Missing the trams – a year on.

Today, or maybe yesterday, is the anniversary of the last time I rode on the tram. It runs directly past my flat, and I can sit on the sofa and watch them – or open the window to hear them rattling gently around the corner, or toot in a polite frustration at a pedestrian crossing when they shouldn’t.

The tram system in Manchester, the Metrolink, is a pretty expensive, but a very clean and convenient way of getting around. I way prefer it to London’s all-famous underground: not noisy, not hot, not smelly. Admittedly has the downside of being way less frequently run (even not during pandemic times) and not running into the wee hours, so not an all-out winner, but pretty good.

This is a service to Ashton, via Piccadilly. The next stop is Pomona.

I miss standing, shivering on the platform – all unacclimatised to the northern winter, even though last year was particularly mild. This year, I’d be less nesh, less soft. I’d wait on the platform, ready to pop into town, and not take any of it for granted. The lovely tram would curve and creak around the bend, onto Pomona Strand, an island between the Bridgewater Canal and the River Irwell.

This is a service to Ashton, via Piccadilly. The next stop is Cornbrook.

The second or third last time we took the tram on a weekend, towards a new piece of town to explore, I remember Alex coughing, and getting a nervous glance from a few people – difficult to have an allergic tickle in the throat, worrying that you’ll be de-trammed and thrown in the canal. Cornbrook is one of the vertices of the city: southern lines, like to Altrincham, Wythenshawe and the Airport all go south from here. It was the place we had to make it back to in time to catch the last tram towards Eccles, often arriving to a chilly 13-minute wait on an exposed platform after dancing practice. I’ve thought often about how the building site opposite must have come along – probably nearly complete – since I saw it last. When we arrived in Manchester, they were building the lift shaft, and the steel structure went up around this, easy to mark progress by which floor number was built up to. It’s probably finished. Maybe even inhabited.

This is a service to Ashton, via Piccadilly. The next stop is Deansgate-Castlefield.

Deansgate is Manchester’s take on Regent Street – I suppose. Castlefield is a region of town full of old mill buildings that are now fancy office space or fancier “converted mill” apartments, where you pay lots extra for the exposed brickwork, and admittedly lush gigantic windows. There is a pub on the canal basin, down where they’re currently filming Peaky Blinders. I can’t wait to go and have a thoroughly overpriced beer overlooking some moored narrowboats and a summery weeping willow.

This is a service to Ashton, via Piccadilly. The next stop is St Peter’s Square.

One stop on, you can get out and marvel at the wonders of Manchester’s Grand Central Library. The best Weatherspoons we’ve visited in the city centre (heights of culture, obvs) is just off the square. When first we arrived, there were beautiful Christmas lights up, a star and a bee – the city’s emblem. I can’t wait to explore here again – to visit the museums and galleries that I ‘saved’ to visit with my mum…

This is a service to Ashton, via Piccadilly. The next stop is Piccadilly Gardens.

Getting off the tram at Piccadilly Gardens – which we did several times our first three months – would now give me a bit of a pause for thought. It’s got a bit of a reputation, and often smells like weed. We got off there in the early days to go to the Arndale (Homesense, I promise I’ve not forgotten you!) or Primark or the city-centre Lidl or Aldi. Clearly, we were rolling in it…

We’ve taken our home line all the way to the end of the line once – to visit the gigantic Ikea in Ashton. It’s right opposite the tram stop. We walked over a kilometre in the store itself, and then climbed back on the tram, only recognising the stops once we’d got back past Piccadilly Station.

This is a service to new adventures. Next stop, somewhere new.

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