27 October 2011

Victorian Nija!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a fantastic demonstration of Victorian-era photography processes that I got to see at the People's History Museum. Tony Richards is the photographer, and he loves old-time wet-plate processes.

I was very fortunate to be the sitter for the portrait demonstration, and after developing the glass plate, painting the back black and varnishing it, Tony gave me the portrait!

It makes me look so dark, almost dirty! Fascinating process, though, and it's a treasured keepsake for me!

To see more of Tony's work: here's his blog

22 October 2011

The Real Story Award!

On Wednesday night, I went to the Manchester Blog Awards, an evening celebrating the blogging community in this lovely city. See the winning and nominated blogs here. My flatmate, Natalie Bradbury won the Best Arts and Culture Award for her fantastic work over at The Shrieking Violet.

On the same evening, The Real Story Competition also announced its winners. Over 60 people submitted creative non-fiction pieces to the competition, and 5 winners were chosen to read at the Manchester Blog Awards... and I was one of those five! We didn't win anything other than getting to read our stories out, but that was a pretty big deal anyway.

My story

And I recorded my reading of it, so you can listen to it here

It was a big night for me, and I had a really good time. It was also a chance to catch up with some friends and meet some amazing people that I'd never known about before. New friends!

Last night, I had a little early birthday celebration at the Soup Kitchen. I thought about my birthday last year, and how different my life was then. Even with all the changes and surprises this year and this town have brought into my life, I looked around last night and I had to admit: I have lovely friends, and I am lucky to have landed so softly in this town.

Mark pretends to be drunk, while I pretend to be sweet.

Mark then got worried what my parents would think, and stopped pretending to be drunk.

Gem thinks Joe is cute even when he acts like a doofus.

Joe and Geraint try to take a good picture. Hmm.

Joe fakes attack by gloved maniac.

Dear Despoina. I miss living with you.

Paul. We need PIE.

Andrew. Stop being so serious. It was a party, for goodness sake.
I realise from the pictures I've shown you, it looks like only a few people came out, but that's not true. Lots of lovely people were there, I just didn't get pictures of all of them. Allow this beautiful picture, taken by I don't remember whom, stand for them.

17 October 2011

Man-fest-erama!, or Man-fest-ter, part 3.

On Sunday, Creative Tourist's Manchester Weekender organised five walking tours! More than a girl can take.

I decided on two of them, specifically, the Psychogeography Walk and the Ancoats Peeps Walk.

The Psychogeography Walk

Psychogeography is all about how spaces affect our mindsets without us even realising. It's about how the history of a place shapes how we think about a place, but also about how corporations and urban planners can affect how we behave and feel in a space, just by how it's laid out and lit and things like that.

While this particular psychogeography walk of Manchester didn't take in too much of the political side of psychogeography, I did learn a lot of history I didn't know about previously. It was run by a woman named Ann... she didn't give a surname or her affiliation w/ the walk... but I didn't ask, either.

We started at St. Ann's Square, a part of town I've always liked (even though it's quite commercial and posh) because it's leafy and old and full of history. The fascinating grave of Thomas Deacon is in St. Ann's Square, calling Mr. Deacon, "the greatest of Sinners and the most unworthy of primitive Bishops." 

Turns out St. Ann's Square is more full of history than I thought.
Originally, St. Ann's was a field, about the size of an acre, cleverly called "Acre's Field," and an annual market was held there starting in 1227. The market would be in September, at harvest time, always on a quarter day. Quarter days were the equinoxes and solstices, and on quarter days back then, a family would pay its bills and manage the affairs of the house. 

This history still affects British society. We pay our electricity bills on the quarter days.

The Manchester Cathedral was part of the Anglican church, and it conducted High services and were Jacobites. But the Lord of the Manor of Manchester (actually a woman named Lady Ann Bland), was a Hanoverian and more into Low church services.

