Take Yesterday

By Jackie Kay

Location: Chorlton Ees park

Take yesterday, for example. I came home after being away in the Big Smoke. Nobody calls London the Big Smoke anymore, but I was feeling my age. I was settling my son into his new council flat in East London. We spent a few days bustling about London getting him the things he needed: a desk, a chair, shelves, a duvet, a duvet cover, a kitchen bin, cutlery…We did it in record breaking time, but it was daunting; the traffic, how each neighbourhood in London doesn’t necessarily have the shops you need, and you have to go large distances to get ordinary things. It was all a big, stressful hassle.

So I came back to Chorlton and breathed a sigh of relief. I don’t feel like I live in Manchester; I feel like I live in Chorlton. I can spend happy, glorious days without going into the city at all. Chorlton allows you to be self-sufficient. So yesterday the first thing I did when I got home was walk my dog in Chorlton Ees. I walk to the end of my street, turn left and there it is! It is Manchester’s first nature reserve, part of the Red Rose forest, stretching for thousands of acres, and it is right on my doorstep. If I was energetic enough I could follow the river Mersey all the way to Liverpool, or I could walk to Didsbury along the riverbank, passing the odd statuesque heron. But usually I walk through the woodlands and meadows in any number of different directions. I love how wild it is there, the way that the density of the woods remind me of childhood, or of how the imagination works. There’s something secretive and knowing about the trees, and if you spend enough time in their distinguished company, you actually feel yourself getting better.

Walking a dog is more of a talking point than pushing a pram; people always stop and ask about the breed of my dog and tell me about theirs. ‘We’ve been out since eight thirty,’ an old woman tells me about herself and her dog. ‘Been to the vet. She’s got problems with her kidneys, is on medication, is costing me a fortune, but she’s worth it,’ she says and walks on, her proud bushy dog walking beside her. She looks like the only pennies she has to rub together, she’s spending on her dog. (It moves me how she used the pronoun ‘we’ to describe herself and her dog, like they are an item, a team.)

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7 Responses to “Take Yesterday”

  1. October 12, 2008 at 10:52 pm, smith3000 said:

    Nice piece Jackie. Great to see Chorlton getting a little praise for once – it seems very fashionable to slate the place. That goes for Cafe Cilantro too, come to think of it ..

  2. October 13, 2008 at 4:24 pm, nicholas royle said:

    Lovely story, Jackie. Bitter-sweet, poignant. I love the detail of the ‘odd statuesque heron’. I’ve seen them there too. Wish I felt as passionate about Unicorn. I think it’s a great idea, but the only stuff I’ve had from there I’ve either struggled to finish (seaweed salad) or had to give to the birds (muesli). But, as you say, it beats the ‘ghastly hell’ of Morrisons. I visted Diamond Dogs a couple of times with Chorlton-based short story maestro HP Tinker, and have yet to try Cilantro. But I will now.

  3. November 11, 2008 at 4:36 pm, Sile said:

    It’s all in the detail and you observe it and trancribe it refershingly well, You could be PR person for Chorlton! I think Chorlton Ees and Chorlton Water Park and all the little byways around and between and ongoing are the best thing about the area. That and the whole mishmash of users, canine and human and the occasional dusk-fleeted hunting cat. Can you hear the owls where you live? My dog stands at the foot of a big old beech tree and barks up the owl disturbing his beauty sleep. The owl just ‘whoos ‘…
    The Unicorn does attract all sorts of shoppers, but note the cars. They come from miles around with two cucial provisoa) a car b) the wherwithal to spend at a relatively expensive shop, one where very many locals simply cannot afford to shop . I see you fell for the famous honey trap too! By that logic they shouldn’t sell apples either…

    Can’t comment on the eruption of cafés except to say they displaced such useful local shops. Wait till you need a new pair of shoes, or a fuse- such a little thing- or a small tin of paint. All those shops now are cafés…

    But the ambience hasn’t changed, nor the chatter of the dogwalkers. Have you still got your gorgeous Tibetan Terrier?…

  4. January 19, 2009 at 12:45 pm, Natalie Basnett said:

    I really enjoyed reading this Jackie. It made me imagine what it would have been like if my Mum and I hadn’t moved from Chorlton and I had gone to university in London after all.

  5. August 15, 2009 at 11:30 am, Scott Devon said:

    This is wonderful, Contains all the subtleties of a great writer but never overstates it’s point. Captivating and powerful. Thank you for this.

  6. October 25, 2009 at 2:33 pm, Julie said:

    Love your story Jackie. Makes me want to read more of your work.

  7. February 13, 2010 at 8:43 pm, Belinda said:

    I really enjoyed reading this story. It’s inspired me to finish writing my short stroy about a hill that I used to go walking with my Nan and her fat dog. It’s very simple, but the detail is what makes your story so authentic. I used to live on Ransfield Road in Chorlton, just across the road from Unicorn. I could only afford to buy little extra’s from there, like, lentils and some fruit. My housemates used to say I was a ‘mug’ for shopping there, and they used to go to Asda in Hulme. I also love Chorlton Park, is has quiet spots and I especially like the ‘jackson’s boat’ near Sale, which has a lovely beer garden.

    Thank you for this stroy Jackie



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