The Last Days of the Bath – Part 04
DAY 08: The large off-white tiles are now up in the bathroom with dark spacing gaps that left my parents wondering whether to go for a black grout instead of a matching off-white as planned. They asked me if this was a good thing. I told them it’d make it look like rows of safety deposit boxes. They asked me to translate. I told them it was good thing. They tiler guy told them he was impressed with their decision and, as old people, this made them very trendy.
I’ve noticed that every year the local synagogue builds an odd makeshift extension to their building, a room without windows, and I’ve always wondered… what is it that they don’t want us to see? I could only assume, religious organisations and their secrets, that it involves chanting, dusty hooded cowls, and strange ritual sacrifice. This past fortnight this dark shed has appeared once again, walls of solid wood, with a roof half made of scattered conifer branches – making the back look like a child’s den – whilst the front’s more neatly covered in overlapping frayed palm matting which gives it something of a Hawaiian tiki bar look that presents imagery of the Rabbi in a grass skirt serving up colourful rum cocktails with pineapple and miniature umbrellas… you know to go along with the sacrifices.
In the continuing quest to get out there and experience new things I haven’t done before I hit Manchester Art Gallery, which I’ve not been to in a good while. I trawled through the paintings, and all their plaques, and spotted a few names I recognised: the pre-Raphaelite Rossetti, Lowry’s French mentor Valette, but then I was soon getting lost under the likes of Harold Gilman, Walter Richard Sickert, and Pierre Bonnard until I was just bogged down by a whole load of different paintings of different stuff by different people I’d never heard of.
Now I know nothing of the worth of wine and attribute value on the basis of the price the shops are charging; so when going out I pick up a bottle on offer, for half-price, in the knowledge that it must be cracking stuff. This theory also served me well when it dissuaded me of this notion that Napoleonic brandy was “vintage”, hauled up from a seabed of sunken warships from the Peninsula wars, when I found the German retailer Aldi were knocking them out for six pounds a bottle. All I’m saying is that in this world of TV schedules dominated by Antique-related programming I felt cheated that the gallery didn’t have someone go around and give everything a value. I could sure appreciate a painting a lot more if I was told that it’s worth a cool half million on the open market and such a system would put paid to the “I could have done that” brigade as they may have been able to knock out some similar daub they were mocking on the galley wall but I doubt that they could scoop the same fifty grand price tag for their efforts.
The biggest surprise came in the eighteenth century gallery when I came upon a genuine work by the fabled street artist Banksy, seemingly on loan from the Radio One DJ Mary Anne Hobbs, which is encouraging as I was so incapable of seeing the original Manchester Banksy on the streets that I had to get my friend Syreeta to walk me to in and point at it for the penny to drop. The last time I passed by someone had added their own graffiti: This is a Banksy!! with some helpful arrows.
Something else I finally set out to do was track down the hidden church I’d heard about in Manchester city centre. I found it, true to its word, hidden away down a small back street: St Mary’s (The Hidden Gem). It’s not as impressive as I imagined and was full of warnings outside about not to do this, and not to do that, and certainly no photography. I mean, I even got away with that in the art gallery without being accosted by the Watchers. Religious organisations and their secrets.
As the devout were circling for a lunchtime mass I didn’t pop in, but scarpered to find under the shadow of the nearby Abraham Lincoln statue a small wooden shack with palm matting for a roof and some Jewish people residing within. This one had a helpful explanation attached to the side which explained everything: even if they were unable to print one word out loud and instead used “G-dash-D” which makes him up above sound less like the Lord Almighty and more like a Detroit rapper. It turns out that it was a Sukkah: a hut of temporary construction with a roof of branches, where for the week duration of the Sukkot festival the Jewish eat their meals and regard it as home in remembrance of the forty years the Jews spent in the wilderness with Moses. So it turns out there’s no sacrificing going on after all. And they wouldn’t even serve me a rum cocktail with a slice of pineapple and a pink umbrella.