Where our dreams end and reality begins....
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
When you were young, how did you imagine your future would turn out? What did you dream of becoming? What did you wish for?
This is me in 1969 - yes it is black and white! - sat on the settee in the front room of our house in Rusholme, Manchester. It was fashionable at that time for a professional photographer to come and take a sibling portrait to be hung on the wall and shared with family across the world.
I remember this photograph being taken, not because I am a genius with a photographic memory but because of the light- it was hot and very very bright- it made my eyes hurt. It probably made me cry.
My parents were immigrants who came here for a better life, that was one of their dreams I am sure.
I grew up during the clearances of vast areas of terraced housing all around Moss Side, Hulme and Rusholme in the 1970s. They were our playgrounds and battlefields, hideaways and hunting grounds. There was not a lawn or tree as far as the eye could see. The only flowers were dandelions or 'bomb site flowers' that were tough and red with tiny tight flowers that looked like a reluctant apology. Hardly Kew Gardens. But I knew no better. So my dreams were always of climbing higher up the giant piles of rubble that the machines created whilst we were at school so I could be 'King of the Hill' or throw the furthest half brick (well I was under ten!).
Then one day, everything changed.
I used to have friends over a wide area and we were allowed to visit each other at the weekends or holidays. I always made a beeline for Man City's Platt Lane training ground always in the hope of seeing my footballing heroes. It was next to Platt Fields Park - a place I was always warned never to enter- under the pain of a good hiding- without a grown up. Well you know what playing 'Truth,Dare,Kiss,Command or Promise' led to....we walked through the gates nearby into an Oasis.
For me the park was spectacular, enormous and GREEN! It had a duck pond (ducks!), rowing boats and a huge open space. We played hide and seek in the bushes, played 'Ralivo' using a giant tree as 'base' but ,crucially and almost endlessly, played football. We were able to pass the ball without rubble deviating it's path, we could fall over and land on a marshmallow green pillow (compared to old street cobbles), we could dream and celebrate (and argue, obviously) as loud as we wanted and nobody told us off. Most importantly, we could run and tackle and pass and control the ball like proper footballers without the oil, grime, bricks or bullies (older kids- our space now!).
We returned again and again over the next few months, asking strangers for the time so that our parents would remain unaware. We broke up our football marathons by visiting the swings, the mini zoo (sic!) and playing amongst the bushes and the trees. We fed the ducks and chased the peacocks - yes there were two of them!
My dreams changed. I asked my mum if we could move to Platt Lane - she theorised it was because I wanted to see my hero - Colin Bell- more often and laughed. I couldn't tell her the truth could I ? But I could dream........