I stayed Friday night in the new Crowne Plaza in Manchester. It has a monochrome theme - walking down the dimly lit long black corridors was a bit spooky - like going to hell. It's been built in an area which is undergoing massive regeneration - so there are working-class pubs mixed alongisde trendy furniture shops. There's also quite a large ethnic population there - I wonder whether one demographic will "win" and ease the others out, or whether everyone will reside alongside one another, or whether there'll be some sort of blending process over the decades so everyone becomes indistinguishable.
There was a time, about 5 or 6 years ago when I'd spend every weekend in Manchester, and 2-3 years ago, I seriously considered moving there permanently. The commute was the only thing that put me off. I thought it looked a bit rougher now in places though, and in some areas, like The Triangle, the recession seems to have closed a lot of shops. We'd arranged to meet my fella's cool 20-something niece for a meal on Friday night. However, I'd written her phone number down incorrectly and the restuarant we'd arranged to meet her at - El Macho's - was long gone. By Saturday morning, I'd had enough of the noise and ugly buildings in the city centre (both the dilapidated old ones and the brash modern ones), so I got in the car and spent the afternoon in Didsbury which is a lot smaller and prettier.
I wonder if it's another effect of getting older though - I've had an odd relationship with cities. As a child I hated them all, until I got to be about 16 - then I thought they were great - and the bigger the better. 20 odd years later I'm starting to appreciate smaller places - like York, Durham and Cambridge. Noise and jarring architecture aside, the other thing about big cities I don't like is the people - the fashion leaders with their interesting hairstyles, the loud, over-confident behaviour, the anonymity which seems to mean that people don't have to have as good manners as they would in a smaller community. I know, I sound like a very old man. It there's one city I do still love it's New York. It's so big that it rarely feels too crowded (except around Times Square).
At least Manchester has a big HMV. I got a French film there called OSS 177: Cairo Nest of Spies. It's 2006 a parody of 1960s spy films, starring my new husband, Jean Dujardin. This is him in his 1960s spy mode (I love his hair):
And here he is normally. He's a bit like a french Hugh Jackman.