Can you imagine alighting the train onto the platform at Manchester Central Station in the days of the steam train? Exiting the station buildings, you are met by the Midland hotel in all its glory. It must have been an impressive view back then. Indeed, it still is, although I suspect the red glow of the brickwork would be shrouded in soot and look very different to the view it presents now.
The picture glows as a dark cloudy sky reflects the city lights amidst the blue and purple hues. The colour an affectation of the artist for, as any city dweller knows, there is only an orange glow in the urban sky. The Midland hotel exudes warmth and invites you to enter. It’s red brickwork changing colour before your eyes. Now brown there purple, here orange and then back to red. Each colour change hinting at a shape but the shapes vanish as they drift into the next.
The main windows stream bright orange and yellow light, adding to the glow. More windows flank the left hand side. Most unlit and dark defined by a few lines, Their occupants, out on the town or enjoying the hotel’s facilities.
Manchester comes alive at night. The reference photograph was taken early evening, perhaps 6:30pm or maybe later at 9:30pm. Even then, the night is only just beginning. New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Manchester will give it a run for its money. And the Midland hotel will be ready to welcome weary travellers who have parted out and are ready to welcome sleep.
The various groups of people gather in the street, captured in the moment of decision or action. Recent rains have left the pavement wet but gone are the shadows of rain. Some groups look lost in discussion. Maybe they’re figuring out where to go next, and how to get there? Some solitary figures look ready to cross the road and more still are vanishing into the scene. Last in the scene, as patches of colour and indistinct lines merge and form new shapes. A lone black bike and a single white van are the only vehicles in the scene. The van lost behind the canopy of trees that provides softening greenery to the otherwise harsh architectural world defined by brick, glass, stone and tarmac.
A world of Victorian splendour which has an honorary mention in the Agatha Christie novel The Secret Adversary (A Tommy and tuppence novel) A fine story in its own right, but I wonder how many real life stories the Midland Hotel could share? I’ve met several couples who met or were married there. No doubt, many dignitaries have graced its rooms during its long and illustrious career but, what other stories could it tell?