We have spent a good part of today and all of yesterday evening with a bunch of friends all of whom have known each other for at least 50 years, some for a good deal longer. Every so often we get together and reminisce and set the world to rights.
Last night we went and stuffed our faces with Turkish food at a restaurant in Prestwich, and incidentally drank rather a lot of wine. The food was excellent. The wine was pretty good too. One of our number stood on the table at one point in the evening.
This is the kind of thing that happens when a bunch of baby boomers start recapturing their youth.
Today we met at around 10:30 am, a remarkably early time for people who had eaten and drunk a lot the night before. Even more remarkable was the fact that we all made it to the meeting point more or less on time.
The original plan had been that we would go for a ride on a steam train from Bury to possibly Ramsbottom. Last year we did the journey from Rawtenstall and a very good time we had too. This year, however, such has seemingly been the success of the Christmas steam train rides that there were no tickets left for today, despite attempts to book a few weeks ago.
And so we had to think again.
A sort of guided reminiscence tour of Manchester city centre was proposed, one of our number having been away from the city for a good while, and was enthusiastically accepted. Half a dozen old age pensioners (a few of Friday night’s revellers had had to set off for home earlier in the morning) rather over-excitedly caught a bus and went and sat upstairs, something unheard of most of the time. Those of our party who reside on Wales or Scotland had a little moan because their Welsh and Scots bus passes are not viable here. But we had the reverse problem when we met in Wales a few weeks back.
We visited the cathedral and admired the stained glass, especially the blitz images. And we appreciated the organ music - a new and expensive organ!
We moved on through the Corn Exchange, now a collection restaurants of a variety of sorts, to the Royal Exchange, for a long time now a theatre, straddling Cross Street and St Ann’s Square. Some of our party spent money in the shops there. Others of us used the loos.
Next stop, St Ann’s Church, third oldest building in Manchester. Very pretty.
We kept losing members of the group as people stopped to admire things, to reminisce, to wander off on their own to find some personal memory. It’s a good job there were only six of us.
We were on the lookout, among other things for St. Mary's church. The Hidden Gem, as it is known, probably because it’s off the beaten track, was founded in 1794 in the centre of what was then, the poorest quarter of Manchester. It is now thought to be the oldest post-Reformation Catholic church founded as a church in any major centre of population in England. The Relief act allowing Catholic churches to be built again as churches was passed in 1791. The building of St. Mary's was begun in 1792. We found it but we didn’t stay long as a service was in progress.
Eventually we reached Albert Square and threaded our way through to St Peter’s Square, stopping en route for refreshments at the cafe in Manchester Central Library, where quite a few of our gang had done revision for A-Level exams in the dim and distant past - the library that is, not the cafe.
And finally we arrived at St Peter’s Square, where we went and looked at the empty spot where next Friday they will unveil a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst.
By then some of the excursionists were feeling the need to drink beer. Besides, it was starting to rain. So we sought shelter in a local hostelry.
There was a suggestion that we might go on to the cinema later in the afternoon but we were all a little frazzled by then.
So four of the gang went off to find food while Phil and I went to the tram-stop and caught the next tram back to Oldham.
Another successful jaunt!