Lady Ann fell out with the Cathedral and decided to build a Low Anglican church on St. Ann's Square; it was built in 1712. Surprisingly she named it St. Ann's. Supposedly because there was a Queen Anne on the throne, but you know... it is a wonderful coincidence.

The Cathedral was Anglican High church.
The Lord of the Manor, Lady Ann Bland (related to the Mosley family of Manchester) fell out with the cathedral as she appreciated the low church style. She was Hanoverian. Both churches were Anglican, just higher or lower. (Side note: Lady Ann Bland was related to the Mosley family of Manchester, who gave their name to a major street, who gave Manchester an outrageous fascist and who gave the city the parcel of land that Piccadilly Gardens now comprises. Influential family.)

After the church was built, the market was moved to Castlefield, and property speculators moved into St. Ann's Square. Houses built, first Georgian, then Victorian style, and they were built from the edge of the acre in. Amazingly, St. Ann's Square still demarcates that same acre... the structure of the city is connected to something from 1227!

The tourguide Ann also told us some interesting things abou the landscape of Manchester that I hadn't considered before:
1. I always think Manchester's very flat. Turns out, the whole Northwest of England is all rolling hills and valleys, and Manchester actually sits on the Irwell river valley. I suppose I knew that, because the Irwell splits Salford from Manchester, but I never thought of it as a valley, or as on a hillside.

2. Because the NW is on rolling land, it wasn't very good for agriculture, and it was sort of a pain in the arse to control. That's why it was rather left alone after the Romans left. Which meant that when there was an Industrial Revolution here, people here knew how to sort out their own industry.

3. The rolling hills were bad for agriculture and only really good for raising sheep. Elsewhere, good flat land was used for food, not wool. But the hills meant that the NW got really good at wool... and thus, at textiles.

4. Also good flat land doesn't have fast streams, but hilly land does. Fast streams meant watermill, which meant power, which meant that the Industrial Revolution in Manchester could power itself here. 

In a way, it had to happen here. It just needed people to work it... and eventually, they came, too.

That walk also took in some of the history of Piccadilly Gardens. It used to be owned by the Lord of the Manor (someone in the Mosley Family, basically), and eventually was given to the city under the condition that it had to be used only for the benefit of the people of Manchester. Meaning the city couldn't build on it or sell it.

Interestingly, Piccadilly Gardens is one of very very few open spaces in MCR that was not once a churchyard. The only reason it's still an open space is because of Mosley's condition. Back then (and now) it wasn't a very nice parcel of land, mostly just clay that people used to daub their houses. Eventually, the council built a free hospital on it – a FREE hospital! Back then! Can you imagine? – and then later, they moved the hospital and put in some sunken gardens.

When those got scuzzy, they broke Mosley's condition, sold part of the Gardens for
10 million pounds, and used that money to renovate the rest of the Gardens. And yet, even after all that money, it's still scuzzy. Unbelievable.

The Ancoats Peeps Walk

Ancoats is a neighbourhood in Greater Manchester, and it's where some of the first mills were. Think horrible working conditions, child labour, tiny streets, darkness, misery, cold, hunger, and early death. 

Steven O'Malley, an engineer on the regeneration project, and Mark Canning, from the NorthWest Development Agency, were our tour guides.

After the Industrial Revolution, Ancoats faced a slow, steady decline, to the point where a couple decades ago, it was a pretty dangerous part of town. These days, though, there's been a big change. Ancoats has a harsh, stark beauty.

It's undergone a major regeneration project, led by the now-defunct Northwest Development Agency, and while I will always find regeneration to be a politically contentious, debatable, double-edged sword that raises all kinds of questions about class, rights, and "authenticity," there are some things about the Ancoats regeneration project that are really interesting and exciting.

