Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Cine City

Now is the time, I think, to tell you about Cine City. I could choose any post, I choose this one. It’s always there, a brief but regular part of the journey, and sometimes I don’t even lookup to see it, but today I did. The traffic slowed as we drew alongside this monument to an age of local cinema. An age gone, not long gone, just gone.

Unused for some years, the chipboard over the windows and doors is now covered in posters for local gigs, and the rest is covered in pigeon poo. There is a classic looking sign arching out over the main doors that would once have listed the films showing on each of the three screens, and informs you the Box Office number is (or was) 445 81--.* Now the slots for the film titles lie empty, and the screen numbers are left to forever advertise their solitude. And those lonely screen numbers are the key to the pathos in this story, as they unremittingly remind the world that somewhere within those pigeon poo grey walls sit three forgotten theatres, slipping into disrepair.

It was built in 1912, one of Britain’s first cinemas, and was closed to the public back in 2001. Since then it has avoided being turned into a chain pub, though may well be knocked down to make way for apartments, which would make me sad. If anyone knows any developments on this, do let me know.

* When I got home I phoned the box office, but was thrown somewhat when a lady answered so I hung up. It made me think perhaps I shouldn't put the number up on my blog, even though it's displayed for all to see in Withington.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On Ageing Buses

I travelled home today on an old model double-decker. Many of the seat cushions had been repaired, and across from me a seat frame had been re-welded and patched up with tape. Old chewing gum had become an integral part of the infrastructure, and I could only guess at the original colour of the floor and walls. (So I guessed brown, because a lot of things were brown back in those days.) Common among the cheaper bus companies - that don’t run a service to where I live - these busses are being phased out of the 43 route, in preference for built in CCTV and bright orange digital displays. And I’m not sad or nostalgic because I’m far too young for that, and I like seeing the bright orange ‘43’ appearing through the fading light and the drizzle, promising a warm and comfortable ride home.

Monday, June 12, 2006

On Discarded Pushchairs

We passed a cordoned off area where the pavement had been pulled up for some pipe work, or something similar, and among the drinks cans and sweet rappers that had been thrown into that small site, there was now slightly bent and rusty pushchair. Rejected and discarded, it lay with the more common rubbish within those orange plastic barriers. And I began to wonder how it had arrived there, so unwanted and unloved. Perhaps a mum had been pushing her toddler when it suddenly occurred to her that their offspring had grown too large for such a vehicle. “You can walk from now on, Darren” she might have said “and we won’t be needin’ this and more!” as she tossed it into the nearest patch of excavated pavement.

Why is it that we so reliably discard our rubbish into these temporary holes? Is it that a few crisp packets are blown in by the wind, and then the area is repeatedly mistaken for a mini landfill sight? Is it a way of showing contempt for the unsightly roadside obstruction? I suspect it is a combination of opting for the path of least resistance (‘but it’s so much closer than that bin just over there’) and following suit (‘it appears that other people have dumped their rubbish in this hole, so I had better do the same’). Either way, we are a strange people, we who call ourselves civilised.


We pulled in to a bus stop graced by a mother attending to three curly haired girls, all younger than 8, I guess. She wiped the mouth of the youngest with a spit-dampened cloth, while the oldest ignored beckons and drifted further from the shelter. A day out with the kids. It was half term, and the bus was teaming with mothers and sons and daughters on their way into the city centre, shopping and ice cream and playing in the Piccadilly water fountains. A guy across from me was reading his Bible. It was one of those red hardback ‘church-pew-standard-issue’ types, although if I had to guess I would have said he didn’t go to a church with pews, but rather to one with a pale blue carpet and lots of stackable chairs.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A few shared words.

I stroll idly down the pavement, squinting in the comforting sunlight, trying not to stare too obviously into the gardens and houses that I pass, though curious as always about the slow changes that affect this stretch of road: a new driveway laid, a new house for sale, a new car window adorning the edge of the road in a million shiny pieces.

I arrive at the bus stop, it’s been a while. I choose my position in this still life of patient waiters. A couple of Other Buses arrive and leave and all those around me are gone, and I listen to my music and half wonder if they cancelled the 43 while I’ve been away. An elderly lady shuffles towards me with a smile.

“Was that the 43?” she asks, although I don’t hear it because of my headphones. How introverted and anti-social they make me. I lift off those walls to the world and lean closer.

“Was that the 43?” she repeats, referring to the bus that had just deprived me of the last of those waiting with me.

“No, the 44. I haven’t seen the 43 yet and I’ve been here a while.” I reply, returning her kind smile.

“Oh, good. I was worried I’d missed it!”

Together we wait, she and I, brief companions with those few shared words. And then the bus.