I am walking through Moss Side, coming home from the park. The bright blue sky is making the red bricks sing. My feet on the baked pavement flip and then flop and then flip and then flop. A breeze lifts my hair briefly from my neck.
I was lying alone in the park, alternately reading and eavesdropping. Someone not far away had a guitar and was strumming it lightly.
A woman in a hot pink sari leans in a doorway, speaking quietly to a small, serious-looking boy. Bass beats drift over the slate roofs of the terraces, mingling with the smell of the charcoal ovens on the Curry Mile.
Earlier I went swimming with Sophie and Anna. Lengths then a jacuzzi chat, until a hairy-chested man with wide eyes slid into the bubbles beside us. We made our way to the children's area, full of toddlers and Dads. Sophie and I queued up with the tiny, be-arm-banded army for a go on the elephant slide. Sophie had promised me that it was faster than it looked, and she was right.
I pass a few of the lucky terraces with front yards. A man grins toothlessly at me as he slaps cream over leathery, tattooed shoulders. "Lovely day!" he calls. "Isn't it?" I reply, smiling. He nods enthusiastically before adding "I won't be saying sorry in six months time!" I shake my head and laugh uproariously. I have absolutely no idea what he means.
After our swim Anna, Sophie and I stood outside, refreshed. We started to walk, proclaiming how we felt like new people, any hangover remnants having flown off on the way down the elephant slide.
Two young boys pass me, probably ten or eleven years old. One is riding a bike, slowly, dragging one foot along the ground, to keep the same slow pace as his friend, who is walking. The boy on the bike is singing "The Way You Make Me Feel (You Really Turn Me On)" in a loud falsetto, while his friend stares, vacant, into the middle distance.
I flip flop onwards.
After hugs and goodbyes, Anna hopped on a bus. Sophie and I continued to walk. We bought ice creams from a man in a turban who called us both 'duck'. More hugs, more goodbyes, and we parted. I tucked my ice-cream wrapper into a bin and wandered to the park. I found a spot and sat, retrieved my book and hitched my dress up over my knees.
A group of men are standing around a shop on the corner. One of them groans as I flip flop past, which I decide to take as a compliment. I stare at the bright red bricks and read the old markings on the walls. The sky is still rich.
I slow down as I turn onto my street. Flip. Even slower. Flop.
Pushing my key into the lock I take a breath and think what a nice day it's been.