Grab a selection of your favourite architecture, whether it be red brick decaying factories with trees growing on the roof, Tudor quaintness, Georgian splendour or immense glassy skyscrapers from the future. Give them a shake, add some grubbily enticing looking Kebab houses and randomly plonk down in a dazzling array of whirls, lines and patterns. Congratulations. You have made a Manchester.

I love this place; it constantly changes and evolves, new bars and skyscrapers soaring from the remnants of cotton factories and warehouses, antiquated little streets, poncy bars next to wholesale fabric shops and curry houses. There is a sense of urgency, something is always happening or about to but with none of the smug self satisfied trying too hard to be edgy side of London. It is shambolic, retro, futuristic, and a living breathing place. The centre is not a ghost town on the weekends; people live here in the gluts of fancy apartments now going for a song and behind the bedraggled curtains of rooms above gyms and takeaways.

The Northern Quarter is my favourite, swanky looking bars but where a bottle of wine can be had for eight quid, dingy merry pubs filled with human flotsam and jetsam, retro boutiques and chi-chi cafes alongside places where the menu is advertised on faded fluorescent stars. The five story shrine to Emo-hood is here, Affleck’s Palace, I feel old here yearning at the multitudes of sparkling hairclips and brightly coloured hoodies as dazzling flocks of over-confident teenagers cackle and shriek past.

You can afford to live here, it is not a tourist attraction for the moneyed, it has not all been developed and redeveloped ad infinitum, real history pokes out on every turn and makes the modern all the more vivid for it. A microcosm, a kaleidoscope, a journey through the people’s history.

Museums often seem only to tell the stories of the rich. The glazed glass eyes of dead animals shot by gouty dead cowards, enormous dingy paintings of a florid bearded man or simpering rich woman in extravagant skirtage, gilt and cornicing, nothing to relate to, nothing to make me feel these were people like me.

The People’s History Museum in Manchester is different. It shows the lives and deaths of the real movers and shakers, the strikers, the martyrs and the rioters, the people in the street trying to earn enough money to pay for tea.  There are coffins you can open, clothes to try on, vintage Gay Rights banners and not a dead polar bear in sight. It is interactive without being patronising, interesting and ambitious and makes you realise the gaping void at the centre of how history is normally presented. People whose lives we look on now because they actually did something, something important and brave and innovative that actually affects us now, were not just inbred lucky sperm with silly hair* poncing around on horseback.

We go to look at Art next but the art galleries are all closed because it’s Monday so we go to the Odd Bar in the Northern Quarter and have veggie black pudding kebabs and happily eavesdrop on the swarms on conversation from the chattering classes around us.

The Grade two listed Marble Arch squats on an unattractive road on the way to Ancoats. Inside, one is dazzled by a multitude of tiles mosaics adorning the walls, ceiling and floor. The interior seems almost untouched from its beginning in 1888 apart from the waft of Nirvana and the chalkboard advertising very nice looking food indeed but with the eight to ten pound mark putting it outside the average 19th labourers pay packet. There is a microbrewery attached (Marble Brewery) there is chocolate and ginger flavoured beer and the chips look excellent. Ergo it is a Good Pub.

I will never learn to get my bearings in Manchester, no matter how many times I go, there seems no rhyme or reason to it, it is fluid, changeable and malleable. I just walk, watch, listen and admire.

*The person, not the sperm is the one with hair.

More Manchester pics here

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