Donleigh Street, Newton Heath, Manchester


A dirt track. Swampy in the wet Mancunian weather, red choking dust in the summer heat, frozen ridges of mud, with crystalline bonsai ice lakes in the dark winter.

The Poor Irish.

A terrace house. Red brick. With much repaired pointing to the mortar between bricks. A lamp post, now electric, still gas when I was born. Victorian windows, single glazed, they keep they rain out, but not the cold icy breath of the frosty nights.

A front door. Hard to remember now, leading to a small porch. A three-year-old me sat on the step, watching the reflections of cloudy skies in infinitely deep puddles. An airlock between worlds. Into the living room. Coal fire and a black kitten, shadow of his ancestors, multicoloured Lino that does not reach the wall, with silverfish endlessly scuttling in the damp beneath. A black and white TV, a two year old is awakened to watch the grainy broadcast of the moon landings, and taken outside to see the moon.

To the right, a door to a finer room. A piano, better furniture, my brothers guitars, a carpet worn bare by racing on a plastic tractor. Sash cord windows, a memory of a dislocated shoulder painfully repaired by Dr Doherty. A sideboard that seemed eternal.

Beyond the living room, a cold stone floored kitchen. A now-trendy Belfast style sink, a rough wooden draining board, an old, stained gas oven, upon it a chip pan filled with solid lard, another reserved for the boiling of phlegm stained handkerchiefs. At one end, a small dartboard. Opposite this end of the kitchen, a utility room. Toys strewn across the floor, a black kitten meowing though web covered glass, a lazy Susan hanging from the ceiling, sheets dangling from it.

A mangle, still in use, a rickety and unreliable twin tub. A workbench, I remember the vice, it always fascinated me. Beyond the kitchen, steep steps down to the back yard, a tiny lawn, a friendly border collie’s nose through the back fence, a rabbit, found and escaped. Gates that led to neighbours gardens. A community. Doors left open. Nothing to steal and little to share.

Up stone steps from the kitchen. On the left, a bathroom, installed by my dad, big enough to dance in. Monsters with masks for faces in the cupboards, implanted as fears by scary older brothers.

Across from this. My parents room, a double bed. Where I was born, rain on the windows, a strange hypnotic man with a beard. Sleeping so long I lost the whole day. Next to this, my room. Our room. Orange linen sheets, dust motes in sunbeams like galaxies and stars, a nightlight. Fear of monsters. Three of us in the one bed.

And finally the big brothers room. Smaller. Rock albums. That’s all I can remember. The sound of Hawkwind.

And I remember a cellar. Coal deliveries falling down sunbeams. Sat watching them. Mesmerised on cold stone steps.

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