Saturday 29 May 2021
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport…”
Love Actually: Richard Curtis 2003
Well it’s not Heathrow for me today, it’s Manchester Victoria; my Eldest child is coming home for a week and I am planning, with great excitement, to pick her up
Victoria Station, a grand old 19 Century building and my favourite railway terminus in the city. Not all love it, as I do. In fact, in 2009, it was named the ‘Worst Station in the UK and has since been significantly renovated. But that cannot have been a vote about the architecture; the Victorian facade, the lovely domes, the charming tiles on the interior and, for me, the very best feature – those evocative destination signs posted on the station front, which seem to capture the excitement of travel and exploration in bygone centuries. Surely it was just an outcry about facilities and repair?
I like to think that it was. And, as I have stood watching the teens playing Christmas Carols with our local band over many years, I have certainly been grateful for the new roof. I am also a fan of the delightful Java Bar Expresso, deliciously tucked into a corner of the concourse and the perfect spot for bit of reading, dreaming or just people watching. And that is the vision I have, as I hop out of bed to face the day. Arrive early, a fancy Italian coffee, me, my kindle and a hour of tranquility. Utter bliss after a really tough and stressful term at work.
Alas… it does not quite turn out that way. Around midday, as I, still rather sweaty from an early run, am catching up on some chores my phone pings. My daughter’s arrival time is a full hour and a half earlier than any of us were expecting! So it is ‘adios’ to hopeful Brief Encounter images of me in any coffee bar, enigmatically perusing my novel, and instead, a mad dash to shower, tame my hair and dive into the car. Prom-dress daughter further shatters the concept of sumptuous solitude by leaping into the seat beside me… but thank the Lord that she does. Mid-Manchester is an anarchy of traffic roadworks and…closed car parks. As the clock ticks down, I find myself, in growing panic careering round the city centre streets unable to find any spot to stop in and, in desperation, flaunting occasional ‘bus and taxi only’ zones! But teens, at least my teens, don’t do hysteria. My middle child just taps into some ‘map-app’ on her phone and takes charge, calmly and commandingly steering me to the front of the station where her sister, plus friend are ready to jump in and head homeward.
We catch-up, we share funny stories, we talk through any worries and we head out for an evening meal. Even if everything didn’t quite go to plan, this feels like a pretty good start to half term. Manchester Victoria – alas, it was not a day to stop and sit and drink in your charm and style but it is a day to thank you for bringing my girl home!