When I am not giving people books, helping others on computers and spending time in transit between places to do that, I should be studying. I don’t always manage that but today I have managed to get myself just about back to where I should be. The next three years or so will be taken up by studying but I have to work hard not only to keep up but to keep up the momentum in the midst of a busy calendar and busy mind. The chapter I have just finished was about Manchester in the industrial revolution and I ended up booking train tickets to go to Manchester this coming Friday. Part of the chapter was about Engels and it reminded me of the People’s History Museum, which is in Salford. I went there when on holiday a few years ago and it was rather skewed to one particular party’s viewpoint. The Corbynista version, not necessarily the Blairite one, I should say. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I found it really interesting and inspiring. I still have a poster I bought on my wall which covers the struggle for universal suffrage in the form of a flow chart. Right wing people probably aren’t the target demographic, though.

Piccadilly Gardens from the hotel room I stayed in last time I was in Manchester

I tend to go to Manchester once a year. Of England’s northern cities, it has taken a while to grow on me. It’s not that I don’t like it, I do, but it is more bustling and just more of a big city than, say, Liverpool and Newcastle. It’s more like London, which is also a place that took a while for me to get. It is also the furthest I have ever travelled for work (long story involving searching for Irn Bru at lunchtime. It was that kind of day.) Anyway, I haven’t quite scratched the surface of Manchester yet as each time I go there, I tend to see something new. The last time I explored the Gay Village (where there is an Alan Turing memorial) and went to Manchester Central Library. The time before was the National Football Museum where the sole mention of Scottish football came in discussing stadium architecture. It was in a panel about Archibald Leitch who designed, amongst others, the main stands at Tynecastle and Ibrox. Indeed.

Mural in the Gay Village, Manchester.

Going to Manchester also involves going to possibly my least favourite main train station, Piccadilly, and using my least favourite train company, TransPennine Express. But it’s a small price to pay since it’s quite a nice journey down to Manchester and the incredibly cramped platform where the Glasgow trains stop must only be suffered for a few moments. And when I get to Manchester, there will be somewhere interesting new to explore. Not the National Football Museum this time, though, where the summer exhibition is all about England winning the World Cup in 1966. Naw, no’ happenin’.

Browsing the exhibition programmes, I can see a few possibilities. Vogue 100: A Century of Style, all about fashion photography, is a maybe at the Manchester Art Gallery, which is a stunning, slightly weird building with lion statues. A contemporary art exhibition called Syzygy is on at the Lowry, which might be a goer purely because I like going on the tram plus Syzygy is a cool word. The two that I have seen that are likely are an exhibition about railway stations at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI to its friends) and the insanely topical ‘Labour Pains’ at the People’s History Museum, captioned ‘Intra-Party Tensions and Divisions, from Cole to Corbyn’. Round of applause for that one. That is amazing. Check out the link, if you don’t believe me.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
The aforementioned funky lions

The best bit about a city day trip is going without too much of a plan. It’s the psychogeographer in me, I think, the impulsive guy who just wants to chuck out the rules and get on with it. I will have from 10.27 until 17.15, and it will fly by, even with just two exhibitions. I could either go down the proper OU student route like I did in Dundee a few years ago when I went to the Verdant Works and made notes about jute for my course of the time or I could just indulge the wanderer in me and see if some history comes up as I go. The latter should hopefully win. Naturally, you will soon be reading about my day in Manchester as an OU nerd. Stay tuned.


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