Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sights of Manchester and Saddleworth.

On Tuesdays I catch a bus to the tram stop and then a tram to Manchester. Because of the masses of roadworks going on in Manchester (have I mentioned already that central Manchester is one big building site?) my tram no longer goes to Saint Peter's Square but turns off towards Piccadilly and then goes to Ashton. In fact, although some trams now go through the Saint Peter's Square stop, nothing stops there. Consequently, to get to my Italian class, which is held in the Manchester Deaf Institute, down by the universities, I have to walk for about twenty minutes across the city centre, zigzagging through the works where they are busy improving our tram service(!) and then a fair distance down Oxford Road. 

On the way, as well as road works, tram improvement works and smartly dressed Jehovah's Witnesses, who stand stock still and hold out copies of The Watchtower, I see numerous homeless people. Most of them simply sit and look dejected. Some call out to you, asking if you can spare some change. A few sit in groups and talk earnestly. Down Oxford Road there was until recently a colony of homeless who had set up tents under one of the bridges. They sat around braziers and cooked food. Passers-by gave them food as well as money. The large colony has been dismantled and moved on more than once but it keeps coming back and yesterday there were a couple of tents once more. 

The homeless man who impressed me yesterday was the youngish man who simply sat on the pavement, leaning on the wall of the building behind him, his belongings in a bag next to him, reading a book. He was minding his own business, just getting on with his reading. In front of him was a cap with a few coins in, presumably to remind folk that he would like a donation if you happened to notice him. As I was in no hurry and had plenty of time to reach my destination, I stopped and asked what he was reading: Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman". He told me what he thought of it. I told him what I had heard and read in the way of reviews and commented that I maybe should get myself a copy. Whereupon he told me that If I were to walk that way on the following day he would let me have his copy as he would undoubtedly have finished it. He offered me "Girl on a Train", which he had finished the day before. I declined that offer. What I have read about "Girl on a Train" does not encourage me to read it. 

But it seems that there is a kind of network for passing books on. What a good idea. Maybe I should remember to carry with me a book or two that I have read and don't intend to read again; I could pass them on. As for the homeless man, even if reading is an attention-seeking gimmick, like having a dog that people stop and pet with the advantage that you don't have to feed a book, I still say good for him! Much better than just sitting staring into space and holding out your hand. 

Locally we do not see homeless people. There is a woman, possibly Rumanian, who sells the Big Issue in Uppermill, but I am not sure she is actually homeless as I have seen her coming out of a house in Lees and catching the bus to Uppermill. Workless but not homeless then. 

We do, however, have our share of roadworks. Some might say more than our share. Even on the canal, there are roadworks. OK, canal works. This morning I saw workmen who looked as though they were doing maintenance work or repair work on one of the lock gates. The water had been kept out of the lock for long enough for the stretch of canal between there and the next lock along to be seriously depleted. 

And further along, although there was still a fair amount of water, the level was clearly down. The Ashley Rose, moored near the Uppermill park, a boat that sometimes sells flowers and potting plants and advertises gardening services, was listing badly. Poor thing? 

Not even the torrential rain of Monday had refilled the canal. The river was a different matter. The stepping stones were almost all under the water and I had to go the long way round from the towpath to get into the village centre and go to the market. 

Such is life!

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