Manchester’s ‘second-hand sky’

It was a gritty walk on the endless pavements, under the second-hand sky, and when you arrived there was only a rabbit of limited interest, twitching its nose through wire.

– Hilary Mantel, Giving up the Ghost, page 41

This is Hilary Mantel’s wonderful description of her walks to Manchester’s parks during her childhood. It is one of my favourite moments in her memoir Giving up the Ghost not because of the ‘rabbit of limited interest’, captivating though that is, but for the evocative phrase of Manchester’s ‘second-hand sky’. While you won’t find many rabbits or green spaces in central Manchester this rinsed out grey sky is still a familiar sight. To me, it speaks acutely of those days in Manchester when the sun seems not to rise, and leaves us with a white but cloudless sky, as if someone else had robbed us of our share of the sun.

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