Why I love MCR

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.

Tough times

‘… more than ever hour after, our work is never over’

These are lyrics by Daft Punk, a catchy little ditty hey! Today I have been thinking about how tough times make us stronger, and why that is a good thing. And why striving to better yourself is not just a strength, but also a necessity. None of us are without our sad stories to tell, our tragedies and our travesties. The way of taking ownership of this is by teasing out the silver lining from the grey sky and figuring out exactly how you can be pro-active at preventing this happening again, or learning from it, growing from it.

Easier said than done right? During my High School years I was hopelessly head over heels with an older boy, who (other than on a few fleeting, fumbling occasions) never took too much interest in me. 7 years I swooned and moped. Then I grew up, moved out, and got over it. Now I feel fondness and understanding for a time in my life when I was learning and finding my own way. But it took 7 years to get there, and that’s a long time. If you’d told me at any occasion over those 7 years that it would one day be something that resulted in me being wiser I’d have laughed in your face, but now I know. With age comes wisdom. Although even by the time all is said and done and I’m a little old lady I’m not quite sure I will have got there yet…!

Now I know that some things you can’t change or fix, and they will never make sense. Like death. I could never tell you, as could no-one else, why death is fair. But whether it is fair or not, there are just some things you can’t explain. You’re not supposed to understand some things. The strength is accepting that you can’t understand it all. I think you’re not supposed to be able to understand some things. But the thing that is really vital in situations you have no control over, is to draw out some kind of silver lining, some kind of understanding that can make something good happen.

If bad things didn’t happen then how would we know when something good has happened? And if something REALLY bad happens, then as human beings we’ll be able to understand when something really GOOD happens. I’m a big believer in Karma, and I think that ties in really closely with this.

So, have bad things happened to me? Yes, but probably no more than your average person on the street. Have good things happened to me? Yes! And I think more than your average person on the street! Why? Because by taking ownership of something bad and making it good makes for a bigger smile and a lighter heart.

I think trying to better yourself is really important in life. I’m sooooo not perfect, in sooooo many ways. My tongue is quicker than my brain, I bite my fingers to shreds and once I’ve made my mind up on a person there’s really very little that will ever change my opinion. So what is the silver lining? Having a quick tongue also works well when comforting a friend, biting my fingers to shreds is better than self-harm, and I’m protecting myself by not letting bad people into my life. But the challenge is this – how can I take those bad things, remember the silver lining, and still do my best to change for the better? It’s no easy task and one I’m yet to master (who knows if I ever will) but hey, do as I say, not as I do.

Silver lining can also be people when you’re having a rough time. Your friends, family, even your pet can be Angels in times of need.

So to summarise? Grit your teeth, take the bad and make it good. And if you find how to do it easily, let me know 🙂

Marriage in the 21st Century

Warning – this post may not be for you if you are the cynical type.

….But in actual fact, neither is this blog really, so maybe I didn’t need that disclaimer.

So anyway, many of you reading this will be aware that I’m engaged to my best friend/soulmate, so obviously I am pro-marriage. Luckily I am not aware of one single person who has questioned our decision, which I think is pretty cool and shows our loved ones are respectful of our choice even if their personal preferences aren’t quite aligned with ours.

So why do I believe in the importance of marriage in the 21st century? Well, there are a a billion reasons. But the main three are as follows…

Tradition.  I am, at heart, very traditional and have some old-fashioned family values. This is rooted in the experience not only of my own family but also of others families, which I have lovingly collated in my mind and woven together like an old familiar patchwork quilt. Mismatched and jumbled, but one that feels just right. In many ways, my family environment was an unconventional one when I was growing up as we were foster carers, for the bulk of my childhood my mother worked and my Dad retired very early and worked from home. I have learnt so much from them in both their marriage and divorce, and the marriages of others such as my Grandparents to have a very clear idea of the right and wrong things to do. (Or at least, try my best to do).

My Grandparents are a fantastic example of a solid marriage that has stood the test of time, as well as two of Nav’s relatives who were married for 60 years. So, I reckon that if my ancestors saw marriage as an acceptable way of life and commitment, and it worked so well for so many people, then who am I to shun a tried and tested way of living life? I’ve been reading a book called ‘The Art of Marriage’ and there’s a beautiful phrase in there – ‘The Democracy of The Dead’. What a wonderful way of thinking – the majority of all these people who have been and gone long before me did it, and it worked for them. Why wouldn’t or shouldn’t it work for me? Taking this to an extreme and taking the opposing view, you can argue that some things like racism and sexism are very likely to have been the attitudes of most of my ancestors, (what with them living all that time ago n’all) but just because that worked for them doesn’t make it right. But I’m not talking about racism or sexism, I’m talking about marriage.

