Posted by jswt | Posted in General, UK - England - Manchester | Posted on 14-06-2010


Manchester: Another bombed out, soullessly rebuilt, slightly depressed UK city… Luckily, we can manage to have fun anywhere.

Sunday night: Got into town and the girl I traveled with that night said there was a concert that a friend of hers was performing in, and offered me a ticket to go. I’d never heard of Leona Lewis, but I’m always down with seeing a show that’s outside of my normal routine, so we hopped across the street to the sold out arena. We had great seat, and even though it wasn’t my normal thing, I appreciate a good singer, the the chick had pipes… she blew the top off one of an old song I like (video). Decent show, great voice, good production values, and superfun company.

The Saturday night previous (at the Horse Meat Disco night in Glasgow), I’d whipped out Shazam to trainspot a track they were playing – Bubble Bath by The Swiss. I’d googled them a bit this afternoon, and found out that they play their stuff as a live band with a drummer and were playing in Manchester tonight. So after the show, I hopped a cab across Manchester to try and catch their set, but unfortunately arrived just minutes after they’d finished… Chatted up the ironic-mustache folk at the bar and found out they were stellar live so looking forward to seeing them sometime in the future.

Monday: Day off and a great sleep-in. Epic Thai dinner out with a good crew, and then on to a fun b-day bash for one of the guys on tour at the bar with the gayest shooters evar made even scarier as you could order them by the pitcher for only 5 pounds. Late night of sugary goodness, and early morning kebabs…

Tues and Weds: Super-heavy heads-down work + gym = win.

Thurs: Caught a bus to meet up with a friend of mine in Yorkshire. I’d met James when he was an exchange student in Regina and had come to stay in Vancouver with me. We don’t see eachother much, but always manage to reconnect brilliantly. He grew up in the small town of York and I’d always wanted to see where he came from, so we spent the afternoon wandering the oldy-worldy cute little town of York: Old churches and ancient walls and an amazing cathedral. Never did figure out why the cavalry was out firing off canons, but the pseudo-blitzkreig helped balance out the calm peaceful nature of the town.

James hopped the train back to Manchester with me, and we met up with a friend Ben, who we met a couple years back when he was living in Vancouver… weirdly enough, James and Ben knew eachother through other circles, so we all met up and had dinner at the venue before they caught the show. Afterwards we went out for a good wander around Manchester hitting some wonderfully sleazy bars, karaeoke’ing with drag queens, and closing things down in the dodgiest club I’ve ever been in (complete with a DJ who was also the janitor). Good night out with some damn fun lads – was really good to catch up with both.

Friday: We hopped in a rental car and picked up our friend C from work and rolled out to the 100,000 person serious rockfest that is the Download Festival. Thanks to good planning it was a very civilized affair – camping involved showing up to find our tents already set up in the VIP camping area with the sleeping bags and airmattresses sorted. Inside the festival, we had access to the side-stage guest area, and then C ran into an old work contact who hooked us up with a private area with free food and an open bar. Admittedly, we spent more time hanging out by the open bar than in front of the stage, but when AC/DC was stepping up, there was no choice but for us to go out and rockout through sunset. Returning to the open bar after the show was a no-brainer and we closed it down and stumbled back to our tents. Even if we’d not been on the cushy ride, it was a serious eye opener to how the UK does festivals… it’s proper… facilities and services for 100,000 people done right.

Saturday: Got up with the birds and drove back to the city so Chris and C could get to work… It was the first day that England was playing in the World Cup (England VS USA), so the city was abuzz and the sun came out brilliantly. Spent most of the day wandering around, soaking up sun and just watching Manchurians get liquored up for the match. Had a few pints on Canal Street with some friendly folk, and wandered through Afflecks – this crazy weird building that’s like a flea market for punks, with stalls that are kinda shops all heavy on the black and skulls. Hard to explain, but totally worth popping in.

Saturday night I was a little wary of going out into the city to watch the match, lest I be mistaken for an american by the drunken chav hordes. Was watching in the hotel lobby bar for a while, then went downtown where I figured the bigscreens at the centre of town would be showing the game. Got down there, and there was no one to be seen – all the shops were shut and the streets were silent and the screens were black. Made a run for a local irish pub just in time to see the game end with a tie, and when I went back out ever pub and bar was spewing drunken Manchurians into the street. Figured that since they hadn’t beat America in the game, I’d head back to the hotel before they decided to beat a (mistaken) American.

Sunday: Chilled out and worked/gym’ed, took it easy…

Monday (today): Hopped the train to Birmingham this afternoon, from where I’m currently writing this from my hotel room waiting for the crew to arrive…

Enjoying my time here, but starting to feel like the UK is kind of like the America of Europe: the cities might vary slightly, but overall they’re pretty much all the same. Manchester didn’t have any parks or things to do other than shop and drink, similar to Glasgow the week before… I think that if I lived here i’d be a booze and pill ravaged wasteland full of anger, low inspiration and greasy malnutrition.

Again, still enjoying my time here with Chris and the peeps we have no trouble making fun with, but sort of glad there’s only a week left before I pop home for a couple weeks to see family, my cat, my own bed, and the things I’m realizing I really like about Vancouver (beaches. mountains. trees. non-deepfried food. etc.)

Appreciation of quality of life comes in all forms.