18 February 2008

Mancunian Gargoyles

The trip's gone well so far -- Friday's meeting went about as well as could be hoped for, I think, and I've managed lots of time with my cousins here, and a little with a few friends. I'll be sad to be heading home tomorrow; God alone knows when I'll be back.

Today's been a bit hectic, what with me having tea and catching up with two mates this morning, soup with Jane Petal this afternoon, and in between a long chat with the mysterious figure I euphemistically refer to only as 'The Angel.'

I'm staying out by Manchester's whistling tower this evening, and so making my way here -- post soup -- I lingered a while in Albert Square. No, not that Albert Square. The one in Manchester, you buffoons.

Albert Square is one of the most remarkable places in the city, although I didn't realise how wonderful it was until I was a showing a Canadian friend about and doing so took a stroll through the city almost six years ago.

Albert Square doesn't look English. It looks continental European, far more at more at home in Belgium. A mock-medieval fantasy, this place is Flanders to the core. Go there, and take a look at the great open space with buildings maybe three or four storeys high on three sides, but with one side taken up by the astonishingly disproportionate bulk of Waterhouse's gothic town hall.

Directly in front of the hall's entrance you'll see the Albert Memorial, notable as the only Mancunian statue sheltered from the city's perpetual rain, surely proof in itself of how much Victoria grieved for her dead husband, while off the Cross Street corner of the square you'll see the Victoria Fountain, designed by Thomas Worthington, creator of the Albert Memorial, and erected in 1897 to commemorate the Queen's jubilee. Apparently it had been moved to Heaton Park in the twenties, but after decades of neglect it was restored and returned to its original location in 1997. It's still one of my favourite things in Manchester, not least because of its sneering gargoyles.

I don't talk nearly enough about gargoyles here. I really ought to rectify that.

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