Under The A57(M)

Over the past three days I have been attending a short writing course at Manchester Metropolitan University on the subject of place writing. The course has been excellent and encouraged me to start writing again, as well as consolidated some ideas surrounding my practice.

The following piece was written as today’s short assignment and was complemented by a series of photos taken on my IPad  to act as visual notes for the written piece.

Under the A57(M)
I unsurprisingly find myself under the expressway of the A57(M), the shortest section of motorway in the UK. Even in Manchester’s packed streets I am able to find respite from the busy world.

Tucked under the overhead road, the world around me melts away, the sound of the busy streets and cars becomes muffled, except for the noise of a game of football going on in one of the subterranean five a side pitches that have become a staple of our urban infrastructure.

All of the areas sunken walk ways and roundabouts remind me of Deleuze’s writing about islands, continental, born of erosion and dis-articulation. Urban archipelagos adrift in the shipping lanes of Manchester’s busy roads. The converging paths slip down the slope, ducking under the roundabout above, waiting to act as unofficial watercourses once the rain starts.

The asphalt paths remind me of the Croydon suburbs that my grandparents lived in. Strangely smooth and devoid of noticeable aggregates, and just like the tree lined suburban avenues, the trees planted at the top of the banks have forced up the cobbles up into undulating waves, the concrete curb stones hefted up by this shifting sea, only to later crash back down, breaking into jagged edges. Tucked underneath these stones is the usual collection of detritus, but a cleanly picked bone catches my eye, spotted and picked marked, the remnants of someone’s late night dirty chicken stop.

The cobbles have been oddly covered in a thick bitumen, like the waterproofing on that hull of a ship, I am at a loss for the reason why. For a second an absurd idea pops into my head, maybe it’s to stop them being nicked. My eye stops on a patch of missing cobbles further along the path, now a rock pool of moss and lose soil.

The stones directly under the overpass are stained in huge grey circles, one, two. Looking up I see the reason, stalactites hang from the underside of the concrete, slowly dripping onto the floor below, the limestone, leaching out of the damaged concrete.

This is an area I know from previous research, the site of the odd motorway exit to nowhere, built to a point and then stopped meters into the air. Like so much of our concrete cities, a reminder of a future, promised, that never came.