Friday, November 09, 2001

A New Jewel in Manchester

A New Jewel in Manchester

At breakfast, one of the staff members of the hotel asked what we were planning for the day. We responded with our plan to explore the city aimlessly, which means without a map. One of the other staff people overheard and suggested that we visit the Lowry Center. We questioned what it was and he said it is a combination of galleries and a mall, but it was well worth seeing. He told us which tram to take to get there.

The tram service is very efficient, clean and relatively inexpensive. You are supposed to buy a ticket from a machine at the stop, but there is no one to collect it. Inspectors come on the trains randomly to check for tickets and those without them are fined twenty pounds. At the stop we boarded, we had asked a man standing there for assistance in purchasing the ticket as we were not sure what stop we needed to purchase for. He befriended us and told us he has not seen an inspector for over two years. At our stop, our new guide was disembarking also and directed us to the Lowry Center, about two blocks from the tram. He suggested that when we leave, we walk out the other side and down the canal to board the tram at a different station, just to get a different view.

Approaching the Lowry Center, it is immediately apparent that it is a new complex. Our temporary guide said that it only opened about eighteen months ago and some sections are still under construction. The main building is extremely modern in construction, filled with glass, aluminum colored metals, and cables. It stands in sharp contrast to the Victorian and Georgian building that surrounds it.

The inside of the center is decorated in eye popping orange and purple. All of the wall-to-wall carpeting and many of the walls are done in an identical shade of bright orange, while other walls are a dark purple. Immediately inside of the center are three theaters for live performances, not movies. To the right is an extensive art gallery with a free admission. The permanent exhibit is on L.S. Lowry, who was a lifelong resident of Manchester. Professionally, Mr. Lowry was a rent collector. In his private life, he was an artist. He chose his profession so that he could be out in the streets of Manchester where he could meet and observe the people. All of his artwork is depicting the scenery and the people of the area and ranges over a thirty-year span. Most of it is incredibly perceptive, but it was even more so after we found there was a video of his life, which we viewed after seeing all of his work.

Another exhibit that is temporary is called “On the Streets” and it was all photography and featured approximately fifteen different photographers and their work of people or things on the streets. For as much photography as I have done over the years, and having had photography classes in college, I am usually never drawn to photography exhibits. It was refreshing to view this exhibit and educational also. Looking at different techniques, perspectives, and subjects encouraged my interest in what I do with a camera, whether it is a manual 35mm or automatic 35mm. We spent over three hours in the galleries.

On the other side of the building is an art center for children where they can create art and then animate it. There was an admission charge and since we did not have children to be our cover, we did not go in to play in this section.

Across the walkway is a new shopping center that is called the Design Center. Again, this is very 21st century in design and just opened in October. Due to the recent opening, it is not completely filled with stores, but there are “Coming Soon” signs on most of the empty spaces. For as fabulous as the Trafford Center was, the Design Center’s not. It is an uneventful indoor mall without flavors or atmospheres to appeal to the senses. The inside is stark and spartan. It did not take long to peruse the entire offering, but there was one pleasant surprise. One of the stores was a Lands End outlet. Our beloved clothing company, Lands End was here selling their goods, which gave us hope that we will not have to spend exorbitant shipping rates when we need something from them. Is there a chance there may be an outlet in Slovakia? That is probably too much to ask for.

We decided to have our afternoon coffee at a restaurant attached to the center. It was very apparent, if we had a memory lapse, that we were in a foreign country just by the artwork on the walls. The paintings, which were for sale, were mostly nude females in various poses next to a painting of an elephant with a cramp in its trunk and then an angry wolf. Each was framed in four bare pieces of plank wood that was totally unadorned. Each painting was selling for 485.00 to 575.00 pounds. We don’t get shocked at such things, but this type of art was unanticipated in a family restaurant.

Taking our guide’s suggestion, we walked back the opposite way. Along the canal was quite pleasant on a tree-lined walkway of brick, the water a peaceful sight and watching the seagulls dive through the air. The air was crisp, but there was no wind, so the walk was a delightful autumn stroll back to the tram one stop earlier on the line than we had originally gotten off.

Ron had called Michael to see if there was any arrangement with Jean. He was told that Jean was going to call the hotel and leave us a message, but he had not spoken with her yet today. The pay phones consume coins at a rapid rate, so we said we would check at the hotel for messages. Back at the room, there was no sign of a message and checking with the staff, nothing was there for us. We are still hoping for a visit before we leave here on Sunday. Time for a nap!

On the news, there was a story about Canadian 3000 Airlines, the second largest in Canada shutting down. There were 300 passengers on a plane on the runway here in Manchester, when the plane returned to the gate. All of the passengers were told to get off and collect their luggage; due to the airline has folded. Of the passengers interviewed, all were British on their way to Canada for vacation. They did not state how many Canadians were on their way home and stranded here. No one was warned that the airline was in trouble. The report also included that Sabena Airlines; the flagship of the Belgium government declared bankruptcy two days ago and may stop flying any day. British Airways, the largest airline in Europe laid off over 5,000 employees and Thomas Cook Travel Agencies are closing over 150 of their agencies around Europe and may continue with more. If you travel, make sure that your travel insurance includes airline failure. I have read in the London Times, that most policies do not include that automatically; you have to ask for it specifically and pay an additional premium. Airlines are not required to accept each other’s tickets if an airline folds.

Even taking a nap did not prepare us for what the night would hold. Our room was in the basement of a building and though it had sufficient curtains and drapes to block the light that may try to creep through the sidewalk level window in the mornings, it did not stifle the noise. We are on Canal Street in Manchester. This is reputedly the ‘gay village’, however, we found it to be the Human Circus. It is 3:00 am and the noise is still at forty decibels out on the streets and especially outside our window. The ‘village’ is the hot spot for everyone after it was cleaned and renovated by the gay community businesses. Within a four block area, there are twelve bars that are frequented by men and women of very color, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic class with out repercussions of being turned away at the door. The bars close at 11:00 pm on weeknights, but not until 2:00 am on Friday and Saturday. The bars closed and the entire mob from every bar must be outside our window. Across the street from us is a canal, hence the name of the street. The roadway is blocked from traffic, making it a convenient stopping off place for people to gather and scream at each other for hours after the bars close.

One of us was out like a light hours ago after commenting on the level of chaos out the window. Moments after his expressed observation, he was not only in dreamland, but adding to the pandemonium with his own slumbering sound system. Remembering the Serenity Prayer, and knowing what I could not change and knowing what I could change, and having the wisdom to know the difference, I knocked him awake every five minutes. It did not assist me in getting to sleep due to the commotion outside, but it did relieve my frustration that he was able to tune it out and I wasn’t, plus, when the parting of the ways happened outside, I wanted him conditioned to be settled down inside too.

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