Walking too fast, running. Too many people to meet in one day, and rain. Too much rain.
One hour at each coffee-stained table then a sprint to the next. A soaking city, a colourless blur of diesel spray, an endless smear of hustle. Rain. Steady, relentless rain.
Late afternoon, still rushing, shoes slipping, dripping hair. Mud-splash to the theatre door, last bell ringing.
Misty foyer, steaming wet coats, smell of old dogs. A swirl of dank ghosts in steamed-up glasses. Then .. bafflement.
Why does this ticket not match this show? What day is this? Is this not the day?
It is not the day. It is not this show. And today’s show? Today’s show is a sold-out show.
Sharp cracks of thunder, windows spark with shattered light, torrents of rain beat against the door. The crowd disappear into their seats.
A coffee now then, a sweet cake maybe. Stop running now, slow the breathing.
Sit for a while. Read.
Gradually, sounds soften. Quietly, light changes.
A break, an interval, a good time to leave. Wrapping again in the still-damp coat, easing tired feet into sodden shoes.
Outside, the familiar square is quiet, just a gentle ripple of water here and there. The sky has cleared and is suddenly blue. An old blue. The blue of billiard chalk trodden into a wooden floor. The blue of ancient birds’ eggs locked in a museum drawer.
Street lights flicker on. Waiters and bouncers smoke in the doorways. No-one else is walking.
This is a square of beautiful stones, always. This evening they are luminous, they shimmer underfoot. Lights seep into them, edges of buildings and cranes tip upside down. They glisten, fresh watercolour sketches, small portals to a secret underground sky.
The city, dreaming of itself
Later, in the cheap hotel, noise.
Post-football groups find the music channel and order pizza. A baby cries. Bathrooms flush and headboards bang. Drowning them all, the ongoing roll and crack of thunder, the crash of rain onto metal ledges.
This is not a room for sleep.
A memory suddenly, Tove Jansson: ‘Roll yourself up and listen to the rain falling on the roof. It’s very easy to enjoy yourself’
It’s very easy to enjoy yourself.
The watercolour stones drift back into mind, their lines, shapes and angles. What patterns might they make reflected back to themselves, as if some city goblin were holding a mirror to them?
Crop, flip, turn, join. Turn, flip, join, crop.
Listen, the night passes.
And it was a good day wasn’t it? A day of rain and of strange and sudden magic.
The silent slabs of the now-sleeping now-dark square transformed.
These small fragments caught in a triple mirror of rain, sky, stone.
city rain – photographs of manchester paving stones
Mary Frances wanders around a lot taking pictures of things which aren’t there. Some of them appear briefly on twitter @maryfrancesness