It’s taking part that matters


Warning this post contains (far) too many words and pictures.

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who seems to have been Scarborough this morning.


Alert readers will have gathered from the title of today’s post that our Carlisle Community Choir did not carry off the prize at the Manchester choir competition.  Apart from that however, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a very satisfactory weekend.

Dropscone kindly gave us a lift to Carlisle Station on Saturday morning as he was going into the city to do some business anyway.  This was very handy for us as the bus and rail timetable didn’t mesh at all well at that time.

The train was delayed a little by serious wind and rain causing a speed restriction as we went through the hilly part of the journey but we arrived in Manchester in time for a late lunch.

After lunch we walked round the centre of the city in rather gloomy and occasionally rainy weather.  The city planners have obviously mislaid their manual about consistent style as I have never seen such a hodgepodge of buildings old and new, beautiful and ugly, smart and dilapidated in the same place.  They have not been helped by first canals, then railways and finally large roads slashing their way through the centre of the built up area.

The city has many fine old buildings from the days of its wealth as a manufacturing centre…

Manchester art gallery

…and this Greek Temple, which turned out to an art gallery is one of them.  We popped in to get out of the rain and enjoyed a fine show of paintings by L S Lowry, one of my favourite artists.

Evidence of Manchester’s railway past was not hard to find…


…and many of them had been converted to shopping or events centres.  We liked the little amphitheatre which had been created on front of this building.

Every city these days seems to need to have a really silly looking building and this one caught our eye as we went past…

Manchester building

By coincidence, there was an article in the paper which I read on the train while going home that said that the odd structure on the top of the building creates uncanny and unwelcome sounds when the wind blows. Who would have guessed that that might happen?

Last year, the sun had shone while I walked round the same area on the day of the choir competition.  This weekend, things were much gloomier…

Manchester canal

…and walking along the canals wasn’t an attractive proposition.

Mrs Tootlepedal liked these arty modern gargoyle waterspouts on one building.

Manchester canal

We didn’t have as long to explore as we would have liked as our pre theatre evening meal booking was for five fifteen, the only spare table that we could find.   When we got there, we were amazed to find that the Italian restaurant that we had chosen at random was both enormous, as it was sited in a large former office building, and full to the brim with early eaters.  Manchester certainly is a ‘happening place’ on a Saturday night in February.

Our meal was very good and we then walked down to the Bridgewater Hall for our evening performance.  The Bridgewater hall turned out to be a very modern concert hall and provided a rather austere setting for an evening of music, song and ballroom dancing headed by Anton and Erin of Strictly Come Dancing fame.  I had expected a more sparkly and spangly setting but the music and singing were good, the  costumes were very elegant and the dancing from the two principals and six energetic youngsters was outstanding.  It is wonderful how people can cross the floor so swiftly, so lightly and so athletically that it makes you want to get up and try yourself.  Fortunately I didn’t do anything so silly and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

When we got back to the hotel, I remarked to the concierge that it was a rather miserably wet evening and he replied, “What do you expect? It’s Manchester, it always rains.”

On Sunday morning, Mrs Tootlepedal had a lie in while I went for a brisk stroll with the intention of seeing some of the canal network.  It was a much better day as far as the weather went.

I went along a very cavernous street between two big new buildings and was amused that the architects had tried to lighten up the gloom with a dancing sculpture or two…

manchester home

…but I felt that they were fighting a losing battle.

I got to the canals and for a man who enjoys bridges, I had hit gold.

Manchester canal bridges
A railway crosses a road and canal

There were bridges of all shapes and sizes….


…and some with added tunnels.

Manchester canal bridges

There were conventional picturesque canal scenes…

Manchester canal bridges

…with added geese…

Manchester canal goose

…and everywhere you looked there were more bridges…

Manchester canal bridges

…to some of which, I could only look up with wonder.

Manchester canal bridges

You could hardly find a more graphic image of the fact that the age of canals was overtaken by the age of the railway.

Sadly, the time for the  choir competition was getting closer so I couldn’t spend as much time as I would have liked (all day) and soon had to move on.  Just to show that it doesn’t always rain in Manchester, the sun came out as I passed the Library building.

