By Arachne

John has installed solar panels and an electric motor on the boat and has spent any time this journey that he hasn't been needed as skipper, cook, shopper, diesel mechanic or lock supervisor wiring it up and checking other components on the circuitry. When the rest of us woke through the morning silence and realised we were purring towards Manchester, John told us he'd been driving on the electric motor for two hours. The only downside is that the electric motor doesn't need to be cooled, so doesn't produce the diesel engine's by-product of lashings of hot water for showers.

Our arrival in Manchester coincided with the middle weekend of its International Festival so once we'd moored in Castlefield and looked at the huge museum of Science and Industry (how have I never seen this before?) I went to 'Atmospheric Memory', an installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Inspired by Charles Babbage's 1837 idea that every word ever spoken leaves a permanent trace in the air and that a sufficiently powerful computer could decode the movement of molecules and enable us to 'hear' what was said in the past, Lozano-Hemmer has created sculptures, projections and audio that explore words and sound. I didn't grasp how all this is connected to the climate crisis, as he claims, but was thrilled to see Babbage's 'analytical engine' for the first time and I loved the water vapour exhalation of words spoken into a microphone that people wanted banned (extra) and the huge projections onto which people could cast shadows.

One of our students, R, was keen to see Manchester from as far above as possible and found out that the lopsided Hilton Hotel, which has often bemused me from ground level, has a bar on the 23rd floor. I offered to buy him a drink as I too wanted to see the view but we weren't allowed into the lift: it was just gone 6pm when the dress code gets more stringent and his shorts were unacceptable. (I didn't discover at what time of the evening my muddy trousers would have got us thrown out.) He sprinted back to the boat, helped himself to the long trousers of his fellow student and sprinted back while I texted the unwitting lender, who was planning to join us us, to let him know that he, ahem, would need long trousers.

The lift bouncer grinned as he allowed us up and the view over south Manchester and east to the Pennines was worth the staggering cost of our drinks.

Back at canal level we ate fish and chips (John makes sure all our students get tastes of traditional British food) on the front of the boat then played games under the moon.

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