Archive for December, 2007

In which they look at a hidden church, a library and an office block

by liam

This is a slightly different zedding – we’re not sure what purists would make of it – because we went to see some sights that we’d both wanted to see for a while, and which might even be described as ‘attractions’. By some people.

Anyway. I wanted to see the John Rylands Library, Marie wanted to see a church called the Hidden Gem (largely because, well, it was hidden), and I fancied walking by the river Irwell.

So we headed for Deansgate. We found that the people who hid the Hidden Gem had obviously missed out on one or two lessons in How Not To Be Seen:

However, they started trying harder after that. We had to go up a secret passage:

secret passage

It was marked only as:

sign

Anyone know what a private posting station is? Prize for the best answer.

The passage was named after some scientist or engineer whose name escapes us both now. But in his honour, the pipes in the passage were arranged into decorative patterns:

pipes in secret passage

Eventually we emerged by the Hidden Gem. Marie’s research informs us that it was the first purpose-built Catholic church in any English city since the Reformation. It’s not very fancy on the outside:

the hidden gem

This is because ‘Bells, steeples, and any other ornate “popeish” touches were banned until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which restored people’s rights to worship as they chose.’ And their right to have popeish frills too. Nowadays, it’s also dwarfed by office blocks on all sides, which were apparently built on top of the graveyard.

By contrast, inside, one is confronted by a glorious eyeache-inducing riot of popery. Gold and icons and candles and everything, it made me quite nostalgic. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside so you’ll have to take our word for it, or look at the photo someone else took here.

The threshold between austere-lack-of-steeples and riot-of-popery was marked by writing on the ground:

ave maria

And also by a sign warning you not to give money to beggars because they clutter the place up, or words to that effect. Nice.

IMGP0016.JPG

So, next on the list was the library. Much more our sort of cathedral. It has its own share of frills, which originally drew me to it. In fact, it looks like a high-church Hogwarts. There were more gargoyles – this could become a zedding theme for us – but it was dark and the little beggars won’t stay still so we could only get blurry photos of them. Marie is too proud to post such blurry photos so you’ll have to go and see for yourself.

The library was exciting in a way that we expect most people won’t understand at all. It is beautiful. We got lost in great long corridors with stone arches. There were quiet rooms with balconies, bookcases up to the ceiling, and leatherbound books in cages. Marie says that all places books are kept should look like cathedrals.

There was also an interactive display about design and book production. A whole room to appeal to the font nerd inside me that I’m normally not allowed to let out. (Except when I’m going to see 2-hour films about Helvetica, like I did last week, but that’s another story.) There was a great long video interview with Stephen Raw, the man who did the lettering on the maps in Lord of the Rings. That was very very exciting for some reason, even though we’d both met him in person before. Speaking about his work on Middle Earth, he said something that should have resonance for Zedders everywhere:

‘Maps hold it all together in a way thousands of words can’t. At a glance.’

Either that, or it’s an indictment of this rambling blog. Anyway, we liked it.

All in all, a book-lover’s wet dream. We didn’t get to explore it all because it was about to close, so we’ll be going back in there to find the cathedralesque reading room that we understand is in there somewhere in the labyrinthine maze of corridors.

Near some old handpresses and lead type (which also had me wiping drool form the floor), we found something almost as good. Specially signposted ‘Historic Toilets’. They weren’t kidding. Marie crept past the sign expressly forbidding photography in the toilets (cos it’s only polite) and documented these archaic bits of plumbing:

historic toilets historic plumbing

In between the Ladies and the Gents, where boys lurk if they’re waiting for someone to finish taking photographs in the Ladies, was an imposing but rather baffling statue:

IMGP0012.JPG

We had a long conversation in front of it, trying to piece together what was going on. Is it classical? Biblical? Is he Joseph of Arimathea? Why does she want that football? What’s that chalice for? It took Google, later on, to clear things up. Apparently, that’s ‘Theology instructing the Arts and the Sciences’. Still no wiser about the football though.

Having been booted out by some polite library guards, we went in search of a river. Manchester doesn’t make much of its river, using it mainly as a way to have a clear border with Salford. Which is a bit of a shame, because it’s a nice enough river. We found it in the end. I wanted to walk along the path on the bank. But it was getting dark, and when we started down the steps form the road, we heard someone or something scuttling in the bushes. One of the main attractions of zedding being the lack of personal danger (as sports go, it’s pretty low risk – the worst we’ve faced so far is getting lost in some woods 200 yards from a housing estate), we retreated.

So we headed into Salford instead, where there was a big imposing office complex which looked like it might have access to the waterfront. I was wondering if we could find a way in past the security guards, but Marie just marched in bold as brass, looking as if she belonged there, and we had no trouble. A useful life lesson from Doctor Who. Although I always thought I’d be the Doctor, not the assistant trailing along behind looking confused.

It was a funny old office complex. It was landscaped using Astroturf and gravel.

astro turf

There were strange statues of gambolling imps, which seemed to be there mainly to mock the sterile and tedious existence of the poor office drones we saw escaping as fast as they could:

blue imp against sky blue imp blue imp2 yellow imp

Another statue seemed to depict an office worker who’d been driven mad by all the Astroturf:

office worker driven mad

The buildings had radically inappropriate names, also no doubt intended to subtly mock the inmates and drive them to despair:

cloister luxury

Unsurprisingly, the place turned out to be a dead end, with no way out except back past the security guards. So we left and searched for another way out of Salford. As, no doubt, many have before us.

Eventually, we found a bridge. One of those Millennium Bridges that everyone decided they needed to have after London built one. It was very pretty in the moonlight:

bridge in salford

Then we gathered provisions and went home. A short but fruitful zedding.

Vital statistics
Map:
Location: Central Manchester and Salford
A to Z: page 5 (large-scale city centre insert) or page 94, squares D4 and C4
Getting there: It’s within walking distance from all major stations and bus or Metro stops in Manchester city centre and Salford
Running total: 13 squares

December 9, 2007 at 12:27 am Leave a comment


Running Total

135 squares

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