Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Manchester Cathedral.

The Peterloo wreath on the statue by the Town Hall.

Cathedral lawn, Old Wellington Inn, Mitre Hotel and big wheel in the background.

Razor clams in the market. Walk on by.

Polish shop.

A sushi bar. In the arndale centre!

Dead birds.

Surprisingly, a holy water stoup.

An (in my opinion) remarkably trite attempt at producing a 'local' Manchester altar showing native things. As though beauty and the Victorian is not native to this town.

The Bishops seat in the Chapter House.

The door to the Chapter House.

Lady Chapel altar.

Tabernacle door.

From the Lady Chapel.

Lady Chapel screen.

The screen.

An icon.

The rood.

Regimental Chapel.

The High altar.

I am currently experiencing profound levels of incompetence from Mono builders, who are fitting my new bathroom. It has only been going on since May, so there is clearly a rush on. Today the tiling should have been done, but the tiles had not been ordered, so I went into town to calm myself down and have lunch at the excellent Al Faizal curry cafe. A somosa, rice, chick pea dhal, lamb karahi and a can of coke later, and four pounds fifty pence lighter, I went to the Cathedral hoping to find some peace and rest. I was struck on entering to see a be-cassocked cleric hanging around the entrance welcoming people and being quietly available for anyone to talk to. I was also struck by the new holy water stoup by the door and, settling in a seat and observing, by the very large percentage of people using it. OK, the inside closely resembles a dog bowl, but it's a step in the right direction, although I am sure some will see it as a sign of creeping Romanism and To Be Ignored. Never mind. Smile, have a drink and carry on.

The Cathedral has always been a place of mixed feelings for me. I love the Quire (it has a quire and not a choir as it used to be a Collegiate Church) and sitting in the small section of public seating while the choir sing Evensong on a cold, dark, wintery Manchester evening, followed by the BCP at the High Altar, which face the right way, is a delight and one of the most spiritual things I can think of. If that is followed by a walk through the cold to a pub and an immoderate amount of bitter then maybe heaven can wait. (Note to pedants, I do not mean this literally).

The chapter house is, on a sunny afternoon, very fine. The new nave altar is acceptable and sadly necessary, the regimental chapel is beautifully lit by the new red windows, put in after the bomb a few years back. But, but, but, the place lacks a coherent structure, it feels as though it needs tightening up somehow and the Chapel used for most daily masses is very grim and I have to say that the lady chapel, where the tabernacle is, is not improved by recent renovations. There we are, though, can't like everything, can I? And I still remember with glee going to the Judges service a few years back, when all the judges and barristers in Manchester processed in with their finery, heavily outclassed by all sorts of Bishops and Dean types with people holding those silly sticks in front of them. Half way through the service the Dean gave a sermon in which he roundly told everybody off for imprisoning people and ignoring God's law whilst imposing a neo-secular codex upon the people of God. One hopes he never ends up in the dock himself and the roles are reversed! I also remember hearing the angelus being sung here by many, many people and thinking how wonderful it is that the Angelus is tolled every day at midday from the bell tower.

I understand that there is a plan afoot to incorporate the Cathedral with the Georgian joy that is Saint Annes Church nearby and Sacred Trinity just past the racquet's club the other way, to form a city centre parish, which sounds sensible, now that Manchester's population in the City Centre has risen by many tens of thousands over the last few years.

As I walked home, I saw a wreath put onto the Messenger of Peace statue in Saint Peter's square, commemorating the Peterloo Massacre, when the people rose up against increased taxation and the removal of local government. The statue is situated by the Town Hall, home to socialists for ever, before crossing over to Wippels, the ecclesiastical outfitters to enquire as to surplices (whatever one of those might be) and walking to the tram station through the Arndale food market, marvelling at the peculiar fish and eviscerated fowls in sticky, Chinese sauces, the sushi, polish sausages, Italian hams and Greek stews and wondering what a fine city this is and how sad I shall be to leave if I have to next year. There is nothing better than a Manchester Winter and it is winter here all the time!