Waking up in Manchester yesterday morning, it felt like the city appreciated what a euro crisis really felt like. Both its football clubs were out of the Champions League, even though they were among the favourites to lift the trophy.
Schadenfreude, which is not Bayern Munich's defensive system, was in evidence, with both clubs' disconsolate supporters taking small comfort in their rivals' woes. Football is the definitive zero sum game. Regular readers (you know who you are – yes, both of you) will know that my sympathies lie with the City half of the city, although my primary allegiance is to Manchester itself.
Around the corner from where I work in London is an art gallery that recently had an exhibition of Lowry paintings. Every lunchtime, I'd go and sit there to look at the matchstick men and women at the football match, or on their way home from work, or going up the steps at Maryport and feel all nostalgic. A lot of Lowry's work depicted the post-industrial area of Manchester and its twin city of Salford, where the major urban regeneration effort is now concentrated.
Instead of chimneys and factories are software units and media hubs. As your tram follows the waterside, with Liebeskind's Imperial War Museum in the background, and calls at stations like Harbour City and Pomona, a comparison with Sydney is not out of the question. (But the weather was undeniably Mancunian. They say it always rains here. Wrong. Yesterday it was hailing, too.)
At the centre of the Salford Quays development is MediaCity, a new home for the BBC, where a big chunk of programming is now housed, including all its sports output. It is a very impressive complex, which, despite the complaints of a sizeable number of London-based staff, appears to be a fully functioning centre. Local radio is cheek-by-jowl with some Radio 4 programmes, Radio 5 is a couple of floors above Match of the Day. "It feels like we're all part of the same organisation," one staffer told me.
The colour scheme is purple and green, and, like many modern offices, its communal spaces have more in common with boutique hotels than a traditional office. Still, whatever breakfast presenter Sian Williams and the other Beeb refuseniks think about the horrible prospect of going further north than Edgware, MediaCity is an effective statement of the BBC's desire to be less London-centric. To the listener, of course, it shouldn't, and probably doesn't, matter where the programme is coming from, although I know producers and presenters are concerned about securing guests for the shows. It's certainly easier to have an argument with Richard Bacon in the studio than down a phone line. The same location-neutral argument exists for this column. You will have no clue whatever that it was written on a train. Have a good weekend. And don't forget to take your belongings with you.