Stockport is a large town in Greater Manchester. It rightfully earned itself 12th place in the 2004 guide Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places To Live In The UK. The outright shocking state of the town was exposed for the nation to read and laugh about, to which I will expand on briefly. In response to 12th place, Stockport Council arrogantly proclaimed "We have nothing to be ashamed about", yet as this blog will highlight - it certainly does.
My first stop in my mini tour of Stockport is Grand Central Leisure, which many councillors still pretend to be the focal point of the town centre and which Wikipedia bizarrely cites as being a central cylinder of the economic engine of the town. Following the lead of the architecture of the 1960's, Grand Central was the victim of the 1990's revolting neon office-block design built in cream brick that the Britpop band Blur parodied in their 1994 satirical song Parklife. Up until around 1999, this self-proclaimed 'leisure complex' actually functioned; with a clean hygienic swimming pool, a then maintained large cinema and various bars. However since that time, almost all of the businesses have closed due to violence (caused by the local benefit-addicts) and neglect, and all that's left is a filthy swimming centre, a very busy Youth Advice & Health Clinic which services pregnant teenagers, and naturally an Army recruitment Office. Aside from those, Grand Central Leisure as it stands today is a deserted dilapidated complex(ion) of boarded up shop units.
The next stop is Stockport Market...or perhaps...the illusion of a market place. I say this because on the few occasions I have visited it I have scratched my head as to why it continues to exist as it is as deserted and activity-less as the Leisure Square. There are half a dozen rambling old folk hanging out the back of some dilapidated market hall 'building' that looks and smells like it used to hold cattle for sale. Standing back from a short distance, this open-sided rotted structure looks like an attempt was made a couple of decades ago to bulldoze it, half of it fell down, the bulldozing company went bust and the job is still unfinished. Building aside, the handful of senile stall-holders are selling goods limited to rolls of sewing thread, old frozen chicken nuggets and cans of de-icer. The customers of this market are an army of 65 years old’s who live in a time warp - trapped in a 1950's lifestyle who spend their days waddling round with a shopping trolley re-filled daily with old tat and tinned food.
On the other side of town and at the other end of the age spectrum there is the army of uncivilized slobs who on a Saturday morning at 8.30am push their prams down the long hill from the sky-rise tower blocks of the flats of Brinnington and Lancashire Hill. Overweight and so out of breathe, these unkept single mothers stop intermittently to take swigs from their pint-sized cans of Stella. Having reached Merseyway, they barge their way into Greggs the bakers with their prams and are on time (its 9am) for a fresh cheese pasty - a nice breakfast choice washed down with more Stella right in the middle of the high street. Dressed in full sports tracksuits with a pair of Rockport shoes, they then head to Cash Converters where they exchange a handful of chart R&B CD's bought the previous week for a few coins to finance them through the day. While in there swearing and smelling of booze, they purchase more junk - purchases are always simple so as not to strain them to think - the DVD Gone in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Cage a popular trade-in and purchase choice. Whatever music or film is advertised by Woolworths on the television, like Leona Lewis or Crazy Frog Theme, they view as their guide to future purchases and naturally the shelves of Cash Converters reflects this.
It really is one incredibly small world in Stockport. The Stockport of 2008 is exactly the same as the Stockport of 1998. Nothing has changed apart from additions of Gregg’s bakery outlets and increasing numbers of benefit-addicted single mums - a product of New Labours barmy policies on Welfare and non-requirements to contribute to the system. These neighbourhoods of feckless welfare claimants has sky-rocketed, even though it was first noted by the Sociologist Charles Murray in the early 90’s in America.
One of my favourite areas of Stockport is St Petersgate. This road is a neat demonstration of the, to cite Stockport Council, 'booming' Stockport economy and a great place to capture a first hand glimpse of the locals at night fighting and acting wild in their mentally-ill frenzies. When the Stockport locals aren't by day handing in adverts for Food Processing Operatives they've apparently applied for to secure their benefit payments at the Job Centre, they are rampaging in bars with hammers and dancing stupidly to new-age hardcore music provided by DJ Bazza. This is often on a Sunday night because all of them don't work during the week. But then go into one of the 50 recruitment agencies that line St Petersgate like Blue Arrow and you can't help but reason with why they don't work. All the jobs advertised are shit - whether it is working as a Cashier in the local high street bank or in Superdrug stacking shelves. Even with 5 years work experience you will only get the fat uneducated gobby female recruitment consultant from Hays telling you "Well...I do think you are employable. We have a range of vacancies with salaries between £10,000 - £11,000 per year. I will need to book an appointment with you to fill out all this unnecessary paperwork". In short, there really isn't any hope for anybody in Stockport. Whether it is lack of proper shopping facilities, lack of respectable citizens, lack of work and a local economy - you are best leaving the area...or better still - leaving the country!