Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Langworthy's make-over

A few weeks ago I visited Salford, where I was at university from 1996 to 1999. During my second year I lived on the infamous Langworthy estate in Salford, which is commonly known as 'Beirut'. Or at least it was.

In my day, the streets were full of kids throwing eggs and lit fireworks at anyone who looked a bit different from them, i.e. me. I fondly recall being called a "Fucking mature student" (strange as I was not a mature student), told I looked like a "fucking lion" due to my green fluffy coat (green lions, anyone?) and told, in no uncertain terms, to pay my taxes. (The tax issue was a particular bone of contention).

There was, as I recall, a particularly fierce dog who used to try to attack us as we weilded our way through the dog-poo smeared, littered and grafittied streets on our way to the university campus. It was no surprise when said dog featured on the local news after being put down - it had ripped a little girl's face.

It was a depressing place to live, to say the least, but I had heard that changes were taking place in Langworthy, and I was keen to see them for myself. Whole streets of once delapidated terraces, many of which were boarded up and badly vandalised, had simply disappeared. In their place was just an area of grass, split in two by the old cobblestone alley way and surrounded by a low fence. This arrangement reminded me of a graveyard plot.

Street names have disappeared along with the houses, and I supposed with their disappearance goes over a hundred years of history.

What has become of the houses that remain standing is even more incredible. Builders have kept the facades, with their original features, but knocked down everything else and rebuilt the houses as smart terraces with parking where the alleyway used to be and a garden on top of that i.e. on the level of the first floor. They have done an excellent job as far as I could tell but many of these houses, I was told, remain empty, with people unable to afford to buy them.

I wonder where all the people have gone who used to live here? That community I knew so well - and feared so much! - during my year of living there. The place was like a ghost town.

As I walked through the streets towards my old house - 115 Seedley Park Road - I felt like Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone With the Wind' when she runs over the field after the war has ended, desperate to see whether her beloved family home, Tara, is still standing. She discovered it was, and I found the same of my old abode too. It looks a lot smarter than it did in my day - thank goodness - and I can only hope it is no longer cockroach infested and with condemned gas fires.

Ah, happy days...

1 comment:

  1. Best weird insult I ever received was on a demonstration, a policeman was shoving me out of the way, and said, "Get back you Stalinist!"

    But the time didn't seem quite right for a lengthy discourse on the theory of State Capitalism and the decline of the Third International.

    PS you should have warned me about the GWTW spoiler!