For one: 
Ancoats, as a neighbourhood, never had a public square. It wasn't somewhere people lived and communed, it was a place to come, drudge all day and into the night, and then eventually leave. As part of the regeneration, the NW Development Agency (NWDA) wanted to maintain the character of Ancoats, but also make it more livable, so they fought to knock down some derelict mills to build a new public square, called The Cutting Room Square.

Ok, the name's got an unnatural feeling. The Cutting Room Square? But I'm sure people will develop a better name for it eventually. And it's a nice public space, outside the former St. Peter's church, that still feels in keeping with the rest of Ancoats. Mostly concrete and brick. Not many trees. I like trees as much as anyone, but it would be weird to suddenly plonk a bunch down in the middle of an area as industrial-looking as Ancoats.

Here is another:
The Ancoats Peeps are an art project that was undertaken and installed during the renovation works in Ancoats. They are unmarked brass eye-pieces, fitted into walls and surfaces around Ancoats. This one is peeping out of the stone structure.

No one's saying exactly how many there are, only that there are about 18, or exactly where all of them are, only that there is a vague map. As the website says, 

"If it seems that there is no clear explanation as to what the Peeps are, or exactly how many there are, or where they are, that is because there is no explanation to be had. The Peeps are to be stumbled across. They may not all be found, and there is no single explanation as to what they are, or what they are about."

We saw some of the Peeps on this walk, but the guides made it clear that we wouldn't see all of them. The artist's vision, I suppose. I looked in one Peep that was on the outside wall of a former mill. Through it, I saw an illuminated picture of the inside of that mill, back when it was still in use.

Another Peep allows you to see deep underground, to a tunnel that connected several buildings of a mill complex. More on those nefarious, dark, damp tunnels later.

They all have something different to show you, relating to the history of Ancoats, the character of the neighbourhood. As our super-friendly tourguide Steven O'Malley said, the Peeps are about "acknowledging the history of Ancoats, and reinvesting that history into its regeneration." 

A lot of regeneration projects seem to just try to make up a false history for the neighbourhood. I like the Ancoats approach better. Let's not forget that people lived horrible horrible lives here, that the rich minted their money off the teeth and nails and bones and hair of the brutally poor. Let's pay attention to how these buildings were built, and why.

During the tour, we went into Murray's Mills, which was the oldest steam-powered mill complex in the world, built in 1797. They NWDA renovated and saved the fabric of the building, but right now, it serves no real function inside. 

In fact, there's even some leftover old mill junk still on the bottom floor! In the 1800s, you wouldn't have been able to see very far ahead of yourself, as the whole floor would have been filled with cotton dust. And children as young as 8 years old would be working there, 6 days/week.

It's waiting for someone to come along w/ some money to fix up the inside and use it well. I did see the Library Theatre production of Hard Times here. Since there's no proper stage or seating, they did it as a promenade-style play. Manchester's Central Library is undergoing renovation of its own, so its theatre company has no home. It's been doing some cool experimental stuff like that.

Murray's Mill actually has a man-made pond in the middle, which used to connect to the canal, so goods could come to the mill by boat!

Steven & Mark also showed us the brass studs in the roads, which show where there are underground tunnels linking mill buildings.

Back then, once workers were in the mill, they weren't let out, even to go to another building in the complex. The owners locked them in, and workers had to use tunnels and skywalks to get around. They couldn't physically leave the mills for the whole workday.

And yet, a third:
We also went inside the former St. Peter's church. The NWDA also saved just the fabric of this building, and it's occasionally let out for special occasions, like fashion shows. The night before our visit, there had been a wedding, which is why all the trees were in the building.

It's strange, but I kind of felt like maybe this is how a normal church should look. Bright, with a high ceiling, lots of white, lots of windows, some thin white columns, and a few potted trees. It felt like a good place to pray, if I knew how to pray.

Gorgeous stained glass windows over the alter, showing the reflection of the rose window opposite.

St. Peter's from the outside.

And St. Peter's will soon be serving a purpose, as well! The Hallé Orchestra have decided to move there, so they're going to fix it up and practice there regularly. I can't think of a better use of this space, especially since the Hallé don't yet have their own space.

