Posts tagged ‘a to z’
With some hours to spare before sunset on a Sunday afternoon, I persuaded Liam (who had been running) to do a Little Walk with Bazza. Not a full Zedding, just a little walk with our oracle. We headed off to the Medieval Quarter (OK, the bit round the Cathedral) to our target square of D4 to look for a boggart dog bridge (honestly, a boggart dog bridge).
We saw Robert Owen who Liam thinks is “a man in a sinister cloak with a small child under it”. I think this is unfairly maligning one of the founders of socialism. I’m sure he was our sort of person. He does look a wee bit sinister here tho:
We were in the square near the cathedral which is pretty and has fountains. It also has the Urbis which has Zedding-related interesting stuff in it:
We found this message from the zedding gods, who were about to smile on us:
We heard some music. And one of the guiding principles of zedding is that one should be easily distracted. We followed our ears to a small gathering of tents in the square with a sign that said, bewilderingly enough, ‘National Swimming Championships’. We would like to point out for readers who don’t know Manchester that there was no apparent pool in the vicinity.
There was however a tent selling beer, a tent selling food and a tent for face painting. Also a stage with some lively rhythm-and-blues music and lifeguards. Just remember, kids – no venturing out into urban squares without a lifeguard. One saw my camera and was eager to pose with his horn for me.
We thought about asking about the swimming. But we didn’t.
We headed for Victoria station, where one gets trains to places like Wigan and Rainhill. When I do this I get very upset about the state it has been allowed to get in. It has some absolutely gorgeous features put in by madly hubristic Victorians who thought the age of steam would never wane. Then some nasty corporate taste vandals have plastered their nasty plastic nastiness on top of the marble and mosaic. Elsewhere Victoria has been allowed to get shabby and neglected, she has been allowed to rummage around in the bargain bin at the charity shop adorning herself in the worst the 1980’s had to offer and wearing it on top of her pearls.
(I feel quite strongly about this.) I would love for someone to do to Victoria what they have done to Moor Street in Birmingham.
The MEN arena has lots of steps, I like the patterns:
Opposite is Chetham school of Music which is 400 years older than the MEN arena and nicer looking. Marx and Engels used to chat there. It has gargoyles but once again it’s surprising just how wriggly they can be, won’t stay still to be photographed.
There was a gateway to hell. It is at the end of an old croft, which is a place Bazza tells us Tenterhooks were used in days of old. This probably now belongs to Northern Rail. If you are listening, Northern Rail, we would like some more info.
We walked along the side of the river, which has long been our desire. I was complaining that the river wasn’t utilised as a tourist attraction, the reasons why may be painfully obvious from the photos. We debated titles for these photos. Liam likes “Urban Swan” as a name for a trendy clothing boutique but I don’t think “Swan in Filth” would get so much custom. Dirty creature.
We got confused about the boggart dog bridge and strayed into a car park which was sort of on a bridge and turned out to be the site of another railway station, ‘once connected to Victoria by the longest railway platform in europe’, fact fans. Bazza thinks this site should be redeveloped but that it would ‘need an arresting building to set it off’. You cannot argue with the man.
The cathedral is pretty. And we like the centuries of architecture that contrast with one another. The cathedral itself, the lovely dome of the corn exchange, the brutalist Arndale, the flimsy wheel. The portaloo.
Finally the boggart dog bridge. I have no pictures of the bridge itself as it was a bit unspectacular really, and I was distracted by this bit of pretty.
The story goes that it is a bridge on top of an old bridge, old, old. And that this part of Manchester was haunted by a boggart dog which was caught and placed under the bridge. Bazza says this is a folk memory of a building sacrifice. We’re just delighted to find another boggart.
And a building that was once known as one of the ugliest buildings in manchester, although it may be in Salford.
Location: Manchester Medieval Quarter
A to Z: page 5 (large-scale city centre insert) or page 94 square D3, page 95 square E3
Getting there: Victoria station, Victoria tram, or short walk from my house
Running total: 27
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:
It was marked only as:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
Another statue seemed to depict an office worker who’d been driven mad by all the Astroturf:
The buildings had radically inappropriate names, also no doubt intended to subtly mock the inmates and drive them to despair:
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:
Then we gathered provisions and went home. A short but fruitful zedding.
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
I called Liam to see if he wanted to do a mini zed yesterday evening. It turned into something of a zedding, covering 7 squares in all, compared to last Sunday’s 4.
Having arrived in Didsbury first, on page 125, I did some solo zedding in square F6 down Warburton Street. Warburton Street is exceedingly charming with a wonderful independent bookshop whose door opens with a sneck.
Around the corner from the pleasing school with the tower is the wool shop (0oh the yarn), where I met Liam and shared the research I had done on the bus. Our mate Bazza has an excursion to Didsbury and he mentions The Towers “perhaps the finest Victoria mansion in Manchester”. Sounds like a must see… We consulted our trusty A to Z. A search for “towers” on page 137 showed us a business park called “the towers” on our way to our target square of G4, so we set off to see if it harboured a Victorian mansion.
On the way we got distracted by the grand civic buildings of .. um.. Manchester Metropolitan University Students Union, Didsbury campus. I thought there was some sort of law that said SU buildings had to be ugly.
We saw a gate, it lured us. It turned out to be the gates to the Parsonage Gardens of Fletcher Moss. There were palm trees and some advice which was either ecologically or hygienically suspect. Bazza says that Alderman Fletcher Moss was “eccentric but public spirited and had a late flowering passion for the bicycle”.
