Ever closer home

I have long since noticed that I get more Scottish when I’m not there. Not that I’m a nationalist or anything like that, just that I get more patriotic and tend to get Scottish songs in my head. This morning, in Manchester, I discovered that in addition I become more of a Hibs fan with ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ going through my head as I walked towards Piccadilly Gardens. It’s not out of any Anglophobia or anything, it’s just how I get. I can’t quite explain it.

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Manchester in the rain. Not bad, though

When I make a long journey down south, I tend to get a couple of newspapers before setting off. I read my news almost exclusively online but for some reason I go on a train with a paper. Thus it was that I was on the train down this morning, just after Carlisle, reading about Hibs getting beat by Brondby last night in the Edinburgh Evening News, which apparently you can purchase in Glasgow city centre at 7am. We need to stop calling them evening papers when you can source one, even in a city 40 miles from where it’s published, before the start of the working day.

The journey south this morning was relatively uneventful. The journey from Glasgow down through Lanarkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire is quite familiar to me now though still fresh enough to still feel like an adventure. My chariot was a TransPennine Express train, as ever vastly inadequate for the number of people on it and of course their luggage. How in the name of David Gray can a company with most of their services going to Manchester Airport get away with that? I’m sitting writing this on the way back and it’s full, mostly it seems of Lancashire commuters. Unfortunately going to Manchester requires the use of TransPennine Express at some point and I give not a whit that I’m sitting mildly comfortably in my reserved seat while many other folk are standing.

Soon after I hit Piccadilly, I walked through the shopping district, grabbing a bite of lunch on the way to the People’s History Museum. Bizarrely, the PHM is near a quite swish business quarter, complete with an Emporio Armani outlet. It’s also near Manchester Crown Court. One of the main buildings looks like something out of the Third Reich. No sooner had I thought this but I heard some other dude voice the exact same observation.

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Manchester Crown Court. See what I mean?
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The People’s History Museum, with sculpture to do with Manchester being a nuclear-free city
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People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum is class. It is possibly the most left-wing place on earth with copies of Engels proudly on show in the gift shop. It shows an history of the working-class, trade unions and the struggles for electoral reform, against the Corn Laws and much else. I remember being impressed by it when I was there a few years ago though I got the distinct impression there was only one political party in the entire universe. Now, while I am generally left-of-centre in my politics, I am not the biggest fan of the Labour Party, though I think Corbyn is more representative of the party membership than any leader in the last half-century. That’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned and the guy should be accorded a bit of respect for being elected by a large majority, especially by people at Westminster. Strangely, Theresa May’s appointment of people like Boris Johnson to her government might be good for Corbyn and Labour. If the Tories fuck up over Europe, as they surely will, there’s but one alternative and it’s Labour. They need to keep the heid. Anyway, rant over. I expected to have to keep my politics in check at the PHM but it really wasn’t necessary. The PHM is really a museum of politics, albeit with a left-wing tinge, and it does an excellent job of showcasing the political history of these islands in the last two centuries plus discussing issues like rights of LGBT people, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities. There was a wonderful exhibition of photographs taken of workers during the Industrial Revolution, accompanied by poems by Ian McMillan. One image that particularly gripped me showed cleaners at a railway workers standing around (and in some cases on) a locomotive. I am sad to report that the Labour Pains exhibition about schisms in the Labour Party wasn’t on due to a delay. I suspect the panels are getting updated with each day’s papers.

I walked in the rain to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), which always has a good exhibition on. Today they had no fewer than 3, about cravings, railway stations in times gone by and the Wellcome photography prize respectively. The cravings exhibition was billed as outlining the latest research into why we crave certain foods but it went further including into the lovely subject of faeces. This was, sincerely, incredibly interesting including an experiment involving the astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly, who are identical twins. While Scott was in space, they analysed the bacteria in his stool and compared it with that of his brother, who was still Earth-bound. The point of this was to see just how much impact being in space has on your gut. Quite a bit, it transpires. There was also an artificial gut used to test foods for sensitive paletes and the results of some study on the differences between addictions to drink, fags and certain foods.

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Museum of Science and Industry. In the rain. There was a lot of it.

The exhibition on railway stations was a brief display of old photographs from stations that are still there but in a vastly different form, most notably London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly. Euston is now a dark and horrible concrete affair but prior to 1961 it was incredibly different with an elaborate arch and grand hall. It reminds me of reading of the demolition of Penn Station in New York, which was similarly swish, to make way for Madison Square Garden. The 1960s urban planners really didn’t have a clue, did they?

The Wellcome prize photos were also excellent, including a cracking colour-altered shot of the insides of the brain and a close-up of a henna-tattooed arm coming out in blisters due to an allergy. That one’s better seeing than trying to describe it.

Afterwards I headed to the Manchester Central Library where I spent a few minutes sitting in the reading room, the quietest and most serene place I have been in a long while. It was almost like sitting in a church.

There comes a point in any day when you’ve had enough. I reached it at the Manchester Art Gallery. There were some cracking artworks from Cameroon but I truly couldn’t give a fuck about Vogue fashion photographs so I gave them a bye.

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The stairwell in Manchester Art Gallery

After dinner, I headed to the Alan Turing memorial, which is in the Gay Village. The Gay Village featured lots of purple flags and bunting, which I gather was to do with the transgender community. The Alan Turing memorial is a statue on a bench with a wee plaque underneath. Turing’s story always makes me angry at society of the time for failing a pioneer of technology who had given so much. There are some who think Turing had Asperger’s, which only makes me sadder at the circumstances he lived with.

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Alan Turing memorial

On a happier note, one of the best things I saw in the People’s History Museum was in the display about LGBT rights, namely a badge which stated ‘How dare you think I’m heterosexual?’

So, that’s the story of today. I started writing this on the outskirts of Manchester and I’m now just outside Penrith. The train is a fair bit quieter though there’s still an hour and a half to go until home. Incidentally, to follow up from the Manchester post from the other day, I managed to both follow my nose and be an OU nerd. The studies were taken care of by the PHM and by working through some notes on the train down.

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Stick people climbing a building. As they tend to do.

Before I forget, I’m going to take a writing break for a couple of weeks, probably until I come back from Northern Ireland in mid-August. It’s going to be a busy old time in the interim and it will keep me away from my keyboard for a bit. In the meantime I would like to recommend some of my favourite posts from the last few months: Cutting the lemon, Holmwood, Seeking light, Three reasons and Struck home. The last two are a wee bit more personal since both are about being autistic in one form or another. I’m signing off now, putting down my pen just as the train crosses the border, edging ever closer home.

 

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