Sunday, 26 April 2009

Cheetham Hill

Cheetham Hill is pronouced 'Che'um 'ill', despite the BBC journalists pronunciations in recent times. The Hill has many memories for me having lived on Woodlands Road, played on Esmond Road and shopped on Cheetham Hill Road.

As much as my Mum tried to convince me we lived in Crumpsall, we lived on the wrong side of the road in our Edwardian Terrace in Cheetham Hill.

I have quoted this many times, but in the 70s I lived in a very multicultural area of the Hill. The Edwardian terrace then was home to a Siki family, Irish family, Jewish man, Chinese family, us (Irish - both north and south), Italian / Ukrainian family and an Italian corner shop. Believe me today you do not get that type of cultural diversity in Cheetham Hill - it is much more ghettoised. When we moved to Whitefield in 1980 I was sadden by the lack of cultural diversity - it seemed plain weird to me at the time.

Back to the 'ill - Lindy Lou's - it was a kids shop my Mum made me frequent on an occasional basis. This is the place where my Mum purchased my Holy Communion dress. Like most things in my life being Catholic wasn't a straightforward thing - not for my Mum when she tried to marry my Dad. She was told by a priest to go and marry a good catholic man - my Dad was protestant - a Presbyterian in fact. Pretty hardcore given the times - 1970. Thankfully my Mother ignored this and found a more liberial priest to marry them. I seem to have inherited her stubborn streak. Anyway back to my Communion - there was a major faux pas that day - me and Angela Gill managed to wear the same dress. I did look better, apart from my natural prettiness and height, my neighbours (Italian / Ukrainian lot) gave me an enhancing underskirt and I had a fab head dress too. She was a bully though and made my time at St Anne's Primary School a misery. Still I won in the fashion stakes that day.

Clarks Shoe Shop was a strong memory for me of the 'ill. They had this machine that measured feet that seemed like it had been an ex monster in Doctor Who. I had such big feet as a child and adult and could never have the most fabulous shoes. I had to settle for the boring and sensible ones.

Woolworths, now sadly defunct, was a Saturday morning memory. My Dad used to take myself and my brother down to the shops. My brother would demand lego, and later The Specials and Madness records, whilst I stalked the stationary dept and Ladybird books. I was such a cheap date in comparision to my brother and I still am. Another memory of Woolworths was Seline, who was a glamourous lady who my Mum had taken in due to domestic abuse issues. For a short while she shared a bedroom with me and she bought me a pink, flump shaped pyjama case in Woolies. She also brought me attention as a five year old when she held my hand walking through Cheetham Hill - okay she brought attention to herself with her short skirts and glamourous good looks, but I basked in her reflected glory. She went to the USA afterwards where she found happiness and brought up her family. She was lovely.

The Co-op had many memories for me. It was where I first got lost as a child and scared the living daylights out of my Mum. It was the place where I learnt to lookout for the tallest lady in the shop as that was invariably my Mum. It was also the place where my brother Pete would have strops to get his favourite fairy soap.

My little bro Pete used to go to a nursery in Cheetham Hill on the corner of Greenhill Road and Cheetham Hill Road. Whilst I went to the nice nursery, he went to the scally nursery. Maybe I'm being a snob, but then again my Mum was a bit of a snob and did become slightly horrified he was picking up a manc accent whilst he was there. This may have resulted in our move to Whitefield.

One of my first pets was Rosie the rabbit. He / she (never too sure on that fact) was given to me on my birthday by Angelina from next door. I didn't realise at the time Rosie had been a rabbit at George's school and had been 'retired' as a school pet. It turned out Rosie wasn't keen on children, probably due to the abuse she received in the school. Within days I was scratched by Rosie and promptly I ignored her from that point onwards. She couldn't be housed in a cage and kept breaking out, just Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. One day I noticed she had gone. My Mum claimed she must have left the back gate open and she escaped. I organised a search party and scoured the streets of Cheetham Hill and Crumpsall. Unbeknownst to me my Mum had given Rosie away to the window cleaner two weeks beforehand. She had been fed up with looking after a rabbit that both myself and Pete had ignorned. Who could blame her? It took us a few years to persuade her a cat is a good idea - Sooty will come up in the Whitefield section.

1977 was the year I caught chicken pox. It was hot, but not as hot as the year before. I remember I had time off from school and was covered in calamine lotion, which was not a pleasant experience. It was the Queen's Jubilee that year but I don't remember it as my Grandad was dying of lung cancer at the time. We were dashing back and forth from Ireland and completely missed the celebrations. In later years my Mum, who was not a royalist due to her Irish upbringing, would always make sure we were in Ireland to avoid royal weddings celebrations, which possibly explains my republican outlook.

The Northern hospital was quite a feature in my life in Cheetham Hill as my Mum worked there as an auxiliary. It's high cellings and wide polished floors resonate in my memories. I often remember trailing after my Mum through the hospital when she was going to pick up her payslip. Sadly it is now closed down and converted into flats. The same has happened to Salford Royal Infirmary on the Crescent. It's a shame as it was a rather impressive building doing rather impressive things like saving peoples lives.

The Ukrainian Club has always been a bizarre memory with me. Sadly it has burnt down in recent years, but due to my mad Italian / Ukrainian neighbours I occasionally frequented the place for various do's. It had these rather strange freezes on the wall in a vaguely Sound of Music style pictures on the walls in rememberance of the home country. It was always wierd and delightful in equal measures as it reminded me of the family atmosphere that Ireland has for me.

Cheetham Hill has changed over the years. It has never been a glamourous place even in the 70s, but always diverse. You got to remember for over a 100 years Victoria Station in Manchester was at the end of Cheetham Hill Road. So it always has and always will be the first port of call for an immigrants to the UK, like my parents and many other people who reside in Manchester. It will always remain a multicultural area and it is a place I am proud to be associated with. Despite my British birth, I am in my cultural upbringing Irish and Cheetham Hill was a place where difference was the norm and where I felt I belonged.