Follow The Discreet Traveler by e-mail!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

England to Wales

Having stayed in exactly one Airbnb so far in our lives, I don't feel qualified to recommend the service yet, but it was value for money. Not sure about the second b. The coffee was too complicated (i.e., not instant), but the real challenge was toast. Touch the toaster and all the power went out. Luckily, our host was on hand to get us on our way.

Continuing the theme of my earlier post, I had been to Manchester, and yet never been. I've celebrated many holidays in the vicinity of Altrincham, and further in towards the center, T. has shown me around her old stomping grounds, Stretford. I've seen Old Trafford and we got hitched at Sale Town Hall. But until this visit, I had never been to the end of the tram line in Altrincham, actually gotten on it, and ridden into Manchester itself.

In 1996 the I.R.A. set off a bomb in Manchester. Although no one was killed, it was the biggest bomb detonated in Britain since World War II, and caused much destruction in the city centre. The irony is that the massive redevelopment of Manchester in the subsequent decade has been credited with making it the powerhouse city of the north of England.

I don't know what it looked like before. I've read about nineteenth-century Manchester and the filth and misery of the industrial revolution, so it's interesting to see through revolutions from the other side. You don't have to be a militant trade unionist to understand that Manchester was the epicenter of struggle for rights and democracy, at least in Britain. The Manchester Guardian, as it then was, campaigned against things like the force feeding of women suffragists.

In case you haven't read it here before: We have rights because people struggled for them. The fruit of this can now be seen on Canal Street which, thanks to the original Queer as Folk on TV, is famous all over the world.
To someone who came of age where homosexuality was illegal, this pride of place is as mind blowing as a woman prime minister probably would be to Emmeline Pankhurst.

Another highlight of Manchester is the John Rylands Library. Rylands was a textiles magnate who made his millions when Manchester was known as Cottonopolis. His widow used her money to have Basil Champneys build a cathedral to books, a library that would be free for all to use.

There are real treasures in this collection, including the oldest New Testament text in existence (a fragment of the Gospel of John) and one of the Bibles first printed by Gutenberg. What most impressed me, though, was a Hebrew alphabetical writing exercise from the Cairo Genizah. I noticed the letter rosh was written before lamed in the aleph-bet, which is not how I learned it! The find in the genizah (storeroom) of the Old Synagogue in Cairo was not only a thousand-year collection of Hebrew and Jewish fragments, but is the largest and most diverse collection of mediaeval manuscripts in the world. 
Historic reading room
And so to North Wales. Despite the challenges I experienced hiking Welsh mountains, or perhaps because of them, I love Wales. I even tried learning Welsh once, at Dewi Sant church in Toronto, where the lessons were free. I got what I paid for. All I can say is "Nothing but water" and "Vengeance is coming!"

Although I wasn't successful in learning Welsh, I love hearing it spoken. I also love hearing English spoken with a Welsh accent, and hearing Welsh people sing. Somehow they always seem to be in tune, even in a crowd at a rygbi match. Pretty much the only thing I don't love about Wales is the climate, and that's no worse than the rest of the British Isles.

Speaking of things we don't love, T. has her own blog in which she noted things she wouldn't miss about the UK. I offered to list, in return, things I will. Of course she only came up with three! But let it never be said that I "slag the place off": I dedicated an entire post to things the country does well. 


Anonymous said...

From the "touch the toaster and the electricity goes off" to the fruits of your free lessons in Welsh, this was delightful! We look forward to what comes next.

J. E. Knowles said...

Thanks for reading--more toaster adventures to come!