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

Finding the Bees in Manchester

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.

Floor of Manchester town hall A closer look at the town hall floor Public bin in Manchester Bee carved into stonework of a building Manchester's worker bee Bees in the crest of the Corn Exchange Metalwork bee Bee motif on a traffic bollard Planter box in Manchester

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.

Watch the video.

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’s Libraries

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.

Portico Library

Labelled bookshelves in Portico Library Glass roof of Portico Library Portico Library
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

John Rylands Library Building Main Staircase in John Rylands Library John Rylands Library Main Hall
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.

Central Library

Manchester Central Library Building Books line the circular walls of the Central Library reading room Exquisite clock in the centre of the reading room
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

Grounds of Chetham's Music School Chained books in Chetham's Library Dark wood bookcases in Chetham's Library
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.