Early in April I visited a friend in Salford for a few days. That's not an unheard of occurrence. It's been happening regularly recently.
On the morning that this post is published I will be returning to Salford to visit her again. I'm writing this the evening before and have been looking back at photos wondering what to post about next. And then I opened the folder containing pictures from that trip.
All of these pictures were taken on my old faithful phone. I'd been ordered to get a smartphone so I could text with a friend for free using WhatsApp. I am very glad to have bought it although it is quite a few months since I chatted with that friend. That's a pity. She was a great friend. But people drift away and not everyone is meant to be a part of life forever. That's fine. If I hadn't bought that phone my last ten months might have been very different, for I have talked with my friend in Salford through many texts every single day since we met - apart from those days we've been together. As I write this, it is ten months to the day since we met. I am very grateful for that meeting.
What I notice as I look at these pictures is the following:
A. I was really pleased with them at the time.
B. Considering they were taken on what had been the cheapest smartphone in the shop eighteen months earlier I think I was doing a good job.
C. The pictures taken more recently are often very much better.
D. I wonder how much of the quality improvement is due to using the camera on a different phone and how much is due to my improving in taking pictures. I've certainly taken a lot in the last couple of months.
E. Every picture brings a memory and I am incredibly blessed to have so many pictures to look at from the last year and indeed from the whole of my life.
Two days after returning from Manchester, and largely due to a lack of memory on my trusty cheap Nokia phone, I ordered a new phone. I have to say that I am very glad to have done so and have had an incredible amount of enjoyment taking pictures with it. Out with the old phone.
Not long after ordering the phone, and two months before the date on this post, my relationship with my life changed subtly but immensely and since then I have hardly stopped finding things to point the camera at. You can read about that day here - a trip to Northumberlandia - and here - a trip to Plessey Woods.
So. Photos from that Manchester trip.
Starting to take photos early - just so I could send them on and say "I'm on my way."
This is Newcastle. It's just not the prettiest picture of it.
I took quite a few pictures with the phone. Point. Click. And hope!
If you're wondering - this the the view from the front seat when travelling by Megabus.
Megabus from here to Manchester is a decent way to travel. It's true that it's not as quick as the train and that the train may win on comfort. But it can be much cheaper.
The trip that begins when this is posted is my cheapest yet. £6.50 return, including that famous 50 pence booking fee. My previous record was £9.50 and I was very pleased that time to get a one Pound ticket for the journey back.
Megabus means that my trips to Manchester are far more affordable. [End of unpaid Megabus advertisement]
Still on the journey - not far past Sunderland - there were some wonderful cloud formations. They didn't show up that well on my phone camera but they were pretty stonkingly awesome. You'll just have to take my word for it!
We had a spare few hours one day before Amanda started work and she took me to Clifton Country Park for a little walk and to spend time together in the sunshine. This is a bend in the River Irwell. I confess that I just got sidetracked looking at the map on the park website and began planning days of walking along the nearby trails and towpaths.
The lake in the park is well worth walking round. It doesn't take too long and when we were there it was pretty peaceful away from the field and car park.
Manchester street art in the Northern Quarter. By leaning back into a bus shelter my phone could nearly see all of it. I wasn't in the northern quarter for long that visit - a previous post is devoted to some of the street art there. This picture was new. When I'd been there a couple of months previously another picture had been there. An artist was repainting the wall next to this while I was there.
I love that there is so much art in that part of Manchester. So far, it's my favourite part of the city centre.
On another day I visited Stockport. I'd agreed to go swimming with Amanda. She was actually working at the time but I could be there. It was very daunting for me. I haven't been to a swimming pool in a long time. The last time I went I still lived as a man and went in swimming trunks. This time I would go there as a woman and that was pretty scary. Transphobic abuse is a common thing for trans people when they go to swimming pools. Sad but true. I knew that some people there would be viewing me as a bloke in a women's swimming costume. Amanda was able to lend me a pair of her swimming shorts so at least I didn't have to worry about awkward bulges - not that this would have been too much of an issue having worked out how best to hide things so my possession of a penis wouldn't be so obvious. [Too much information!]
Afterwards I had time for a wander in the centre of Stockport before meeting Amanda again. I visited the charity shops I knew and then followed a sign pointing to an air raid shelter. That was shut but then I found a quiet street of shops I'd never seen before, and some more charity shops. Yay!
Afterwards I retreated to a coffee shop to drink tea. Stockport had seemed to just be noise and not prettiness. I was glad to have found that street and it suddenly felt like there might be some interesting things to explore. A glance at a map suggests that following the rivers from the centre of Stockport would be something for me to try one day. Stockport's got a hat museum. I knew that anyway but then a character in The A Word on the television said that sentence. Since hearing it I have repeated it more often than is usual.
On the final morning in Manchester, after a pretty fabulous time with some amazing unexpected surprises, I went with Amanda back to the Northern Quarter - it being very close to the Megabus coach stop. We had talked of eating cake at a particular cafe but when we visited before it was far too loud for me and we had to leave. That morning we went back and it still seemed far too loud. Somehow or other a staff member recognised us from our thirty second visit a month before and led us through to a pleasant back room where there were no other customers at all, and she turned down the music for us. It was a good place to be and we enjoyed our cake. Or at least we enjoyed some of it. The portions were so big that half of it went into a take away box. Hoorah for big cake portions!
It had been a wonderful visit. Wonderful. Glad to be returning. To close this set of old photos taken on a phone that seemed amazing to me then but now seems very limited, here are two more pictures. One is the two of us, taken on Amanda's phone.
And then there's this one, taken in the country park. We love bubbles. I got incredibly excited watching them in the sunlight. And then I stood and took a whole load of pictures of Amanda. I include this one because it contains a big bubble. But mainly it's there because there is such joy and freedom on her face and that makes me happy every time I see it. Also: I quite covet the top she's wearing and I have worn it myself since then.
There's nothing wrong with a good bit of healthy covetousness.