It is always about the edge. I write to leave, but I always write myself back to that elongated point. Edgespace. Or the edges of our temporal tectonics.
It felt like the finish of something, that belated birthday present trip to Manchester. A birthday present in oh, so many ways. To see my favourite band – I first heard them way back. 2009, maybe. Them and The Eels got me through a fair whack of shit, but Godspeed, You! Black Emperor I found and fell in love with and they were all mine. The first song I ever heard was East Hastings. I tracked it down from a film soundtrack and just sat there and gawped. And played it again. And again. And again. But the essence of them that I have taken into my soul is their Dead Flag Blues.
The car is on fire, and there’s no driver at the wheel And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides And a dark wind blows…
We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine And the machine is bleeding to death.
I said, “Kiss me, you’re beautiful – These are truly the last days”
You grabbed my hand
And we fell into it
Like a daydream
Or a fever…
Five years before, this was the pretty-ugly soundscape of all my world. Internal and external – it was all turning into a shambles but I just held on and knew there was a shred of hope in there. We’re back in the external shambles of another term stretched on the rack of the Cuntservatives. Now, at least, one circle has eveloved to spiraldom – I look through my own clearer stronger eyes, and hear the music that has held me this demi-decade.
This trip was a promise from this place of better heart, as well as a present. I’d been through a summer of hell with one final bitter kick to the stomach, but for the first time in my life I knew that however things ended up, it would be ok again when I did this one madfuck thing that made no rational sense. A frivolity. Something that would define my me-ness and maybe make other people smile and be inspired a bit themselves too. And finally, a a yen to return to Manchester after two decades. That other internal spiral spectacle, to revisit somewhere and see what has happened to a place, and what has happened to you reflecting back on each other.
I managed to make it to the Lowry Museum. I’d never been there and I nearly missed it, but for the excellence of the Manchester Metro system. I only really went because it was one of those stereotypical things to do that I felt a bit bad for missing out on. In my head, he was a slightly cheesy purveyor of cutesy pics of matchstick people. There was a song about it when I was a kid. But that’s not really true. The first picture I saw was his self portrait:
He’d started it as a self-portrait, anyway. And it had basically got darker and madder until it had become something else. I liked it. Even the pictures of the matchstick men seemed quite gloomy and apocalyptic and oppressed. I’m glad I saw them in reality, in their actual frames. The gallery staff were really nice and let me stay on for a bit after they’d closed, while they were cleaning up, as I’d got there late. And in the end my favourites weren’t the matchstick men anyway – they were two landscapes which I ended up buying postcards of.
The landscape reminds me of the Group of 7, somehow. I’ve always had a soft spot for them. And the seascape Lowry deliberately painted with no shore and nobody sailing it. They’re on my bedroom wall. The sea reminds me of dreams I had as a child, of endless silver sea. As I left the gallery, I looked out at the Salford Quays. In the sun they were very beautiful. Last time I was in Salford, I was doing EMI nursing agency work. Rough going. And it was before the days of satnavs, so I frequently got lost and found myself in streets where everything was boarded up and empty and derelict. And now, 20 years later in another massive financial slump, it’s full of derelictly empty marina flats. Built for yuppies, with dead empty eyes as windows.
And there was a delicious Bento box in my favourite Japanese restaurant. And an admittedly nice cocktail in a terribly horrible and wanky cocktail bar. And then Godspeed played in the Albert Hall, a semi renovated chapel that’s been turned into a music venue. The hipsters will get it in the end, but now it really is a cute place full of people who love the band and don’t chatter and push their way backwards and forwards to the bar / toilets / wankhole of their choice. In fact, someone tried to answer their phone during the gig and was shushed by the rest of the audience and had to slink out in shame.
They have a new album. It was free on the Guardian site, but it’s disappeared. Meh. This is the best chunk of the best track.
They should always be allowed to play in a church building. Perfect.
On the drive back, I stopped at Alderley Edge for a nose round and a walk. This was another thing I’d somehow missed while I was up there. Being 20 is annoying that way, especially as it was a bucket lister really. The tendrils of this walk today have some roots in this last moment of clear sight at the end of the trip that marked the end of so much. Or maybe its seeds had lain dormant for a thirty years ago childhood haunted by its fantastic dwellers I read of as a child – I haunted my own child with the well worn barely known dark of those Stone Books. And then I visited the this Edge of now and eyeing its distant leylined sibling of the Peaks, I webbed the feeling thoughts of three generations to just one sharp point in time.