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We rarely see my father’s side, but they too are splattered about Manchester, full of boys instead of girls, high in number and eager for glee. The Irish banter is lyrical against the Manchester blank astonishment. Walled in by cold-water dwellings, we huddle about the fire, suitable to our calling. Around us, the tough locals welcome this large Irish band as we roar and rage through the 1960s, pinned together by pop music, and by the suspicious absence of money (which, in fact, no one anywhere seems to have).
I am explaining to Nannie that this idea will not work, but she looks away each time I protest. On Cornbrook Street, Blackie leaps from the bag and tears her way back down the street in the direction of the junkpile scrap heap of written-off Trafalgar Square. I am, once again, fraught with shock, but Nannie marches on. ’ she says, ‘leave her. ’ I know this is not true, and that nothing and no one will look after either Minnie or the cat. Nannie’s cousin Jody Keating is a small huffing and puffing Irish woman of rasping tobacco-voice, who rolls in on a cloud of Embassy and reflects as only the Irish can in five parts curse and five parts prayer.
Around us, the tough locals welcome this large Irish band as we roar and rage through the 1960s, pinned together by pop music, and by the suspicious absence of money (which, in fact, no one anywhere seems to have). Nameless turnings suggest nothing beyond, and we trudge to school ankle-deep in slush, half-thawed and half-frozen, musing on My boy lollipop by Millie Small. The school looms tall and merciless in central Hulme, as the last of the old order, a giant black shadow of ancient morality since 1842, invoking deliberate apprehension into every wide-eyed small face that cautiously holds back the tears as he or she is left at its steps – into long echoing halls of whitewashed walls, of carbolic and plimsoll and crayon blazing through the senses, demanding that all cheerful thought must now die away.