Monday 18 May 2020

Coronavirus streets in Manchester - VI

Universities of note
On my outing yesterday which was a 2.8 mile (4.5 km) walk to and from Whitworth Park, the main thoroughfare of Oxford Rd all the way to the suburb of Rusholme was the most deserted I had ever seen Manchester.
Oxford Rd going south divides the main campuses of the University of Manchester to the left and Manchester Metropolitan University on the right. In some cases, the universities share facilities and departments, both tracing their origins to the Manchester Mechanics Institute in 1824, but following different trajectories, amalgamations and name changes to the present day.
I walked up the left side of the road in a leisurely pace, cyclists whizzing past to my right on the cycle lane, a counter located further up the road to show how many bicycles have used the lane in a day. Some restaurants and fast food shops were open for takeaways only, with mainly Deliveroo couriers gathered at the entrances with little consideration for physical distancing.
3 couples and 5 people walked at a faster pace overtaking me, all giving space and some oncoming pedestrians gave a nod of recognition. Taking my time, I read plaques, notice boards, plinth notices and information boards. I was in no rush to get anywhere.
How my city is changing
The citadels of learning with buildings old and new, churches, museums, shops, pubs, meeting places, fields and parks made for an eerie ghost town that left you slightly more alert of your surroundings lest you be taken advantage of.
Though buses ply this route, they are mostly empty; what gives this corridor of humanity life is the student population that could number over 50,000 in semester term time. Most of the students have gone home in this lockdown and it has radically changed things. I saw a local supermarket already boarded up, along with a bank, a public house called a pub and a popular chain hotel. It is anyone’s guess if these businesses would ever open again.
The Coronavirus pandemic is radically changing the face of my city, some things obvious and other things not so obvious and invisible. There would be no return to normal, a new normal beckons, in a future that is indeterminate and being shaped before us.
Button up Edward VII
At Whitworth Park, there is a statue of King Edward the Seventh, he was monarch for only a decade being the longest serving heir apparent until our current Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. Edward VII was crowned at the age of 59 and ushered in the Edwardian Era.
There was much debate as to the kind of memorial to the erected in memory of the much-loved king along with where it would be situated. The location of the statue on a plinth in Whitworth Park which has the Whitworth Art Gallery as part of the University of Manchester faces the Manchester Royal Infirmary which had a new hospital wing opened in July 1909 by the king on his last visit to Manchester before his death. [JohnCassidy]
On the information panel splattered with bird guano, was a snippet of sartorial history, for the reason why the last and lowest button of the waistcoat is undone. Edward VII was a tad girthy, leaving that button undone made it fit better. It was adopted in the British court out of respect and it became fashionable. [Insider]
Sir Joseph Whitworth, for whom streets, parks, galleries, buildings and other memorials are named was an English engineer, entrepreneur, inventor and philanthropist, famed for the standardising the pitches of threads of screw bolts, the Whitworth rifle and the breech-loading gun.
Probably, on another walk around Manchester there might be a little bit of history overlooked to discover.

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