I don't know what regeneration will mean for Ancoats. I hope it's good for the neighborhood, and I hope it helps. I know it'll probably have its downsides, too, as most regeneration does.

I'm glad, at the very least, that with the regeneration of Ancoats came the Peeps. It's a lovely art project, but it's history and politics, too, and it means something to the area. I think the Peeps make Ancoats a more exciting place. I like knowing that around any corner, there could be a little surprise awaiting me.

It's like a treasure hunt... which is kind of apt for a neighbourhood that once created so much wealth...

16 October 2011

Man-fest-errific!, or Man-fest-ter, part 2.

So here's the thing. I don't have a Master's thesis I'm supposed to be working on. And Manchester is really exciting right now. Enjoy the blog overload while it's hot! It's sure to cool down soon...

Yesterday, I decided to go to a few free events run by various festivals around town.

First stop: Primitive Streak Exhibition in the Royal Exchange.

part of the Manchester Weekender (WKNDR) and the Manchester Science Festival (MSF)

The Royal Exchange is a beautiful old building, which used to be a trading floor, back when Manchester was the cotton capital of the world. The Exchange was first built in 1792, but it's been replaced & rebuilt a few times. It's always been on or very near this site, and after it was damaged by the 1996 IRA bombing of Manchester's city centre, it was repaired. Now it's a theatre space. It has Manchester's only theatre-in-the-round... I think. 

Near the ceiling, you can see the old trading board is still up, a reminder of what the Exchange, and what Manchester, once meant. It's sort of amazing to think of Engels, standing on this same site, in his fancy clothes, hiding his real thoughts, fitting in with the capitalist classes, living the public part of his double life.

Primitive Streak is a collaborative work between two sisters: Helen & Kate Storey. One's an artist, the other's a biologist, and together they designed dresses that symbolize the first 1000 hours of embryonic life. I was skeptical about this. I thought it might be a little too... well, not scientific enough. That was until I saw the dresses today. 
This one symbolises the neuralation stage, basically the stage when the neural plate (a sheet of neural cells) rolls itself into a tube, which eventually becomes the spinal cord and the brain. Later the neural tube will connect to the somites forming nearby, which will become the vertebrae. At the exhibit, they also showed images from Kate Storey's biological research, which really illuminated how accurate this dress is. I strongly suggest checking these out, if you're in Manchester.

So well-done. I'm glad I was wrong.

The Royal Exchange is right next to St. Ann's Square, where part of the MCR Food & Drink Festival (MFDF) is going on, so I wandered over.

Last weekend, the MFDF was empty
It might have been the rain, or that it had only just started, but today, it was buzzing! Nice to see so many people out today, sampling food, drinking beers, enjoying the sunshine. Ok, it's not very warm, but at least it's not raining, right? 

I got a bag of honey-roasted pecans and an apple-cranberry-ginseng-lemonade. It sounds weird. It was delicious.

Then I wandered over to the People's History Museum, because they were having a craft fair. I was also skeptical about this, because a lot of the craft fairs I've been to are basically just people selling bit of felt glued to brooch backs for £14. Really? I mean, really?

Again, I was wrong. Happily, happily wrong.
First off, there was Steve Talbot, selling his amazing, fabulously complex 3D collages about the American West or Aviation Icons. I asked him why he's so interested in the Western frontier, because I find it strange how many British people are so into these weird bits of American history...
He said it was the TV shows and films from when he was a kid.
Ah, Hollywood.

If you click on the picture, you can see his boxes in better detail. Amelia Earhart's on the box he's holding. That picture of her looks so modern, she poses, she smiles, like a woman from now, not the 1930s. What a star. We had a lot of fun talking about Billy the Kid and Sitting Bull and, of course, dear Amelia.

