There was one work by Barnaby Hosking called Black Flood, in which four black carpets had been dragged up from floor to about twelve feet in the air almost forming an enclosed cube. There was a projection onto the carpets of black waters clashing above head height. It was unnerving, the feeling of the dark flood over your head and you drowning. It was certainly impressive.
“I like this one,” said Ralph.
“Agreed,” I said.
Oliver was giving it a teenage look. That look from a time of life when the whole world is dealt in terms only pertaining to the personal.
“I’d rather be watching the derby,” he said with fourteen-year-old disdain, referring to the United City match the following day (as a City fan he would be overjoyed by the 1-6 result in City's favour).
Good exhibition Dark Matters.
It was good to see the Whitworth Cafe was so full but it meant that the boys opted for Greggs instead, down the road.
I was in for two back to back guided tours and Ralph for several hours of action figure fighting at Games Workshop.
The first tour was at 2pm and was the Manchester Literary Tour. The weather was perfect.
I’ve done a number of these tours. Sponsorship from HSBC Premier has meant they have all been free. I was at capacity with this one, with over 30 people along.
We strolled the city and I read from Brighouse’s Hobson’s Choice, Burgess’s Little Wilson, Big God, Gaskell’s North and South, Jacobson’s The Mighty Waltzer, Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England, Disreali’s Coningsby and David Constantine’s beautiful and lyrical recent short story, Beginning, published in a Comma press anthology The Sheiling.
Poetry works a rare magic on these tours. Whether in the form of old ballads such as Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night or the doggerel of Jonathan Morgan Jones’ 1973 A Walk Around The City And Other Groans, or anonymous works from visitors about rain.
In the Cathedral I read the beautiful seventeenth century elegy by Robert Lever to his six dead children none made it to ten. I can’t think of more moving lines to the bitterness of all your children dying.
Here dy’d their Parents hopes and feares,
Once all their Ioy, now all their tearres,
They’r now past hope, past feare, or paine,
It were a sinne to wish them here againe.
Had they liv’d to th’age of Man,
This Inch had growne but to a span.
But now they take the lesser roomes.
Rock’t from their cradles to their Toombes,
View but the way from whence wee come,
You’le say He’s blest that soon’st at Home.
You see their Age and years of Grace,
I hope that Heaven’s their dwelling place.
Interesting that he puts ‘hope’ in the last line. This was a modern man, doubt was in his mind, a century or two early he would have 'known' not 'hoped' they’d be in Heaven.
We finished on a lighter note – sort of. Betty Driver’s funeral had taken place earlier in the day at St Ann’s Church, she’d played battle-axe barmaid Betty Turpin in Coronation Street famous for her hotpots. So I asked the group where they’d come from.
One lady now settled in Manchester was originally from Nepal. So she and I read out the very first lines in the very first Coronation Street which was broadcast in 1960. She was Florrie Lindley and I played Mrs Lappin. Funny.
I then asked them for a group photograph and they obliged and that was funnier. As I took the photo I noticed on the boards around the Big Wheel of Manchester there was a promotion for Key 103. This featured directly above the heads of my guests a picture of Pink clutching her breasts. We had laugh about that.
The great thing for a guide on these Literary tours is that the audience is both sympathetic and knowledgeable. And for once a guide doesn’t feel guilty about reading from notes because the notes are part of the fabric of the tour. Notes as a rule should never be used by guides unless absolutely necessary. After all we’re supposed to know what we’re talking about from the heart: tours aren’t mobile lectures.
The second tour was the Manchester Confidential Haunted Underworld tour. Big crowd again, one lady on massively high heels had clearly had a long liquid lunch and was very loud and exchanging smut with her boyfriend.
Difficult this pair, I thought.
But once we were in the dark, once the stories started they calmed down, fell quiet. At one point a woman shouted “Make it stop! Make it stop!”
In the dark, that sort of panic is wonderful for ratcheting up the tension. No problems with the drunken lady after that.
Given the art gallery visit earlier in the day it did strike me that darkness had been the theme for the day.
After the tour I had a pint in some awful bar on Deansgate with a friend. We’d gone there because everywhere decent nearby was full.
We had time for two drinks but several women on a night out had ordered cocktails and the three bar staff were all engaged making them, meaning that all the rest of the customers had to wait. People left, we did.
Bars need to sort out that cocktail nonsense, maybe just have one person concentrating on them. This is Britain, when we want a drink we want it fast. If you’re in a bar you need a glass in your hand. It’s the UK rule.
Art, literature, ghosts and beer. And later a Chinese take-away with the boys. A very good day.