Yesterday, Darcy and I went to Manchester. We were on a mission. Darcy needed a new hat and I wanted to try on some 14 hole Docs. I drove to Horwich, parked at the railway station and Darcy bought return tickets to Manchester for us. Once in Manchester, we headed straight for Afflecks Palace. Before we found a hat, I found some Docs. I discovered to my horror that size 6 Docs are too big and size 5 Docs are too small. There are no Goldilocks Docs out there for me. I suppose I’ll have to buy some insoles and thick socks. Much to his disappointment, Darcy found nothing to suit him, either, although we did find some rather nice Mad Hatter Hats. I tried one on, as I need a new hat for Morris Dancing, but it wasn’t quite right, so I put it back again. At least I know my hat size now – 7¼.
We then wandered around the streets near Afflecks in search of the elusive hat and went in some interesting shops, including a vintage clothes shop that smelt horribly musty. Don’t they wash the clothes first? We also went in Rockers round the corner from Afflecks Palace, which had a great selection of clothes. Unfortunately, we had gone at the wrong time because everything was either an S or an XXL, neither of which fit Darcy. We will have to go back when they get the next orders in. Still, he has seen a few shirts that he really likes.
Darcy was very disappointed, however, that so far he had not spent a penny (no, NOT in that way) apart from on the train tickets and was getting quite despondent. I, on the other hand, had not had any breakfast and was feeling very hungry, so we went off to China Town in search of all-you-can-eat Buffets. There were Buffets aplenty and as we were trying to check them all out, we spotted the crowds lining the route of the Manchester Pride Procession in eager anticipation of the events to come. We also spotted two marvellous drag queens, both about 7 foot tall in their platforms posing with three teenagers, while their parents snapped away.
We found a Buffet and proceeded to stuff our faces, Darcy using a knife and fork and I, poseur that I am, using chopsticks. I am a purist and believe in eating food in the way it was intended: knife and fork for european food, Chinese chopsticks for Chinese food, Japanese chopsticks for Japanese food and chapatis for Indian food. Sorry if I’m a snob but that’s just the way I am. The food was very good and the meal was cheap and at last Darcy had been able to part with money. We left the Buffet fuller and happier. Although Darcy’s stomach was beginning to complain. He has a medical condition, you see.
We moseyed down the road to the Manchester Pride Procession, which, by now, was in full swing. In no time at all, I was really disappointed that neither Darcy nor I had brought our cameras. The parade was brilliant. I can’t remember everything that passed by but highlights for me included the Rainbow Flag waving police, SLUTS or Salford Ladies United Temperance Society, the Firemen and Paramedics (I’m sorry but there is no fantasy more potent for a Punky Rennie than a Gay Fireman), the Bears, the Unitarians, Amnesty International and the Religious Society of Friends.
The police officers were all genuine police (in case there are any doubters in the audience), of all ages and ranks. They were all wearing the more traditional uniform, that you don’t get to see too often nowadays and they were, to my practised eye, from different forces around the country. There was a time when you simply would not have seen police marching in a Pride Procession, certainly within my lifetime, and this was a heartening sight for me. The photo below, as indeed have all photos in this blog, has been lifted from the Internet. If any of the photographers object, please leave me a comment and I will remove them.
SLUTS were wonderful Goodies or Python-style ladies carrying banners with statements like “Old Dears Against Queers” and “Mince: Noun Not Verb”. I think their presence was made all the more enjoyable for me by the fact that a few minutes earlier I had seen a small number of clearly Christian protesters on the other side of the road, with placards basically stating that it is evil to be gay. In my opinion, SLUTS just showed them up for the bigots and fools they are.
I first encountered Bears at a Variety Show in Blackpool. This is now a somewhat dim memory for me and the members of the troupe, Bearlesque (now sadly defunct) all now look like Gary Bushell in my mind’s eye. Bears, in case you didn’t know, are supersized, hairy, gay men. They all look completely cuddly, indeed teddy bear like to me. The gentlemen on the float were dressed in drag, beards and all. I particularly liked Cruella De Vil. Wonderful.
I don’t have much to say about gay firemen (or heterosexual firemen for that matter) that can go in a family blog, so I will move swiftly on to the Unitarians and Quakers. I am not quite a birthright Quaker; my mother started going to meeting and taking me and my two sisters when I was three. I went to a Quaker school and after leaving it, went to Meeting once in a Blue Moon. I haven’t been for years although I am tempted from time to time. I don’t find that my Atheism is a bar to attending Meeting; Quakers are well known for their tolerance and inclusivity and I find Meeting the most wonderful opportunity to recharge my batteries (I MUST get up early on a Sunday one day and go) and I love Quakers. They’re great people.
I was not surprised to see people with Quaker banners marching in the procession. I’ve known for many years that the Society of Friends sees Gay love and partnership as being as valid as heterosexual relationships. Only a few days ago, I was delighted to see an article on the BBC News website which reported that the Society of Friends “looks set to extend marriage services to same-sex couples at their yearly meeting later.” You can read the whole article here.
I hadn’t realised that the Unitarians are another extremely inclusive and tolerant Christian Church. A quick read of the home page of their website earlier when I was looking for the link above put me straight on that matter. I realised that Quakers do not have a monopoly on celebrating diversity and respecting other beliefs. I’m now no longer surprised to have seen them there; just glad I did.
While all this was going on, we were walking towards the end of the march and eventually it came to an end. We went back to the city centre and carried on looking for a hat for Darcy. Eventually we found it: a nice khaki cap that will sit just nicely on his new hairstyle. Our mission accomplished, we could now leave for home.
When we got back to Horwich, I realised that my timing had been about as bad as it could possibly be. The Bolton Wanderers/Liverpool FC football match had just come to an end and the roads were chocker already. I needed to fill the car to ensure we would get home and we must spent about half an hour in stationary and slow moving traffic to get back to the motorway. Fortunately, Liverpool had won the match, which put Darcy in a great mood and the journey home was great fun as he played DJ with his iPod and the FM Transmitter. I was treated to Gangsters by The Specials, Three Minute Hero by Selecter and probably my favourite Ska/Bluebeat track The Prince by Madness to name but three.