Manchester – Special homecoming
I had the privilege of visiting Manchester last month. It was a short visit, but a very special one. Special because I got to see Manchester through the eyes of a very special guy – my dad. He’s celebrating reaching a brand new year today so this post is dedicated to him. I’m also sharing some of the lessons learned over the years and from going on this trip with him.
My old man had the opportunity to further his education in the UK through being awarded a Shell scholarship to study a BSc in Mechanical Engineering at University of Manchester from 1971 – 1974. Such opportunities were big for a young adult from Nigeria back in the 70s, and he worked hard and made the most of the opportunity. He graduated with a 2nd Class Upper, went on to study a Masters also in Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College. From there he embarked on a remarkable career, reaching heights few have done in his field of expertise. He’s always spoken very fondly about University of Manchester so 45 years after leaving, it was well overdue for him to return and have his homecoming. My kids and I got to tag along, and it was such a memorable experience for all of us.
Manchester, the old and the new
We drove down to Manchester from London on a rainy Friday night, but I think God was just as happy as I was to be in Manchester because the following day He let the warmth and sun come and hang out with us the whole day. This was a welcome surprise for September in the UK. After a yummy and heavy, full English breakfast at our hotel – Park Inn by Radisson, we were ready to explore Manchester. We jumped on to the 2 day hop on hop off sightseeing tour bus at the National Football Museum and began our tour. My son fancied himself to be a super photographer and got to work capturing images of Manchester – skyline, roads, landmarks etc. He did a pretty decent job at it. My parents treated us to stories of the first time mum came to Manchester, to visit my dad for his graduation. Mum “ooohed” as we drove past Manchester Victoria train station, explaining this was the station she alighted from on that first visit. They recalled who picked her up, what she wore, and what happened that day etc. For their efforts got a few eye rolls from the kids who couldn’t picture their grandparents as ever being young and hip. It’s well known my parents are like lovebirds, but for the kids it was too much soppiness. I enjoyed watching my dad’s face when now and again a smile would form as he spotted a road or landmark he recognised.
Salford Quays and Manchester United Stadium
We stopped off at Salford Quays which a lovely new development where previously undeveloped area has been converted into a vibrant area blending arts and culture, shopping and is a media hub for BBC and ITV studios. Dad enjoyed reading about the development of the area and talking about industrialisation in Manchester over the years.
My mum can be such a poser, especially on trips such as this and we took quite a few minutes trying to capture perfect pictures of the buildings, the water and the bridge. The kids were fed up at this point with all the picture taking and started complaining/dodging the camera lens. They got schooled by grandma and me on the importance of living in and enjoying the moment, because you never know the next time you’ll get the opportunity. We also threw in the lesson on being accommodating of others, and enjoying what they enjoy along with them. At the very least giving them space to do so, so that they can do likewise for you when it’s time for what you want to do. So we fluctuated between posing and lecturing for about an hour, with dad being the very patient camera man and soaking in the views.
Finally we hopped back on the bus to go to Manchester United Stadium (which was all my son was concerned about). At the stadium my dad came alive. He told everyone who came close enough how he had watched all members of the United Trinity (George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton) play at the stadium in the 70s. He told the man at the cashier, the man who took our picture, one of the security guards, the tour guide for the stadium tour. At every exclamation of “oh really”, or “no way!”, his smile and laughter was heart warming. Watching him relive the memories was a highlight of the trip for me. He was loving every minute.
The stadium tour was so worth it especially for my dad is a Man United fan for life, and me (I had no choice as that’s all I heard growing up). It was very insightful and well organised. Mum is is forever Arsenal fan, but was happy to pose on Sir Alex Ferguson Way for the day.
University of Manchester
Finally, the time had come to go to dad’s university. In our excitement at the stadium we missed the tour bus, so took an Uber to the university. Of course dad didn’t miss an opportunity to tell the driver all about his history and connection with Manchester. The driver was quite knowledgeable on the area and didn’t mind a history lesson from dad.
When we arrived we took our time and walked round, just soaking in the sights and atmosphere. I could see the pride and in my dad’s face as he approached his lecture building, and could tell it meant a lot for him to be back and to show me and his grandkids a place which had played such a part in forming and shaping him as a young man.
The picture below is my absolute favourite of the trip. My dad has always been very big on education and hardwork so there was no way he was going to miss giving that lecture to his grandkids in front of his beloved Simon Building.
One final Uber ride later, we finally arrived at Owens Park which was his halls of residence. He gave us stories on how he and his best friend navigated their first winter together, scrimped and saved to buy a car, worked odd jobs to earn extra money to send back home to their families (and treat themselves to a night out every now and then). His focus and values on working hard was still evident even in his stories.
A few young men of African heritage walked past and dad introduced himself as a proud “old boy” of the university. The fact that they weren’t born when dad had attended wasn’t lost on them or my children, and he imparted some wisdom (passed on the baton) on the importance of enjoying but also working hard at their studies, to give themselves a great platform for their careers to spring forth from.
We were all shattered by the end of the day from all the walking, but we had managed to cover the key places we had planned to visit, so it wasn’t too upsetting when the following day it rained non-stop, so we couldn’t go anywhere. It was an awesome trip though.
Lessons from my dad
This blog is predominantly about women, but on a day like this it would be remiss of me to ignore the importance and role that strong father figures have on their daughters. Whilst my mum’s assertive strength is very obvious, the stability of my dad’s more quiet, unassuming and calm strength, morals and beliefs, plus his unwavering consistency in upholding them regardless of who he engages with, is such an admirable trait. I think it’s a shame that this isn’t as commonly seen as it should be. He is so passionate about finding the good in others and celebrating it. He is equally passionate and steadfast in modelling and teaching that there is great benefit in hardwork, integrity and fairness. Finally he genuinely loves people, will go above and beyond for others, and can fit in anywhere as long as there’s no shady business going on.
These are some of the incredible lessons I have learnt, and continue to learn from my real life super hero. Thank you so much for everything, and for the strong legacy you have built and passed on through your children and others whose lives you have touched and positively impacted. May your years continue to be blessed, fruitful and happy. Happy birthday Dad.