The universities have reopened after their partial summer closure. Oxford Road is busy again and the city is full of youngsters living away from home for the first time. I’ve crossed yet another Rubicon there, referring to them as ‘youngsters’ as another year is notched up between me being one of them and them. Lectures haven’t begun in earnest yet. It’s Freshers week and the city is full of fresh faced young people seeing what Manchester has got to offer.

I fell into conversation with a group of them outside Marks & Spencer’s. The had the look of a bunch of fresh faced lads who couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing. The Piccadilly Rats had moved along Market Street to a pitch outside the store away from their usual haunt on Piccadilly Gardens. Whatever small provincial town or secluded village the boys had come from didn’t, it seems, have the likes of the Piccadilly Rats. Phones were out recording the event to send home to the folks who were probably considering turning the car round, having just dropped them off, to whisk them back home again. If you look carefully, one of the P.R.s has brought their girlfriend. She’s sat at the back, a vision of loveliness, eating sausage rolls like the world is running out. The lads were fascinated with the nerve of the guy who was shirtless. That’s what happened to you if you spend too much time at university in the college bar I explained.

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