Back in the baking months of this gorgeous summer, I was researching with a colleague, Maya Chowdhry, for a project we're developing for the Manchester Literature Festival, Tales from the Towpath. It's a treasure trail of story episodes that are hidden along Manchester waterways and in iconic venues. I say hidden, some more so than other... the geocaches are hidden but the wee origami boat and performance (on the 17th October) will be most visible.
The story revolves around the canals and rivers and the Medlock has particularly caught my attention. It appears and disappears throughout Manchester. Our research day was to follow the course of the River Medlock - find where it rose sunk. And for me, as an outsider to Manchester, to get a feel of the maze of culverts and open waterways this city straddles. We were on bikes so our ability to zip about the streets added to the thrill of the chase.
I can't reveal everything we discovered that day on this post as it would spoil your treasure trail hunting, but one thing safe to share is how fascinated I was with a river so shallow (and so cluttered with tyres, unpaired shoes and other rubbish) can hold such a potent place in my imagination. How the discovery of something I previously knew nothing about and is, for the most of my time in Manchester, out of view, can have such influence when I walk the streets. It seems to echo the pace of pedestrians overground: that very ordinary element of a city has suddenly been heightened. It's current, depth and hydro-dynamism is increased by its invisibility. Of course, this apparent absence is what love affairs are made of.