The electric jolt of the city

Even the most confirmed country dweller needs an injection of city energy every now and then.  Today I went into Manchester for lunch with an old friend.  Sometimes going into the city overwhelms me for a while with its noise and dirt and crowds, and it takes a few hours for me to stop gawping at the traffic like a country bumpkin.  You wouldn't think I had lived and worked in Manchester and London for years.  Seven years up here on the hillside has created a world, internal as well as external, which is green and quiet and empty of rubbish and crowds and noise.  But today for some reason I just slipped right into city mode like an otter into water.

It helped that the city was quiet this morning.  I caught a bus into the centre after Ian dropped me off.  At home in North Wales we walk or we go in the car.  Public transport is thin on the ground in the country.  It was a pleasant surprise to sit on a bus and watch the university buildings pass by.  In a very few weeks they will be heaving with students, the confident returners and the new ones, wet behind the ears and loud and skittish with nerves, but for now the buildings are quiet, the cafes and refectories empty and gleaming behind their plate glass windows.

I had a couple of hours to spend before meeting my friend for lunch so I wandered slowly along the streets which were once one of my stamping grounds.  I stopped for a coffee, not because I particularly wanted a drink but because of the luxury of sitting quietly with a newspaper watching people go by, with no jobs in the house or garden calling me as they do at home.  If they were calling I was much too far away to hear.

I like Manchester.  Manchester and London are my cities: cities in which I have lived and worked  at different times  for over twenty years; cities that I really know and feel at home in.  London has that extraordinary energy and complexity and is probably my first love but Manchester is funny and lively, gritty and cosmopolitan at the same time.  It is also a great size.  It has all the interesting shops you would find in London but everything is within a walk.  This is to exclude the horrors of the Trafford Centre, a huge synthetic temple to Mammon which I hate and avoid like the plague.

So I wandered about and I bought some black ankle boots and a linen shirt of startling pink.  I gawped at the window of Harvey Nicolls and dawdled in East.  I am not a shopper, certainly not a recreational shopper.  I like to go in knowing what I want, find it, buy it and exit at speed. That worked beautifully because I had spent so long people watching in the coffee shop that I didn't have long to shop.

I didn't walk far but one thing that did surprise me was the proliferation of businesses offering all sorts of  beauty treatments: tanning shops, nail bars, places offering teeth whitening and botox and dermal fillers and chemical peels. I am sure they have mushroomed over the last couple of years.  Don't get me wrong.  I am not a Puritan.  I dye my hair and have done for years.  I haven't been seen without mascara since the early days of the last century (well maybe a slight exaggeration but you know what I mean).  But I think it has to be a bad thing to be so obsessed with how we look.  If you feel that you are what you look like, you are on a hiding to nothing.  We will age and lose our looks, however botoxed and peeled and teeth whitened and tanned we are.  Let it go, let it go.  We are not "worth it" despite what the adverts proclaim.  Look ageing in the face, maybe just a quick sideways glance so as not to go insane, and buy a pink shirt.  Do not set yourself up to fail by buying into the whole idea that you can be forever young.  Nuts.  I had my time and a very good time I had too.  Every generation must give way to the next and the navel gazing which accompanies all this obsession with how we look doesn't help people to live well and happily.  Whoops, that came out of nowhere at speed!  Sorry!

Gets down off soapbox.

I met my friend at Cafe Istanbul on Bridge Street.  We had a long, leisurely lunch where we ranged over everything from the porridge effect achieved by our upper arms, through post graduate psychology courses, growing mushrooms, the boomerang generation which  brings adult children back home to live, the Paralympics and the delights and demands of families.  We talked about serious stuff and laughed a lot.

Thank you Manchester and thank you S for a lovely day.

Comments

  1. Put on your black ankle boots, pink shirt, head high . . . walk out into your world of today and shout . . . LIFE IS GRAND . . .

    Best I have read in a long, long time . . . I have saved it, may I send it on to a "non blogger" whom I had a similar discussion with today about hair , nails and more!

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    1. Thanks Lynne! I would be honoured if you shared it anywhere!

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  2. Great post Elizabeth, but what are we supposed to give to the next generation? Can't they make or claim it themselves?

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    1. You just have to cede your place on the planet to them Charles!

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  3. Hear, hear! It startles me how quickly products and processes that we considered ludicrous not so many years ago are quickly become accepted, if not de rigueur
    I love having a few hours to myself in a city, time to wander and gawk and sit by myself with a drink. Glad you had such a pleasant day -- and will now appreciate your hilltop quiet even more.

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    1. It is extraordinary isn't it, how quickly we have come to accept that a level of grooming which only a few years ago would have been a requirement only for those who earned their living from their looks has become almost normal?

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  4. Waht a fabulous phrase: "I slipped into city mode like an otter into water." Lovely

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  5. Captures perfectly how we long occasionally for city streets and lights and a latte whenever you want it. I'm with you on London and Manchester - my favourites too!

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    1. Quite odd. I love where I live and would struggle to live in a city now I think, but sometimes a blast of city living really makes me wake up!

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  6. I like Manchester too. If it weren't so far from the sea, I'd consider living near it. I grew up in London and hated it - but since it's been 'done up' I've warmed to it more. (At least, to the central, touristy bits!) (Oh - and Clapham and Brixton, I like them.)

    About looks etc. - I'm not a make-up person. I've never been beautiful. I've never understood either why we 'owe' anything to ourselves or 'deserve' anything in particular. HOWEVER - I have no intention of handing anything over to anyone, next generation or no!

