27th of January and I’m in Leeds library, surrounded by books and microfilm logs of every newspaper in the UK. Rooms, corridors, it doesn’t end.
Going from Liverpool to Manchester couldn’t have been easier. I was positioned right by a gas station (they call it a garage here) and after no longer than 30 seconds I was first asked if I wanted anything to eat, and then spoken to by someone willing to go out of his way to drop me off right where I needed to be. To be on the safe side, I asked to drop me off at Manchester airport, where I was supposed to meet my host, who works there. I was supposed to meet him there at 11pm and even though it was only noon when I got out of the car, I figured an airport would be interesting enough to keep myself busy.
Think again. I think the managers there want to keep traffic going simply by boring people out of their building. The few cafes that they had were closed because it was sunday, so all there was to do is check out the architecture, hang around the gates for a while to watch planes take off (which didn’t happen, in fact despite my efforts I failed to spot a single plane in the air) and… sit. I sat, all day long. Needless to say, I was pretty fed up with it soon enough and wandered outside to gather cans thrown out of passing cars. I was fully aware of the impression I must have given, sitting there cutting away with 4 beer cans next to me, but I no longer cared at that point.
I’m actually becoming quite good at it. I noticed how the model I was shown isn’t quite deep enough to use effectively as an ashtray, so I’ve begun to think further and make some changes. I have a can opener on my leatherman so I can try different things the other guy could not. I must have been at it for about half an hour when someone came to stand next to me. Wearing my cap and looking down at my work, I could only see his shoes, but had figured out I was in trouble before I bothered to look up at some security officer.
"What are you doing there?" His voice gave the impression that whatever he thought I was constructing, it was an utterly insane thing to do.
-"Making ashtrays. I sell them, want one?"
-"I think you ought to do such things at home, son. Why don’t you put those scissors away." I blinked and looked down at my pair of scissors. Red Dot kitchen scissors, you couldn’t cut yourself with these if you tried.
-"They’re kitchen scissors." I was trying to figure out if he really was thinking what I thought he might be.
-"Yes well you can’t have those out in public, not in today’s society. You’re going to scare the life out of people, put those away. The police have been watching you for hours, and so have I." He pointed upwards, and looking up I had to laugh, I had been sitting smack under a surveillance camera without even noticing. It’s amazing just how quickly you get used to them. Terrifying, in a sense. He was bluffing though, because if he really had been watching "for hours," he would have noticed the leatherman I used for the starter hole, which is slightly more effecient to hurt people with than damn scissors.
Not in today’s society. Ladies and gentlemen: England. Gone to hell. A place where they let murderers run loose but take away their scissors.
I put the scissors away and nodded sweetly at the lecture I got. He did mention he liked what I was making, but and so on and so forth.
Manchester itself was… okay. Not much to see if you ask me. However, this city hosts the work of an extraordinary artist: Banksy.
Banky is (mainly) a stencil artist. Look him up and you will immediately notice that this guy is a genius, hands down. Walking through what the tourist folder described as "the alternative shopping street" in search of something truely "alternative", I ended up in an urban art shop that had a book Banksy published himself, with photographs of his work that he himself made and comments of his every few pages. I noticed there were a lot of works that I had stumbled across befor, including a few examples of his rat stencils and the works he did on the Palestine wall.
Old man: Are you painting on our wall? You make it look beautiful.
Old man: We don’t want it to look beautiful. We hate this wall. Go away.
Banksy understands "today’s society" better than most, and in ways you can only describe as truely revolutionary, and truely artistic. The images he paints not only make people think, but in many cases makes them act.
Sometimes this world makes me so sick I, can’t finish my second apple pie.
Rather than "them versus us", a holier-than-thou attitude that practically all rebels/protestors adopt, he talks about "us". He is fully aware that, all in spite of his lifestyle, he is part of the problem. The main difference is, is that he sees the problem and what’s more, can identify it through one image, both abstract and almost obvious. The icon of Che Guevara in sunglasses, rats painting over a "vandalists will be prosecuted" sign, a police officer snorting coke.
They exist without permission. They are hated and persecuted. They live in quiet desperation amongst the filth. And yet they are capable of bringing entire civilizations to their knees. If you are dirty, insignificant and unloved then rats are the ultimate role model.
If you ever wonder why, back in the days, I chose ‘Vermin’ as my alter ego, my cynical and resistant persona, there you have it. As I read this, and yes I did write it down, I looked up and around me as though he was right behind me, reading what was dormant in my thoughts all along.
I didn’t buy the book, but I wrot down its ISBN number. As soon as I get home, I’m buying this thing and putting it on top of my others.
"You’re not getting a quote from us to put on your book cover."
-Police Department spokesperson
Lacking anything better to do, I eventually went climbing. Bouldering, to be exact, indoors. There’s this simply stunning hall about 30 minutes walk from city center, built inside -you’re not going to believe this- a church. The bouldering area is right where the altar used to be, and the climbing walls go up all the way to the roof. the bell tower is repurposed as a spot to practice rapelling techniques. Amazing.
I slept with two hosts in three days, and I didn’t feel like looking for a third, so today I took a hike. Not hitch-hiking, however. I did try, for two hours straight, but after the thirty-fifth retarded gesture from some douchebag and after two cars had stopped only to floor it again as I approached, I lost my patience and took a trian. So sue me. I’m only willing to put up with so much.
So here we are in Leeds. Only two spots with internet in the whole freaking town, according to the tourist office, but the library computers are for free. Two hours, such luxury.
I was thinking the other day how the trip had gone so far, and more importantly, what I had learned from it. And one thing I noticed is that I seem to reach back for the same misery time and time again, almost as though I’m seeking it out. I mentioned I just might seek help once I get home, but truth be told, he/she could probably tell me little I haven’t heard already. So if the knowledge is there, why aren’t I using it?
One of the things that is supposed to work in my favor, is keep a "positive diary". It’s tacky, I know, and this kind of things are for people on the edge of depression, but work with me here. What I’m supposed to start off with is a list of my good traits. Sadly I only have 48 hours left on this computer so I’m a little short on time (har har). I’ll keep that for some other time.
Meanwhile… not much. Map has updated, which means there’s a line there that wasn’t there before.
It’s time to track down my host for tonight.
Not sure which one is the right one.
My birthday is February 4th.