Monday 25 August 2014

Walks through the cycle of life

Manchester walks
Continuing on the subject of my walking, I chose to walk towards the east of Manchester, the temple of Manchester City Football Club, Etihad Stadium and the SportCity area where the 2002 Commonwealth Games was hosted.
Having lived in Manchester for almost 6 months, I have only just begun to explore its environs. In fact, I have never been this far before and I only once walked in this direction when I was looking for an apartment, the adventurous self in me preferring not to return the way I went out.
Fuzzy mapping in the brain
My bearings are a mess though, because there times I have assumed roads or paths would lead to places I know, but almost never get there, a bit or perambulating and gallivanting, minutes almost counting the hour, I find that slither of salvation, a place I know and I am thankful I have not had to tell anyone that I am lost.
My walk took me down the Ashton Canal towpath where I saw a lady at the helm of canal boat wending its way upstream with her partner and a friend operating the water locks.
El Capitán
I saluted her with the greeting, el Capitán as we struck up a conversation about her boat, where they were going, how the water locks work and some other small talk. They had had the boat for two years and they were going up river to have it serviced. Meanwhile, they were in their third day of this journey from home wharf for dry dock, fascinating stuff.
I then helped in swinging the gates open and shut before I continued my walk.
Walking along
Soon I was at grand walkway to Etihad Stadium, I had one quick take before I returned to the steps from the canal scaling the double-steps up and running down the single steps, creating a bit of a pant and a workout before continuing on to Philips Park.
Philips Park, named for Mark Philips, the local Member of Parliament was open in 1846 after he committed himself to obtaining an open and free public space for the common man.
The River Medlock runs as brick-lined culvert through the park, so done because of the floods in 1872 that disinterred bodies and washed them downstream. The river could easily be mistaken for drainage, well, it is not.
There are serpentine paths all around the park with sections for children, cycling, rugby and other sports. It has memorial gardens and beyond the main park is the Philips Park Cemetery which opened in 1866.
People and things
As I walked through the park, I saw a boy of probably not yet 13 years of age sat on a bench smoking, he had ridden into the park on his bicycle and found a secluded spot to engage in this vice.
Soon, I walked into the cemetery where he definitely was not following his mother's advice by choosing to talk to strangers. Precociously, as he asked for how to get to the nearest tram station and I averred that I was new to this place, he wondered if I knew where I was, I had to use Google maps to point him in the right direction.
The grounding of cemeteries
In the cemetery, I observed many things; the quiet and stillness, a stillness in spirit, in mind and in body that is rest.
Yet, rest must not be an end, it must become part of the cycle of life and living, the opportunity we seize to get away from it all, the rat race and the hustle and bustle of chaotic living.
I recognise that in Africa we rarely visit cemeteries apart from when we put the dead to earth, I discovered that in England, cemeteries are so well kept, a job managed by the Friends of Philips Park Cemetery and they do provide quiet places for contemplation away from any disturbance. I eventually connected with this mind-set.
Beliefs for eternity
The cemetery had sections for the burial of Church of England, Roman Catholic, Jewish, non-Conformist (English Dissenters) - whatever that means and so on. It was like our beliefs usually handed down from our ancestry follow us through life whether we adhere to them or not and those beliefs decide where we are laid to rest. I would probably return to my Church of England roots than look for anything else.
One thing you could not miss in the cemetery with the power and the presence of love, many tombstones with the phrases, “In loving memory of”, "The dearly beloved", "The loving husband, wife, son, daughter of" with the day they died and at what age.
There was one tombstone that thanked the lady for being a wife of 53 years, in love and more, I was moved. The fact is in death, whether we mean it or not, love appears to conquer all.
Death is where resignation and acceptance meat at the ritual of ashes-to-ashes and dust-to-dust, when the dead are gone, they are gone, we bury or cremate them and keep the fond memories of them in our hearts and minds.
Other things
Leaving the burial ground, I returned to Philips Park to find out more about the park, and found a Peace Memorial that had a prayer written by Marianne Williamson but often attributed to Nelson Mandela, wrongly spelt with a double l.
The picture I took had a family who would have no idea what memorials are about clambering over it and it was clear that this activity by many other Philistines as these had damaged parts of the beautiful artwork, I was saddened and close to being angered.
This time, I walked back the way I came, quite refreshed and enlightened. I wonder where next my footsteps would take me. The other pictures.

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