Manchester, the greatest city.

Manchester - Sabina Rai
Photo Credit: Instagram – @beejanerai 

I woke up this morning to my boyfriend telling me the horrific news of last nights explosion. It was terrifying I sat up confused and ran to get my phone from the other room. As I did I looked outside our patio doors, to the city I love – it looked exactly the same as usual, surely nothing big had happened. Then I started reading the headlines, a bomb, multiple fatalities, many injured, at the MEN arena, during a concert, a pop concert surely full of children. My heart sank as I started to realise the magnitude of what had happened.  Like everyone my heart goes out to each and every person who was at that concert and every family member who has been effected by this atrocious act.

I’m sure your thoughts this morning were very similar. So you’ll know after the shock and the horror and the fear comes something else. How can I help, what can I do? I started looking online, giving blood – I can do that! But after looking blood banks had asked people not to turn up as they’d been inundated with donors (people are amazing.) So I’ll book an appointment for as soon as possible. But then what? I’m still sat here powerless, scared like everything else. But I don’t want that, I want to feel strong, I want to reflect those amazing people who helped last night, I want to give back to the city I love so much.

Sadly my only talent in life is writing well (debatable.) So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll tell you some stories of the people I’ve met in Manchester or the experiences I’ve had that’s made me want to make a home here.

I used to work in a bar a funny little place that did all sorts of bizarre nights, I met some amazing people who work there – friends for life. My most Manc nights ever were the Oasis tribute nights, the amazingly named Noasis. I remember conversing with a middle aged man and his wife who’d been dancing by the bar all night. He asked me of I was an Oasis fan and I told him I actually thought Spice Girls were a far more influential band of the 90’s. He honestly looked repulsed at me and told me to be ashamed! He stayed near the bar and later when I was inevitably singing along to one of the songs he caught my eye and shouted, “I fucking knew you were a fan.”

I also used to work in a vintage shop in Afflecks Palace, an indoor market brimming with independent shops. You see all sorts shopping around there – it’s a real Manchester Institute. The people who worked there were all very friendly, very welcoming, very odd! Those visiting the city would often point out what an amazing place Afflecks was. It always made me feel immensely proud of being a part of that institution, of being part of a city that holds such places.  I remember one Spanish man talking to me about the city, he couldn’t stop talking about how exciting Manchester was. After a long lovely exchange he asked me about the album I was listening to calling it beautiful, I told him it was Noah and the Whale, First Days of Spring – a firm favourite. He thanked me saying he loved immersing himself in Manchester culture and finding new local talent, he skipped off joyously before I could correct him. I’m sorry I mislead you Mr Beyond Friendly Spanish man, I hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay!

Lastly and most recently I was walking through the streets of the city centre. I walked past a homeless man, asking anyone who’d listen for a bit of spare change. He looked exhausted and so bitterly sad, I caught his eyes and smiled at him, he smiled back and said in such a sincerely grateful tone,
“Thank you for smiling love, that means a lot.”

There are countless interactions, countless kind gestures, countless funny stories that bring a smile to my face. I’ve lived here for nearly four years now, I’m sure many of these tales I’ve forgotten – they’re just part of every day life.

If you’re looking for something to do today, do something kind. No matter where you are you can make a difference, give someone a smile, hold the door, buy a sandwich for someone on the streets, ask the person looking a little lost if they’re okay. Spread kindness and compassion to dull the pain and fear – it’s the Manchester way.

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