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Manchester, Macca and Me

Food court area of the Trafford Centre Photo, Manchester, England

The next few days are spent in Manchester. It looked overcast when we got up but it cleared up by the time we left though still a bit chilly. The journey south was uneventful and we reached Manchester by about 3:30. My mate Annie told me Paul McCartney was appearing in Manchester so I rearranged my schedule to be here for the concert. We all headed to the MEN Arena and found a place to park. The crowds inside were unbelievably thick. The bottleneck in some parts of the mezzanine was a bit scary when you felt like you might get carried along with the crowd. It’s easy to see how bad things can happen! But luckily the crowd was not pushing or shoving much and we made it to our seats ok, up near the top of the arena. Sounds far away but actually we had a pretty good view straight down to the stage and there were large video screens as well.

Cirque du Soleil did a half hour opening act, all the performers dressed in Louis XIV court costumes mostly and performed to McCartney’s Ambient project music. Then a big guitar showed on the back drop and the shadow of someone behind it raising a guitar up and there’s Paul McCartney on stage!!! He wore a black jacket over a red tshirt but the jacket wasn’t long in coming off.

The concert was amazing! He did electric and acoustic sets and two encores. His concert in Sheffield was cancelled just a few days ago due to a sore throat but he sounded near. It really did take awhile for it to sink in that I was actually hearing THE Paul McCartney with THAT voice – you know the one, the one you’ve heard and known all your life!

WeI walked over to Piccadilly Gardens raving all the way and we caught the last bus home, going on adrenalin for the next 2 hours.

The next day was cold and overcast. Annie and I got up mid morning when the plumber arrived to start installing the boiler. Oh yes, no boiler, no heat lol thankfully the shower is electric so lots of hot water. We left about noon, heading for the Lowry Gallery over in Salford. The best way to get there is by the Bury tram, getting off at the Harbour City stop, walk across the canal and past the multi storey car park. The Lowry is a modern complex built for the millennium and houses a lovely theatre, a few bars and a café.

There is a gallery that is the home of the works of L. S. Lowry, a local Manchester 20th century artist. His paintings portray the way of life in gritty industrial northern England earlier in the 20th c. The people in most of his pictures are almost cartoonish, but nearly shadows. The sky is always pale, gray and grimy with the smoke from many smoke stacks.

There is a designer factory outlet shopping center across from the radically designed steel plated building which overlooks a dramatic footbridge across the Manchester Ship Canal. This is the relatively new development called the Salford Quays and has attracted upscale housing and tenants. There is also a new northern branch of the Imperial War Museum across the canal from the Lowry. The Lowry itself is a very interesting building both on the inside and outside, although because the day was so gray, the steel tiled exterior sort of faded into the sky.

Tonight we headed for the Sedge Linn pub on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton to meet up with more friends. We had a great evening and a pretty good meal as well.

Next day, it's sunny, still cool but a little warmer. We had to get up about 9:30 because of the plumber again. We drove to the Bowling Green for lunch. That’s a pub near the Chorlton Green. Chorlton-cum-Hardy is a lovely village, parts of which are quite trendy. There’s a park and quite an old village green and nearby, next to the Bowling Green is the remains of an old churchyard where the foundations of St. Clement’s church and some old graves marked by both headstones or flat paving stones can be seen. The entrance to the churchyard is a lychgate. The old green has several lovely old houses and some old pubs surrounding it.

The pub is beside a little bowling green, hence the name and we had a nice lunch in there. Back to the house to get my luggage and over to the Bed and Breakfast, the Woodstock on Wilbraham Road which is run by Mike and Linda, a lovely couple. It’s a very relaxed establishment and breakfast is a serve yourself cold breakfast in a small dining room. The lounge is a bit bizarre though, decorated in early hunting lodge. It’s full of heads and carcasses of stuffed animals and birds, some of which were looking decidedly scruffy. The stag head seemed to have a bit of silver duct tape on his ear and a bit of fur missing on his jowl!

I'm staying here with Jane and our room is a family room, with a double and two singles and an en suite bathroom and we are still only paying £20 per person. We had a cup of tea in the lounge and then decided to take the bus to the Trafford Center, a large and fairly new mall in Trafford. It's quite the amazing piece of architecture, all marble, with skylights and domes and a food area that is set up in various themes such as China and New Orleans.

I left films in Boots to get developed and we set out exploring the center and shops. The last bus to Chorlton left at 8 so we decided against a movie and came back to the B&B, had a drink and look at the photos which turned out great, especially the ones of Iona and the blue, blue sea.

One more day in Manchester, wee walked up to Barlow Moor Road, one of the main thoroughfares of Chorlton, and caught the bus into Manchester city centre at St. Peter’s Square. We met up with another friend and her husband who had come up from London for the weekend. We walked around, through Chinatown and continued over to the Rochdale Canal by the Gay Village. This canal was finished in 1806 and is part of a series of canals that link the east and west coasts of England!

There is a park here, with a statue of a man named Alan Turing. Turns out he is the acknowledged father of computing science. He was a great thinker and mathematician and during WW2 he created the Bombe machine that broke the German Enigma code. He was also gay was persecuted for it. He was prevented from continuing his work and was found dead in 1954 after biting into an apple laced with cyanide. Suicide? Seems so, and a tragedy.

There is also an AIDS memorial beside the park, a tall pole with hearts cut out which, when lit up at night, beam out into the darkness. It’s called the Beacon of Hope.

We walked back to Piccadilly Gardens and behind the new stores, there's the Exchange Square, where the old Corn Exchange was and here there are designer shops and also in the square is one of the oldest pubs in Manchester, the Old Wellington and the Sinclair Oyster Bar. We circled around the buildings past the PrintWorks entertainment center which is across the street from a brand new museum called Urbis. It’s a triangular glass structure, 6 storeys at one end, that houses a museum about city and urban life, not just in Manchester but other large cities around the world. We didn’t have time to go in. We had a lovely long lunch at the Mitre Café in the Mitre Hotel which backs onto the Manchester Cathedral gates. We scattered after lunch and met up again that night at the home of friends for a party at the home of friends.

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