24 December 2008

Madchester, Hot Dogs, Black Panthers, and… Christmas!

(note: these pics are not mine as I have not uploaded any yet)

Last weekend, we ventured out to Manchester. Kathleen had been briefly back in October but I had never been. I was super excited to check out the city because of the whole Joy Division/Factory Records connection. During my trip up to Flimby last week, one of the team leaders mentioned that he had gone to university in Manchester during the Hacienda’s heyday. He was there for the drug-fuelled Happy Monday’s chaos and had fond fond memories of the city. From the moment we got off the train, I felt that familiar urban feeling settle in. Our plan was to check out Urbis (a museum dedicated to life in urban centres), but first had to check out the last weekend of the Christmas Market.

Not sure if we've mentioned how insane Christmas is over here. The idea of political correctness in regards to non-Christian holidays is not at the forefront of the culture and everyone and everything is centred on the arrival of December 25 (I thought we did a good job decorating our cube back at Burton, but have since been put to shame). One of Manchester’s traditions is turning all of Saint Peter’s Square into a gigantic Christmas bizarre selling goods, food, and alcohol from all over Europe.

On our trip through we stopped and grabbed lunch. These were all grilling on an open fire at the middle of the market:

They looked and smelled delicious. On top of that, they were serving fresh pints of beer. We both agreed this was an amazing tasting lunch… until our stomach aches, which apparently occur about 30 minutes later in females and about 5 hours later in males.

We then made our way across town to Urbis. The building itself is pretty amazing and definitely stands out from a lot of the older architecture of the city.

They were having an exhibit of the work of Emory Douglas who was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther party. He was responsible for all of the artwork, posters, and newspapers that the party distributed. Both Kathleen and I were unprepared for how emotional this exhibit was (yes, Jason, you too would have been emotional). We spent about an hour wandering through the exhibit which used videos, prints, books, and other media to tell about the black struggle. At the start you round a corner and gunshots sound out of nowhere, which make your heart jump. These sounds and a partial list of those civil rights leaders who were assasinated pretty much set the tone for the entire show. The exhibit ended with a full quotation of the PE song Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.

On a side note, we found out that the museum offers walking tours of the city including a Factory Records Tour. OK, so the city is definitely cashing in pretty heavily on it’s musical heritage, but sometimes you have to give in (Bill, we will try to wait for your visit, but I see myself going back in January).

After our museum time, we spent another hour or so wandering around High Street, weaving in and out of Christmas shoppers (whom I have decided don’t really love their friends and family if they are still shopping this late in the game). On our way back to the train station, we stopped at a bar inside of an independent movie house. Although it is lacking that run down non profit look of the Brattle in Harvard, I was still psyched to learn about it. We had a few pints of Bitter and started discussing whether we could live here or not (dog, commutes, expense, etc). I am not sure whether we can make it happen or not, but I am psyched to have the city close by. We really only saw a fraction of what is there and people at work have promised to make me a map of good places to go out at night.

So there is my Wednesday update. Kathleen and I are off to London for Christmas and will be down there through the New Year. Internet access might not be happening in our place there so we may be incommunicado for a bit. I hope everyone has an awesome holiday though and for those near the snow, get on it!


  1. What Mark fails to mention in regard to our stomach aches is the other crap we ate that day. I ate a crepe ('pancake,' here) filled with Nutella and he gnawed on this giant hunk of chocolate/caramel/marshmallow thing. It might not have *just* been the sausage.

  2. Oh yes, I had forgotten about that. I should have taken a picture. It looked something like the cereal Will Farrell eats in Elf I believe...

  3. Question. Were you also listening to the Promise Ring? Because that might have had something to do with it...