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ReportsTuesday, 19 June 2001
Sheffield --> Manchester (UK)
for the first
"Can miles truly separate us from friends? If we want to be with someone we love, aren't we already there?" Richard Bach in There's No Such Place as Far Away.
Today the story of the natural beauty trip to Manchester, the story of the Manchester centre bombing in 1996 and my view of the city today. And what about the free meal from the BBC Radio 1 and my staying in an student accommodation - housing over 100 students…
This Tuesday I woke up with a pretty good feeling and the pain in my butt had disappeared. Lucky enough!
Wendy brought me coffee (milk and extra sugar) in bed and after a shower they were ready to bring me up to the motorway near Sheffield, leading to Manchester.
As they had to go to an appointment at 10.30am, we all had to hurry to drop me off the right track. In the car Wendy found out she had forgotten about breakfast, she felt so sorry. I didn’t really care, the coffee did well to me.
The weather was not that good, it was showering a little bit once in a while. I walked a while upon this main road, going straight to the city of Manchester – but that would take a long way…
I got a hitch to Manchester by a lady called Jean. She works as a solicitor in Stockport, a suburb of Manchester. When she heard about my adventure, she promised to contact all her friends and family abroad to invite me over.
She also really got jealous at me. “If only I had no dog, I could have started a no-budget journey right away.” And I said to her: “I just do this journey, to have a dog for the rest of my life.”
Especially for me she made a detour to take me along the beautiful green hills of the Peak District National Park. Even though it was raining it was great to drive on those little twirling roads.
Many writers have found inspiration here. The village Hathersage is believed to be ‘Morton’ in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice was written while she stayed in Bakewell, and the author of The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton, used to fish in Dovedale.
Just to tell you about the overwhelming nature; just imagine it from a distance.
Happy about being still being dry as the clouds cleared up, I walked into Manchester. Also known as The Plastic City, because of all the constructions going on (and all that covered in plastic).
Most of the constructions started in 1996, when the government gave enough money to rebuilt the centre of the city.
Yes, because on Saturday 15 June 1996, at a peak shopping time on Father's Day, a 3,000 pound IRA bomb exploded in Manchester, injuring more than 200 people and ripping into the fabric of the city's main shopping centre.
In a state of shocked disbelief, police had begun clearing people from the area some 40 minutes before the blast; fortunately, several telephoned warnings had been issued to newspapers, radio stations and to at least one hospital in Manchester an hour before the blast. Newspaper offices in Dublin and Belfast received similar warnings.
An army bomb squad employed a robotic anti-bomb device to check an illegally parked Ford van, which had been recorded by several closed circuit security cameras in the city, when the bomb exploded.
Manchester's ambulance services counted 206 injured people. Most injuries were sustained from falling glass and building debris. In the immediately ensuing chaos, ambulances and private cars were used to shuttle victims to local and regional hospitals. It was a miracle nobody got killed!
Local authorities had to close the big local railway stations for several hours and to seal off the city centre. The evacuation of shoppers immediately took place from the Marks & Spencers department store, which was directly at the centre of the site, outside which the lorry-bomb was parked.
Initially, the evacuated staff and shoppers stood outside, right next to the bomb, but when the emergency services realised this, they moved them to the nearby Victoria train station.
Why Manchester city centre was targeted by the IRA was uncertain, but it later became clear that the cause probably lay in the breakdown of the IRA "ceasefire" in the light of lack of progress with the British Government's on-going talks about a permanent peace settlement in Northern Ireland. Shit happens…
It was estimated that up to 50,000 square metres of retail space and nearly 25,000 square metres of office space have subsequently needed to be reconstructed (!!!).
As much of the city centre has reopened days after the blast, the immediate area surrounding the bombed site, remained blocked off and a huge amount of demolition has had to take place. The Marks & Spenser's store and its high built offices were totally demolished.
The government quickly set aside £1m of European Union finance and set in place a master plan for the redevelopment of the City Centre. They have also provided £150,000 to support an international urban design competition, which was launched just one month after the bombing, and which provided a solid plan for rebuilding.
Now five years later, and [url= www.manchester.com/java/localnews/community/boom.html]the whole area of the devastation zone is now completely restored[/url]. The new Marks & Spencer store is now the largest M&S store in the world.
And while walking through this area, the differences are immense. Old historic buildings stand next to new modern constructions.
At 4.30pm I met my next host, Elliot Tang, in front of the M&S store. He showed me around even more. And because of my looking up to all the architecture, I started to feel a bit dizzy. And after some touring around along Chinatown, the City Hall, I got this relieving phone call.
This lady from the BBC Radio 1 wanted to have an interview with me end my host for tonight, in Manchester.
Elliot decided that we could go up to the BBC Headquarters on nearby Oxford Street and have the interview taken there. When we arrived there, I was walking on my knees. Probably for the lack of breakfast this morning also… My bottle of water was empty and I had enough of walking for now.
But this lady at the BBC offered us a drink and a meal at this Mexican restaurant across the street! Even though Elliot had other plans for dinner initially, we both couldn’t resist the offer.
Free food from the BBC! If just every reporter would do that… ;-)
The interview was very funny and while we were eating afterwards, the reporter was already editing her recordings with us, in her high office building.
After dinner Elliot got me into the bus going south, to [url= www.lh.man.ac.uk/langstudentpage.html]Langdale Hall[/url], a big student accommodation owned by the University of Manchester.
Elliot is originally Chinese, and his original name is Chi Wai Tang, but his Christian name Elliot would be better understood in England. He has been living in the UK for six years and is now in his fifth year of his Bio Technologies Study at the University.
It was the first time that I visited a student dorm like Langdale Hall. 104 Students live there and the complex has its own library, breakfast and dinner hall, television room, bar, sound proof music room, squash and open tennis court, and a pool table in the basement. Wow!
And there are even bigger Halls in the neighbourhood; some of them can even take over 500 to 1000 students!
There weren’t many students around at Lansdale’s’, because it most courses have already ended for the summer, but Elliot had one more paper to write for this semester.
Elliot lives on the top floor and in fact has his own apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and a living room. I got quite jealous of his living.
And he doesn’t pay any rent, because he has become a tutor for the other students living here. He delivers parochial assistance for those who wish for it. So, that’s the way to do. Just have to remember that when I ever go home to my student room…
Elliot noticed me being a bit tired of this whole day and while he worked on his exam paper, I generously watched some television while working out my plans for my future destinations.
I had seen enough of the city and didn’t really feel to go out somewhere this night. So after writing the report on the first day in Sheffield, I got to bed in my own little student room in Langdale Hall no.21.
Good night Manchester!
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