on our behalf!
We all know about the poor weather, the funny accents and this stuff they have up north called 'industry' - but for the benefit of my champagne drinking, sun kissed southern soft friends (also a caricature in case you were wondering!) let me give you my top 5 from the most excellent city of Manchester!
1/ The Museum of Science and Industry.
In my view this eclipses anything that London has to offer. It tells the story of our social history magnificently, focussing of course on the dual horrors and splendours of the industrial revolution. From the biggest machines to the best interactive displays for kids - MOSI is a must visit place. That the government are considering closing it in order to preserve funding for London museums is appalling and morally wrong. www.mosi.org.uk
2/ The Lowry Centre.
I know that Salford Quays has now gone up in the world since the BBC discovered the north and moved in en masse. I know that the Lowry Centre itself is not a particularly attractive building in a particularly attractive area - but anywhere that you can visit for free in order to see a large collection of LS Lowry paintings makes it a place that I would happily return to time after time. www.thelowry.com
3/ The Pennines.
Forget the Lakes, they are too far away for any reasonable person. Forget the Peak District, it's too close to Sheffield. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Pennines! The magnificent span of bleak hills and moorland that overshadows Manchester and shaped my life for many years in Oldham. I know belligerent Yorkshiremen will argue boundaries, and that the best parts are on their side. But once you are up there, only minutes from the city, but high and lonely, who cares if you are in Yorkshire or Lancashire. Pots and Pans on Saddleworth Moor remains my favourite bleak place in the world.
4/ The Pie Shop - Redgrave Street, Oldham.
The meat and potato or cheese and onion pies from the shop at the end of our street were the main reason for the early onset of middle aged spread. A lunchtime walk for a hot pie, the inevitability of being unable to choose between meat and potato, meat, or cheese, and so bringing all 3 hot pies home.....the fragrance in the house for the rest of the day, the meat juice running down your hand and inside your cuff.......
5/ A pint of JW Lees in Mr Thomas Chophouse.
I discovered JW Lees ale with glee, not just for the taste, but in those days for the pound a pint pricetag. A slow pint at lunchtime, away from the city centre office for a few minutes was one of the great pleasures of my early years in Manchester. Maybe now it's become a nasty city centre parody of itself kind of pub, but back then, just after the Manchester bomb, it was at the heart of my discovery of the real city and the real people.