Driving into Oldham today reminded me of my teaching days when cheeky kids used to try to leave early by telling me they had to ‘go fert buzz’. As I believed it was my duty to teach them English before I could teach them French I made them repeat it correctly til they got it right. By which time the bell had rung (and they still hadn’t got it right.)
Oldham has always had ‘a buzz’ about it, even if you have to look hard to find it. I should know, as I lived there. In fact for a couple of years I was in the catchment area of the school where the paperboy, milk girl and local kids were in my classes. The disadvantage of being so invisible was compensated by a short journey time. My friend Patrick has just returned to Oldham after living in London (Notting Hill and Holland Park actually). We were talking about the differences. You can still buy a house in Oldham for £45,000; you wouldn’t get a garage in London for that. There’s a theatre in Oldham, but not in Notting Hill. Vintage shops in London are called charity shops in Oldham. Oldham has a real baker (not a supermarket fake baker) who bakes bread on the premises and sells onion bread, foccaccia. and other delights. They even sell pie n mash (What’s all that about? says Peter Kay). It’s not exactly The Hummingbird Bakery but the prices are affordable and quality good.
Oldham doesn’t do ‘gastro pubs’ but we did have lunch in a pub selling real gutsy food. Ignoring the ‘sandwiches with roast beef and gravy’ and ‘panini with prawns and Marie Rose sauce’ (ugh, all those drips!) I opted for freshly cooked fish n chips. Oldham being nearer to the sea than Loughborough makes it a safe bet. The landlord chatted to us in a neighbourly way, not because he was looking for a tip. It’s no good looking for fusion food in Oldham. Patrick says the nearest they get is a Chinese takeaway with chips. In Notting Hill there’s a canal they call ‘Little Venice’ lined with wine bars. Well Oldham has the Rochdale canal lined with pubs. Patrick says that people are definitely friendlier in the north but he does object to loud conversations about medical conditions in the street and in queues. In fact Oldham has its own charm but ‘it’s still boring and there’s nothing to do’.