This is what Crumpsall means. So Wikipedia says. Wikipedia also informs me that Don Estelle, Jason Orange, and Myra Hindley were all born in Crumpsall. I lived in Crumpsall as a boy, moving there when I was 11 and staying until I left home to go to university. In Manchester. I moved from Manchester to Manchester.

I never missed Crumpsall.

I don’t really know where Crumpsall is. If you were to say to someone, “I’ll meet you in Crumpsall” you’d be hard pressed to pick a landmark. There’s no centre. It’s just streets and emptiness, bordered by the more lively Cheetham Hill and the comparatively swanky Prestwich.

My defining Crumpsall moment came when I was 15 years old. I was off to the shops at Cheetham Hill for my mum. I was walking along, possibly skipping (it was the kind of thing I did, still do). I was certainly whistling. Whistling the latest big hit, I Will Survive. Three lads surrounded me. One of them asked me the time. I told him. He said “let me see”. I held up my wrist and he said “that’s not the time”. Then he hit me. Hard. Hard enough to knock me out.

I spent four days in hospital. I effectively had plastic surgery. A nose job. I went around for the next few weeks with a plaster cast on my nose held in place with a big ‘X’ of sticking plaster.

Perhaps the most shocking thing was the police. They asked if they could have a word with me, alone, away from my parents. When my mum and dad had left the living room they asked me: “We know what you’ve told your mum and dad, but what did you do to provoke them?”

I was a very young 15 year old. An innocent in the world. Could whistling “I Will Survive” be seen as provocative?

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I’m back in Manchester now. Prestwich. Birthplace of 10cc, Victoria Wood, and home of local hero Mark E. Smith. Just for a short while. Looking after my mum as she gets better from an operation. She’s out of hospital now and doing well but she spent just under two weeks in North Manchester General Hospital.

It used to be called Crumpsall Hospital. It’s in Crumpsall.

I’d been visiting twice a day but last Tuesday Janice and Kath went to see my mum in the afternoon, giving me a little break. So I went into town, saw The Adjustment Bureau, and then got the Metro to Crumpsall for the evening visiting session. Leaving the hospital at 8.20pm I headed back to the station. The first and only time I didn’t drive.

It’s a lonely old place, between the hospital and the Metro station. Where is Crumpsall? Even when you’re in it you are nowhere and there’s no one around.

Walking along Crumpsall Lane (where we lived over 30 years ago), past Hermitage Road (where I used to go for piano lessons from Miss Musgrave until I became old enough to tell my mum and dad I didn’t like playing the piano, I didn’t want piano lessons)… thinking these things… possibly inwardly whistling I Will Survive… not considering a skip this time.

Then something –  that sense –  moments before it happens. Maybe it makes you tense up in preparation… what is it? An instinct?

The lads must have crept along. In the shadows. Following and biding their time. And then an explosion behind me. A whack on the head. A rush and a push.

I go flying to the ground and my bag races ahead of me as they try to run away with it. But no, this cannot stand. I manage to keep hold and after a silly little struggle they run off. It could have been worse I suppose. They could have got my bag if they’d really wanted.

The two lads run, turn left down Station Road. Alone again. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know where to go. There is no one around. What if they come back? There is a shop just past Station Road. The Canny Scot, an off licence. I could head there, phone a taxi…

But I’m not going to let this get to me. I’m going home. on the Metro.

I turn down Station Road. Quiet. Empty. But well lit. And there are two lads. But these two are with a girl, coming from the Metro.

I stop and wait a moment, unsure what to do. One of the lads calls to me: “You alright?” I hesitate. “Something happened?”

I keep my distance but call to them: “Two lads just attacked me.”

One of the lads says he saw them run off up Station Road. He leaves a beat before adding: “Why not go after them, fight them?”

The other lad chips in; perfect Mancy sarcasm: “aww, got mugged did ya?”

I step further away, back towards the (maybe) safety of The Canny Scot. They head off back down Crumpsall Lane, away from me.

I go to the Metro. It’s empty apart from one lad sitting there, smoking, hood up. (When something happens; for a while, until normality returns; everyone is a threat).

I stand in the middle of a brightly lit platform, alone, waiting, imagining them coming back. Imagining myself dying on CCTV.

After 8 minutes that could have been 80, the Metro arrives. It’s packed and I get on, shaking.

Two stops later I get off at Heaton Park, head into The Ostrich, and get drunk.

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The next day, a little more collected, I realise I should tell the police. Nothing can be done for me, and I’m fine, but the police should know to keep an eye out. Many people may visit the hospital, many older than me. And many may have to rely on public transport.

I call in at the police station on Cheetham Hill. I tell the… I don’t know what? Was it an officer? Or just someone employed to speak to the public? They didn’t seem very, well, policey. The first thing she says is: “Why didn’t you call 999?” It’s a good question and I don’t have a good answer. I mutter something about having been ok, and having come from seeing my mum in hospital, maybe my head not being in the right place, maybe other things mattering more.

I give her some details which she jots down on a piece of blank paper. She says she will pass it on to an officer. She tells me again, in quite some kind of a tone, that I should have called 999. I guess so. I leave, heading straight on to the hospital. Visiting time again.

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And later I’m thinking; Shouldn’t some kind of statement have been taken? Shouldn’t she have asked my name? or noted my phone number? was I not reporting a crime? Should I not at least be a statistic?

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A crooked piece of land beside a river… sounds romantic, doesn’t it?

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