Neighbours, by Alice Umbarak

A great piece, written by Alice Umbarak from Stockport Writers, at a recent workshop at Stockport’s HatWorks. See if you can work out which buildings are speaking…

‘So, my shiny friend, have you finally settled down here in Stockport? I’ve been watching you, you know, from across the street.’
‘Oh, it’s you! Hi, neighbour from across the street. Yeah, I’ve settled in just great, mate!’
‘Great? I hardly think so, sir. It was a very long time before you had any tenants, and I see your ground floor is still vacant.’
‘You can talk, grandpa. They say you’ve had your share of empty spaces, too.’
‘I’ll have you know that I’m Grade Two Listed, and I’m proud to have been here for … my memory’s a bit hazy, there have been changes, but I’m sure there’s been activity on all my floors at all times!’
‘Can see your chimney stack, you know; what’s all that about? Hat museum, it says. What sort of useful activity is that?’
‘How dare you, sir! Of course I’m useful. I remind Stopfordians of their heritage, and explain to visitors just how important Stockport is!’
‘Was, you mean. I’ve heard tell that you made hats way back in the nineteenth century, yes, but when was the last time a hat was made in Stockport?’
‘And what about you? What use are you, with all those shiny windows? You’re hardly a tourist attraction, as I am!’
‘I’m very important to Stockport, I’ll have you know. I house Sky, and what would Stopfordians do without their TV and broadband?’
‘Passing fads, that’s all those are!’
‘And your fad is way past, mate! Nobody wears hats these days but everybody has a smart phone!’
‘So you think you represent Stockport, then, do you? All right, what can you see from where you are? Can you see the bridge?’
‘What bridge?’
‘Exactly! You don’t know anything about the town’s glorious past! That bridge is iconic, a feat of engineering, and made of bricks, just like me! Tell me, what are YOU made of? Cement, I expect. Although I must admit you’re not quite as ugly as that monstrosity down the road, just the other side of the river.’
‘Well, guess I’m a feat of modern engineering, and just what Stockport needs. Twenty-first century construction, revitalising the town centre ….’
‘Revitalising? You mean, putting life back into an urban environment? Aha! Got you there, my fine modern friend! I’m the one with life. At night, all your lights are off; after nine o’clock, you’re lifeless, aren’t you?’
‘Well, yes, guess that’s right. And it’s true, not many people pass this way. Kind of lonely at night.’
‘Now here’s something you don’t know about me! I house people; people stay here. Yes! On all my upper floors there are flats. How about that? I’m the vibrant one, and truly the heart of Stockport!


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