Up North

Up North


It was a bit like taking coals to Newcastle, buying a bag of brandy snap in Gloucester Services on our way north last Saturday, even though we were heading for the other side of the Pennines. But this speciality of my childhood visits to Hull Fair in October each year couldn’t be resisted and my Hero and I nibbled and crunched our way through it in no time at all.


It was time for our annual November weekend in and around Lytham St Annes, catching up with Linda and John, going to the Choral Society concert, enjoying good company and non-stop conversation all the way. I can never resist a peek at other people’s bookshelves and I suppose you’d guess that our hosts Tony and Olga are both travellers and linguists.


We are normally here on Remembrance Sunday when we stand with everyone for the Act of Remembrance. This year however, the Choral Society plans were a week earlier than normal and so on Sunday morning, we readily accepted our friends’ suggestion to drive to Salford, where the Imperial War Museum North had an interesting exhibition right now.


Our first time at Salford Quays for some time, we were impressed by the developments here and enjoyed a brisk walk over the canal from the car park. I couldn’t resist a rather carefully composed photograph here; reflections of Brooklyn Bridge, perhaps?


Though there is a real hotchpotch of both style and substance here.


The IWM itself was a fine example of distinctive architecture; Daniel Libeskind’s first UK project and in our collective opinion, a rather awkward design. We ventured inside through the slightly apologetic front entrance - overshadowed by the impressive fall of ceramic poppies.


The Lest we Forget exhibition offered a different perspective on Remembrance. The quiet, dimly lit gallery demanded slow progress down narrow, restricted walkways which led past displays of documents that we all wanted to read. These were the heartbreaking telegrams received by grieving families, official reports of meetings to discuss repatriation, plans for gravestone designs, the institution of the Imperial War Graves Commission and the eventual design and construction of the immense memorials at Thiepval and Ypres. We moved along silently, discovering the origins of so many of the things we now take for granted: those huge war cemeteries, the cenotaphs and war memorials scattered throughout the country and the poppy symbol itself. All had arisen from lengthy discussions overcoming a variety of objections, because everyone had an opinion, not least those who had lost loved ones both at home and abroad. It hadn’t occurred to me that such discussions had taken place in every community too, where some had decided to build a memorial and others had considered the money better spent on a facility for the living, such as a community hall or hospital. Fascinating.

The gallery opened up to a single wall of huge paintings, originally intended for a gallery to be known as the Hall of Remembrance and sitting there musing at the horrific scenes, I noticed the soundtrack playing in the background: snatches of Abide with Me, marching feet, occasional gunshot and cannon fire and peals of bells. Whoever designed this exhibition did a great job of conveying an atmosphere.

Turning the corner into the closing panels of the exhibition, there were questions to be considered. Opinions on the act of remembrance were recorded: Simon Jenkins amongst others including Evelyn Waugh, referenced here in an ongoing debate about how to move on - or not - during this centenary year. Danny Boyle’s Pages of the Sea is surely part of this discussion for the future although the simplistic question “Should we always remember WW1?” had prompted an definite majority of votes in favour from visitors.


Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the images and sounds of war, we decided against taking a look around the permanent galleries in the museum in favour of fresh air and a Sunday afternoon stroll around Media City


We watched as coaches unloaded large groups of visitors heading towards the Coronation Street experience, next door to the IWM and crossed the bridge to the BBC centre over the canal.


It proved to be a great place to wander though I’ll take the banners proclaiming this closed part of the canal to be “a great place to swim” as read - I can’t say I feel at all tempted!


Just time for a quick look around the Lowry museum and theatre building before heading home.


Time to appreciate the visual landscape, the shapes and angles of the structure and the idiosyncratic choice of furnishings!


I very much doubt that they were sourced from anywhere like IKEA even though they bore the same slightly odd hallmarks. We stopped here for an hour or so on the way home on Monday, thinking that a Monday morning would be quiet. Hah!


The things on my list were quickly found and paid for, though along the way I took a few photographs for seasonal inspiration - jewel tones seem to be the theme this year and these deep, rich colours were to be found throughout the store and everywhere (how many dark blue or bottle green walls have I seen in the last couple of days?!)


Back home, we are still enjoying the colours of Autumn, in spite of the gloomy afternoons now we’ve changed the clocks. I’m not quite ready to begin too many preparations for December yet, but I have ordered the turkey and designed our Christmas cards.

I think I need to add Christmas cake ingredients to my shopping list this week.



To the Palace

To the Palace