When me mam told me we were moving to Harpurhey in 2002, I was devastated. When she showed me the estate we were going to move on to I tried to throw myself under the 52 bus. Unfortunately it never turned up on time, I don’t think it ever has since. Here lies the problems with Harpurhey.
With one of the highest crime rates and lowest employment rates in the country, nobody in Harpurhey is ever in any sort of a rush. It’s rumoured that this is the birthplace of the mums walking round supermarkets in their pyjamas. At least in other towns they were doing that after the morning school run, here in Harpurhey they’re still roaming round looking for Whoopsies in their Asda George dressing gown long after their kids have got home from school.
Six months after moving in, the neighbours had a bonfire and everyone on the estate came. Only problem was it was on a patch of grass behind the Moston Pub and the bonfire was a three door Vauxhall Corsa. Parents stood round it as the smell of petrol filled the air sipping their mulled Lambrini like this happened every year. Because it did.
Harpurhey has an actual shopping centre, you can guess the shops before you walk over. Greggs plays a prominent part in the local economy and sits alongside a discount furniture shop and over the road from B and M’s where 12 Mint Aeros will cost you a quid but you can’t buy a banana for less than a fiver. Supply and demand they call it.
An independent Chorlton style eatery called the Pasta Project has opened up on the centre selling a fine array of fresh Italian home made dishes. The owner of it stares out the window of his empty shop watching the queues snaking round the building of the new KFC that’s just opened where you can buy a lifetimes supply of obesity and high cholesterol for less than two quid.
The World Famous Embassy Club sits on the other side of Rochdale Road. Cilla Black and Englebert Humperdinck are just two of the famous names to have played there. Now it’s most famous son is that bloke that stabbed a Rhodesian Ridgeback to death, that was attacking a young girl on his street. Free John Smiths for a month he got, after everyone looked at the pictures that accompanied the story about him in the Metro.
White faces have been replaced by black ones and locals aren’t happy. ‘They’re stealing all our jobs’ they cry in other towns. ‘They’re stealing all our benefits’ they cry here. They organised a march against the influx of immigrants in the area, but it was at half 9 in the morning and nobody gets out of bed before 10 round here.
At midday on a Sunday, McDonald’s is the busiest place in town, as that one night of passion they spent with Tania or Chantelle in Piccadilly 21’s come back to haunt the weekend dads who use their access day with their five year old to go and treat them to an ironically named Happy Meal. They’ll ask seven year old Tyson how school was this week. Tyson will ask him what school is and the dad, who really should have wore a condom, will shake his head. He’ll drop him off before getting a text asking him to stick thirty quid in Chantelle’s bank because she needs to get a new school uniform for Tyson for next term.
The Harpurhey nightlife revolves around the Gala Bingo which comes alive at 7pm each night as people from all walks of life descend on the place like extras from a Thriller video. At 8:05 each night the fire brigade receives calls of huge fires coming from outside the bingo with smoke that can be seen for miles around. The operator ignores it and logs a false alarm for the 7000th night in succession, everyone’s just lit up on the five minute break.
At 10pm the Gala closes, the ASDA closes, the buses stop running and peace is restored. Until 10:01 when you hear the sounds of gunshots. Maureen lost out to a full house by one number and she’s about to mug the woman who won it. Her next door but one neighbour, surely she won’t recognise in her pink balaclava.