Then there was Tony Richards, doing absolutely fascinating demonstrations of Victorian wet-plate photographic processes.

With wet-plate photography, you start with sheet of glass or tin, pour the chemicals over it in a darkroom to make it light-sensitive, and then take it in a light-tight holder to the camera. You can't let the plate dry, or it won't be sensitive to light anymore.

You expose the plate for about 30 seconds, then run it in the holder back to the darkroom, where you pour on the developer, and other chemicals to stop the developing and to fix the image. Then you run the plate under water for about 10 minutes, to get all the chemicals off. 

That plate is your negative. You can print from it onto photographic paper with an enlarger, or you can just put something black on the back of it, to get a positive. You can use all sorts of different chemicals to get different tones and colours.

When Tony asked for a volunteer to sit for the demo, I offered, because I thought it would be fun. I didn't know he would offer to finish the plate and then give it to me! What a lovely keepsake, my own Victorian-era photographic process portrait. Truly kind, that gentleman, truly kind, I tell you. I'll get the finished plate from him in a few days or so... can't wait!

He said that this kind of photography is so hard, because you never know what you're going to get. I told him about my broken camera, and how I've been feeling the same way about taking pictures with it, and we chatted for awhile about photography and mills. He's a lovely person. A talented craftsman who is also engaging and knows how to talk to people and do demonstrations without being condescending. I'd recommend him for anyone who's looking to get a professional photographer who specialises in Victorian-era photography. That's a great party theme, isn't it?

I was getting mighty-hungry by this time, so I dropped by Albert Square for some outdoor street food, sponsored by MFDF. Again, MFDF was packed! Albert Square is such a beautiful place, bordered as it is by the Gothic Town Hall, it's wonderful to see so many people out enjoying the surroundings.

Isn't the Town Hall breathtaking?

I got some delicious rice paper rolls from Tampopo and some absolutely mind-blowing Mauritian Roti Chaud.

I'd never had Mauritian food before. The roti is more like a really big Indian roti than like a flaky Malaysian one, but they filled with a delicious butterbean curry and mustard and fresh chillies. I know. Butterbean curry. Sounds crazy, but I would eat one of those wraps every day.

My mouth was on fire, so I got a can of coconut juice to cool me down. The Vegetarian Society was there, too, giving out free samples of goat's cheese and veggie sausage, flapjacks and jelly beans. I walked home, tiredly sipping coconut juice and contentedly popping Jelly Bellies in my mouth.

Then I came upon one of those gems that's just hidden in plain sight. They're all over Manchester. Look at this building, the carving on it. I've walked by it a hundred times and never noticed. I like to think about how many things I still haven't noticed... how many lovely surprises like this await me.

I can't wait for tomorrow....

15 October 2011

Man-fest-er, part 1.

It is October.
October, in Manchester, means festivals.
And when I say festivals, I mean festival madness.

This weekend alone features:
Manchester Science Festival Trailblazer Events (leading up the festival proper)
Manchester Literature Festival
Manchester Weekender
Manchester Food & Drink Festival
As well as at least two music festivals that I am almost completely unaware of.

It is October.
It is intense.
It is not a time to stay indoors with a cup of tea.
I don't know what's with the short sentences.

Somehow, this weekend's weather so far has been mild, not very windy, and not raining. Lucky us.

Last night, I attended a recording of The Infinite Monkey Cage. It's a BBC Radio 4 show (of course) about science and philosophy that also tries to do comedy. It's not my favourite radio show, or even my favourite radio show about science (what's up, Radiolab). But it's a fairly good show, and it features Professor Brian Cox! Despite the fact that Cox teaches at University of Manchester, and I was a student there for a year, and I am super-dorky about science, I had not yet seen him speak, so I was reasonably excited to see the show. Furthermore, this was a special recording held at the University of Manchester, as a trailblazer for the Manchester Science Festival! Hereafter known as MSF, dear readers. Acronymatic.

