I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with my city. This is because I have been to some places in the world that have caused far more dramatic emotional responses in me. However, this is my city and I am proud of it, and most of the time I love it. Here are a few little things that are important to me about my city.
Things I love about Manchester –
- When you get the Altrincham tram from the centre of Manchester, keep your eyes out when you’ve left Cornbrook and the next top is Trafford Bar. If you face the direction the train is going in, look to your right. Alongside the canal below there is a long, long wall that is covered in bright, beautiful graffiti. The kind that is meant to be there. And behind that wall if you look hard enough you will see a yard where they store yellow and red cranes (you know, the ones window cleaners use). But when they are all together in a big bunch they look amazing, like an enormous crazy rollercoaster ride. When you see the crane yard if you look down right next to the tram tracks almost below you, then you can look right into a scrap car yard. Nothing special you think? But I love it, because they pile the cars higher than I’ve ever seen, all crushed into these matchbox shapes. It’s almost magical in it’s crazy, junky mismatch. It always reminds me of the film Wall-E, and I can almost see the little robot wheeling about organising it all.
- The gargoyles on the water fountain outside the front of the Town Hall (and to the right a bit). These have gone an emerald green over the years the way many old statues do. If the wind takes a sudden turn then the fountain can completely drench you head to toe if you’re standing in the wrong place. this always makes me smile.
- Halfway down King Street (head towards Deansgate) turn left into the tiny hidden alleyway halfway down the street, walk halfway down it and look up at the concrete umbrellas above your head.
- St Ann’s Church – specifically the tray of candles towards the front left of the Church. The one on the bottom right hand corner? That’s where my candle always goes.
- The pedestrian bridge that goes over Mancunian way. If it’s windy and there’s loads of heavy traffic underneath then if stop when you get to the middle of the bridge as it wobbles and feels really unsteady. You can see through to the cars below through the gaps below your feet, like being on a pier by the sea, but instead of the ocean it’s cars and pollution. You feel like the Queen of Industrialisation!
- The demolition equipment they’re using to destroy the BBC on Oxford Road. When you get to Sainsbury’s on the junction of Whitworth Street and Oxford Street if you look towards the BBC one of the big pieces of equipment they use looks like the mast on a pirate ship. You can imagine that actually there is a pirate invasion of Manchester, hurrah!
- The pub I live above. The super low ceilings of the cellar downstairs, the way I can navigate my way out at 6am on my way to work in the pitch black just by knowing how many steps it takes to get around the place and how high the door handles are. The shape of the different glasses, and the way it feels to sit in one of the high chairs (with footrest, obviously.) Even the annoyinginy pillar with the jukebox on that is always in the way.
- The design on the front of the Palace Hotel. Above one of the windows (the one to the left of the main entrance) there is a design that looks like a garland of flowers which hangs over a round window with green frames. At the centre of this design above the window, the flowers are arranged in a way that by day looks like the centrepiece of the design. But at night when the up-lighting comes on the shadows catch it in a certain way that makes it look like Jack Skeleton from Tim Burton’s film Corpse Bride. When I sit on my sofa and look out of my living room window, it looks like Jack Skeleton is smiling back at me.
- The underground canals underneath the GMEX. I used to work as an actress with Flecky Bennett and we used to go 60 foot underneath the centre of Manchester and take people on a tour that was a mix of performance and history. There were many times I was down there that I would need to find my way around the tunnels in the pitch black (and I mean pitch black – it’s very rare that you get real unfathomable bottomless dark in the city as there’s always a street lamp or a car headlight etc) and after a while I got familiar with the layout of the tunnels. I knew where the missing bricks were, where the high steps were and the doorways cut into the brick walls. I always felt a weird sense of contentment down there in those tunnels, respectful of those who had lived and died down there when they were air-raid shelters in the war, and a happy sense of the present, past and future all being tied in together.
So I reckon that if you live in Manchester and you’re walking about the place you should definitely keep an eye out for these things, and see if they make you feel the way they make me feel. And even if they don’t make you feel that way, it would be amazing to know what response you have to them. This world we live in is insanely beautiful and I love the emotional reaction and affinity you can have with personality-less objects and buildings.