I do love it here in Lanzarote but lately the bad weather has given me a different viewpoint. Yes, this is a wonderful place when the sun is shining but then, so are a great many places. When the winds are blowing and the rain is coming down, Lanzarote is as miserable as anywhere else. I have often thought about upping and leaving for pastures new, especially when I spend time in the other lovely villa we habitually rent in France. I love the pool, I love the quiet, I love the relaxing patio where we barbecue food in the evening. When it’s cold and the rains pour down I often think how I’d much rather be at home, back in Manchester.
Many years ago, one of my friends was a CB radio enthusiast and he told me that the CB code for Manchester was ‘Rainy City’. Manchester is renowned for the rain so yes, I can understand that. Anyway, that got me thinking about Manchester and I thought I’d take a close up look at the place where I grew up.
When I was a youngster growing up in the suburbs of south Manchester, we were a little short of cash and every year we would take the bus into the city centre and then go north to Ancoats to a huge former mill that had become the Silvana warehouse. Silvana had everything I needed for my years in high school and everything was cheap, much cheaper than the usual stockists but actually ever so slightly different. My school uniform consisted of a green blazer and jumper and Silvana stocked them, and they were green but actually a very slightly, ever so slightly different shade of green. It was hard to tell but kids being what they were, they knew we had gone to Silvana and bought the cheap uniform. It was the same with my briefcase. It was pretty much the same as all the other kids’ briefcases but then ever so slightly different. Silvana was huge and I remember wondering what the place was like back in Victorian times when it was part of the thriving cotton mill industry.
Nowadays a lot of those same mills have either been knocked down or made into flats. One of the media guys at my former job told me he lived in a converted warehouse in the city centre and I always used to think wow, how great was that, actually living in the city centre, a stone’s throw from all the bars and restaurants and everything that made the city centre, well, the city centre.
Not true he told me. His apartment had been created by building thin new walls within the old warehouse and he could hear everything that went on in the apartment next door. He quickly sold up and moved on. Either way, I reckon I’d still like to have a city centre apartment.
One of the more recent iconic buildings in Manchester is the Beetham Tower. The building cost £150 million and was completed in 2006. It was Manchester’s tallest building until 2008 when the slightly taller South Tower on Deansgate Square was finished. The skyscraper towers over Deansgate, one of the trendier areas of Manchester, like a modern abstract sculpture looking down at the converted warehouses and the regenerated canal area where Manchester merges subtly into Salford. Further down in Salford is the brand new revitalised Salford Quays which is the home to Media City where the BBC and ITV have based their television studios. The new set for the TV soap Coronation Street is now in Salford and the old set can now be seen on YouTube videos looking like a sort of post-apocalyptic street full of weeds and decay waiting for the bulldozers to move in and knock down the remains before, I suppose, new apartment buildings are erected. Oh well, nothing stays the same.
When I left school in 1973 my first job was in the Refuge Assurance Company on Oxford Road. The very first day that I commenced employment there I was told the difference between assurance and insurance. I’ve often thought about that and wish I could remember what the hell that difference was. Anyway, I mention the Refuge because it was and still is probably the most beautiful building in the city. It wasn’t knocked up in a matter of weeks, it was built with reverence and dedication by craftsmen, people who cared about what they were doing. Today it is a hotel and whenever I am in Manchester I like to pop in there and have a look around. The last time I was there I was shooting the video shown below. Now in my videos I tend to occasionally use stock pictures and video clips but one of the things I try to do in those videos -and I should explain here that I like to continually update and re-edit my videos- is to replace a stock clip or photo with my own shot, when and if that particular photo opportunity turns up.
In the bar at the Refuge, I asked for a pint of lager and then asked the barman if I could film him pulling the pint. I hoped it would be perfect for a video about pubs and bars in Manchester. ‘No!’ said the barman. ‘What if I shot you without showing your face?’ I asked. ‘Well, is it for YouTube?’ ‘It might be.’ I said. ‘We have a policy of no filming in the bar sorry,’ ‘Ok’ I said. I was disappointed but then I took a seat and relaxed with my beer for a while and then . . . I took a few shots when he wasn’t looking. Pity I didn’t get the one of the pint being pulled because that was the one I really wanted.
Just across the road is a pub called the Salisbury and when I worked at the Refuge my colleagues and I used to visit there frequently for lunch as well as in the early evening for after work drinks. On my 18th birthday I had a memorable lunchtime there and as I came to work with only my sandwiches and my bus fare I have to thank the company architect and others for treating me.
Many years later working at my last job before retirement with Highways England my team were planning a night out in Manchester and didn’t know where to meet. As they wanted to dine in the ‘curry mile’ in Rusholme, a short way from the city centre I suggested the Salisbury and we duly met there before leaving to eat which meant that the Salisbury brings back memories not only from my very first job but also from my very last one.
Further up Oxford Road is another lovely Mancunian building, the Central Library. The library was built in 1930 and in fact Prime Minister Ramsey McDonald laid the foundation stone on the 6th May that year and King George V was on hand in 1934 to declare the library open. The building is a domed structure with a columned portico and the design apparently was based loosely on the Parthenon in Rome. I’ve always thought it to be a beautiful building and when I worked in Manchester, I used to eat my sandwiches sat upon a bench across the way in St Peter’s Square. Sadly that seating area has gone to make way for the new tram.
You might think that I’m writing this post about Manchester after another visit there however in fact I’m a few thousand miles away in Lanzarote. I’m not sure what made me think of Manchester although perhaps it was having a meal at a resort in Playa Blanca where the staff and patrons were all English and the food they served was all English pub fare.
Like they say, you can take the man out of Manchester but you can’t take Manchester out of the man.