If you have glanced at my blog before, you will know that I’m always into seeing any unusual sign. I spotted this one on my Easter Sunday walk in Prestwich (area of Manchester), at the St Mary’s church graveyard.
It’s not a joke! The graveyard is quite old and there are fallen headstones; you can see a leaning stone cross on the left there, with a background of daffodils. The more recent deceased have their resting places on the right side of that wall, on a little hill under the trees. This leads to Prestwich Clough, a little piece of land of woods, which I have enjoyed having a wander in on previous occasions.
I was walking down a street–Peter Street, to be precise, in this our city of Manchester–coming back from Castlefield (see my previous two posts) when I spotted this:
Impossible is, according to their description on Google “Whimsical nightspot with a theatre and gin bar, serving Asian street food–inspired pub grub”. As all similar places are now, it’s closed, because you know.
Okay, so the previous post was stupid. Let me do it again, better.
In terms of my photography, overwhelming majority of pictures taken in 2020 were with my smartphone and always in my area. This is the first time since 2016 that I haven’t made any trip outside Manchester. None of this mattered, in the end, as I took the best picture in my life with my phone a street away from my home!
The year started with storms, I remember there were two or three and they always happened at the weekend, so that that was no going anywhere for me. After that–well, you know. At first it was, need toilet paper? Pasta? Bad luck, mate.
It seems incredible now, but I did go to a concert this year. As in, a live performance by a singer. It was Halsey in Manchester Arena and it was back in March, before the first lockdown. Probably wasn’t very responsible, but hey, nothing happened.
My most streamed song of 2020 was the suitably titled Doom Days by Bastille (my inspiration for the short story The Journal). I also listened to the two albums Taylor Swift released this year, Folklore and Evermore.
It will be a while before live shows are back again. I also had a ticket for Phantom of the Opera, which was supposed to run for two months in Manchester, but like everything else, it was cancelled. Arts have really suffered with this and it’s not like the government cares; instead of supporting them they tell people in the industry to retrain. But don’t touch sports, oh no, not our precious sports, and even more precious football. Heavens help you if you anyhow endanger our football and our obscenely-paid footballers!
So what was I saying, oh yes, the annual recap… this year we were all staying at home and our new best friend was the streaming services. I remember that Disney+ launched here in UK just at the right time for lockdown.
One of the TV shows that got much praise this year was Mandalorian. I’ve not watched it (yet), I’m not in the Star Wars fandom (they do have the hottest Latin actors though, Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal), however as I got myself a 12-month Disney+ subscription, I did watch the new trilogy and Rogue One. I liked Rogue One best, fabulous movie and might be one of my very favourites. As for the new trilogy, well, my first thought when I woke up the next day after seeing The Rise of Skywalker was: this should have been Finn’s story. John Boyega was right.
Star Trek premiered the Picard series and now we’re on Season 3 of Discovery, which has so far been the best. I thought the tone of Picard was a bit off, as if the writers were anxious (they probably were), but this can be easily overcome in future seasons.
This was also the first year in however-long that we had no Marvel movie released. We’ve been waiting for that Black Widow forever! But it’s good to have a bit of a break and hey, there’s still time to get into it, folks, if you haven’t done so!
I doodle sometimes, I have almost filled my little A6 sketchbook. I once had a phase where I was drawing castles, and it seems I’m back in that phase again.
Tragically, I’ve not done as much reading as I should have done. I picked up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and it took me three whole months to get through it. Such a slog, also the title is a lie–she doesn’t really steal books. Spoiler, I guess, but who cares. It tries to be interesting by having Death as a narrator but it reads just like any other third-person limited POV, with a “I collected their souls” inserted here and there to keep up the appearance. I swear I’ll never read Holocaust fiction ever again. I’d rather watch a good documentary about it.
But on the other hand I rediscovered my love for Sherlock Holmes and even dedicated a post to the famous detective, which at 2600 words is my longest.
Another thing that happened in Manchester was, the big concrete wall in Piccadilly Gardens was torn down. There is still a concrete wall, but that can’t be torn down because there is a coffee shop and a restaurant on the side of it. People hate them, I know they’re ugly, but for the purposes of my Gloomscapes series, I don’t mind a bit of brutalism. I’ve seen articles online calling the wall “Manchester’s Berlin Wall” and I’m like, can you just not. Nobody is getting shot crossing from Portland Street to Primark! Please. If there is criminal activity or drugs going on in Piccadilly Gardnes, that’s hardly the fault of the wall.
I end with one of my typical phone shot of something random or weird, Sam Call Me written by chalk on the gate to my local park. Well, there is a certain Sam that is close to my heart, so you can say that the picture is not as random as it would appear on first sight. I mean, not in real life, it’s the actor Sam Claflin, lol.
And that, my friends, concludes my second 2020 recap post.
Of course, you find hand sanitisers at all sorts of places these days but what’s funny about this one is that it’s installed there temporarily. As you are no doubt able to observe, these are market stalls. Markets in Piccadilly Gardens only open Wednesday to Saturday (maybe Sunday, but I have no idea, I’ve not been to town on a Sunday in years). So when the markets are not there, neither is the hand sanitiser. I just love it so much.
I have quite a collection of them now. I chose one in every position for this post.
Someone does clear them, though, because they don’t stay like that for long. Like usually when you see one of these, the next day they’re gone. This is just a sample, by the way, I still have more pictures, all from my neighbourhood.
This month marks 30 years since the end of Communist rule in Europe. Berlin Wall, that unmistakable symbol of the East/West divide, fell on the 9th November 1989. While scrolling on Twitter on the day of the anniversary, I came across this article by Ken Sweeney, where he calls Trabant cars “chariots of freedom”. What has a car got to do with the collapse of autocratic regime?
Well this. Trabants were manufactured in East Germany; I remember there were plenty of them in former Czechoslovakia. They were quite awful, a subject of ridicule and to this day bring back memories of those times. But, as Ken notes, they were also the vehicles that transported people from East Germany through the newly open border to the West. Thus, chariots of freedom.
Surprisingly, I happen to have some pics of them too.
This is from 2013 when I was visiting my family back home. Taken on a motorway, obviously, near or just out of Bratislava. Brother and me went on a short trip when we spotted it in front of us. Of course I had to take a pic. Looks like someone is a fan!
I never take pictures of cars, I never learnt to drive and I’m not interested in them but I never miss an opportunity for a good random or weird shot. Even long before I conceived the idea of Random and Weird Phone Shots.
There is also a model of Trabant displayed in Imperial War Museum in Salford Quays.
I just love how something so awful can decades later be thought of in any positive terms at all. I like a good redemption story.
They say a car needs to get you from A to B. For East Germans, that A and B were more than just places on a map.