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STANLEY STREET 7.44AM

Stanley Street Cheetham Hill

STANLEY STREET 7.44AM

The temperature was only just above freezing. Instinct took me to the high ground above Redbank, where I could watch dawn advance across the edge of the city centre. A slither of flame red sky topped the far rooftops and, as if a hundred Popes were being chosen, puffs of white steam rose into the blueing clouds from much needed heating units.

Whilst I watched, a man came and stood next to me. “I’ve tried to capture this scene too,” he said. He was dressed in hi-vis labourers clothes, and held a coffee in one hand and a phone in the other, raised towards the distant view in another attempt to achieve his aim. “Tell you what, I don’t fancy laying bricks in this cold…”

He turned and walked off to the building that he was working on. Once the lights had gone out I went across and asked him his name. “Andy,” he replied, “And this is Dave.” Dave was pushing a wheelbarrow of rubble and, behind them both, the centre of the structure was being churned over by a digger. “Thing is,” said Andy “All the cities are the same now. Leeds, Sheffield, here. All the same. I work on the same thing over and over. They’ve no identity of their own, they’ve been sterilised.” Sterilised. That was a good word for it.

Then Dave said “Strangeways, that’s still like the old days though? Don’t they have them ladies I hear about? I haven’t seen one yet though.” He didn’t look disappointed, more as if he’d just acknowledged that his British plug wouldn’t work in Spain.

They went back to work, restoring and changing. I looked out over to the insurgent city centre, slowly but surely pushing into old Manchester. There was nothing left to photograph now. The rich daybreak had faded into the blandest of grey mornings.

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