Misty and cold at home, but sunny and mild in Manchester all day, sun which filled the public spaces of campus with students, at least compared to how it’s been for the last two months. ‘Without making a political point out of it, the idea of ‘lockdown’ is just no longer being confirmed by observation. Small businesses are still being shafted, but otherwise, many people have obviously just returned to living their lives.
This is the exterior of the Alliance Manchester Business School, built for a vast amount of money and now going completely to waste, along with the rest of the campus; monuments to a time past, now standing in a city of the dead. If you think I’m being over-dramatic, have you been to Manchester lately? Nothing has happened there since October. A sense of rot is setting in, and if you (like the publicly cheery city council) think that ‘recovery’ is all just a matter of a wave of the legislative wand, I say that’s optimistic, at best.
The vast MECD, or Manchester Engineering Campus Development, is pretty much finished. In embryonic form it was first depicted way back in early January 2018. It now dwarfs the old Oddfellows Hall, which it has part-swallowed, yet what you see rising here is only a small part of the whole.
Thing is — and I am very sure that, having spent hundreds of millions of pounds on this new plaything, the senior management of UoM are keenly aware of this point — is this now the whitest and most mammoth of white elephants? And what of all the blocks of new student accommodation, and hotels, and office blocks, and all the other city-centre property developments that global capital has been poured into over the last decade or so? If you think the economy’s taken a Covid hit thus far, wait for the whole global commercial property market to go tits-up. This piece of economic elastic does not have infinite tolerance. I predict we’ll be coaxed back out into our offices soon enough: if not, they’ll hear the crash on Pluto.
The fact that I am still going to campus, and intend to go two or three days a week through November, suggests that ‘lockdown’ as a concept is an even bigger con this time round than it was in March. The students in this hall have paid great sums of money and — in many cases — travelled thousands of miles to be in Manchester, but we can’t even see them from across a twenty-foot room. What do we do about it? I dunno, disobey somehow. At least the leaves are still just about hanging on.
Astonishing as this may seem, our Joe is now at the stage where he is putting together applications for university in 2021-22. Staffordshire University, in Stoke-on-Trent, is on the list, but all any of them can offer at the moment are ‘virtual open days’ which provide info, sure, but not a feeling for the place. And that’s essential if you’re going to spend three years anywhere. So we arranged for our own little tour of inspection today, both of the campus and the city. And despite it being dead, like the set of a post-apocalypse movie dead — the campus tour did not seem to be offputting. Perhaps then we will be seeing more of this place in the future.
This idea of ‘underuse’ has been a recurring theme lately — but there are obvious reasons for that, and it is going to become even more the case now that uni have decided that, after all, they would rather not teach face-to-face, ‘at least’ until the end of October. Which is, conveniently, after everyone’s arrived and paid their rent. Don’t blame me — I oppose the decision, and rather vehemently too. But it seems this opinion is now in the minority.
Wednesday 16th September 2020, 10.50am (day 3,310)
This little stand of apple trees outside the Ellen Wilkinson Building on campus sees its crop go mostly to waste even in a normal year. And as it is right now, the whole campus is neglected and starting to rot away. Such a waste.
First trip to campus since March 8th, which as it was a Sunday, already had a desolate, end-of-the-world feel about it that the subsequent closure has cemented in place. On the few days over lockdown that I have visited, all of the city of Manchester has seemed like a coma patient. There is a certain amount of internal activity, things moving around from place to place, but there’s no real life or consciousness to it. This guy looks very much like he’s pondering his future and so should we all. Plants are doing well, though.
A Manchester shot for the first time since December 19th. I must be showing my face on campus again. I like it when there’s nobody there. I only went in, basically, to up my step count.
There is a nice optical illusion on fhis shot. Look at the three pieces of guttering to the right and note how we seem here to have one of those ‘can this shape exist?’ dimensional paradoxes. I know how it’s happened, but it’s not immediately obvious on the picture itself.
I do still turn up on campus now and again but because of the increasingly painful train journey that it takes to get there — and, just as importantly, back — I am trying to do so less and less. Rainy mornings (which lead to me smelling damp all day) are no help either. But every so often I have little choice.