Background music: Cun Saja by Sleeq

Lately I have been reminded of the city Manchester I visited in March 2001. My brother and I went there after our 10-day tour to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

We arrived by bus on a bright sunny day. The journey itself was beautiful. Rolls and rolls of green hills. Bright sunshine, sky so blue. Fields of potatoes and grazing fields for the sheep and cows. Then suburban areas with little cosy houses, cute little gardens with spring flowers blooming.

Into the city…the University of Manchester on both sides of the main road. Modern and less than modern buildings. Rows and rows of shops. Noted many halal take-aways – kebabs, pizzas, burgers, fried chicken. Wow, the students here could just order from one of these take-aways when they’re too tired to cook, or during exams..

We settled in our hotel, somewhere behind the main city area. Not too bad…large room with two beds, duvet for our warmth, nice bathroom. Worth the price we were paying, I guess.

After eight years I can’t remember what we had for dinner that night, or breakfast the next morning. But I do remember browsing through the TV channels, only to find that there are some boring BBC shows, and being quite late at night, things that at least I did not want to watch for the sake of my soul.

The next morning.

After breakfast we walked around the city, just wandering here and there, whilst looking for the train station that could bring us to the…emm….football stadium. Hey, as we were there we might as well visit the stadium, doesn’t matter if there’s no match on a weekday mid-morning.

We asked the man at the ticket counter, how do we get to Old Trafford football stadium? He said he doesn’t know. He told us to try another counter, another train. So we went to another counter. Does this train take us to Old Trafford? Eh? The football stadium? He was not sure. We did wonder whether we were in the right city.

Anyway, I referred to the map and directions I had in my hands, and we decided to try the train going to this small town called Old Trafford. The stadium should be there, at least that’s what we thought. The journey was not too long. It was again, a very bright day – perfect weather to travel around. Somehow within the five days we were in the UK at that time, it rained only ONCE! Once in five days in UK!! It’s like kemarau already….haha!!

The journey was not too long. We arrived at the small, old train station. Tau wondered how does it handle all the fans coming from all over to watch football during the league seasons. Hmm….it truly was a small train stop fit for a village.

We came out of the train station realising that we couldn’t see ANY stadium rising in the horizon. Right…let’s ask someone…while thinking about the answers we got back there in the city, will we be able to find the world-renowned stadium?

Finally….FINALLY….someone managed to figure out that what we were looking for was what their people call THE FOOTBALL GROUNDS. Right…..R.I.G.H.T…I thought when one says ‘football’ it should click to their minds? Our English pronunciation must not have been THAT bad, or was it?

We went around the stadium area, it was really really quiet at that time, only the souvenir shop was opened. I tried to imagine how it would’ve looked like when it’s full. Must be really exciting if I could come and watch the matches there….would’ve screamed and shouted and sang along…..sigh…

After all the hassle (not too much, actually), we bought lunch in a halal shop nearby, and headed back to the city.

The afternoon was quite wasted for us, as I had to go to the airport to settle some ticket issues. Luckily it didn’t take a long time. Furthermore there’s not much to do in the city, with our money almost running out – Manchester was the last stop after four big cities, before heading back to Dublin.

Late afternoon we watched the show Midsummer Night’s Dream in a local theatre. It was a modern interpretation of this Shakespeare’s fairytale. The play was done in a make-shift sort of facility – rows of seats arranged vertically in a gigantic metal frame, instead of the usual theatre arrangement. We had to climb up quite high to get to our second cheapest seats. Good thing too, as there was a seen where Puck ran around…emm….without a single thread on his body. I could see his tattoo from up there. Euw.

When we came out it was already dark. Our hotel was just behind the building that housed the theatre. Again, there’s never things to do after dark in a British city, apart from watching movies. So we just went to bed.

The visit was sort of short. We did see new things, but could have seen more. One thing we learnt though – they call it the football grounds