Florence to crazy Manchester

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I have to start by saying today has been totally crap. I haven't felt SO angry and annoyed for along time – actually the other day I was just as angry when I stubbed my toe – not to say I wasn’t really very angry today, stubbing my toe makes me incredibly angry, as does waiting seven hours for a lift hitck-hiking and not having one person stop for us. But before today I’ve had a really good few days/weeks.

The last two days with Gauss and Eugenia were really good fun. I did another vegetable lasagne cooking session and we spent the night out on the balcony with Gauss and Gio playing cards and laughing ourselves silly. The next night Gauss and Eugenia prepared us a very good tasting and interesting dinner. The main feature of the meal was Broad Beans eaten straight out of the pod with a dip of salt and a bite of cheese. We also got to try some traditional home made sausages and pickled vegetables. After dinner we played cards again and laughed a lot. Gauss had taught us a new game that is very simple in the rules but to be a successful player you need to have a good memory for what cards have been laid down. Like five hundred, you play with four people and in a pairs with the person sitting opposite you. Felix and Gauss were playing in a pair and with their intelligence and good memory combined they killed Eugenia and me.

We had a quick power nap before getting up at two-thirty AM to catch the bus to the Pisa airport.

When we arrived in England it was such a beautiful sunny warm day we decided to walk a while away from the airport before we started hitch hiking. The first things I noticed about Leeds was the rubbish everywhere and the masses of daffodils growing wild and in gardens. Another thing I noticed was how bright green it was. We walked for about three hours through some beautiful countryside and wealthy looking suburbs. It was exactly what I imagined England would look like – just like in the English horse riding magazines I used to read, wishing I had such lovely open countryside to ride through.

We found a spot to hitch hike and it wasn’t long before a friendly man with tattoos and half a finger missing picked us up and dropped us out of his way. We walked again for a while before sticking out or thumbs again. Here we had our longest wait and got our first and rather nasty taste of the English youth. We had quite a lot of obscenities yelled at us and rude fingers pointed our way. I was really hurt and confused by all that. We weren’t putting any one driving past in danger or doing anything harmful or rude, why did they need to display such "anti-social behaviour" as they say over here.

It wasn’t too long before a tow-truck driver picked us up. He didn’t say much, just drove along listening to 'teeny bopper’ R’n’B. He dropped us at a place were we had the shortest wait – just outside a BMW shop a man with a bomb of a car picked us up. He dropped us at a motorway entry where we had no luck until we walked up to a petrol station and asked a man for a lift. Very fortunately he was going almost exactly where we wanted to go and was happy to give us a lift.

We found where we were staying, with Richard, and old housemate of mine from back in the good old North Melbourne days with no trouble at all. It was a long and narrow house in a very nice, wealthier suburb of Manchester. It all looked exactly like some reality television show. Naturally, being a Saturday, Richard was out cycling so his housemate Steve let us in. Not wanting to sit around awkwardly with Steve wondering what to talk about we decided to go for a walk and look for the fish and chips Felix was craving, he has really missed them in a most unexpected way since we left Australia. Later as we got to know Steve, I realised if we had have sat around with him it wouldn’t have been awkward; he is so friendly and easy to chat with.

We walked up and down the street and found some deliciously battered and deep-fried fish and chips before heading back to Richards. It was really great to see Richard again; when we lived at North Melbourne it was such a circus. It was nice to be back in that again and remember all the funny things we used to joke and carry on about, like ‘Particle Schwarms,’ (know to most as swarms).

In those few days… we ate a lot of condensed milk, almost every meal I think. Richard has a big stash of it in his fridge. We ate masses of pasta and bread and cheese and tomato pasta sauce too. We laughed a lot. We went to an art museum and the very nice local pub. We watched a movie or two but not before Felix pulled the telly apart to try to fix the inbuilt DVD drive, the solution ended up being to cut a hole in the side of the telly to wind the DVD out by hand.

Felix and I spent an afternoon in Platt Fields Gardens watching the strange people of Manchester pass by and reading the new books we bought in a second-hand shop. Apart from the really friendly and kind household Richard lives with I have been so shocked by many of the people in Manchester. In Platt Fields a man was standing on the fence surrounding the lake and throwing rocks at the ducks for over an hour. He wasn’t just gently tossing rocks at them, (not that that would be any better) he was luring them closer with seed then absolutely throwing as hard as he could with real viciousness. If one jumped up on the edge of the lake he would kick it, he kicked one so hard a heap of feathers flew off the poor bird. I couldn’t believe this mans aggression towards the little ducks. Standing there for hours harassing the ducks, I couldn’t believe it.

The second feral human I saw that completely amazed me was in McDonalds today, we were using the free internet there to figure out what to do after our very disappointing hitch hiking. A girl with quite a walking disability was coming down the stairs, every step was an effort and it looked like it was taking a lot of energy. The cleaning lady had placed a sign and two bollards at the bottom of the stairs to close the upstairs for cleaning. So this girl got to the bottom of the stairs and it took her ages to get the bollard out of the way so she could get to her walking frame. Just as she was about to step into her walking frame some guy shoved past her and pushed the bollard back into her way. I could not believe it! One second he would have had to wait! Instead he shoved the disabled young girl out of the way and pushed the bollard back to where she had just spent so long moving it away from. I really though this was supposed to be a civilized place, but this was just barbaric, I was completely amazed and shocked.

My feelings have really been hurt by the large number of very unpleasant people here; I really thought the people would be nicer and a bit less feral. We have encountered some really lovely people, Richard’s housemates were some of those and a waiter in a fish and chip shop had very nice manners and looked like a good guy, but most of the young people we’ve seen and heard are rough looking, swearing, filthy looking people. Every second girl walking around Manchester is a scraggy looking tart with a baby (Disclaimer – Floss’s opinion). We saw a man and a woman arguing over what sounded like his threats to kill her. In the same McDonalds as before a homeless man who could hardly speak was refused a glass of water. At night the city is practically locked up like a prison. Every shop has bars and roller doors covering every window and door and from the stories we’ve been told it seems if you leave your car unlocked for five minutes everything will be gone. I think the reason it upsets me is because society is deteriorating into a filthy squabble. We have complete disrespect for our earth and it’s resources and our growing disrespect for each other is another sad step on the sad path to our extinction. But better sooner then later hey, better to get the bad stuff over with.

So we have booked a bus to Aberdeen now, I really didn’t like the thought of another day on the side of the road. And to not end on such a nasty note with all that slagging Manchester, I must say it is a pretty place. The countryside we walked through on our first day here was very picturesque, the yellow daffodils growing everywhere are so nice and the grass is so green. And staying with Richard was a pleasure. His hospitality was wonderful, he made us feel right us home, not in the conventional way, by being friendly, but by saying we MUST make ourselves at home and eat and wash and relax. He was insistent! Richard is someone I would always be happy to share a house with, I hope there is a time one day when it can happen again (and Felix could not agree more).
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Julie on

Some really shocking stories! It was shocking to read about them...and it must have been terrible to witness. Very sad. But thanks for sharing anyway. Great writing and lovely photos!

Maria on

Golly, you did seem to have a strikingly good patch in Italy, Floss. Nice to hear. And I think anyone would be annoyed after such a long stint of hitchhiker fatigue...

Pretty interesting to hear your impressions of Manchester folk - I'm curious: Felix, do you share these impressions, if possibly worded differently? :-) Really interesting, I wonder how much, if anything, it has to do with the current economic downturn? Although isn't Germany doing pretty badly after the GFC (I definitely don't remember you commenting on German youth in such a way!) Would be interested to hear more of your impressions on Skype sometime.

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