I’m heartbroken about what happened last night in the great city that I’ve called home for most of my life. I’ve personally attended concerts at the MEN Arena and Victoria train station is the end of the line when I catch a train into the city. I don’t know anyone who was at that concert last night but this is home and I’m grieving with them.
Manchester is a city filled with diversity, where people from all over the world come to study and live. Where churches, mosques, synagogues and more allow people to worship freely, openly and without judgement. We celebrate Manchester Pride every year. We race for life to beat cancer. We host the Paralympic world cup.
To me, it’s a sad day when hate decides to strike in a city where we celebrate our difference and encourage the unique, where we live, work and play together regardless of skin colour, religion, gender or sexuality.
It’s rare that I ever get the chance to attend any kind of event to do with my work - conferences, meetups, that kind of thing. About two weeks ago I received an email at work - not so much asking if I would like to go - more telling me that I was going.
I set the alarm clock for 5am this morning. It interrupted an incredibly entertaining dream - only I can’t remember what it was about now. I switched it off, and my other half rolled away from me - taking most of the bedclothes with her. After staring at the ceiling for a while, doing mental calculations about how long a shower and shave might take, I eventually slithered out of bed and tiptoed down to the bathroom.
The journey into London was unremarkable. Paddington railway station is like an old friend - it never really changes. I still remember the two years I spent working in the city like they were yesterday - it’s hard to believe that was 10 years ago.
My destination today was a faceless conference venue a little walk from The Tower of London. I found a Pret a Manger nearby and stopped for a coffee before making my way in and shaking hands with a number of familiar faces - the world I work in can be very small sometimes.
While standing on my own during one of the breaks during the day a boisterous blonde girl from New Zealand wound her way through the crowd towards me. We had sat together at a similar event some months ago. While everybody else nerded out about the technology stuff we were there to see, we talked about her experiences of living in London, and the various places she had visited in the UK so far. After a few minutes some of the presenters came over too, and we may as well have not been at a conference at all.
At the end of the day we were invited to have a drink with our hosts. The same girl somehow found me making awkward conversation with a fellow nerd, and talked me into drinking glass after glass of champagne - or at least I think it was champagne. Let’s call it fizzy wine. I kept looking at my watch, worrying about how long it might take to get back across London, and quite predictably ended up missing my train. I’m blaiming her.
Before leaving, another guy I’ve come to know pressed a leaflet into my hand - a user group meeting in a month or so, in central London. Hosted where the girl works. There will be drink. That’s going to go well then, isn’t it…