Posts Tagged ‘North’

Run, Doggy, Run.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

My adventures into the world of ‘The North’ continued last Saturday night with a visit to Belle Vue with my friends Garden Boy (Jon), Hannah and Steve. Don’t be deceived by the ooh-la-la name – I have seen belle-r views in my time. Belle Vue is the grey hound racing track of Manchester, located in that glorious suburb of Gorton that I mentioned a few posts ago. The first grey hound race was held here in 1926 and it has developed a big reputation for itself (with hens parties in Manchester, at least.).

Jon suggested a visit to the dogs as part of my assimilation into Northern culture. When asked to describe Belle Vue in three words, he eventually came back with this longer-than-three-word sentence:

Belle Vue dogs is a fascinating mix of pooches, flea bags, mutts, bitches, pups and hounds watching some dogs run around a track.

He promised me girls in lycra dresses and stilettos, terrible beer and a lot of frivolous betting. What does one wear to such an event?

Hannah, Steve and I caught a train to Belle Vue station, which was conveniently located across the road from budget supermarket, Aldi, and next to the grey hound track and a Bingo hall. What a location! As we walked to meet Jon, we all contemplated moving to this area with its amazing facilities and services.

I had pre-ordered tickets online for the bargain price of £3.50, which included a pint of Carling. I felt a little sorry for the people who were playing the full £7 entry at the door. As we collected our tickets, the woman serving us was blown away by the fact that I was Australian, that I had an accent and that I was standing in front of her at the Belle Vue stadium instead of on a beach back home. She was so overwhelmed that she gave us race programmes for free. Jon said we would have received them for free anyway, but I like to disagree with him. Life Lesson #1: Take an Australian with you everywhere.

As Jon was the only one of our group to have ever been to the grey hounds before, we put him in charge. He did seem to know some things and gave us a slightly confusing explanation of what was going on. After grabbing our free pints of refreshing Carling (Mmm…) we headed outside away from the over-heated dining room and stood track side.

Belle Vue stadium

Trackside at Belle Vue

I am not a gambler – I like to put my money in the bank in a high interest savings account and only spend it on food and plane tickets. I had difficulty inserting 2p coins into slot machines in Blackpool so when I was faced with placing £2 bets on whether a dog would run faster than a bunch of other dogs, I wasn’t particularly forthcoming. I decided to watch the first race and get my head around understanding the dogs’ statistics and the bookies’ odds. There is far too much maths involved in dog racing – fractions have never been my thing so when a dog had the odds of 11/7 to win, that figure entered my head, bumped around against the sides of my skull for a while and then spat back out as a ‘Huh?’

Belle Vue race programme

Place your bets!

The fact that I kept asking which horse had won and who the others were voting for, also didn’t seem to help my chances of looking like a regular punter. My first attempt was a failure with my dog coming somewhere in the middle but when I noticed that a dog called “Johnny the Fool” was going to be racing, I knew I was on to a winner. Sadly, so did everyone else so my £2 was merely turned into £5. Not bad except I then became greedy and lost it all again.

Johnny the Fool was my only winning horse (I mean dog) and I left Belle Vue £3 poorer than when I arrived. Not bad for an evening’s entertainment. As for Jon’s promises, there were disappointingly few lycra dresses (although Hannah assured me she spotted some in the ladies’ toilets as most had stayed inside where it was warmer) but plenty of terrible beer and some very scary bets being made. My inability to risk £2 was pathetic when compared to the money that was exchanging hands between the punters and the bookies. I would still choose to spend my money on food, though. And I’d maybe give some of it to the skinny dogs that were running so desperately after a fake rabbit.

Imperial War Museum North

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

I have wanted to go to the Imperial War Museum since I first visited Manchester in 2007 and I finally had the opportunity to go on the Monday bank holiday. The building sits proudly on the edge of Salford Quays competing in an “impressive building battle” across the Manchester Ship Canal with the Lowry theatre. While I do love the Lowry, Daniel Libeskind’s angular structure just excites me a little bit more. Libeskind also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin, a building that brought me to tears when I visited it in 2007. The design of the Jewish Museum space with high ceilings, sharp cornered rooms and fantastic use of natural light so cleverly emphasises the horrible story of the holocaust and it made a huge impact on me. This emotional reaction instantly returned as I walked into the Imperial War Museum and saw similar design elements repeated in the building. It’s incredible the affect good architecture and design can have.

Imperial War Museum North

Imperial War Museum North

As you walk around looking at the displays, every 15 minutes or so presentations exploring war-based subjects are projected on every wall within the large exhibition space. The room goes dark and the space becomes a multi-screened movie theatre. The quality of the projects was brilliant – none of the images were out of alignment (a personal hate of mine) and you felt like you were part of the show. It was very clever and very well executed.

Exhibition space

Exhibition space

There is a viewing platform at the top of the building that delivers views over Salford Quays. The lift up to the top sounded like it was in need of repair but the space at the top was great – somewhat open to the elements, those with a fear of heights may not appreciate the view through the slits in the floor down to the ground.

A great view from a cage

A great view from a cage

I will definitely be returning to spend some time in one of the best spaces in Manchester. And so should you. Go there. Now.