Sunday 16 April 2017

Macbeth comes to Manchester

Gig number two of the trip is in Manchester itself. At Beer Nouveau which, conveniently, is within walking distance of our hotel.

But we kick off on the other side of town. At the John Rylands Library. I’ve been past the building plenty of times. It’s a pretty hard to miss ornate pink stone gothic pile. Unless you’re so fixated on your phone you never lift your eyes from the pavement.  Dolores wanted to take a look at an exhibition there and have a look around the library itself.

Wanting to keep up the pretence of this trip not being just about beer, I said “Yes, brilliant.”

It wasn’t a lie. Not about the exhibition, but the building itself. I fancied a closer look at that.

(Did I mention my thing about buildings? It’s what I dream about, mostly. That missing buses/trams/trains/planes or losing all my computers.)

Like many old public buildings, some idiot decided to move the entrance from its logical and architectural signalled position at the front to a bland modern shed tacked onto a rear corner. Presumably so they could add a gift shop you can’t avoid. I really hate this sort of shit. Demonstrates both a lack of understanding and lack of respect for the older structure.

The modern extension is unlike the original building in very way. Every wrong and bad way. Trying really, really hard, you couldn’t come up with something less sympathetic. Bland and sterile is about the nicest way I can describe it. Though the phrase “turd atop a pie” is lurking around in the back of my mind.

The original building is gorgeous, if you like the wedding-cake intricacy of high neo-Gothic. I’ve come to appreciate it myself, after a somewhat sceptical start. The contents are equally impressive. Especially the weird old medical tomes they have on display.

The reading niches are beautiful and full of natural light. Great places to study. If it weren’t for the drip, drip water torture of passing gawpers. Of which I’m one, sadly. How the hell could you concentrate while being photographed by random passersby? Including me, sadly.

An hour or so in there’s a strange rasping in my throat. Must be all those dusty old books drying it out.

“Time to go to the pub, Dolores? My liver thinks I’ve turned teetotal.”

“There’s no chance of that, Ronald.” Dolores says. Accompanied by one of those looks.

Being lunchtime, Dolores agrees. We’d decided earlier that we’d be lunching at The Moon Under Water. We thought we’d splash out on a fancy Wetherspoon’s meal.

I quite like The Moon Under Water. Mostly because, being pretty huge, you’re just about guaranteed to find a table. It’s surprisingly quiet for 13:00 on a Sunday. Just the odd pensioner reading a paper. I blame all-day Sunday opening. When I were a lad I’d be jangling my change and shuffling from foot to foot at 11:45 every Sunday. You had to take advantage of every single minute of the 120 the pubs were open.

It’s a bit of a bummer that Wetherspoons have dropped Sunday dinners. But a steak and kidney pud will do just fine. I’m a man of simple tastes. Dolores goes for a meal with a pint option.

As I’ve told you tediously often, Dolores is a big fan of cask Bitter. Nothing fancy, just standard cask Bitter. It has to be cask, mind. None of that keg or smoothflow rubbish. She’s actually more doctrinaire on this point than me. I get her a pint of Ruddles Best and myself something a bit more crafty. Mostly because it’s the strongest cask beer they have.

When I get back to our table, I notice that my pint isn’t settling out. It looks like chocolate milk shake, except more cloudy. And thicker. I’m pretty sure that it isn’t meant to look like that. But you can’t be certain nowadays with all these trendy unfined beers.

(On a side note, just because a beer hasn’t been fined is no excuse for it pouring as murky as a pint of mud. A well-brewed beer should drop bright with or without finings, if left to settle long enough.)

I take it back to the beer and tell the friendly teenage barmaid that I think there’s something wrong with my beer.

“Isn’t it supposed to look like that?”, she asks in mellifluent Mancunian tones.

“I don’t think so.” I say, trying to sound confident. I’m old, so she’ll probably believe me.

“Is this right?” she asks an older colleague, who confirms that the barrel needs changing. Phew. I didn’t fancy arguing the toss on that one. What is the world coming to when you can’t be sure that a pint of sludge isn’t quite right?

I get a new pint of another beer.

There’s something very soothing about a Wetherspoons during a quiet patch. That tempts you to stay for several slow pints, while outside the world whizzes on at its usual frantic pace. Or maybe it’s just the cheap beer. I’m a bit of a sucker for that. And why I usually avoid crazily-priced evil keg.

Back in our hotel, I’ve time to polish off a couple of the leftover beers from yesterday’s event.

“I have to drink them, Dolores. We can’t take them back.” Which is true, as we’ve flown Easyjet and have no check in bags.

“Right, Ronald.” She says, giving me a very cynical look.

Beer Nouveau next. And an encounter on Temperance Street.

The John Rylands Library
150 Deansgate,
Manchester M3 3EH, UK
Tel: +44 161 306 0555

The Moon Under Water
68-74 Deansgate,
Manchester M3 2FN, UK
Tel: +44 161 834 5882

Buy my new Scottish book.


marquis said...

Yes, I remember the old licensing hours. I remember going for a Sunday morning walk and arriving at the Lime Kiln Inn at 11.50. We cleaned off our boots and waited until 12 noon on the dot we heard the door bolts being pulled back.
When we entered the pub it was half full of people with half full pint glasses and the air was full of cigarette smoke.
Obviously there people knew there was a back door too :)
Local knowledge was a wonderful thing in the days of strict opening hours.

Unknown said...

Hi Ron, I
Couldn't agree more with you about the architecture thing, but it's bloody difficult to gild I turd!!!!,

Anonymous said...

I have no way of knowing if it's the case with the Rylands library, but it's often the case with old buildings that the modern side entrance is built for climate control reasons. Opening big old doors often adds a lot to heating and cooling costs, and in some places it can vary the humidity inside a lot too. With places like libraries and museums they generally want to keep all of that under control.

Ideally, building owners would figure out ways to build unobtrusive fixes that let the original entrance be used, but that can get much more expensive than building a side entrance. Also, in centuries-old buildings the problem can be the doors themselves, which have warped and shifted over time, and fixing the draft issues would mean replacing the doors, which starts its own historical issues.

I agree that it's absolutely glorious with a big old building to climb the stairs and walk through grand doors and under a huge archway, but in some places it causes a lot of problems.

And, as you mention, sometimes it's also to funnel more people through a gift shop or it's for a bit of security theater.

qq said...

Another aspect is that the traditional entrance usually falls foul of the Disability Act and the planners prefer something out of sight round the back rather than having ramps all over the front. To be fair, they do have a point, some beautiful buildings have been disfigured by overenthusiastic interpretation of access rules.