Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Attempt on Bury No. 2

They say that if you enjoyed your first visit to a place, you should not go back again (unless you are prepared to be disappointed). The purpose of my second trip to Bury should, therefore, be self explanatory.

Top of my list was the the famous market which, this time, was fully open for business. I deliberately sought out the traditional fare, buying black pudding and a tub of beef dripping. Although I could not get enthused about the cow heal and tripe, I am quite desperate to like black pudding, being really keen on the Spanish version of it, morcilla. Despite several attempts, however, I must conclude that the Bury equivalent comes a distant second. As for the beef dripping, I remember my grandmother eating it spread on bread and sprinkled with salt, so I gave it a go. Gran must have been pretty desperate for sustenance back then! The tub is now pushed to the back of the fridge until my determination to give it a second chance finally wanes, and I use it instead to lubricate door hinges. The rest of the market experience washed over me - a sea of pies, leather goods, smelly pet accessories, cargo pants and assorted household goods. I still don’t get markets.

Next up, the municipal art gallery, and I was impressed to see a tourist coach parked outside, the last of its passengers making their way up the grand, stone steps. I was delighted to find that the party comprised ‘Friends’ of Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery, and included actual friends of mine. So it was that I came to tag onto a guided tour, and learned more than I otherwise would have done. For example, my assumption that the main benefactor of the gallery must have been a cotton magnate was shattered. The fact is that Bury had been an international centre of excellence for the manufacture of paper, and that a certain Mr. Wrigley made so much money from this business that he was able to gentrify his social standing by buying paintings, which he eventually bequeathed to the town. In fact, there is a rather nice Turner on display which Mr Wrigley had acquired from Mr. Gillet, a neighbouring manufacturer of pen nibs, thereby perpetuating the legendary relationship between pen and paper.

The coach party was moving on to Oldham, the next stop on their tour of Lancashire mill town art galleries, so my friends were unable to join me in refreshments at the large, old pub across the road which had earlier caught my attention. They missed a bit of a treat, for the young musician in residence proved to be a talented and expert interpreter of old classics by Roy Orbison, the brothers Everley and Walker and many others. The late-lunching, smartly turned-out audience must have been regulars, for they were apparently unfazed by the lone, wizened old character, meticulously dressed in the American Confederate Army uniform, who hovered enthusiastically at the front of the stage, and played air guitar through Sultans of Swing, his Tesco shopping bag at his feet. As my second pint of Bombardier drew to its dregs, the magic of nostalgia began to swell inside me, and I felt dangerously inclined to tap my feet or sing along. But I too, was on my own, with a plastic shopping bag at my feet and, moreover, in unfamiliar territory. The musician promised that his dad was about to turn up and do a few numbers, but I am not used to having so much fun on a Wednesday afternoon, and decided it was time to move on.

I am planning my own coach party for Attempt on Bury No. 3 for. You don’t have to be a southerner to be included, but you might find that it adds piquancy to the experience if you are.

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