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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The 1996 Manchester IRA Bomb; Rusholme Mice Quake at the Memory

Exactly fifteen years ago, and a young girl has an important job interview - her very first important job interview, in fact. Sadly she is a student, and going through an unfortunate phase of thinking that an outfit of baggy black jeans (complete with Joe Bloggs belt), bought second-hand from a dubious outlet in Afflecks Palace and teamed with an unattractive grey body with wonky poppers, flatters her immensely. To be fair, the unchoosy boys who frequent The Academy and Owen's Park Bop support her on this, but even her foolish brain recognises that such an ensemble is unlikely to garner her that shiny new job.

And so she plans to get up early on Saturday morning, and go to M & S in central Manchester to purchase a suit. She does not go, for she and her fetching jeans & body combo have been to Squirrels the night before, and are therefore a/ tired and b/ suffering the after-effects of consuming "Chardonnay" from Cellar 5 that cost £1.25 a bottle. Instead she stays at home, in her big, drafty student flat in Rusholme, and is glad she does, for at twenty past eleven that morning the windows of her flat shake and rattle as if a large bomb has gone off, startling even the itinerant mouse population that visit her flat when they've nothing better to do.

Of course, exactly fifteen years ago today a large bomb DID go off in central Manchester, outside the very emporium where our lazy heroine had hoped to snaffle up a respectable suit.

*Pauses to create tension before big reveal*

Now, you may find this hard to believe, but I am that heroine. In those unimaginable pre-Twitter days, it was several hours before we realised what had happened: the IRA had planted a bomb in a van on Corporation Street, a bomb which went on to cause £700 million of damage and injure 212 people. It appeared I had narrowly escaped being caught up in horrible scenes of panic and fear, simply because I had drunk too much cheap wine the night before whilst throwing attractive shapes to Blur records (there's probably a lesson to be learnt there somewhere), and my relief at avoiding this trauma is palpable to this day.

Of course, a widely held view these days is - controversially - that the IRA almost did Manchester a favour, sparking a programme of regeneration and rebuilding that has produced, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful city centres in the world, where the old and the new live together in aesthetically pleasing harmony. I am proud to be an adopted Mancunian, and it would take a hard, or possibly Liverpudlian, heart not to be moved by that photo of the brave red postbox standing defiantly amidst the rubble of such a vibrant and spirited city. Manchester has grown back around the jagged edges of terrorism bigger and better than ever, a fact worth remembering as we sympathise with those caught up in the events of June 15th, 1996.

N.B. None of the Rusholme mice was injured in the bomb blast, although some of them were really very frightened indeed, needing a good nip of cheap Chardonnay to calm their rodent nerves and get them back on an even keel after such a nasty scare *bows head respectfully*

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