Here I am still going into Manchester a couple of days a week, largely because it gets the step count up. I will try not to get symbolic and just observe that I like this picture because of the various chunks of detail, which seem to lay over one another like a collage, particularly on the right hand side. And the pigeon which sneaked itself in.
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.
I’m not an economic expert, but I’ve been observing. Just audible at the moment, over the general silence of our cities, is a quiet but ominous creaking. If the arbitrary closures go on any longer than December 2nd, and the busiest month of the year is taken away from businesses like shops and pubs, expect to lose most of the independently-owned ones by March. I think Boris Johnson knows this, but the question is whether he cares enough.
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.
One of those days which was absolutely gorgeous until I arrived at work, and then after I left, it was dreadful, grey and raining. So let’s document the morning; featuring the second red-clad cyclist in three days. I like this spot on my walk to work, huddled beneath the Mancunian Way but very pleasant, particularly on an autumn morning.
One of those where the object of interest had turned at a junction and was trotting away from me in the distance before I realised how interesting it was. But I just about got the shot. That is the way to go, is it not. And this is the second horse-drawn hearse to appear on here, the first being in London back in January 2014.
Before the war…. or, I mean, before mid-March, I had installed a moratorium on any further pictures of building sites in Manchester. But as going to Manchester looks as if it will become an avenue of escape from further house arrest, I am inclined to lift the ban. This is all happening at least a hundred feet up in the air, as the crane helps with the completion of yet another huge office block in the centre of the city, one that probably looks increasingly like an elephant of the white persuasion.
It’s the end of September. The golden foliage is a sign autumn is here. With it come the students — but this year, instead of being out meeting new people and enjoying themselves, largely they are walled up in high-tech prisons like the George Kenyon hall behind. Still charged £9K (plus rent) for the privilege. And the UoM is one of the better ones, presently.
As Our Glorious Leader mumbles, fumbles and bumbles, people with lives to live get on with their jobs. For the first time since 8th March, I got to be in a room with other people, and taught. As it happens, I was teaching other teachers, the good folk of Manchester Grammar School, a venerable establishment that has been around in some form or other since 1515. In the grim year 2020, this felt like an explosion of humanity.