In which G.M. Norton goes on a time travelling meander.
I live around five miles from Rochdale, a small town in the north west of England.
From the age of 16 to 22, I worked in the town and but now I only occasionally visit. It's been a good three years or so since I had a proper mooch around.
This week I had a small errand to run visiting the magnificent Rochdale Town Hall.
It really is a stunning building. According to folklore, Adolph Hitler was rather keen on it and had plans to have it moved elsewhere. While I was there, I decided to have a little wander.
The town has suffered in recent years with local businesses forced to close down and many people deciding to spend their moolah elsewhere. Even the McDonalds couldn't avoid closure, which speaks volumes for it's plight if Ronald can't even sell enough McHamburgers.
One of the main causes for shops suffering was actually an initiative to bring improved transport to the area, with the introduction of a metrolink system. Thankfully, this is now up and running after a few years of the area being an actual building site.
The big reason for my meander was to view The River Roch, a few paces away from the gothic town hall. The river runs underneath the town centre, but has been completely obscured for more than a century. Quite wonderfully, the 800 year old bridge has now been uncovered which is absolutely super to see, providing a real focal point.
Having worked right by the bridge, it was quite mesmerising to witness with my own eyes the difference that this has made. In fact, I must admit to feeling like a time traveller at times as I looked around in astonishment at all the changes. It really was as if I'd travelled in time.
For a couple of years, I worked in the Old Post Office, which was faithfully restored during my employment in the offices there.
Every day, I would meet a chum or two for a lunchtime tipple in the nearby public house, The Regal Moon.
The Regal Moon is a former 1930s art deco cinema which still retains a lot of original features. During the days when I visited this particular watering hole in my early 20s, I never really took the time to appreciate its architectural charm. I was far too impressed that the barmaid would notice me walk in and by the time I'd reached the bar, my pint of ale would be waiting for me.
I also used to work in a rather grotesque black tower called The Municipal Offices. Known by locals and referred by myself as the 'Black Box'. You can see it in this old pictorial below, which I pilfered from the interweb. Casting an imposing shadow, this building has now been demolished, along with an old (but ugly) bus station and car park that was plonked next to it.
The Black Box and bus station have been replaced, but re-positioned across the road with shiny new buildings. It is a marked improvement, with the espresso bar looking especially enticing.
Unfortunately, I didn't have quite enough time to partake in a coffee bean related beverage as duty called elsewhere.
Ugly buildings still exist of course. These buildings were previously blocked from sight by the Black Box and bus station.
On my way back to the motorcar, I had a quick amble around my favourite part of the town, the sniggering inducing The Butts.
With it's cobbles and tapas bar (which does rather lovely food), you almost feel transported to a foreign land.
I enjoyed my little look around my old stomping ground. It really has transformed and thankfully, has recovered from some severe flooding on Boxing Day last year. With some of the beautiful and historical buildings no longer surrounded by as much ugliness, they really do shine.
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'