Tuesday, 27 March 2007


I’m still recovering from the biggest chocolate and vanilla ice-cream sundae, with chopped nuts and brandy snaps and runny chocolate drizzles that I’ve ever encountered! Slimming it wasn’t, but scrumptious it most definitely was. Neither I nor Mum could finish the entire dessert. Poor Richard could only look on, over the expanse of plain apple pie which he’d chosen.

This was yesterday, in the Waterside Inn in Leigh, which stands beside the Manchester Ship Canal, the historical waterway which joins Manchester to Liverpool and the Irish Sea. Back in the Victorian era of wealthy cotton mills and coal mines, this canal provided a vital route for import and export. Now it’s used mainly for tourism. The mills stand empty, unless they’ve already been converted into luxury apartments. The coal mines were closed during the Thatcher years. And Leigh, like many mining towns, never really recovered from the loss of traditional industries. Many shops are empty or derelict – yet the entrance to Pennington Park glowed yellow with cheerful daffodils, and the gnarled old magnolia trees holding aloft their stately pink and white blooms stand as a testament to tenacious local pride.

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