Belonging: Growing up in Chorley, living across the world and coming back to Bury

Here, our reporter Lesley shares her experience of moving to Greater Manchester after being born in Cumbria and raised in Chorley, Lancashire.

Unlike many of the other reporters, I am not a native Mancunian, in fact I’ve only been a resident for six years. Born in Cumbria and brought up from the age of four in Lancashire, I have always considered myself a Lancashire lass.

Lesley and family outside Greenside Euxton

I first became a GM resident in 1984 when I started living in Bolton. But in 1987, I went to work in Saudi Arabia with Phil, my husband. I stayed there for two years, followed this with a world trip, interrupted by an eight-month work-stay in New Zealand.

On our return to the UK, we looked for the perfect place to live and work. This took us to Plymouth, Derby and finally to Worcester, where we seemed to settle, seeing our daughter through school and on to University.

At some point, we decided that we needed to move back. Both our families are in the north, and funnily enough, we never found the perfect place.

We moved to Bury in 2017

We had considered emigrating, which was our main reason for going to New Zealand. But while in Saudi, we met several people who had done the emigration thing, from and to various places, and their experiences made us think again. There was a couple who found that one of them loved the new place and the other didn’t.

Other friends, originally from Liverpool, who, having spent the vast majority of their lives in the antipodes, and loving it for the most part, decided they “didn’t want to die here”.

However, their children, and grandchildren raised in NZ, could not think of anywhere else as home.

Over the years, we have thought a lot about belonging, of home.

We loved New Zealand and thought that if it was where France is, that’s where we would be living. But we also knew that we never felt quite right there. Although very similar to us in culture and shared history, we realized there are gaps that alter your experience.

Idioms, colloquialisms, communal memories all contribute to a distance of unknowing. Also, when living in a ‘foreign’ country you can’t enjoy a good moan about the weather, the buses, the beer, sport, politics – which means you don’t feel comfortable criticizing at all, because, of course, the answer is always lurking beneath – if you don’t like it – go home.

Lesley in her ballet outfit

Growing up in Chorley, Manchester was always the big city, the place for special trips, Christmas, birthdays. But it wasn’t until I started nurse training in Bolton in the 80s that I came to know it better, shopping trips to Chelsea Girl, Lewis’s, C&A, Freeman Hardy Willis, and the burgeoning Affleck’s, nights out to see John Cooper Clark at Band on the Wall, the Conti club, curries in Rusholme.

Victoria Station would be the starting point. Off the train from Bolton, walking past the big map, stepping out into the city, into life.

When we finally returned, we chose Bury, not through any real prior knowledge, but it was between families, trams into town, and a step out into the countryside. We moved in December. In January, I caught the tram to Victoria to meet my niece and her daughter for a girlie birthday treat.

Arriving early, I grabbed a coffee in Starbucks and sat on the stools looking out at the station. Watching the people coming and going, seeing their faces, smiles, frowns, anticipation. The thought flashed into my head “I’m back”. I felt at that moment that I had returned home after 30 years of being ‘away’.

We had lived in Worcester for 17 years, raised our daughter there, did the PTA, birthday parties, Christmas’s, made lots and lots of lovely memories. But…… I hardly ever watched the local news there, there was always a dislocation, a distance of unknowing.

My husband, born and raised in Walkden, is a Bolton Wanderers and a Lancashire Cricket fan. He likes sport generally and wherever we went would take an interest in the local teams, NZ and Worcester Rugby, Plymouth Argyle, Derby County. But it’s always been the triumvirate -Bolton, Lancashire and England.

On our way to watch England at Old Trafford, our taxi driver talked cricket. He told us he supported England, much to his dad’s disgruntlement – who was an avid Pakistan fan. Our daughter, born in Staffordshire, raised in Worcestershire and Uni and now living in Bristol, supports Bolton. She also has debates with her born and brought up GM cousins as to whether she is a southerner or a northerner. We vote northern. As my husband maintains – it’s a state of mind.

Bury is our home now

We have no intention of moving again. We’re making friends, making memories and the memories of our childhood are close and vivid, reflected in the houses, the pubs, the buses, the people and their voices. Do we belong? Manchester is visible on the horizon, due south. Rivington, destination on many a Good Friday, hazy out or our bedroom window.

Bury by Rept0n1x, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Do we belong? I think we will, I think we do. We have never belonged anywhere else.

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  1. Great story Lesley. We spent 6 months in NZ with the intention of staying there, but we missed home and family.

    Love the photos 😀


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