I come from Rochdale. Technically I was born in Yorkshire, but from the age of two, my home town, and where I still call home, is Rochdale.*
For those that don't know, Rochdale, despite it's dour Northern and - in recent years - somewhat unsavoury reputation, is often quite beautiful. My parents still live there and I love going back. I've always been proud to come from Rochdale.
I have the eyes of returnee now. Everyone in Rochdale is proud of their town, to me, with my Southern perspective, I can see why.
I see wonder in the Moors that surround the valley of the river Roch, the urban parks, the splendour and bracing walks around Hollingworth Lake. Sentimentally, I see beauty in the rows of terrace houses, the indomitable spirit of the inhabitants who - lest we forget - took on the boss class in the worse excesses of Victorian factory exploitation and invented the co-operative movement in 1844.
A muscular and unapologetic working class culture - patriotic and self-supporting. You get off the M62 at Rochdale and are met by the sign - "Rochdale - Home of Cooperation"**. Not many towns have a boast that spans the world.
The people.. Funny. Friendly. Don't take any shit.
The town centre, a triumph of Victorian ambition, urban planning and architecture, was always impressive. The wide open feel of the town centre was created by a bridge that enclosed the River Roch; one of the largest bridges in the world. The Grade 1 listed town hall, a gorgeous Gothic building, represented civic pride and the local centre of democracy for so many years. Opposite the town hall the Grade 1 listed war memorial - like the more famous one in Whitehall - designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens from public donations - sits in a peaceful garden flanked by the Grade 2 ex Post Office building.***
Stupid, ignorant, local counsellors have conspired to rip the heart out of one of the most beautiful Northern town centres by digging up the bridge, building inappropriate modern buildings all over the place and fatuous, empty shopping centres, side-lining a wondrous natural town shopping street (Yorkshire Street). The venality and short sightedness of local politicians never ceases to amaze me. Brighton suffered from them to in the inter war years and - with the Green Council - did recently.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that Rochdale - despite recent scandals and being resolutely working class - can, and always did, hold its head up high. To quote JFK:-
Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum ["I am a Roman citizen"]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is "I am from Rochdale." Therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Rochdalian!"
He's right. Hold your head up Rochdale. There is no finer place in the world.
Tim (Ich bin ein Rochdalian - really!)
* I also claim dual citizenship with Brighton & Hove
** Farcically - orginally the council put up - "Rochdale - home of the Coop"
*** This war memorial was where I first saw tramps / drunks / beggars. I remember them from the 70's