Naturally Selected

While my wife was having her car valeted, we waited in a small cabin provided for customers. Next to the seats was a cage, seeds spilled all over the cabin floor by the birds that were inside it, scattered in an haphazard arc.

I’m not really a fan of birds being kept in cages, these creatures that have evolved to traverse the sky. But it did give me an opportunity to have a close look at them as they sang away, syrinx working overtime. Whenever my wife approached the cage, though, they stopped singing. She obviously looks more predatory than I.

I started to think about their ancestors, the dinosaurs, and how these birds looked like miniature versions of their magnificent prototypes. They once ruled the earth, and now here they were, caged.

They don’t know where they’ve come from, I thought.

We do. And that’s how far we have come.

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Here In Manchattan

Waking up it was just another day: drop my son off at school, nip into Manchester to pick a few things up, have a coffee before making it back for home-time. But, on cutting through the Northern Quarter, I found my city transformed: the taxis were now an unfamiliar colour,

and our news was being brought to us by hitherto unread newspapers

Bemused, confused, years of watching sci-fi movies threw all sorts of implausible theories up. The only thing apparently clear was that I had woken up this morning as a citizen of an American city.

Last night must have been some night.

But no, despite being rather excited at the prospect of having undergone some kind of spontaneous relocation, I soon discovered that I had wandered onto the setting of a new movie, the Spider-Man spin-off Morbius. Apparently it is cheaper for Hollywood to film New York in our Manchester than it is to film New York in New York!

Forgive my ignorance, but when I heard whispers that Jared Leto had been spotted in a nearby street I thought that maybe he was one of those bloggers that my kids spluttered their cornflakes out about over breakfast, maybe after publicising his latest meet and greet.

So, oblivious to it all, off I went, leaving the bystanders behind, to have a leisurely coffee in my favourite coffee place. It’s my favourite because it is smack-bang in the middle of a heritage site where many generations, and many branches, of my ancestors lived, worked and died in old Ancoats, the world’s first industrial suburb. I love nothing more than to sit with a book in what is a charming, historic mill, making those personal connections that makes the history, well, more personal.

Except not today. For scenes were being filmed there, scenes that totally disrupted my quest for nostalgic feels. And so I set off again, trudging along those same streets that my ancestors once walked, streets that were far removed from the glamour of Hollywood.

Damn those Americans, coming over here and dominating our converted cotton mills. I found another place to drink, somewhere a bit more modern, and ordered an Americano. Americano! Was that them too?

Or was that the Italians? This used to be our Little Italy, after all.

By The Routes

So, after my recent documented escapades along the Manchester-Leeds train routes, I could be forgiven for making the trek again on Thursday afternoon with some trepidation. But it all went without incident. There were no out of place tornadoes, no suicidal badgers along the line.

But my travels wouldn’t be my travels without at least one memorable passage, and it was when I was returning home from Manchester on the 163 bus.

The bus pulled over at a stop and a woman got on, leading behind her a rather thin, mangy looking mongrel dog. “I’ve been waiting half an hour for this bus! I was gonna get on the 162 but the driver said it didn’t go to Heywood.”

“It does go to Heywood,” this driver replied.

“Well he said it didn’t.”

“Well it does.”

“It had Norden on the front.”

“Yes, but it goes to Heywood too.”

“I don’t even know where Norden is.”

“You could have still got on it,” he persevered.

“If I want to go to Norden then I’ll get a bleeding Norden bus!”

We curious passengers watched this exchange as she showed the beleaguered driver her ticket and moved along the aisle. The woman took a tartan rug out of her bag and spread it on the floor. “I have to do this so he will lie down,” she said, gesturing to her dog. “If not, he will stand all the way there.”

A man sat near the front asked “What, all the way to Norden?”

“ALL THE WAY TO HEYWOOD!!” she spat.

On we went.