I've found the closure of pubs and restaurants to be somewhat liberating because it's given me free time to explore Manchester by bike. On sunny weekdays I'll be spontaneous after work, deciding a destination once already on the road. At weekends I might bike further with a picnic and partner in crime (I mean 'crime' literally because she's from another household and 'partner' figuratively because of commitment reluctance). If you ate the compass of Manchester, it would taste a little like what you're about to read.
On the steep journey towards Manchester's highest point, a cordoned-off observatory called The Temple, Manchester's small handful of skyscrapers disappeared behind us as we transitioned past sleeping bougie bars, then bustling international shops and Synagogues. The destination bench looked out further north past two thick forests that were like opened theatre curtains revealing a green stage miles deep. It provided a moment of sitty dwelling to forget about my city dwelling. The moment was brief because the chaotic escapism of everyone else was within earshot.
One Friday night destination was Sportcity, an area made from stadiums and concrete. We took full advantage of its abandonment by riding down a long bridge at speed onto the empty perimeter of the Etihad Stadium. We did this twice and took pictures. I felt like I was living the life of a young person because in those moments I wasn't doing much else.
The busiest bus corridor in Europe has a dedicated cycle lane from which I almost feel like I can tour my impending trajectory. The University campus is prominent but quickly behind me and before and long I'm passing suburbs each seemingly inhabited by those a decade older than in the one before. Before my eyes, the houses detach from each other, birthing between them impeccable hedged barriers which one day I might spend my time attending. I sigh at the predictability, shudder at the privilege, but look forward to the kitchen space.
A lot of the main roads coming from the centre tend to incline themselves upwards. We were so pleased at discovering the flat canals as an alternative, we accidently cycled to Wigan and, another time, Warrington. As casual cyclists our trips haven't been about covering distance or planning efficient routes. They're more about eating meal deals and showing appreciation of the empty path and day ahead by saying something like
Listening to lyrics under lamp light, I bring an arm around the duvet that graciously spoons me. The sheet is smooth, and I know the pillow is there because I feel it underneath my head. The shop, bar and beach are places elsewhere to this. They're different somehow, some kind of blur I've no desire to put my finger on. Time awake is no stranger, no stranger than the gentle lulling of soon. I'm tired of seeing, being seen, thinking and being thought of. What's to come will remind me what I even care about.
I love the contrast of abandoned space that shows abundant signs of life. When I worked in a cafe, I'd often be alone after closing time, cleaning down silent surfaces and humbling humming machines with the flick of a switch. The purpose of everything around me, from the coffee machine to the marked walkways, would sit dormant and lifeless. Object outlines dominated the concourse, but their meaning faded without the people who gave them life. I'd pad softly across the resting floor, no longer observing the energy of the day, but feeling it all around. I felt similarly the Saturday night I took my bike past the pubs and restaurants that had been ordered to close that day to prevent the spread of covid-19.
The evening streets would normally be full of taxis unloading frivolity into seas that vibrantly flowed between drinking destinations. I'd be there amongst them, wearing jeans. That night I wore joggers as the usual commotion was replaced with only the motion of my nosy commuter bike. The would-be crowds were compartmentalised into suburbs and inner city flats, leaving me to peruse the hush they left behind. Like the peace I found in the cafe, the quiet was made beautiful by its close proximity to life. That night I viscerally felt the busyness that belonged there.
But as lockdown continues, the city seems less on pause, and more like it's crawling painfully by, as my romanticism fades. The streets move just enough to feign function and the missing bustle has become more like a fantasy than a memory. There's a sad litter-to-person ratio and the buses carry only their drivers. Posters show signs their lifespan has been exceeded by their tattiness and because they advertise mass gathering events, which are now illegal. Across Manchester, the side of some bus shelters have the big words Let's Get Together across a backdrop of a crowd of travellers. It's an advertisement for the very same train company that now frequently tweets: please avoid travelling by train unless it’s your only option. Those waiting for the bus don't look amused by the irony, they just look alone.
said the concluding paragraph of my undergraduate dissertation. It continued. In boredom we get taken away from the trivialities of the world and towards whatever is important to us. Declarations of boredom often inadvertently answer important questions:
what am I doing?
why am I doing it?
what meaningful activities do I want to engage in?
True, feeling bored can be unpleasant. It can force us to stare at the clock and wish our time away. But a declaration of boredom transcends the experience itself. When we are bored we are made acutely conscious of the passing of time and therefore of the fleeting nature of life. By enabling us to establish both where we are and where we want to be, boredom reminds us what it means to be alive.
When I was twenty-four or one of the other ages when some say you should choose who you are, again or for the first time, I was walking home with thoughts that went a little like this:
Wintered into action, sprung into flower. Passion for a season, lust for an hour. Hunger for a reason, but with every must I cower. No one is seeking me out to
Ask me how I am. The contradiction in description would be fiction not fire. Not tiny metal canisters saw my moonlight desire. I'm wild like a flame, but by twelve just a lier. Rested on request from empty streets I tire. I confess I forget to ask how you are...
If something I say, do or create can enter the vicinity of others, I will often overthink or underplay it for fear of lacking the required clout. You could characterise this as insecurity or, at a stretch, as perfectionism. My internal speech filter can sometimes sound like an officer of the law:
But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.
I'm slow to text back because I fear judgement of imperfect opinions, which can hinder friendships or potential relationships.
I believe perfection in romance can't be achieved outside of hindsight, wine-sight and loveisblind-sight. Passion is controlled by blustering impulsive wind that doesn't keep direction or pace. The best thing to do is soar or battle towards functional loving relationships, but also understand that the effort to do so will never end. Although my love life will never reach perfection, as a romantic I will keep on striving towards it.
In business, perfection isn't the goal, so shiny things outdo clarity. I'm discovering that decisions are rarely made with rigour because of an abundance of pride and ego. It seems progression is easier to achieve by abusing context than by being diligent. Rhetoric is easier to understand than a process, so as long as deception is resonant, the substance doesn't matter. I'd rather spend longer than necessary working on a report, satisfying a creative need to the detriment of cut-throat capital.
Blogging is a creative outlet with more freedom. When writing I'm in control, as I can fail and improve until there's something I can be happy with. Like in life, I don't know where to go until I've been there. Unlike in life, if phraseology good is hidden in a mountain of crap, the crap has no reason to still exist. My process involves caressing up, addressing around and softly messing until the fruits of the moment become as fuzzy as the time between their conception and recreation.