If you wander around Manchester, you will see bees everywhere. The worker bee is a symbol of Manchester, and it adorns their public buildings, bins, and bollards.
Our visit to Manchester turned into a treasure hunt for bees. It started at the town hall. I saw a TV programme a while ago which showed the mosaic bees on the floor of Manchester’s town hall, and when we decided to visit the city, it was the first thing that went on my to-see list.
From there, I was curious to see how many other bees we could spot around the city. Some were obvious, like those decorating the many public bins. Others were more discreet, hiding within emblems or carved into the stonework of buildings.
I love taking photographs and rarely leave home without my camera. I am frequently reminded that while I love pointing and clicking away, I often fall far short of capturing the view as I remember it.
Often my photos feel lacking depth and contrast. Over the years I have learnt to rein in my camera’s automatic settings and white balance adjustments but my methods are tricks rather than expertise based on real understanding.
Recently I have begun to work on changing that. I have started taking more photos on settings other than the comfortable, forgiving, automatic and program modes.
I have started messing around with one setting at a time; learning what it does, how it affects my photos, and what new types of photographs the setting opens up for me.
The result is many more photos but with few worth keeping. Those I do keep justify my efforts.
Those few stand out for feeling better; they have an indescribable quality of being captivating. The moment more accurately evoked – both lighter and darker – less perfect in some ways, but much more interesting to look at.
Libraries are not generally what you’d consider tourist attractions. So, it surprised me to realise that we had visited four libraries during our three-day visit to Manchester.
The Portico Library is a tiny, glass-domed reading room, with book-lined walls. It was established in 1806, and I can imagine gentlemen of the day discussing business and politics in deep armchairs. The centre of the room is now crowded with display cases and cafe tables, which hides some of the grandeur of the space.
John Rylands Library
The John Rylands Library is magnificent and surreal. It looks like a gothic cathedral, and it is so unexpected that it feels like an elaborate movie set.
If your things-to-see list only has space for one library, this is the one to visit.
The Central Library is a public lending library. The impressive, circular building tempted us in, and the modern renovation within was even more impressive. Along with the modern facilities, they have preserved some of the old features of the building; the domed reading room is exquisite.
Chetham’s Library is another tiny library, tucked away in the grounds of Chetham’s School of Music. The dark wood-panelled bookshelves open up into a room where Karl Marx once studied.
I had never visited Manchester before. Manchester is city to the north of England and one steeped in history. Even with such a rich past, I know the city more through its modern place in culture – a place of music and as a counter-point to an all too often London centric country.
Being able to visit Manchester with Megan, who grew up in Australia, was a linguistic treat. Megan knows bedding and linen collectively as Manchester. This term for linen is used in shops and in general conversation in Australia. You will find a Manchester department advertised within a store and there you will find the bedding.
Taking Megan to a city so associated with a product was always going to be fun. There was of course no mention of the Australian interpretation of the name to be found. We did try to learn more at the Museum of Science and Industry.
The accents further north in Great Britain are also a linguistic treat. A few conversations ended with Megan looking bemused, wondering what had been said.
The city centre felt alive with young people. Nearby university buildings ensured this; students were visible everywhere we went. We happened to visit at the time of graduation ceremonies and twice found ourselves within throngs of proud parents and garbed up graduates.
We only saw a few brief glimpses of the centre and the city during our visit. From the train, the suburbs told a different story, long rows of red brick houses stretched out into the distance. It would be interesting to see a bit more of that world.