bolton in october

The Manchester Science Festival is two weeks of all these amazing science-based events, talks and workshops. While I’m very much partial to the arts and art festivals, I still come from a science-based background and I think it’s fantastic that there’s such a festival to promote the sciences (and I’m not just saying this as an unschooling parent). Believe me, if we lived in Manchester, I guarantee we’d have attended a good portion of the events. Unfortunately though, travelling frequently from Liverpool for a one or two hour event is more than a bit costly, so we only attended two workshops, both of which were at the University of Bolton on the same day. One was on taping sports injuries and the other was one on dissection. Lucas was really excited about the taping workshop and took the day off just so he could go to it.

There are two ways to get to Bolton via train from Liverpool — through Manchester or Wigan. When I planned the trip, I’d planned it through Manchester and had assumed that the cost of tickets would be the same price regardless of which route we’d take. But of course in hindsight, that’s a bit silly of me to assume, for when we were at the train station getting our tickets, we were told that it’d cost more to travel through Manchester. The price I’d seen on the website was for the trip through Wigan. Oh. So we changed our route so we could go through Wigan, and it took away about two hours of the time we were to spend in Bolton, but oh well. Raspberry, ever the train stop enthusiast, was excited to go through both Wigan Northwestern and Wigan Wallgate, although she got restless on the train quite quickly, probably because the trip was more drawn out than initially thought.

But we finally made it to Bolton and wandered over to the city centre, which was smaller than I’d expected from the map (did I ever mention I have a rather poor sense of estimation?). Raspberry marvelled at the various enormous Greek-inspired columns and tried to find all three kinds. When I was researching places to go in Bolton, I knew she’d like the neoclassical architecture and planned our route so we’d pass such buildings.

We went into the building that houses the museum, art gallery, aquarium and the library (yeah, pretty crazy, I know… and it’s not like it was an incredibly enormous building). The aquarium was what we’d wanted to check out. It was housed in the basement and well, I’d thought that if you’re going to advertise yourself as an aquarium, that you’d be large and cool but of course really anything can be an aquarium. There were a couple of interesting fish, but it didn’t take as long to see the whole place as I thought it would. Yeah, there was a tinge of disappointment.

Because we’d gotten into Bolton later than we’d initially planned, we were pretty hungry after our brief visit to the aquarium. Had it not been a relatively cloudy and cold day, we probably would’ve found a bench to have lunch outside, but I think we all preferred to seek some indoor warmth. It was busy enough that it was practically impossible to find a bench, let alone an available one, inside the mall (thank you, half-term), so we went into Marks and Spencer and wedged ourselves as inconspicuously as possible into a corner of their cafe, out of sight of the counter but right by the windows looking out onto the pedestrians on the street.

Up to this point, this wasn’t exactly the way I’d envisioned my time in Bolton (new city, new adventures!) but maybe I’d set the bar too high for this smaller city. I think idealistically and unrealistically, just about every time I visit a new place, I have exceedingly, ridiculously high expectations that the place will be astoundingly amazing and I’m going to love it all. I’m not sure where this delusion stems from (maybe my wanderlust), but of course it sets me up for disappointment sometimes. Lucas mentioned he’d probably like to visit Bolton again when it’s warmer, but personally I don’t think Bolton impressed me enough to warrant another visit (not to mention, there are so many other places I’d like to travel to).

We looked around the city centre a bit but there wasn’t a whole lot of time before we had to make it to the first workshop. It looked a little bit like Liverpool’s city centre — some neoclassical buildings among the usual big name shops. Nothing really stood out. The place where the workshop was held, Bolton One, is this enormous sportsplex that seemed to have just about everything sport-related, including a clinic. Lucas was duly impressed and wished there was something like this close to where we live. For that matter, I wish we had something like that too, as there was a pool and if we lived close to one, I’d certainly take Raspberry swimming more frequently than the zero times we currently go now.

Raspberry was an enthusiastic volunteer at the sport injuries workshop, offering her ankle to be taped. The demonstrator, a physiotherapist who typically works with sports teams, said it was the smallest ankle he’s ever taped. She liked having the tape on so much that she wanted to keep it on after the workshop, but unfortunately her foot wouldn’t have fit into her shoe if she did. She did keep the tape on her knee on though, although that only lasted until after the second workshop. I think Lucas quite enjoyed himself at the workshop. He took a sports injuries class back in 2005 or 2006 and had a good time learning all the taping techniques and practising on me. This time however, he had two differentially-sized people to practise taping ankles, knees and elbows on. He said he’d have liked if they showed other techniques too, but of course they can only show so much in the hour and a half that we were there for.

The dissection workshop was fun, because hey, cutting body parts open is never not going to be fun. There were kidneys, hearts and eyeballs to be cut open, although the way they had it set up, you could only really slice open one organ and then move on to the next one, and the next, which others had already dissected. I’d have liked to have dissected all of them, but I don’t think the number of participants and time allowed for that. Ever keen to volunteer knowledge, Raspberry was quick to offer up answers to questions about the aforementioned organs, sometimes forgetting to raise her hand to do so. One of the demonstrators later told me that Raspberry reminds her of herself when she was younger. I thought the coolest part of the workshop was holding the lens from the sheep’s eyeball up to a word and seeing the distortion. I never would’ve have guessed that would happen with a detached lens. Feeling how weirdly plastic-y the eyeball felt when devoid of its vitreous humour vaguely reminded me dissecting an eyeball previously, back in Grade 12 physics I think. I guess it was one of the high school dissections that didn’t really stand out, because when I think about dissections, I don’t think of the eyeball at all but rather, the earthworm, frog and perch from Grade 10 science; the rat from Grade 11 biology (where I tried to remove part of its cranium); and the cat from vertebrate anatomy (a course I avoided when I did my first undergrad degree because I’d just started going out with Lucas then and felt bad about dissecting a cat since I knew he had a cat).

Because of the workshop’s policies, Raspberry couldn’t dissect anything but I think she still enjoyed watching and feeling the different organs. I love that she still loves anything about the human body, even though her interest in it isn’t as strong as it was eight months ago. Her current future ambitions are to be a surgeon (so she can cut things up, she says) or a bloodologist (a.k.a hematologist, but she prefers the word she coined). And she’d like a dissection kit as well as a doctor’s kit. I wish I still had my dissection kit from university but I think I donated that when we were doing some massive purging a few years ago. I’m slowly sourcing various items to put together a doctor’s kit; so far, we’ve gotten some syringes from the clinic and I’m eyeing a £2 working stethoscope on Amazon. It’s kinda funny — Raspberry often says she doesn’t play any more, but she’s still very much a five (going on six) year-old and still does but she just doesn’t call it that. Haha.

Anyway, the Bolton trip didn’t turn out how I’d expected (beginning with the change in route), but I’m still glad we went, although mostly for the fact that Raspberry got a chance to experience the workshops and that Lucas had fun doing so. Perhaps if we’d gotten more of a chance to explore the city and if I’d probably been a little less thrown off by our change in plans, I might’ve enjoyed it more but oh well, I’m not too bothered by it. There are other places I’d rather visit and will probably prefer anyway. Just another city to add to my list.

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