I’m typing this just after 9am on a Monday morning, having decided to share the contents of the early half of my past, stupidly busy seven days. Yes, it’s a tad self-indulgent, but it’s my way of highlighting why sometimes I can’t find the time needed to stay on top of the blog and why the trick of writing a few posts in advance is the only way to ensure something fresh appears each day.
Here’s the quick summary:-
One of the reasons that I want to escape Glasgow these next few days is the fact that the COP 26 climate change conference begins, with a great deal of congestion and chaos anticipated, especially over the first few days when almost all the world’s political leaders will be in town. The heavy rains of the previous five days have brought flooding to various parts of the UK, and many delegates have trouble getting here on time, and as scheduled, if they had been relying on the green method getting here by train, with cancellations and delays. This doesn’t bode well for me……
…..and sure enough, the train I’m meant to be taking to Wigan for a change to Manchester is cancelled while the next available train runs late. This means connections are missed, and I arrive almost two hours later than anticipated. Kind of puts a dent in plans to spend time doing record shops, as I’ve arranged to head out to Rochdale to meet some friends from a long way back for an early dinner and catch up. A reasonable amount of alcohol is consumed, but I’m back in the hotel by 11pm, so it’s not too bad.
Up bright and early to get out and about in Manchester to take in some of the many physical changes to one of my favourite cities on the planet since my last visit here, some five or six years ago. I’ve about four hours to do this before Aldo arrives from Glasgow at lunchtime, and so I use the time to head out to Salford Quays where the BBC have been at the fore of much of the regeneration efforts which are truly startling.
Come lunchtime, I hook up with Aldo and we head out for a walk around the city centre, taking in a few of his favourite watering holes, along with a few he’s added to a list. I should explain at this juncture that Aldo is very fond of his cask and keg ales, and uses such visits to try out half-pints/pints of brews he’s not previously experienced. Me? I’m on the spiced rum just now, either that or high-end vodkas. Beer doesn’t float my boat. The pubs are great, but so too is the walking, again taking in so much of what makes Manchester a fascinating place to visit, even if the scale of a number of the new buildings feels on the overwhelming side. It is still pleasing to see that much of the old is still in place.
Tuesday night was scheduled to be a quiet one until we discover that Jarv Is are in town on the opening night of a rescheduled UK tour and that a small number of tickets are available. Aldo actually has tickets for an upcoming Glasgow gig later in the tour but is more than happy to indulge my wish that we go along to the Albert Hall in Manchester, partly as he’s never been to this particular venue (nor have I), but also for the fact that, like me, he’s a big fan of Mr Cocker’s past work and really rates the most recent album.
Without going into too much detail, the show really does live up to expectations, with the bonus of finding ourselves in a venue which instantly becomes a favourite in terms of offering great and close up views of the stage. It’s immediately marked down for a future return visit.
An early breakfast and more city centre/canal side walking before a 10.30 arrival at the main purpose of the visit to Manchester, as two excited indie-kids roll up for “Use Hearing Protection: The early years of Factory Records” at the Science and Industry Museum. Here’s the promotional blurb:-
“This special exhibition tells the story of Factory Records’ formative years from 1978 to 1982, and how their innovative work in music, technology and design gave Manchester an authentic voice and distinctive identity.
See the first 50 artefacts from the official Factory catalogue, including creations from Joy Division, New Order and The Durutti Column, as well as graphic designs by Peter Saville, previously unseen items from the Factory archives, and objects loaned from the estates of both Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton. Also on public display for the first time in 30 years is Ian Curtis’s Vox Phantom guitar, played live and featured in the official Love Will Tear Us Apart video.
Immerse yourself in the world of Factory Records and experience a night out like no other with our tribute to The Factory night at the Russell Club. Just plug in and play—bring your own headphones and create your own unique versions of iconic tracks with our synthesizer and mixing desk. Explore how the city lived and how music brought people together with crowdsourced photographs from the People’s Archive.”
We stayed for well over two hours. The temptation was there to go back round for a second tour, but we had so much more to fit in the rest of the day that we had to take our leave, and so, after a bit of lunch in another of Aldo’s ‘pubs on the list’, we made our way to the People’s History Museum, which is labelled as the national museum of democracy. It proved to be a very rewarding experience, enjoyable, educational and fascinating in equal measures. The only downside of this visit was that we ran out of time, before the museum closed, only getting ourselves around the two main exhibition areas and missing out on what looked like two superb temporary exhibitions.
Two experiences down, and one to go. The stroll back to the hotel was punctuated by a few stops at watering holes. After a quick change of clothes and footwear, it was round to a nearby location in the student area of the city for a meeting with the doyen of the Manchester scene, Adam, of Bagging Area fame.
On a trip that provided so many highlights and wonderful experiences, this was right up there with the best of them.
Adam came to see us despite him having a very busy schedule, going out of his way to spend a few hours with us on an evening when he must have been tired from a long day doing his teaching and managerial work, and, without telling us until long afterwards, knowing he was in for a particularly long shift the following day with all sorts of post-teaching events and meetings. He really is one of the very good guys, and both myself and Aldo are proud to call him a friend. It’s quite incredible to think the friendship developed entirely from blogging, and the real hope is that, having not been able to catch up in person for such a very long time as a result of the COVID restrictions, it won’t be too long before some sort of hook-up happens again, ideally involving a larger group of like-minded people.
More walking. More pubs. This time, we also threw in a visit out to the Etihad Campus to see for ourselves the extent of the development that had been undertaken by Manchester City FC. A lot of it is impressive, especially the sheer scale of it. The downside was it bringing home just how much football has changed over the past couple of decades and how there really isn’t a level playing field any longer at the higher echelons of English football, far less further down the pyramid.
It also confirmed that while I’d be happy enough to be a very occasional tourist-like visitor to the bigger grounds, there really is nothing quite like a Saturday afternoon with my mates at Raith Rovers, knowing we are watching a group of talented but hard-working players giving their all for the 2,000 or so like-minded individuals. It was sobering too, to think that the financial rewards of being a Rovers player over their entire career would probably match perhaps three months of the salary and endorsement deals of some of the individuals whose faces were plastered around the exterior of the Etihad.
Finally got home to Glasgow around 9.30pm on the Thursday night. Very tired but very happy from all the experiences of what had, in effect, been the first holiday I’d had in 20 months. Other than one night earlier this year as part of a short golfing trip, it was the first time I’d stayed overnight anywhere outside of my own house since March 2020.
A quick look at the blog shows that there has been a great debate via the comments section re The Smiths/Morrissey after my earlier in the week posting of The Draize Train, and I make a mental note to return to that debate in the near future. I’m also thrilled that ICA #300 seems to have been well received, and I remind myself that I should make a start on #301. But I know neither will happen until well after the weekend, as Friday through Sunday is going to be busy.
Thanks for getting this far with what really is just a diary entry. Here’s a few songs:-
Sorry to say, another diary entry is coming along tomorrow.