Some regard February as one of the bleakest months, a hungover, dog tired month following in the aftermath of all those lights and milestones and celebrations. But the streets of Manchester seemed as busy as usual, though there was a deflated air about the place.
Manchester is a city. Of course it is. But whenever we venture there, we remark that we are “Going into town,” which is what my wife and I, along with our son and daughter, did that particular afternoon.
Soon enough after a few retail stops, our stomachs began to dictate the pace, and we called in a place in Piccadilly Gardens for lunch. Although tourists seemed thin on the ground, from our vantage point we could see a few eager beavers clamouring aboard the Manchester Wheel. What to them must be a prominent landmark, convenient for getting their bearings, is to us but a regular sight. Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it certainly instills a way of becoming blasé about things.
While we waited for our food, the kids gave colour to the grey day. The shadows grew longer, the afternoon frayed at the edges. Our conversation mingled into a myriad of accents and tongues, belying birthplace, roots, and levels of hunger.
My wife began to feel uncomfortable beneath the regular stare of a fellow diner at our neighbouring table. He looked Greek, and was either bowled over by one of our city’s charms, or there was spinach stuck between her teeth. I had to cross my legs beneath the table as she would not allow me to go to the toilet and leave her there with the children, wilting beneath a stranger’s gaze. Eventually he left, and I was more relieved than her.
In the men’s toilets, above the hand dryer, was the following advice:
Enjoy your food the Italian way, with your (clean and dry) hands. Buono appetito!
One of the more hygienic, and repeatable, suggestions I have ever read on a toilet wall.
After we had finished, we all fell back out into the dying day. It had grown noticeably colder, and everything appeared somewhat gloomier and hurried than before, so we decided to bring our visit to a close, heading back towards where the car was parked.
Evening was definitely arriving, yet the crowds kept on passing, and the wheel kept on turning.