I hate Christmas shopping. This isn’t because I don’t enjoy seeing the faces of my loved ones open their gifts on Christmas day, or because I’m a stingy fucker. It’s for the same reason I hate all those annoying life chores that we have to deal with if we want to get on in some way in alignment with western social norms. Going to barbers, paying council tax, keeping appointments with the dentist, food shopping… All of which are put off until the last minute for no other reason than the fact it makes my head hurt. Despite my dislike for the above, the one redeeming feature of running this hellish last minute gauntlet at the rear end of December is knowing that I am not alone.
With another 2000 or so other huffing, puffing, single stressed out men on their own on Christmas eve, I took to the streets and tried my best not to end up with a bag of pointless crap for my family to pretend they liked the following morning. My mind is usually on task for the yearly present run, but this year I got distracted.
Back in 2010, before I had begun to act upon my interest in roof topping city centre buildings, I remember seeing a set of pictures hit the intertron, placed there by my now regular compadre Gone. Marc Explo put it pretty neatly recently in Crack The Surface when he compared explorers to ‘superheros’, when putting the activity to friends who we’re not so well aquatinted with the practice.
“People are like… Fuck, you can do that? Its not possible!?”
While I’m not going to do Gone, OneByOne and Sui the service of putting them on the same lofty plinth as the Marvel comic heros, I remember doing a lap of the Primark building last year and thinking the exact same thing. Looking upwards, making lines up drainpipes, crazy traverses and impossible leaps of faith that would be required to get up to the roof of the building and thinking.. “How the fuck did they manage to do that?!?”
Once I found their trick, you’d have thought the enamour in which I held their feat of buildering would have eroded along with the illusion of the ‘magic’ of the achievement of making it to, as I humbly saw it then, such an improbable place, but like finding the knack of a really really good card trick, it just stoked up my enthusiasm for wanting to have a crack at it myself.
The Lewis’ ballroom above the Primark in Picadilly gardens in Manchester has been tucked away from view for so many years, its existence started to border on ‘myth’ status by the time Gone et al crashed the asbestos contractor’s party back in 2010. Built in the heyday of the Lewis Department chain in 1877, the grand ballroom, in its later life, became a function and events room once playing host to a signing session hosted by the pre-Munich air disaster Manchester United football team.
I’ve no idea if the Primark corporation have plans for the ball room, or if they were just removing the asbestos for giggles and plan to let it sit there gathering dust for another 40 years, but either way, it was a joy to get in and have a nosy first hand.
The climb up was good fun, if not a little dicey. I have an extremely vivid memory of traversing a wobbly plank held over a glass roof by nothing more than a pair of slings, slowly edging over 50ft of serious glassy injury towards an open window in the upper floor. The top floor of the building doens’t give much away in terms of the old girls grand past, but after a bit of a nosy….