Monday, 10 March 2008

brunswick - manchester's moated inner city

angkor wat - traditional moated settlement

brunswick, manchester's very own camelot (mysterious shimmering 'island', diligently defended and enclosed, guarded by mists and dragons, home of the brave and the good) headquarters to my band of bluestockings and brave urban refusniks, never fails to amaze and amuse me. gateway and cul-de-sac, it is at once completely neglected and fastidiously maintained, indicative of its perpetual schizophrenia as coveted m1 postcode and prime real estate, forgotten council estate, AND arterial lifeblood of the city's commuterbelt.

this weekend we brunswickians marked the passing of the seasons in our unique and time honoured fashion: a deathly hush...

not for us the usual spring time merry making - crazy medieval rugger scrums, morris dancing, dyke pole vaulting or easter egg rolling - so beloved of the guardian weekend supplement or jeremy dyer's folk archive. no, the seasons for us are marked by an eerie silence as the mancunian way, our very own modernist moat, is closed for maintenance. evidently yet bizarrely a source of much civic pride, the flyover is completely closed off about 4 times per year for the re-laying of lanes as well as a good old clean and repaint by a small army of contractors who work day and night on cherry picker type machines buffing, polishing and generally giving the a57(m) a well deserved luxury spa weekend. starting on friday and ending on sunday evening the flyover is overhauled, pampered and given a clean bill of health til the next time...

whilst this seasonal 'makeover' is undoubtedly crucial for road safety reasons and prevents all kinds of traffic carnage, it has another unforeseen and rarely acknowledged benefit. the constant roar, congestion, pollution, blare and glare of cars, trucks, juggernauts and emergency services that is the thunderous soundtrack to brunswick life 24/7, obscuring the view, drowning out radio and tv transmitters and obliterating everyday conversations, momentarily ceases and forgotten sounds seep back into our mutual consciousness. songbirds tweet, dogs bark, cats purr and caterwaul, children cry, couples argue and can answer back, and most importantly everyone luxuriates in their bed without that infernal motorway in the room!

manchester's modernist moat - mancunian way

waking up to the kind of peace and quiet that the rest of you take for granted is a shock to the system. we invariably oversleep, unaccustomed to a good nights rest, and rush to the window in shock and awe, wondering if the world has come to an untimely end. then reassured that all's well and its just the repairing of our mighty moat, simultaneously keeper and protector, we wander out to enjoy the quiet and inspect the belly of the beast. sometimes we take a little walk along our perimeter wall/fence/prison and admire the handiwork. we stand on our balconies and 'streets in the sky' walkways and chat to our neighbours, wallowing in the simple pleasantries of this insular isolated phenomenon.

then all too soon its all over and life resumes its peculiar urban rhythm. the birds quieten, the sounds retreat and its back to the roar of the city and the glare of the juggernaut headlights invading the bedroom blinds. brunswick fades into the background and becomes camelot once more, shrouded in the mists and smog of modernity, hidden from view by the onslaught of traffic forever whirring round and round our forgotten kingdom...

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