All posts by Graham Miln

Tiny Elevators

Retrofitting an apartment with an elevator is always going to involve compromise.

What was once a beautiful, stunning even, five story city centre building now houses tenants demanding modern convenience. Tenants have argued an elevator is essential and you must find a way to install one. They don’t care how, just make it happen.

I pity the engineers who looked at the building and came up with many of the retrofitted designs in this city. It must have been heart breaking to realise the options available.

The better instances carve into the central courtyard space. A square chunk neatly handed over to a shaft of metal and cables. Hidden from the street and affecting only those living in the apartments.

In our first apartment, the courtyard had already been eaten away with toilet blocks stacked on each other; providing residents with much needed indoor facilities. An additional bite out of the courtyard did little harm to the already shrunken space. Enough space now left only for the communal bins.

Looking down the shrunken courtyard
Looking down the shrunken courtyard
Looking up the shrunken courtyard
Looking up the shrunken courtyard
A tiny elevator suitable for two people
A tiny elevator suitable for two people

It is a rotten trade when in payment for your new elevator, an apartment block carves not into the courtyard, but instead into the stairwell itself.

Stairs once large enough to allow the passage of white goods or a sofa, reduced to a narrow squeeze space. Too small to allow free movement of larger items but still functional enough to allow claim to actually having stairs.

Elevator carved into stairs
Elevator carved into stairs

What do the tenants get in return for this trade? An elevator. But a useful elevator. Not always? Elevators capable of holding just one person, maybe two if they are close, are common.

We once used an elevator to carry up and down our large suitcases but not us. We could not fit inside along with our luggage. That luxury the tenants were not able to afford. Instead we pushed buttons, stepped back, and rushed up the stairs to meet the lift on our floor. An event probably neither as comical or as rare as we thought at the time.

As the years pass living in this aged city, it has become easy to forget the quirks and odd comprises. The layers of change seem normal and the resulting outcomes seem acceptable. Time is softening my critical judgement and the shrug so associated with the people of this nation seems an acceptable response. What other choice was there, it seems to reply.

A tiny elevator encroaching on the stairs
A tiny elevator encroaching on the stairs
A tiny elevator encroaching on the stairs
A tiny elevator encroaching on the stairs

Lights of Manchester Town Hall

It was a trick I discovered in Sydney’s town hall. When faced with a dark building interior, take photos of the lights from below. The results are fantastic.

Manchester‘s town hall is a beautiful building and worth a visit. Taking decent photographs inside is tricky. The lights tend to dominate the shot – they do however accent the gilt edges nicely.

Great Hall in Manchester's town hall
Great Hall in Manchester’s town hall

Standing directly below and photographing different clusters of lights produced these strange and beautiful photos.

Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall

Capturing an Indescribable Quality

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.

Evening in Lyon's large city park
Evening in Lyon’s large city park
Tiles on a dome in Vichy
Tiles on a dome in Vichy
A walkway alongside a spa in Vichy
A walkway alongside a spa in Vichy
A fountain in a Vichy spa
A fountain in a Vichy spa

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.

Water droplets caught mid-air
Water droplets caught mid-air

Manchester

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.

Manchester Piccadilly Station
Manchester Piccadilly Station
Glazed red tiles adorn many buildings
Glazed red tiles adorn many buildings
Manchester town hall and surrounds
Manchester town hall and surrounds
Walkways join council buildings
Walkways join council buildings
Staircase within Manchester town hall
Staircase within Manchester town hall
Corridor within Manchester town hall
Corridor within Manchester town hall
Manchester town hall's clock tower
Manchester town hall’s clock tower
Formal entrance to Manchester's Chinese district
Formal entrance to Manchester’s Chinese district
Boat locks within Manchester's city centre
Boat locks within Manchester’s city centre
Tram lines
Tram lines
Horizon dominating Beetham Tower
Horizon dominating Beetham Tower
Old Manchester train station
Old Manchester train station
Signage hints to a different past
Signage hints to a different past
View from the train over the inner suburbs
View from the train over the inner suburbs

English Language

I stared at this metro poster for minutes before understanding the intended meaning. I only paid attention because the organisation teaches English and felt I should understand the text.

"how douille houx doux ?" An unhelpful poster.
“how douille houx doux ?” An unhelpful poster. The business details are obscured.

The poster robs any easy meaning from the primary sentence. It does not scan quickly in either the English or French language. Thankfully the small print provides an answer.

Clever maybe but an effective advert?

As an aside, is the French phonetic translation of “do” really “douille”, why not the shorter “doux” twice?