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.
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.
A little while ago, before the summer sun arrived in Lyon, we visited Marseille for the weekend. I was looking forward to a couple of warm, sunny days by the seaside. But I wasn’t prepared for the wind. Unrelenting, inescapable wind, which Marseille is apparently famous for, along with its soap.
Wind aside, we spent the weekend exploring the city, and took a local bus to visit the calanques. The calanques are rocky inlets along the coast. The water shimmers blue and turquoise, and they are dotted with fishing villages. The contrast with the sprawling city of Marseille is made even more remarkable by its proximity.
In the stairwell of our apartment building there is a plant. It sits on a windowsill in front of an old stained-glass window.
The plant was there when we first looked at the apartment, and I remember thinking it made the building feel more friendly. Then it appeared to die, and the pot was left on the windowsill, empty and abandoned. I assumed that whoever had left it there had moved on.
But spring revealed that the plant was not abandoned, just dormant. Green shoots emerged through the earth, and turned into thick, leafy stems, that now support an increasing number of flowers. Their perfume fills the stairwell, and it’s the first thing I notice whenever I open the door.
I don’t know who is responsible for this plant. Our apartment building, like many others, is fairly anonymous. We say hello as we pass on the stairs, but the relationships don’t extend beyond simple greetings. I’m happy with this arrangement. Nonetheless, I appreciate whoever is quietly tending this plant and making our stairwell more cheerful.
Thank you, anonymous neighbour, for sharing your delightful flowers with us.