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  • After a rough few hours on my friend’s sofa, I can’t stay in the flat any longer. I'm sharing my makeshift bed with someone sleeping perpendicular to me at my feet. Restless, as I often am after a skin full, my head clogged with too many cigarettes and still in my clothes, I get up and take myself out into the cool Manchester morning, walking the streets until the first train home.

    Manchester at 7a.m. on a Sunday puts paid to the idea that this a twenty-four hour city. At 7a.m. on a Sunday Manchester is slovenly, recovering from another rowdy Saturday: the main streets sit deserted, scattered with club flyers and takeaway boxes.

    Crossing the river and entering the heart of the city, I'm like a character in one of those apocalyptic Zombie films, 28 Days Later or the Walking Dead. I'm the Walking Dead myself, brain befuddled by booze and just two hours uncomfortable sleep. Like the Zombies in those films, I'm unable to stop roaming the city streets: too restless for home to stop; too weary to do anything but let my feet shuffle along one in front of the other, killing time until a quarter past nine when I can finally head for the hills.

    I ache for my bed. Even the two homeless guys under the stairwell beneath the Arndale food hall are still wrapped up in their sleeping bags, out of it. I pass them with a brief, guarded glance as I follow Market Street up as far as the crossroads and then dip into the commercial district.

    As I walk, the waking sounds of the city start to drift in around me: a building alarm wails into a deserted back street; a street cleaner scurries along the pavement gobbling up the detritus of the weekend; birds sing in the trees by a small open square; the fountain gurgles away near the music school; then there's the echoey rumblings of the train station hall; and the Cathedral bell, peeling into life at half past eight, calling the city back to life.

    I come to rest in a café. Sit swathed in classical music while I stare vacantly out of the window across the city square to where a big screen TV splashes out the weather report in garish pixelated colours. I sip coffee and think of home – twenty miles away in the hills – never so far away and never so loved.
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