I’m writing this as my computer slowly dies, as it downloads a virus or something. Forever finding something less productive to do, I began scrolling through Instagram on my phone realising the reason I’d fired up this old machine was to write, so I really had no excuses.(I am on WordPad! There’s no spell check here. Forgive my errors but no-one should have to do this much work on a Sunday.)
I went to Manchester a week or so ago to visit my boyfriend who’s recently moved there. His flat lies right near the Northern Quarter, so I got to see LOTS of hipsters all the time and ended up feeling really-not-at-all hip (I had brought doc Martens but mainly walked around in neon blue Nikes because blisters.) (I think Nike is deemed quite cool these days but I got mine from a bargain bucket at Sports Direct, and from the eyes I get from passers-by, there is just something that tells me they’re not fashion-approved.) I never really got what made trainers cool and I don’t think it will ever click. Trainers used to solely mean P.E lessons and now mean being able to walk around a city without stopping at every bench just for some relief, you know? Who cares if they stop traffic in the worst way possible?
It’s hard to say if the city was what I expected it to be like, as it always is – remembering your initial preconceptions after you visit a place. It was flashier than I thought, but then again my previous images of the place were just that everywhere looked like Coronation Street. Cobbled streets and Rovers Return, but hopefully no melodramatic, multiple-life-taking tram crashes. Anyway.
I was expecting all the industrial architecture, thanks to Morrissey’s depictions of the town in his Autobiography, and I was pleasantly surprised with how gorgeous those buildings looked against the Gothic cathedral and medieval library.
Jack was working during the first two days of my visit, so after locating where the nearest takeaway was, just in case (downstairs! Korean! Delicious seafood soup!) I set off on my own – in my Nikes – to see what the place could offer me.
I do this horrendously pretentious thing when exploring a city solo, where at every sign which points one way (towards the shopping centre, towards the cathedral) I go the other way. Usually, this winds me up in a multi-storey car park and unusually, it did this time too – I ended up walking alongside a motorway that led me into Salford. I was like, OMG! Salford Lads Club! (I’m painfully Smiths-conscious. I later found out ‘The Symths’ played in Peterborough during this weekend and I would have given up a weekend in Manchester to see them – nothing like the authenticity of a really, really decent tribute band. Faux-authenticity, it’s the next big thing)
My life-threatening walk down this very dangerous road could now be classed as an altruistic pilgrimage. Who knows what I could discover? What indie pop gems lay ahead? What I did discover was that my blisters were worse than I thought, Google Maps wasn’t entirely sure where this place was, and like always – my truest daily struggle – I was hungry.
Therefore, as I caved into the fact I might spend the whole day turning my GPS on and off, I decided to take the plunge and go to the ‘People’s History Museum’ across the road and ask them where to find it. Upon entering, I became very shy and embarassed to ask (ironically ‘If there’s something you’d like to try/ Ask me I won’t say no/How could I?’ didn’t apply to this situation) so I stayed put and walked around this wonderfully executed and well laid out museum.
The People’s History Museum is essentially about society post-1819 in the city (and nationwide), the importance of the Labour Party after the war (welfare etc) and the value of the vote. There was a great section about the suffragettes which I permenantly smiled at, although with my irrational fear of mannequins the entire event became a bit of an ordeal. Usually I am alright in museums if there is someone with me to look around corners first, or if there are lots of people around. The place was unusually quiet, so I quickly paced around it, taking a few pictures, and finally breathed when I got back to the shop at the end. The fear is long-lived and TOTALLY justifiable OK. All of my worst nightmares take place in Madame Tussauds. Literally never take me there. Ever. Please.
The People’s History Museum was a great place to visit in the run-up to the election. As I’ve said, it was well curated and actually mannequin-free (excepting a part-whimsical part-terrifying puppet of Harold Wilson that needs to just GO.)
Next, I walked along the Salford Quays and noted in my head that, in the cities I’ve visited recently, the first step of regeneration in a big city is at the docks. They (London, Dublin, Manchester) all seem to have these huge office spaces with top floor gyms, Zizzi’s and Pret’s aplenty. I like to imagine what the docklands might have been like 150 years ago and think I may have preferred it.
I stumbled on the John Ryland’s library – which I thought was the functional central library – but the reality actually made me gasp and say ‘Oh my!’ in true Dorothy style. It was beautiful (I didn’t pick up any historical or factual info to bore you with but it was well pretty with WINDOWS.)
Then, I found the real library which was a gorgeous dome building based on the Pantheon in Rome! I know! Italian! This place was great with BFI film archive booths and tonnes and tonnes of useful things and so so busy which was great to see.
The Manchester Art Gallery was well worth my visit, with a National Trust botanic display upon entrance that was lovely in a city of concrete. There was a display of dresses commissioned by the Manchester-based Cotton Board of purely French-designers, using Manchester-made cotton and designed by, uh, French designers. Pierre Cardin, Carven – and all so West Side Story-worthy.
This painting by Andrew MacCallum is called ‘Oak Trees in Sherwood Forest’ and shows oak trees in Sherwood Forest.
His mission was to educate working people and said:
“Show people the best pictures you can get of beautiful common things,
make them notice the beauty of form…of colour…
and when they next see the thing which the picture represented,
they will see in it beauty,
which, but for the picture, they would not see.”
I don’t know much about art, but I think that’s quite lovely for its simplicity.
I also found a Grayson Perry vase, made in 2009 called ‘Jane Austen in E17.’
He links past and present in the work, saying: “I think of Jane Austen as the touchstone of a polite, middle-class culture in Britain. These ladies in Georgian dress represent that comfortable, bourgeois mindset – conservative – yet heavily laced with an arch humour.”
With this, there are cut-outs from gossip magazines as well as photos he took around his studio in Walthamstow (London, E17.) They are supposedly ‘symbols of how far and yet how near East London now is from Hampsire two centuries ago.’
I then moved on to see the Royal Exchange Theatre which was totally beautiful and I hope to see a play there when I go down again this weekend. Photographic evidence:
There was the obligatory visit to the Hard Rock Café, of course: 2 pints of Budweiser, 2 hamburgers, extra bacon on one.
We went to an indie night at The Deaf Institute – achingly trendly place – called ‘I am the Resurrection’, on Easter Sunday! Oh, the pun. I insisted we went for the pun. Also drank at the ‘smallest pub in Europe’ (I’m certain every touristy city has one of these) – but George Best drank there AND a Manchester-born-and-bred woman from the ‘scum of the city’ (her words not mine) said ‘Fuck you, cunt!’ to Jack when he said he didn’t really like football. I love Manchester!
Totally heartbroken that he’s moved up there, but very excited to visit every fortnight or so. I lost my phone and card in a club, realised two drinks later in a different bar, and went back to find it STILL THERE! Let’s just say this sort of stuff wouldn’t happen in London.