I had an extra ticket, and luckily, my dear friend Joe Sparrow had a free night, so we showed up early, got great seats, and promptly went out for a beer during the wait. Joe thinks Professor Brian Cox is dreamy. Really dreamy. Mostly, I think, it's the hair. The time went quicker than we thought it would, so Joe ended up chugging his beer.

Then the wait for doors to open was so long that we got more drinks. And then we were almost immediately called in to be seated. So Joe chugged another beer... and then we stood in line for about half an hour.

Basically, what I'm saying is he really didn't need to chug either beer.

And I probably didn't need to have two drinks in the first place, one of which was a very large glass of white wine.

Basically, what I'm saying is we were both a little bit tipsy. Check my twitter timeline starting on 14 October, around 7.30pm for evidence. Somehow, I managed to tweet the entire show from my iPod, with only a few minor typos! I'm very impressed with myself.

The show was fun, but I think Joe got more out of it than I did. There were a lot of Unix jokes, to which my response is "Unix who?" and a lot of Dr. Who jokes, to which my response is "Dr. Who who?" There was a man doing apparently
excellent impressions of people I'd never heard of. At least Joe was larfing his arf off.

But the science stuff they talked about was really exciting:

1. A cling film thick layer of graphene could support an elephant. (but someone's challenged that on Twitter saying a layer of graphene that thick is just graphite. Graphene would be a sheet of graphite only one molecule thick)
2. What Alan Turing began to understand has only been coming to fruition in the last ten years.
3. Jodrell Bank's research is the best test of Einstein's theory general relativity we've got. (Jodrell Bank is the University of MCR's Centre for Astrophysics, based in Cheshire)

After that, we headed over to the Food & Drink Festival in Albert Square. As it was not raining and mild, I had a little pizza cooked in an outdoor, woodburning oven. Delicious.

Then, we headed over to visit Gemma at her new job, a pop-up bowling alley with a 50s theme. It's called Pin-up Bowling. Get it? Gemma loves the job, and she looks the part. Some people were dancing all 50s style to the 50s music, and it was really fun watching them. The bowling alley is really neat, too, I'm excited to actually go bowling there. They've imported special lanes, and the bowling balls are returned with these cool, 50s-style, above-ground tracks, so you watch the balls returning toward you, in between the lanes. Fancy. Pants.

I got a truly excellent margarita, and proceeded to top-up my tipsiness. Joe got a seriously strong Long Island Iced Tea. Then he proceeded to chug that for absolutely no reason. We were just sitting around waiting for Gem to get off work.

Basically, we got drunk again, watching people dance like it was 1955. Super fun. Joe and Gem are wonderful. 
I thought I'd take a picture of them... and then realised my camera screen was broken. I really am having a lot of camera trouble these days.

The camera itself stills works, though. I just can't tell what I'm taking a picture of, or where it's going to focus. It's a lot like using film again. And honestly, I'm such a perfectionist about taking photos that it's kind of nice to not know. I've just been clicking away with giddy abandon.

Maybe I got the shot. 

Maybe not.

When I got home last night, I downloaded the pictures I took of Gem... and I really love what happened when I couldn't immediately see the result.

14 October 2011

Oh, comely Castlefield

I haven't said much about Manchester lately, have I?

Well, strap yourselves into whatever vehicle you imagine yourself in when you're reading this blog, dear reader, as it's going to be all 
Manchester all the time from here on out. For a few weeks.

I only recently learned the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Previously, I thought they were accurately interchangeable.

Not so.

The United Kingdom is all of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales.

Many Americans, for that matter, are not entirely clear on how the whole England, Scotland, Wales thing works. That, readers, is for another post.

Anyway, I have already written about Manchester's fascinating canals that re-direct six rivers under and through the city. Some of you might not know that the whole of Great Britain (see above) is connected by canals, like some sort of secondary circulatory system, complementing its roads and riverways.

