I set myself a challenge today and I’m really pleased to report that I not only met it, but exceeded it.
As you may know already I experience episodes of depression from time to time (no, not the vague “feeling sad and fed up” emotion that people believe it is but the real sense of doom with every breath, the not being able to “see” the next hour let alone next day, where it’s all black and you’re at the bottom of a deep well, that sort of depression) and it really is a struggle to keep going. I am happy to tell you that I am on the upswing from a bout of depression at the moment, but the black threads are still there and are still holding me back. Hence the challenge today.
My challenge was very simple: get on a bus, go to the city centre of Manchester, have a cup of coffee and come home again on the bus.
I very nearly didn’t do it, I’ll be honest! But with some encouraging words from a friend at Stay and Play this morning, I duly set off on the bus at lunchtime to go and visit my city centre. It doesn’t sound a lot really, but when you consider that stepping over the threshold of my house can be an enormous challenge in itself, getting on a bus and travelling somewhere else is something else entirely. Don’t get me wrong I’m not an agoraphobic or anything like that but there are times when simply getting out is too difficult and just staying in is far easier.
So, I arrived in Piccadilly into the weak Spring sunshine and decided that I would take some photographs for a blog series I’m planning and preparing at the moment. I had intended going to Starbucks or somewhere like that but decided that I didn’t need to do that after all. I was feeling emboldened by the fresh air and the sunshine and settled for a slice of pizza and a cold drink sat on the benches in Piccadilly simply watching the world go by.
Whilst I was eating my lunch I noticed a street sign – Mosley Street – and it got me thinking. The Manchester Art Gallery is just down Mosley Street and even though I have lived in Manchester all of my life, I have never (to my shame) ever been inside the gallery. So, on a whim, I decided to go and have a look today.
I am so glad I went!!
It is an absolute treasure trove of art – Gainsborough, Stubbs, Reynolds, Holman Hunt, Millais… all there for just anyone to go and see. I’ve seen works of art today that I have only ever seen photos of in books or on the internet. I never in a million years dreamed that I would see what I saw in one particular room that would make my little heart beat a bit faster.
In amongst all the treasures from the art world from the last 200 years or so, I literally stumbled on my all time favourite painting in the whole world. I couldn’t believe it. After studying it a number of years ago as part of an Open University course, I fell in love with it; the colours, the composition, the satire, the narrative….everything.
This is my photo (taken with the permission of the gallery) of Ford Madox Brown’s “Work” taken this very afternoon:
You might recognise it from my poor attempt at photography, but I assure you, it is well worth looking up if you want to have a closer look at it.
This for me represents so much about the massive changes that were going on at the time that this painting was created. Every layer from society is represented here, from the high-born upper class gent in the background to the beggar woman with her poor children right at the front. There are Irish navvies in the process of digging the road up (a brilliant representation of the digging up and recreating of the social strata that was going on at the time), there are gentlemen passing the time of day with each other, a man dressed as a woman running away furtively at the side. We see leisure, poverty, aristocracy, work, theft….ooooh allsorts going on here!
This painting was brought to life, literally, on a residential course I attended with the OU and during a bit of a song and dance sketch item, the lecturers of all the courses going on at the time ended up as a living tableau of this picture and it just blew me away the way they did it. There was even one of them who came on stumbling about drunk and falling over as one of the navvies, which was brilliant.
It just goes to show you what can happen when you set yourself a challenge to go for it doesn’t it? I set myself a minimal challenge of just being out of the house for an hour or so, and what I achieved is that I have discovered a hidden gem here on my doorstep. Not only did I discover the gem of this painting, but I wandered through room after room of them too. I saw others that I’d studied before, others I’d only seen in books. Some were new to me, some made me think and more than one made me think “wow, how on earth can a human being be so controlled to produce THAT!”.
Here are some more photos from my trip to the city centre today. I suppose it’s fair to say that the whole afternoon was a series of hidden gems!