This week, Arash Aria marched into a city centre police station, threw his bicycle on to the floor and demanded to be deported. Born in Iran, Aria claimed to have been living illegally in the country for a decade and asked to be returned to his homeland because he had “had enough of Manchester”.
Heaven knows, we’ve all been miserable in Manchester. Being fed up is a local speciality. I have never gone so far as to get the law involved, but when the rain sets in for the afternoon, and it’s match day, you can’t move for chuggers on Market Street and everyone is in a grump, deportation sounds like a reasonable option. It’s certainly faster than getting the tram.
Of course, there’s more to Aria’s story than the Manc mizzle, or the fact that the entire Conservative Party is about to descend on the city for its annual party conference. He told the police that he wanted to leave because the “people had not been welcoming” and he was struggling to find work. “I try to ignore people, but I’m fed up now... People are not friendly here in Manchester. When they are rude to me, I don’t like it.”
It is a sad story, one that is likely playing out all over the country – not just in Manchester, which is a wonderful city. As yet there has been no happy ending. To Aria’s dismay, it turned out that he has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and so he is left to enjoy at least another 10 years of the Metro, second-hand paradise Afflecks Palace and chips and gravy (even better than a garlic chip naan).
Also this week, Warrington – a mere 15 miles from Manchester – was named the worst town in Britain for culture, ranked 325th on a list compiled by the Royal Society of Arts. Even Milton Keynes was judged more favourably, according to the society’s complex algorithm taking in historical buildings, steam railways, listed pubs and blue plaques.
Warrington is no Oxford (fourth on the list, after the City of London, Kensington and Chelsea, and Hastings) but it has a couple of medieval churches, a museum and George Formby’s grave – and it is a stone’s throw from the cultural riches of Manchester. It also gave the world Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Evans, Sue Johnston and, er, Rebekah Brooks. If nothing else, that list of luminaries proves that a perceived lack of “culture” in one’s home town is no barrier to getting on later in life.
The final blow came in yet another survey, this one from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which is still hard at work nebulously grilling people about their wellbeing. By its measures, Liverpool was ranked the fourth unhappiest place to live in the UK, with Bolsover in Derbyshire topping the misery charts via David Cameron-set benchmarks which include feelings of happiness, worthiness and life satisfaction.
In all, the North-west has taken a bit of a beating this week. Cheshire born and bred, I take exception to these slurs upon the region. I can’t think of anywhere finer than home, with its industrial grandeur, green fields, pretty towns and magnificent cheese – but then I only go back there to see my family and friends and for time off. A potent mixture of emotional ties, pride and sheer relief at being out of London affect my feelings about my home town, just as they colour my view of my adopted city.
On a good day, I love it; on a bad day, I want to be deported. Living in London often seems to be one long moan punctuated with good dinners and world-class culture: you survive it, you don’t rhapsodise about it to think-tanks.
According to the ONS, Fermanagh, the Ribble Valley (a North-west jewel) and the Outer Hebrides are the happiest places to live in the UK. Interesting, but what to do with this information? Knowing that I am unlikely to ever move to those places only sends my anxiety levels (another factor in the survey) shooting up – along with their local house prices.
The only people who benefit from surveys like this, ranking one place over another, are estate agents. For everyone else, the idea that happiness lies in a postcode should be approached with the same scepticism as the first viewing of an “ideal, cosy property, in need of modernisation”.Reuse content