Manchester Library

I picked up Mrs Tootlepedal from the hotel and we walked down to the the Whitworth Art Gallery where we met the rest of the choir who had arrived in their bus from Carlisle.  The gallery had provided us with a rehearsal space where we warmed up and sang through our songs.  We were encouraged to receive a cheerful round of applause from a small group of art lovers who had paused to listen to us.  It was a good place to sing and as a bonus, we were able to nip though to an exhibition of Andy Warhol paintings which were on special show in the main gallery.

We rolled on up to the Royal Northern College of Music where the competition was held and sang our songs as well as we could to an enthusiastic reception from the other choir members on the auditorium and then sat and listened to some of the other choirs sing.

There is no doubt that I enjoying singing choral music more than I enjoy listening to it so Mrs Tootlepedal listened to more choirs than I did but the choirs that I listened to were very impressive, even if to my taste their steely perfection took a bit of the joy out of their performances.

After the competition was concluded, the rest of the choir re-embarked on their bus and Mrs Tootlepedal and I headed off up town (in the rain) for another Italian meal and a visit to the cinema.   We went to see the much lauded film La-La Land and came out absolutely amazed not at the film itself but at the fact that it should even have got one Oscar nomination let alone 14.  It struck us as very dull fare indeed. Still, a good meal and a night at the pictures is not to be sniffed even if the film falls short of expectations.

Our journey home today was uneventful, with the train running on time and the connection with the bus allowing us time for a cup of coffee in the station hotel at Carlisle.

The sun had shone as we came through the Lake District hills but it got gloomy as we got home and showers of rain arrived not long after us.

I had a look round the garden.  Not surprisingly since the weather had been very miserable…

rain gauge
Two days of rain in the scientific rain gauge

…..while we were away, things had not developed very much.

crocus daffodil

I could only find one frog in the pond but obviously there had been a lot of frog activity.

frog and spawn
It was resting just under the surface of the water.

I tapped the feeder to loosen up the seed and it was soon very busy…

busy feeder

…with plenty of other customers waiting their turn.

chaffinch and goldfinch

The rain eased off and I went for a short walk to stretch my legs after the journey.

There were signs of spring…

currant and crocus

…and signs of the rain…

timpen and moss

…but it was good to see some hills after two days in the flat lands.

There was just enough light when I got home to see a robin and a great tit….

great tit and robin

…but soon it was time for tea and then I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  We had a busy evening and played two divertimenti and five sonatas before we fell off our chairs exhausted.

This made an excellent finish for a very satisfactory long weekend of music and fun.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

If you have got this far, thank you for your patience.

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

36 thoughts on “It’s taking part that matters

  1. An adventure packed weekend in Manchester with many sights. I know the Carlisle Community Choir did their very best, and I would have enjoyed listening to them.

    The late winter rains back in Langholm will bring beautiful spring flowers, along with many happy tadpoles. I particularly like that photo of the moss with spore cases holding beads of water at their tips. A sure sign of good things to come.

  2. Couldn’t agree more about La La Land. Pretty ordinary, I thought. A friend who Knows About These Things has heard the opinion that the reason the film is so loved by the critics is that they feel so good about recognising all the many references to other films it contains.

  3. Sounds like a great weekend, despite it being Manchester. (I had a miserable wet weekend there in 1981 and the memories still linger). Having seen your report, and the bridges, I am now thinking I should give it another chance.

  4. I’d love to have a wander in that marvellous looking library. Sadly, our library is located in a former department store, and before that it was in a former grocery store. It’s the books that are important, I know, but it’s always preferable when the surroundings have more to offer than ghostly echoes of tinned vegetables and miscellaneous household goods . . .

  5. Great post! I can’t say that a visit to Machester was ever on my bucket list, but now I feel as if I have been. Wonderful to see signs of spring in Langholm.

  6. Well, I feel I have had a tour of Manchester and don’t need to actually visit there myself. I loved the bridges. What struck me most about this post, though, was how lovely it felt (to me as a reader) when you got home–an almost palpable feeling of serenity in your hills with your birds.

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