Thursday, 15 September 2016

Macclesfield town: Ain’t No Gumboot! (Tales of Inappropriate Footwear)

Macclesfield, United Kingdom
January-March 2016
Now, we did consume plenty of time playing computer games on our fancy new devices, but we also went out exploring the town.
Macclesfield's economic power grew in the 1600's, when townsfolk took up silk production, and it was bolstered even more during the Industrial Revolution. Most of the town's buildings were made of stone and covered in soot from the time when wood fire was still a thing. Oh wait! We had a wood burning stove in our house sit! (How perfectly primitive.) 

The area's damp climate is apparently ideal for handling silk, and at one point in time, Macclesfield was the world's largest producer of the fabric. (Macclesfield owned this title of being ideally damp, which seems so English in a mildly depressing way.) Sadly, child labour was used abundantly in silk production. We learned a considerable amount from the Silk Museum, though I admit that I found most of the information rather dull and preferred looking at the different patterns that had been used in fashion over time and the behemoth Industrial Revolution era mechanical looms. 

On the last Sunday of each month, the longstanding Treacle Market is held in front of the town hall. There were plenty of knickknack and antique stalls, and even a bakery stall that we purchased a baguette from, but no actual treacle to be found. It turns out that some centuries ago, a horse-drawn wagon transporting barrels of treacle capsized, causing the barrels to burst open and a river of treacle to flow through the town. Poor townsfolk subsequently gobbled it all up, and the nickname "Treacle Town" remains to this day. Charming as the story may be, I feel that it's been inflated over the years and becomes more exaggerated with each retelling. 

Flour Water Salt was a shop that we visited almost daily. While most English bakeries produce dense bread with little flavour, Flour Water Salt made sourdough breads with lovely big holes inside (like European breads such as ciabatta). Though a bit pricier than the likes of mass bakeries, including the omnipresent Peter Ingle chain, their breads were well worth the extra couple of pounds. Yannick also sampled a few of their pastries and gave them the thumbs up. 

On a day when it hadn't snowed or rained, we took the advice of our house sitting hosts and went for a walk by the canal that runs along the outskirts of the town and further into the countryside. We had planned on stopping at a pub that was about an hour down the canal for lunch, yet realised that we wouldn't be making it that far after feeling our walking shoes beginning to sink into the mud. Without gumboots, walking much further would be nearly impossible unless we didn't mind ruining our footwear, so we simply turned back and ate at the Treacle Tap - a pub near the train station. 

Yet again, treacle was nowhere to be seen, and certainly no tap dispensing it! Instead we treated ourselves to hearty pub food - a pie with non-minted and non-mushy peas for Yannick, and a Moroccan themed meal with falafel, couscous, hummus and olives for me (vegan food is so much easier to find in the UK than France!). 

In our various meanderings of the town, we admired the haunted-looking grounds of Saint Paul's Church...

And Yannick snapped a photo of it on the snowiest day! We had gone out to fetch supplies from the supermarket but my shoes, which were designed for running, had far too much access to the outside air (read: holes in the top for 'breathability') and moisture soaked through them quickly. Not only were they sopping wet, but also ice cold as the water was freshly melted snow. I turned back while Yannick bravely ploughed on with his more waterproof foot guards, documenting the occasion and bringing home food, glorious food!

Thankfully he didn't attempt to walk down this steeply descending pathway as his tread wasn't nearly grippy enough to cling to the icy cobblestones (though it could be a great spot for tobogganing).

In order to get one good look at the snow again before we left, we took a walk up to one of the hills, passing by many typically English houses along the way. At first I found the architecture of the town not altogether pleasant, but it did grow on me over the weeks because of how English and Industrial Revolutiony it all looked. We wanted to get as close to the snow as possible, but the dirt road had become muddy and puddles that collected in the tire treads formed slippery ice.
The only other excursion of potential note was a viewing of the new Star Wars film at the little cinema. Tickets were much cheaper than any cinema in London, and we had been wanting to see it, so timing was perfect. *SPOILERS* I got a delightful shock at the end of the film when they find Luke Skywalker - for some strange reason I believed the actor who played Luke to be dead. Perhaps it's just because he hasn't been in many other movies (though it turns out he has done a considerable amount of voice acting). Poor Mark Hamill. Please accept my apology for thinking you were deceased. 

Today's post was almost called: Moist Meanders On The Boulevard of Silken Dreams