In the midst of it, like a family heirloom at Primark, was indeed a fine Victorian mansion. It had gargoyles, they ate their tails. It had a plaque; the decision to build the Manchester Ship Canal was taken there. We thought about the decisions involving commerce which must take place there still; somehow I imagine they lack the romance of that one. Did someone turn to Daniel Adamson, who was after all a man with gargoyles on his house, and say “hey Dan! Let’s have our own river” and now they…they do what…order the staples?
Further down the Wilmslow road we learn that the inhabitants of Didsbury include schoolgirls from Malory towers, because no one plays lacrosse outside an Enid Blyton novel do they?
And just down the road the area became a little less exclusive:
Liam’s vintage A to Z shows G4 to contain a mill on the banks of the Mersey in the shadow of junction10 of the m63. Back in this century, under junction 3 of the m60, no mill appears.
We were going to check this out, who stole the mill?
There was a hotel that smelt of potato wedges, and had rhino posts outside. We kept a ear out for any rhinos sneaking up on us, just in case, and ventured into the woods. We knew where we were going because we were looking for the weir on my map (but someone stole that too). We went through the woods in the fading light…discovered that A to Zs aren’t ideal for this sort of thing… reached the road… went back again… consulted the A to Z again…listened to the river to see if it sounded like it was coming up to a weir or had just been down one…looked at the A to Z again.
Eventually we scrambled down a muddy bank to get a better view and discovered that what looked to be a big pile of sticks was the wall of the mill with the roots of a tree growing round it. Foundations of the opposite wall could be seen in the bank behind us, our muddy hollow was all that was left of the mill. Not quite time team but we were pleased with ourselves.
Back home we discovered
“By the 13th century there are records of a water mill beside the Mersey in the village, and this continued grinding corn right up to its closure in 1890. It was demolished only as recently as 1952”.
Which is why our mill is firmly on the map in 1848
I was particularly delighted with this guide to the towers
And now for the statistics:
Location: Didsbury, Manchester
A to Z: page 125 sq F6, page 137 sq F1,F2, G2, H3, G3, G4,
Getting there: bus to East Didsbury from Piccadilly Gardens or the airport train from Picadilly Use public tranport, plan your journey www.gmpte.com
Running total: 11squares
Liam does some Further Research:
We subsequently did some more research on this one, and found out that not only did Alderman Fletcher Moss have a late-flowering passion for the bicycle, he also had a terrier called Gober and an early-flowering passion for collecting local folktales. And his parsonage was haunted, and the gates that lured us in used to be known locally as the Gates to Hell. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
I recently became aware that Rosie, who I used to work with, has an unusual hobby. She goes A to Zedding with her boyfriend Doug.
It appears that they invented this hobby entirely themselves, or at least no one else has a website about it. They describe it pretty well on their site:
‘A-to-Zedding is much more than just a hobby. It’s an intellectual, spiritual and deeply personal pastime. The A-to-Zedder’s dream is to visit and gain a deep understanding of every “square” in their chosen A-Z map.’
Marie and I decided to give it a go, giving us a convenient excuse to explore Manchester a bit more thoroughly. If it doesn’t turn out to be a passing fad for us, we’ll make it a proper blog of its own, but for now I’m hosting the words and she’s hosting the pictures.
So we started last Sunday, by looking through the A to Z for somewhere to visit. (Discovering in the process that my A to Z is 15 years old, and narrowly avoiding heading out in search of a mill on the Mersey that no longer exists. I now have A to Z envy, since Marie’s is both spiral bound and was made in this century.)
From a number of places chosen principally for their amusing names, we narrowed it down to Boggart Hole Clough, a park in Blackley, a northern suburb of Manchester.
It’s a bit of a bus ride out of town, especially on a grey Sunday. On the way, we saw:
Then we found the clough, which is basically a mix of a country park with a city park. Country because it has a ravine running through it. (‘Clough’ is a local word for ravine, the helpful signs told us. They also said it was a ‘semi-wilderness’, which was stretching things somewhat.) City because it also has sports fields and a boating lake and graffiti and stuff.
It’s very pretty and, OK, a bit wild:
Our mission wasn’t just to look at the pretty woods, though. We’d been charged by to take a picture of a boggart. We took the search for signs of boggarts very seriously. (That’s me inspecting a suspected boggart-proof fence up there.)
We found several bridges, which looked like potential boggart holes (”look under the bridges that’s where they hide”):
We looked for boggarts under the first bridge and found none. When we found the bridge on the right, though, we realised no self-respecting boggart would have lived under the first one.
We walked for a while up the clough (well, along the side of it to be fair, but it sounds ruder this way). And we came to a boating lake with pointy-headed ducks on it, and a very ugly building beyond it (Marie thinks it looks like a comprehensive school, but the A to Z disagrees and the A to Z Does Not Lie (or hers doesn’t, anyway)):
We had a little rest and a smackerel of something. Bizarrely, the smackerel came wrapped in a treatise on love:
But this is an A to Zedding blog, not an excuse to join these fine people and start up a quotation marks protection society, so I shall desist. So, walking around the lake, we found a little boathouse, because finding things from the A to Z is the point.
There was even a little babby one!
Someone had put out bits of carrot for them, and once they realised we were just going to make high-pitched cooing noises and take photos from the far side of a fence rather than eating them, they went about their business as normal.
We had a debate over whether it’s best to do some research about a Zedding destination before or after attempting it. We did it afterwards this time, and found some interesting stories about boggarts. And cloughs. And beer:
So, that was our first Zedding trip. Watch this space to see if we can be arsed to do it again. I hope we can.
And do tell us if this is a self-indulgent ramble and we need to restrain ourselves when blogging our Zedding in future.
Location: Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley, Manchester
A to Z: page 83 squares G1, H1, G2, H2
Getting there: bus numbers 17 and 118 from the rochdale road. Use public tranport, plan your journey: www.gmpte.com