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    1. I am not sure we have any choice about passing on to the next generation. It is a simple question of who is likely to die first. Everyone's time is limited. We just started ours earlier!

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  7. When you write like that about London (I really don't know Manchester at all) I feel a longing. Work and the children have always dragged me back. I know just how you feel. It is wonderful just to walk, heading north, or south, or east. It is a marvellous place. I suppose I took it for granted for so long, moaned about the noise and dirt and deficiencies, but also secretly loved it. Now I have no good reason to go back and do so only rarely. I have made only a single trip this year, whereas I used to go about once a month. So I know just what you mean. As for looks, I have been blessed with slow ageing, still have my original hair colour and if it isn't quite as thick as it was, whose is? But I agree that not enough is done to teach the young about inner beauty. I wonder if you could make an enterprise out of a little 'drop-in' where the lights were low, the cushions soft and some meditational music in the background, where for five minutes of your busy city day you could really just tune-in, drop-out relax and be refreshed.

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    1. "The noise and the dirt and the deficiencies" - what a great phrase. But yes, fabulous places nevertheless.

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  8. Elizabeth, we have many of those "re-surfacing" establishments over here in New York, too. I am astounded at how many there are and wonder how they all find enough clients/customers to achieve a profit. Many of the original NYC nail salons, as they are called, were begun by Asian immigrants who arrived with funds to invest but without full English language skills. I don't know if those considerations still encourage more and more of the salons.

    I do know that I have yet to ever have a manicure/pedicure. I very much appreciate the scissor skills of my talented hair stylist, but my hair color melange is still all my own.

    I really enjoyed reading about your slipping back into the city. How long would it take for you to walk to a bus, even a bus with a very irregular schedule? I guess that even with its lack of glamour, I do appreciate our city's public transport resources. With a monthly ticket, the more one used the subways and buses, the bigger the bargain.

    xo

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    1. There is bus route about twenty minutes walk away but it only goes to the nearest market town. It would take a long while to get to the city!

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  9. I have to admit to an occasional manicure. Not often, just now & then. I always end up with panda eyes and no mascara left on my lashes by the end of the day so I now have my lashes and brows tinted once a month. Though I will add a touch of mascara if I am going out.

    I never have liked cities and crowds. Don't mind going now and then, but never have made a habit of visiting them. However, I love watching people. They are fascinating. From red bows on your wellies at Tatton to old couples walking down the high street hand in hand.

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    1. The red bows on the wellies were quite something weren't they?!

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  10. I had a day like that in London in June. I still love the city but not sure I could live there again were we ever to move back. Anyway, I met an old AA colleague and we sat outside her new offices (a chic plaza hidden away), sipping wine and watching all our old workmates come and go. It was magical. And expensive - LOL.

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    1. I couldn't live in London any more either but I love to visit. And yes to expensive!

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  11. Manchester is much underrated - and I agree about an occasional injection of metropolitan life. I like the anonymity of it too -especially London.

    Talking of electric jolts, we were ht by lightning the other day - the house not us, you understand. Nightmare getting everything sorted afterward - it fried half our electrics!

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    1. Anonymity is a much under rated thing! I love my life here but people know I have had a parcel before the delivery man comes!

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  12. oooo linen shirt in startling pink , well that sounds just the business, I enjoyed all of this post and I am glad that you had a good time with your friend and the electric jolt of the city - but what stays with me is the pink shirt .... must get me to a city sometime, it is probably just what I need too.
    K
    xx

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    1. You get out of the habit of cities but they are vibrant and energising places, as well as all the less good stuff!

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  13. Must try to give Manchester a fair chance especially as one of my nieces is now a student there. She has come over from Singapore and has settled in well. I think that my apprehension stems from my first visit there. I found it all very noisy and totally overwhelming. I still must be one of the minority of the population in the north west who has never set a foot in the Trafford Centre :) I colour my hair too but would not entertain any other denials of the passage of time. I'm not sure whether we lose our looks with the years Elizabeth or just have more lived in faces.

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    1. Manchester needs a while to grow on you I think. Start with the City Art Gallery and Albert Square and work out!

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  14. Excellent post. Lynne from 'Irish Garden House' blog re-posted it, with a link to here. My thanks to both of you.

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    1. Good to meet you. I am flattered to be reposted!

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  15. It sounds like you had a fun, relaxing day for a change. I couldn't agree with you more about the 'beauty' industry. I won't be long (20 years or so, maybe less) when all women will look the same! What happened to individuality and character?
    Teresa x

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    1. There is a great drive to produce a homogenised beauty, I agree, and a particular way of looking when you age which is not actually looking young, but worked on!

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  16. Your day is a dream for me--mostly because I love the shift from quiet life to bustle. I like that feeling that I'm able to shift gears and find the shift energizing and challenging. To throw in a little shopping on top of that? Well done.

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    1. I like the shift too. Maybe I don't do enough of it!

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  17. I was agreeing with you all the way through this post, lovely.....

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  18. I love Manchester too, I spent three ridiculously happy years there as a student *cough* years ago, and still enjoy going back. But only briefly! Am with you all the way on the soapbox rant about the apparent obsession with buffing and primping. A sign of a society with too much time and money on its hands? Or just obsessed with the surface? Not that I am against people making themselves feel good with a little grooming. And I haven't seen my "real" hair colour for nearly 20 years, I have far too much fun changing it around. Oh dear, I think I joined you on your soap box! Will hope that now I don't live so far away we can meet in the flesh and bond over wine, ageing disgracefully in bright colours, and gardening...

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    1. Well that sounds fab - the bonding plan I mean! Let's make it happen.

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