Interesting Folk on the Canals of Manchester

I feel a natural affinity for water sources and always try to live as close to a river, beach or dirty city canal as possible. I had the Canal Saint Martin in Paris and here I have some of Manchester’s canal system around the corner from my apartment. My extensive time spent by these canals has made me realise that there are a lot of odd personalities who hang around these waterways (this potentially includes me but we’ll just move on.) In recent times, I have witnessed two intriguing moments by the Manchester canals that have made my forehead furrow and my mouth squeeze to one side while saying a quiet “Huh?”

Half Naked Man With Stick

The first of these events occurred after collecting my brother from Oxford train station. I decided to take the scenic route, walking back to my apartment along the canal edge. Up ahead we spotted two guys in their early 20s, lacking tshirts and with sporadic tattoos exposed on their northern-white skin. One of the guys was crouching by the edge of the canal, purposefully whacking at the water with a short tree branch. His determined slaps and desperate whimpers were catching the eyes of many passers-by. As we got closer he looked up exasperatingly at his bemused audience and yelped, “What are you looking at? I want my gram of cocaine, not the dead pigeon!” Sure enough, floating just beyond his branch’s reach was a recently deceased pigeon and a small plastic packet a white powdery substance.

We continued on, leaving him to his futile fishing. I never found out if he managed to get his drugs, however there was a canal boat heading his way and they may have been able to help.

Peter Pan Reads Shakespeare in the Dark

My friend, Pooja, has recently moved into an apartment with fourth storey views over the Manchester Ship Canal. We have spent numerous evenings sitting by her large windows with glasses of wine and bowls of ice cream, discussing life and all of its mysteries. On the first night, we discovered a local fox who roams the deserted building sites next door and we christened him Jack.

Then the other evening as I sat staring down at the water below a young man seemed to appear from nowhere, stepping out from under a tree onto the grassed banks of the canal. He looked like he belonged in a fairytale – he was a lanky fellow, maybe 25 years old, and he was wearing a hat. It was a classic black bowler hat with a rigid rim which he would tip in courtesy at the trams that passed by on the other side of the canal. In one hand he held a book that he occasionally seemed to read. Every few minutes he would shift his position – holding the book outstretched as if reciting poetic lyric when he was standing, or majestically lazing on the grass with one leg bent, looking up and around to see if anyone was watching.

As the sun set and the light became low, we presumed he would leave. Not the case – instead he continued to read, soldiering on through the settling darkness, refusing to let the lack of light stop his reading. The sun had  well and truly gone to bed by the time he left, waltzing down the canal, his hat sitting proudly on his head.

Manchester Ship Canal

Manchester Ship Canal

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