This month marks my 8th year in England, my infinity-symbol anniversary, which feels about right; Manchester will always run through my Australian heart now.
To squeeze every drop of gratitude I’ve got for my northern life, I’ve set my intentions to make September a mindful celebration. And to kick it off, like the fairy godmother who appears at the perfect time, Paul-bloody-Kelly came to Manchester last week, touring his new album, Life Is Fine. I’d read him say: “At first I worried about Life Is Fine as a title because life is not fine for everyone. But I like the original meaning of fine, as in life is a fine thread. We never know what is going to happen the very next minute, or what is just around the corner.’’
Before we got to the gig, I was a picture of calm.*
I didn’t drink my pre-show-wine too fast, or tear up constantly through dinner sharing Paul Kelly song stories with Sam.**
And, when PK later walked out and greeted us by reciting lines from Tony Walsh’s This is the Place, tying my two worlds together with his warming, familiar timbre and magical storytelling, I was UTTERLY stoic.***
"And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride..."
I was ready as I could be to hear live for the first time a voice I’ve heard all of my life, like so many Australians. What I wasn’t expecting was seeing Vika and Linda perform too, feeling their emotionally-charged, familiar voices also fill the room, our lungs, and hearts. What POWERHOUSE women. There’s no sound like songs from home.
Those who know my story know I came to Manchester alone, knowing no one, with a couple of bags, a wine box of books and the lifelong dream of writing my own burning in my belly. It’s extraordinary to conjure 2009 Me and look at 2017 Me through her eyes. 2009 Me is a bit mute with disbelief, awe, and pride; on her shoulders I humbly stand. Without her determination, nor this city, beloved Manchester, and all its gritty, beautiful gifts, I wouldn't be where or who I am.
And so, the celebration begins. Because life, as PK sings, is fine.
* I was not.
** I did.
*** Utter rubbish.
HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother's tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.