Manchester's Flights of Fancy (January/February 2020)

In these images taken recently in Manchester, I'm struck first by the juxtaposition of contrasting things and then by how they can be used to inspire the perusing shopper's imaginary experience.  In the rain, street lights were blurred hanging lanterns, like those decorating St. Anne's Square for Chinese New year, taking on an illusory quality.  Similarly, the Barton Arcade, an elegant glass dome built in 1871 as protection for shoppers from the smokingly heavy Manchester rains, must have delighted people's sense of luxury, promoting a feeling that they were buying in dainty surroundings, although outside of it they were in the midst of the pragmatic business of one of the city centre's cotton exchanges opposite, now the Royal Exchange Theatre.  Today, a shoe shop for adults, 'Irregular Choice', fulfils the remnants of longings for the sparkly party shoes of childhood with an extravagance way beyond anything you could ever have had in mind.  The shop walls are decorated, dream like, with vivid banks of gaudy flowers and candy coloured carousel horses. The shoes are completely impractical, of course, wildly fantastical and irresistably Disney Princess.  Modern beauty products may promote either the basest of instincts, envy of your perfect lips in others, say, or high flown notions, where philosophical ponderings adorn your clay face mask or rose scented eau de toilette.  In Manchester,  you are never far away from the vast Victorian ambition of its visionary commercial inventors, which began all this.  In Didsbury, chancing upon the Lodge building for 'The Towers', I find it's the very place where the decision to build the great Manchester Ship Canal was agreed, in the gothic mansion of its driving force, engineer Daniel Adamson, in 1882.  It was a a venture which founded a revolutionary waterway to bring inland the ever widening scope of consumables to this booming city, perhaps for the benefit of those then wealthy enough to reside in the enviable villa across the road from the Lodge, and almost forty years later, it was a flourishing company presenting a retiring officer with an affectionate certificate as grand as a heraldic pedigree, to be proudly framed and preserved for posterity.    

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