Northern quarter, Manchester.
A place humming with creativity; its cobbled streets enticing you into a café, shop or bookstore. The clacking of laptop keystrokes can be heard as you walk past coffeehouses; entrepreneurs or a group of students huddled together conspiring responses for their next assignment, hard at work. Music is heard blaring from a loudspeaker as performers take their urban dance routines to the streets, transforming it into a playground of their own. You may even be lucky enough to grasp an earful of an angelic song, pure liquid gold, emanating from a newly emerging singer.
The rhythm and soul of this city does not stop here! Look out for vinyl record shops which line the streets in a crooked fashion. A shiny black record is just yearning to be wound inside a gramophone. Patiently waiting to finally turn its grooves and indentations into a heartfelt melody.
On a neighbouring corner galleries range from pop-art, modern and cleverly collaged movie reels, forming an eclectic mix of young and old. From a nearby food stall, smells of grilled cheese sandwiches waft in the frosty morning air, tempting onlookers.
Notice the exposed bricks, each telling a story. Many of them, once upon a time, belonged to an old warehouse or factory. These red bricks are bold and full of character just like their inhabitants. Watch out for graffiti often sprayed along a decrepit wall, livening the mood of the “rainy” city. A colourful artwork here. A wonderous sculpture there. Paintings are ever emerging in a hidden street corner; the art is in keeping a lookout for the best ones.
The wintery air nips at my heels as I meander my way across the industrial network of streets. I navigate myself into a toasty café as a shelter from the bitter cold; ‘Foundation Coffee House’ states the writing engraved on the crystal glass.
Warm air rushes to embrace me as soon as I open the door.
A Christmas cuddle.
Twinkling mellow lights dangle from the ceiling, bouncing soft hues of light across the open space. The contrasting black and white décor is tasteful and minimalistic. There is a beauty in the mathematical symmetry prevalent around me; square tiles, honeycomb hexagonal structures and Tetris wallpaper.
I order a cappuccino and am graced with a foamy, creamy concoction swirling inside an ivory mug, melting the icicles from my chilly fingertips as I ensconce it within my palms. My first sip of this elixir is velvety and rich. The coffee is strong, there is a heady mix of strength from the crushed coffee granules and lightness from the frothed milk which lifts the subtle coffee bean flavour to satisfaction. The overall effect it has on me is slightly intoxicating.
There are plenty sofas, carved wooden seats and tiled booths with plug sockets to re-charge my laptop with. I take a place by the gargantuan window which casts an eye out onto the bustling Manchester boulevards.
I catch snippets of conversation between lovers, friends, gym bunnies and students revising, their minds a whirlwind of chaos. Background chatter mixes with the smooth playlist echoing from the speakers. The atmosphere is vibrant yet calming. A wave of familiarity and nostalgia washes over me. The opulent lights bathe the space in a golden glow. As I cast my wandering eyes around the room, I notice with delight sweets, melting paninis, protein pancakes and scrumptious brownies. An ensemble of “instagrammable” foods that I will no doubt view on one of my followed accounts.
I could be anywhere, doing anything; reminiscing old memories with a dear friend, catching up on lectures, orchestrating a meeting with a business client, grabbing a cup of joe before my long work shift which will extend into twilight hours, or harnessing a much-needed caffeine fix after a strenuous workout. Whoever I am, whatever my purpose, I feel a sense of belonging here. And as I open the door, spilling the inside animated chatter out onto the icy road, I feel a small sadness weighing on me.
There is a feeling inside me, sure and as clear as ever; I know with a certainty I will be back here again.
Written by Pooja Vadhva