We got up this morning to find a dry and sunny day awaiting us. Last-minute packing and chores done, we caught a 476 bus to Euston station where we arrived with enough time in hand to consume our usual breakfast (porridge, croissants and coffee) before boarding our train on platform 6. Our reserved seats are at the end of a carriage. This has the advantage of easy access and exit, and enables us to keep an eye on our luggage, but the disadvantage that the seat has no window, meaning that we have to peer between heads and over seat backs to see outside.
As we run north, the clouds gather and by the time we reach Stoke-on-Trent, it is raining determinedly. We are also behind schedule having earlier been diverted onto the slow track for a while because of line problems. Fortunately, this is not a courier run but a holiday so delays, though a nuisance, can be taken calmly.
The train did not manage to make up its delay and we drew into Manchester Piccadilly station around 11:25. By now, we were glad to see, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining between clouds.
Because we had luggage and were uncertain of the direction to take for the hotel, we treated ourselves to a cab. In the advertisement, the hotel, the Holiday Inn, claimed to be in a central location though the address, 888 Oldham Road, did give us pause for thought. As the cab proceeded, it became clear that the hotel was further out from centre than we had been led to believe. That is quite an important consideration if, like us, you do not have a car but are obliged to use public transport.
As hotel rooms go, this one is satisfactory, though the mood at reception was perfunctory and not particularly welcoming. The layout is obviously designed for people with cars: the entrance is around the corner from the main road and you have to walk across the car park to reach the main entrance. Because of its bleak setting in an apparently deserted industrial zone and the tall iron railings around the perimeter, we refer to it as Stalag Grimshaw, after the name of the nearby Grimshaw Lane bus stop.
We got settled in, made tea and had a little rest. The makings of tea and coffee are provided but we always bring our own, so I was able to enjoy a mug of good strong Russian Caravan! From the stop near the hotel, there is a bus roughly every 10 minutes which takes us into town. Depending on exactly where you want to go, the journey is about 5 to 10 minutes. Though it is a nuisance having to take the bus each time (and again on our return), we have endured worse on other occasions.
We reached town at about 1:15 and looked around for lunch. We plumped for PizzaExpress which currently has a lunchtime offer of two courses for £10. The waiter was everything that the hotel reception was not – welcoming, friendly and helpful. Other people we have met have also been cheerful and amiable so let’s hope that is a trend set to continue.
After lunch we did as we usually do and went for an exploratory ramble, seeing what there was to see. We had been to Manchester before so some things were familiar to us and some were new. Manchester, like several other cities we know and appreciate, runs a free bus service in the central area. In fact, Manchester does better than most by providing not one, but three free routes. These buses offer a good way to explore the centre.
Our ride took us near the People’s History Museum so we went in and visited it. The theme of the museum is the struggle to achieve civil rights and decent living standards for the mass of the population against the jealous retention of wealth and power by a corrupt minority. This was rather appropriate for me as I am currently reading Emmeline Pankhurst‘s account of her struggle for women’s suffrage, My Own Story, which is closely interlinked with the theme of the museum.
We asked whether we could take photos are were told that we could as long as we signed a disclaimer saying we would not sell, or make copies for sale, of any photos. We then asked if the photos could be posted on my blog. I was asked write on the form, under "Purpose" that the photos were for my blog. However, the assistant also said I should be careful because some items on display were covered by copyright. That was hardly helpful as there is no way for me to know which are so covered and which are not. All I can do is post and hope that my usual copyright notice covers all eventualities.
The message that I draw from the museum – and from Emmeline Pankhurst’s book – is that we are extremely fortunate to be living in the aftermath of those struggles and to be enjoying the life that those campaigners fought for, often bitterly, and at great cost to themselves. There is, however, a darker message that we ignore at our peril, namely that these gains are by no means irreversible – take a look around the world and see many cases of their being undone – and that corruption and selfishness are still rife in the corridors of power. In the spurious name of "security", government has already undone many of our hard won freedoms and will continue to do so unless we stand firm against this.
After the museum, we returned to the centre, stopping occasionally for tea or coffee, until we felt it was time to return to the hotel. We then had a decision to make: should we have supper now and then go back to the hotel; or go to the hotel now and come out again later? I was not hungry but neither did I fancy coming out again later. What should we do?
Tigger then pulled the rabbit of lateral thinking from the hat: we went into a small supermarket and bought food to take back to the hotel. Problem solved!
Now all I have to do is upload and catalogue my photos, put on charge our menagerie of electronic devices, and then I can relax and look forward to further adventures tomorrow.