Manchester canal - image copyright Michael Ely (licensed for reuse under Creative Commons)

I don't live in Manchester any more. I visit, as documented at Manchester trip, knoworramean? and Manchester trip for 2000 Tunes.

Most city centres, particularly in the UK, are scummy places.

This was confirmed during my recent stay in Manchester City Centre.

Pukejockeys. The hotel was fine. The problem wasn't the hotel itself, but the area around it - Piccadilly Gardens, the Northern Quarter, and all the other areas that make up the city centre. So much litter, graffiti, drink and drug use, abandoned fast food and wrappers, broken bottles, vomit, and a lack of greenery to break it up (hardly any trees, bushes or flowers).

Gastrippers. Within a few hundred metres of the hotel we passed piles of metal nitrous oxide (laughing gas) canisters dumped on the floor next to empty bottles of booze. I'd never seen that before. They rattled along the pavement and rolled into the gutters. My nephew asked what all the canisters were and I had to explain.

Scudmonkeys. It's as if neither the Council nor the businesses care. If the businesses cared they'd demand the Council use the millions in business rates to keep the city centre looking nice and litter-free, and that there'd be more greenery. In many other countries businesses clean up in a radius around themselves, washing down streets and keeping things pristine and proud. That culture doesn't really exist in most of the UK. We drown in detritus.

Dampscumlubbers. Manchester has canals. You'd think they would be be looked after, with their paths that allow traffic-free shortcuts across the city. But no. They stink, and there were rafts of litter floating around in scum on the surface. It's horrible to see what the geese and ducks had to swim through. Again, there was litter and broken bottles on the tow paths. Like the whole of the city centre, it creates the impression that no-one (residents, Council, businesses) cares, which makes all the problems worse as irresponsible people don't see a problem with dumping more litter when there is already so much there. I was embarrassed that it was my step-family's first view of the city.

Pissleakers. Likewise the city centre seemed to have no free public toilets, or they weren't well signposted. It feels like you have to pay for everything. Even Piccadilly Train Station forces you to pay for toilets, when you have just spent a fortune on train tickets. No money on you, no way to relieve yourself. Maybe that's why so many doorways and alleys smelt of piss. Toilets should always be free. (Note: this applies to most towns in the UK. I live in Ceredigion, and in the last few years I've seen Ceredigion County Council close three of the public toilets in our town, and start charging for another. They're just as bad.).

Prideswipers. The only solution I can see is all the businesses getting together and pressuring the Council to do something. I have emailed Manchester Council in the past and been ignored. The same places where I reported litter haven't changed a year or two on. The Council should collect litter and clean the streets and buildings all the time, so it is an exception rather than the rule. The canals should be pristine and unpolluted, with clean water. There should be free and clearly-labelled public toilets. They need to implement fines for littering and dumping booze bottles. There should be more trees and bushes and flowers (in the earth, not just pots) - well maintained, with litter removed. Piccadilly Gardens is still grim compared to when it was proper gardens a number of years ago before the Council bulldozed it and (at that time) covered the gardens with concrete c. 2001, in a sad and disappointing but enormously-revealing display of their true attitude. Part of the problem is all the throwaway junk, and that is largely down to the Council allowing so many takeaway places - you inevitably get litter from them.

Jizzlobbers. Maybe it's also tied to the way there are very few recycle bins in the city centre. It's unclear what you're meant to do with recyclable materials like glass, plastic, cans, cartons, wrappers, paper etc. It seems the Council just want it all to go in landfill bins in the city centre. All rubbish bins should have recycling bins next to them.

Purplepeopleeaters. It's a real shame that the city centre has been allowed to become so unpleasant, dirty and unnatural, a litter-strewn dive that seems to mainly exist as a shrine to drinking, thoughtlessness and unnecessary consumption. There are some great buildings, some cool businesses, and some lovely people. It could be an amazing place to visit if the Council, businesses and residents made more of an effort. More parks, fewer car parks; more trees and grass, less laughing gas.

The world is dying and we die with it. Our cells decay with each revolution, and what we touch dries up in pollution and selfish waste. Other planets are not a hope for survival, they would be a curse - until we can learn to live in peace on one planet, controlling our population and cutting back on our waste, accepting that the world does not belong to us alone, there would be no hope of spiritual evolution as we descend back into a new dark age of tribalism and thoughtlessness, isolation and selfishness, a sticky morass into which our spirits sink as everything burns and the last thing to die is hope. We will all die. Our permanent individual destruction is a fact. We only control how much harm we do in the passing. Life is disease and we spread it everywhere, ever-expanding like a raft of litter on the self-scummed waters of our cities. This is the end, and we scream and kick but there's no point as we drown in the sweating fat of billions.


But on the plus side! There were great vegetarian and vegan places to eat, and you all know that I loves me some cake!

V Rev
I've been visiting since it was part-record-shop in the old smaller location. This was the new place. Wow! Even better. Lots of staff to look after you, lots of tables (though it still filled out quickly - we got in just before queues began to form, it really is that popular!) Really good vegan comfort food. Burgers, fries, macaroni cheese, beers, hot dogs and so on. Their cakes were amazing - honestly, people eyed them with awe. I had a chocolate mint cake which was a mix of greens and browns and tasted gorgeous, and even had the icing topped with a mint chocolate. One warning - the cake slices were really big. Best shared between two.

V Rev cake. I'd already started it. It was bigger than the moon.

8th Day
I've always been a fan, and have been going since the days when it was a very small shop and cafe, rather than spread over two floors like now. I used to eat there before working in the All Saints Library over the road. 8th Day is probably the best it has ever been. I love the way you can eat downstairs, then get some shopping upstairs on the way out. The shop's takeaway counter always has a huge range of pasties and cakes, most of them vegan. The cafe has lovely food options - sandwiches, salads, hot meals, smoothies, and lots of cake options. Again, a lot of the options are vegan. I love 8th Day, it's a haven in the city.

Mod's Vegan Cafe
Martin The Mod is friendly and down to earth. He's a mate of mine and appeared as a character in 2000 Tunes, playing himself. This is his cafe, held in the Thirsty Scholar pub. There are loads of options for the food and it's good value. I really like having a big veggie fry-up breakfast and a pint of beer with music in the background: the Thirsty Scholar is a relaxing and chilled place to eat. Martin's always happy to have a chat, making it feel really friendly. In fact, I'd taken my Italian family - they said "In here we are not foreigners, we are friends." What more can I say? This time I had a huge fried breakfast (which filled me up - glad I didn't go for the next size up!) Someone else had noodles and crispy tofu, another houmous salad, and we all shared the biggest plate of chips I have ever seen. One of the best meals I had in the city centre.

Breakfast in the afternoon at Mod's Vegan Cafe

Little Aladdin
This was new to me. Apparently it wasn't that long ago that this place went totally vegan. Well, I totally recommend it, I was glad I visited! You can eat in, with proper plates and cutlery. The staff were friendly and helpful. I had a plate of rice with three curries on, followed by a chocolate brownie; my family had samosas and other treats. If I lived nearby I would definitely pop in often for an inexpensive yet really tasty meal.

Other places:
Earth Cafe
Afflecks Vegan & Wellbeing Centre
Go Falafel
Zizzi (I don't normally eat in places that also serve meat, but they had a separate vegan menu. I had a vegan cheese pizza with various toppings, a pint of beer, and a very tasty chocolate torte with ice cream for dessert. All very good, I'd scoff again).

Be happy and healthy people! This world can be beautiful if we nurture it. We can be guardians. We can extend love in all directions. We can be positive and magical and make changes for the better. Peace and love!