GETTING SCREWED UP IN THE LAND OF COCKAIGNE

Number one in a series of urban explorations

by Manchester Area Psychogeographic

Great Ancoats drips murder posters in between poisonous butty shops and ancient hostelries like the Land O'Cakes. The old Daily Express building is a hollowed out shell, we await news about future prospectors, maybe another hotel, heaven help us another club. Bitch among yourselves about the talentless army of hacks who had to find somewhere else to work, abandoning the Crown and Kettle, on the corner of Oldham Road, now boarded up, but still housing the wooden panelwork someone looted from the wreckage of the R100 airship. Moving down Swan Street, we go behind Band On The Wall to find an abandoned market trader's warehouse, shutters down, with the old owners' name still discernible above: Cocozza, Wood. Await here your accomplice.

Grey gloves will enfold your hand. Walk the following route:
Across the car park keeping the Crafts Market, that waste of time and money, no art or craft being visible within, to your left. Dive inside the wreckage of the old Fish Market, another lamentably minimal remnant, and take a pathway through to Shudehill, fending off possible victims of drink. Various blackened nineteenth century office buildings, all empty, face you over the road. Cross aiming to go down Hanover Street, slightly to your right. It will be quiet, if it isn't quiet there's something not right. Walk downhill till you come to Amber Street, and stop, looking left for architectural angels resembling those seen in paintings by De Chirico. It's guaranteed to work - if only for a micro second, and it's quite satisfactory when it does. Breathe in, feel your companion's handgrip tightening.

You turn left here on to Amber Street, ghost blocks on your left, empty void to your right, pausing to look up on the corner. This building used to be a watchmaker's. Up above the boarded up shopfront there's a circular mark on the brickwork where there used to be a clock but in January 1995 they took the clock down along with all the other signs attached to this block of buildings. Preparing to demolish the lot? Wouldn't be surprised, in which case take photographs. But the upshot of this removal is that someone stole the symbol of time from a place which is timeless. Remember and look. Now turn away, 180 degrees, and start walking, working your way a few yards down to Danzig Street, veering left and following all the way (noticing the tailors and outfitters on the corner of Bradshaw St) till it hits Withy Grove. Bitter withy, with a branch from whose tree Mary beat the boy Jesus as a punishment, according to legend. Now go left to the traffic lights and cross over on to High Street, right, dodging traffic and marauding youth. Go left at Church Street - the secondhand book stall on the corner might be open if it's daylight and a weekday, in which case give them a piece of your mind about why haven't had any decent stuff in for months. If you're hungry, cross over and visit one of the curry houses on route to Hilton St. Walk with your be-gloved beloved to Oldham Street, try to draw breath, possibly die of carbon monoxide poisoning, in which case relax, the game being over, all care being done, no battles left to be fought, or, avoiding lowlife, mad clubbers, junkies, consumers, and buses, walk back up towards Great Ancoats. At the sign of the Castle, cross over. If it's open, end your journey within its walls.


First published in Manchester Area Psychogeographic 1, Autumn 1995.

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