I love Manchester's canals, probably because I'm from a city with almost no water... even seeing the Chattahoochee isn't that easy in Atlanta. Funny enough, a lot of people who grew up in the UK see canals as rather disgusting things, filled with rubbish and places where ill-reputed things go on.

People live on the canals. In narrowboats, mooring here and there, not getting their post very often, rocked to sleep and slowly, slowly, travelling the cities and countryside of England.

And as is our way, people often do far more interesting things than just live their private lives on the canals.

Last week, a very cool narrowboat bookshop made its way to Manchester. The Book Barge usually moors in Staffordshire, but sometimes it goes on tour for a few months, and it moored in Castlefield, on the beautiful Rochdale canal, which was renovated for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

I went on Sunday, and it was raining this annoying drizzly never-going-to-be-a-thunderstorm kind of way that's very common in Manchester. I was feeling damp and vaguely annoyed that my pictures of the Book Barge & Castlefield would be so dull and gray.

Happily, I happened to also come upon the Castlefield Artisan markets! I hadn't heard of them before, but it was their very first opening! Every month, first Sunday, you'll probably find me there, because the food and fruit and veg and vintage market were amazing.

And the Book Barge was lovely, as well. As you might imagine, for a bookish person, for a boatish person, for a person who just really really likes this place, the Book Barge was... just lovely.

Manchester has a severe dearth of good little independent bookstores, ones where you can talk to the owner about new writers, and browse for hours, and find wonderful used gems alongside brand-new editions. Apparently, the owner has been bartering books for food and showers, as she motors her bookshop along the canals.

But the Book Barge is exactly that kind of place... and it just came floating up to our canalside. Wonderful.

I pulled out my camera only to learn it had run out of batteries. Of course. I've been having real camera problems lately. I grumbled, opened my umbrella, and stepped back out into the spitty mistfall that just wouldn't quit.

I wandered by the next day, hoping to catch another chance before the barge went back home... It was a little sunnier by then...

Heehee. Check out that pun. Boatique. Indeed.
Unfortunately, the Book Barge was closed, probably for lunch, so I had to take pictures through the window. Still, you can see what a fantastic little shop the narrowboat became, with some careful thought and planning.
They have a whole section on boats.

And an inexplicable Russian section. I didn't notice any other specific language sections. Just the kind of quirk that reflects an independent bookstore's owners' preferences. I love it.
I also love that she had houseplants on the boat... or boatplants, I guess.

Luckily, even though the Book Barge was closed, I was able to take some pictures of Castlefield on a fairly sunny day. It's a beautiful part of town, all bridges and arches and tunnels.

Manchester's Beetham Tower is visible from pretty much anywhere in the city. I love this lonely skyscraper, but I don't know too many others who do... I like to think of him, skywriting sad messages to his skyscraper penpals in London... they don't write back much these days...
Near this area of Castlefield, Manchester has re-built a Roman fort. It's a bit silly. I suppose because every other English town has a Cathedral and a Roman ruin, Manchester felt the need to have one, too, despite the fact that even if there ever was a Roman fort here, it was long torn down and gone. Manchester's got so many other fascinating historical elements to it. Seems insecure for the city to need a re-built Roman fort.

At least it's in this beautiful– dare I say it– romantic part of town. Early in our relationship, I walked Mark around this area one night, trying to show him how pretty Manchester can be. He laughed at our Roman fort. He said it was pretty. But it really couldn't compare to Cambridge. He might be right, in some weird world, where there's an objective measure of beauty.
I think it's a matter of taste. To me, this town never stops being pretty... even in the rain. And anyway, I don't think the Book Barge even went to Cambridge. So there.

There are a number of other Manchester bloggers who have also written nice posts about the Book Barge and even taken pictures from inside it. WHOA.
The lovely Kate Feld's Manchizzle
Adrian Slatcher's Art of Fiction
Claire Massey's Gathering Scraps