If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

Family. Now that is another reason marriage is important to me. I would never choose to have a child before I had a husband. Maybe it’s the traditionalist in me speaking again, but it’s important to me that my child shares my name, and I share my name with their Daddy. Getting engaged to someone, then marrying them, is the ultimate commitment that you are serious about your life together. What a brilliant environment to bring your children into, with two parents under no illusion about what their life together has been, and what the future holds for them as a couple.

Love. Being in a relationship with your best friend is something that you cannot even attempt to put into words, it’s that wonderful. Then being engaged? Well it’s positively delirious ecstasy. Then a wedding, followed by a long and happy marriage. I could almost spontaneously combust with joy, haha. Those of you that have experienced love know what I mean when I say nothing on earth can match the feeling of being in love. Having your lover, best friend, counsellor, play mate, partner in crime and best friend all rolled into one. Plus you get to wake up next to them every day, and they’ll still love you when you’re hungover in your pyjamas with your fake eyelash stuck to your eyebrow whining ‘Take meee to the baconnnn’.

And as for those of you that haven’t experienced love yet? Boy oh boy you’ve got so much to look forward to!

Now I try my hardest to be a ‘live and let live’ kinda girl. Those that don’t dig marriage? Well that’s cool with me. Those that don’t dig having a family of their own? Well that’s cool with me too. I’ll be honest though, those that don’t dig love? I’m such a Disney girl I believe everyone has their One out there somewhere, they’ve just got to find them. I can’t help but think that the only way you wouldn’t dig love is if you’ve been very hurt by it, or you haven’t found it yet. Although I’ve been hurt by it, and I went 21 years without finding it… *shrug* I digress, again, sorry….

Anyway my point is that I respect that choice the same way I expect my choice to be respected. Having different opinions about stuff is wonderful, and wouldn’t it be lovely if we all respected each other’s differing opinions & the world could be a bit brighter?

Here is a picture of me and my man seconds after he popped the big question. This photo gives me dizzy butterflies in my belly and feet that want to jump about everywhere. I am loved, and I can only wish that everyone felt as loved as I do. It’s cool 🙂

Today

Image

Today I woke up at the alarm at 6:30am. I roll over and spoon his sleeping form, smiling a secret smile. The room is stuffy and uneasy, too hot with the heating on, so I roll back over and switch the lamp on before I fall asleep again. I shower in my usual routine and am back in our room in under 8 minutes. I moisturise, blow dry and straighten my fringe, apply make-up in deft swipes and look out of the window. I go into the kitchen, hold my breath and drink a bottle of activia. I leave the flat, go down the fire escape and walk to work.

I move through the city and notice the pavements, glistening with dewy rain. Everything is grey. Charcoal, achromatic, monochrome.

I squint and it looks almost sparkly. I see at the builders, waiting on the wall outside the library. They meet there at 7:30am each day and talk Polish and smoke cigarettes and don’t look at me twice when I walk past. I wonder if they’d look at me if I wasn’t wearing my oversized coat. I walk past Groom and look at the wedding suits in the window. I walk down the alleyway and feel content knowing I’m about to see My Church. I overtake a slow walking man with an umbrella and the secret smile appears again . I win the race.

I arrive at work, and by the time I finish I have a hard tight knot between my shoulder blades.

But when I leave the air is crisp as it has been raining again. The wind tastes amazing. I put my headphones in and listen to Bruce Springsteen. The way he sings makes a picture of my head that looks a bit like the West Side Story film looks. I put my head down and march until my calves feel hot.

I get home and run up the stairs as fast as I can, my heartbeat quickening and my bag pulling my right shoulder down slightly. I leave my bag on the kitchen table, kick off my shoes, and glide into the living room.

I’ve had a love affair with the streets of my city, my footsteps beating out its pulse, the heartbeat of water gushing through gutters and swirling happily down drains. And as my other love envelops me in his big gentle arms, I smile my secret smile because tomorrow I can do it all over again.