The Northern Powerhouse. A phrase often trotted out by former Chancellor George Osborne, apparently intended to show that he knew life existed in those deserted parts of the country north of Watford; that Birmingham and the West Midlands (where I live) appeared not to be included was merely one of those unfortunate facts which politicians tend to avoid mentioning when it doesn't fit with their version of reality.
To George Osborne, the Northern Powerhouse meant Liverpool and Manchester, mainly the latter. I've been to Liverpool a few times, although the memories tend to be blurred by the alcoholic haze of pub crawls up and down Dale Street (if you haven't, by the way, you should). And I've been to Manchester city centre plenty of times, mainly to explore the local hostelries and also to take in the National Football Museum (nationalfootballmuseum.com) which is well worth a day of any football fan's time.
Until Tuesday of this week, I'd never ventured outside the city centre. But earlier this year, I'd been invited to give a talk about naturism to a Salford-based branch of the national business networking organisation 4Networking.biz (www.4networking.biz.
I'm told that Salford used to be one of the most unpleasant parts of Manchester at a time when the city had more than enough unpleasant parts. Brad Burton, the founder of 4N, is from Salford and tells stories of being shot at and being addicted to drugs whilst living on a council estate in his younger days.
Yet now, the area has been massively regenerated. The right kind of tower blocks (ones filled with flourishing businesses) are everywhere, ITV and BBC have smart riverside studios within yards of each other, Manchester's Metrolink tram system has a well-used station there and the freshly-opened ten-storey hotel in which I stayed overnight was a model of what leisure and business hotels should be.
Smart waterside bars and restaurants abound and building work still appears to be continuing at breakneck speed. Mr Osborne would no doubt approve.
My talk attracted a positive reaction, as well. With a subject such as naturism, it's not difficult to tell if the audience is feigning interest for the sake of politeness, or if they are actually interested. I got the feeling here that it was definitely the latter and there were plenty of good questions asked at the end.
The aim of these talks is always to encourage the audience to think about a subject which may not have crossed their radar before. It seemed to have worked this time because among my audience was a business coach who said she would use my example when dealing with clients who are uncertain as to whether to take that leap into self-employment. Plenty of people tell me they would like to try naturism but "I haven't got the guts" or "What would the neighbours/my family say?" or "What if this or that happened?"
My answer is to stop worrying about what others might think and 'JFDI" (Work it out.......). It's the same with running a business. You'll never know what will happen until you try it, will you?
Anyway, they must have enjoyed my talk because they've invited me back in the new year to tell my stroke-survivor story. I can't wait to see what Salford looks like in 2017, Northern Powerhouse or not....