This time last week, I was sunning it up in Florida spending my birthday with Mickey Mouse. Now I'm writing this from my Trafford flat while I look out to the balcony being splatted with hail stones. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
During my time in the 'Sunshine State', I spoke with a number of Americans, who initially had a bit of difficulty figuring out where in the UK I was from. As I’ve previously discussed, I’m from Burnage, but do not possess the same thick south ‘Manchestoh’ accent that the Gallagher brothers have and that many people around the world now recognise.
Whether that’s a blessing or a curse, I’ll let you decide for yourselves.
The general consensus was that not many people knew much about Manchester - besides the obvious. One taxi driver asked me if Manchester was in Birmingham - as that’s where he said his sister now lives - while another local asked me when the best time of year to visit Buckingham Palace was so they could meet the King.
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A lot of people did, however, know about football clubs. There were people eager to discuss United's Marcus Rashford or former player Cristiano Ronaldo, but as someone with a very limited knowledge of football, those conversations dried up pretty quickly.
It made me realise that despite Manchester often feeling like the be all and end all to me, it’s not THAT big in the grander scheme of things. But that’s actually kind of exciting.
I tried to tell people about some of the great food we have on offer; the great actors and people who call Manchester home; and the great vibe the city - and the wider region - has. Three areas in Greater Manchester were recently named as some of the best places to live in the UK, after all.
Whether they were just trying to get rid of me by this point - which is a distinct possibility - I'd like to think I made a lasting impression, giving them a sense of what Manchester has to offer. Maybe, just maybe, my impact on America will be felt long after my departure.
Perhaps more people will now know that Manchester is not just all about football - it is also known for its rain, its abundance of Greggs shops and the fact it also happens to be where Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh once studied.
I’ll be invoicing the Manchester tourism board for my services. You're welcome.
Anyway, here's three stories to start your Saturday...
‘Only a bit of kindness’
Street Treats is one of Manchester’s lifeline services helping provide those forced to sleep rough on the streets with a healthy and warm meal every Thursday evening.
Organisers have now been told they will have to move from their base of eight years in Piccadilly Gardens after Manchester Council said the space was deemed ‘unsuitable’ for them to continue to run the operation from due to parking restrictions.
Alongside serving up hundreds of hot meals, volunteers will also hand out toiletries and clothing, and the organisation’s co-founder, Daryl Pollitt, insists this shows how great the demand is for what they do.
"It's only a bit of kindness," Daryl told Tom George. "We're not doing any harm.
"We're just bringing a bit of food out for people. The issue is they don't want us to park here but how do we do it without the vehicles? We have so much stuff.
"When the Christmas markets are there they are allowed to park up all day and bring their goods. They're getting revenue for that, they're not getting any money out of us.”
She added: "I think you'd have a riot [if we moved]. You'd have loads of complaints. Loads of people are up in arms about it."
One man who uses the service regularly explained how he had 'jumped' the tram from Rochdale, where he has been sleeping rough, to make it to the Thursday night operation.
"I've been quite a few times," he said. "I come down here because you get more choice and information to help you. Places like this are extremely important to me. These people give us sleeping bags and blankets, which is good."
Manchester City Council said it was ‘not in a position to make exceptions to parking rules, however well-intentioned [they are]’, and wanted to assist Street Treats in finding ‘suitable alternative arrangements’.
You can read Tom’s story here.
Getting Gooey with it
When US popstar Lizzo visited Manchester as part of her huge UK arena tour earlier this month, she had already sussed out that Gooey in the Northern Quarter is one of our top Instagram-worthy foodie spots.
Having popped into the ‘lockdown baking sensation turned café’, the Detroit-born singer couldn’t stop raving about her ‘good good’ visit. As a vegan, she ate the crispy tofu satay sando, featuring peanut satay sauce, pickled cucumber and vegan mayo alongside black pepper tofu on turmeric vegan bread.
Not content with just that, the Grammy award-winning singer also took the opportunity to squash a hash brown inside - as she says the UK’s hash browns are “top tier”.
The M.E.N’s What’s On editor Jenna Campbell visited Gooey this week to test out Lizzo’s new favourite sarno (sans hash brown, sadly), alongside some of their other delights, including French toast, egg sandwiches and, of course, the Reuben, which takes its inspiration from the same sandwich served at New York's oldest deli Katz's Delicatessen.
Jenna writes of the famed Reuben: “Something quite special happens when tender slices of pastrami are layered over oozing Swiss cheese, a wad of sharp sauerkraut, crunchy pickles and a healthy smattering of Russian dressing and French mustard. Though I admitted defeat half way through, it is exactly what a butty should be.”
Now I'm hungry. You can read more about Jenna’s trip to Gooey here.
"If you are thinking of moving to Manchester city centre - this is your sign to not move," presenter and influencer Saskia Marriott told her 40,000 followers on TikTok as she recounted her hunt for a one-bed flat in the city after her current Salford flat increased by 50% in just two years.
Saskia, 26, recalled to Nicole Wootton-Cane about how she had booked 25 flat viewings since February but only made it to two, as all the others had been snapped up before she was able to see them. She described the housing situation in the city centre as ‘ridiculous’.
"I was relying on online listings, and my friend was very transparent with me - she said when listings go online, a lot of the time they have already gone, and they're just advertising it because they legally have to," she said. "Or they'll get 50 applications straight away and you get a viewing for the next week fully knowing you won't be able to make it because the flat will be gone by then."
Speaking to Nicole, Anthony Stankard, the managing director of Reside Manchester, warned flat-hunters that demand for property in the city centre is far outstripping supply.
Anthony said he sees people coming into his office 'daily' in a bid to find newly-listed properties before they go online. "This situation is unique to Manchester," he explained. "I travel to other cities and speak to experts there, and its’ clearly worse in Manchester than in Leeds, Birmingham, and Liverpool. They don't have the feeding frenzy we have."
Manchester City Council say they recognise that ‘Manchester is undersupplied for all types of housing', and also cited 'lack of supply' as one of the main reasons for rising rents. They said that 22,700 new homes (including 14,300 in the city centre) have been built since 2015, with over 11,000 homes currently under construction.
You can read the full story here.
Thanks for reading - have a great weekend.
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