Oh Manchester - you really like to make things hard for us, don't you. Take last week, for example - I spent most of it lolling listlessly about the house, garden or workplace, complaining feebly about the heat and baying insatiably for a steady stream of cold drinks, lest I may expire altogether. During a rare spell of uprightness Mr Liz and I walked through Spinningfields last Thursday night, noting the crowds of hot-panted Mancunians sunning themselves on The Lawns whilst waiting for the outdoor screening of Labyrinth to start, and smugly congratulated ourselves on living in such an amazing city. We saw Manchester in the sun, and we saw that it was good.
Well, what a difference a week makes. Fast forward to Wednesday just gone, and the launch party for the two new summer hostelries located each side of the Spinningfields lawn - The Long Bar and The InBloom Bar. The crowds of Mancunians are still here, but the skimpy dresses and shorts have been replaced with macs and umbrellas, and the big screen that so proudly displayed David Bowie's best fright-wig last week is now barely visible through the shimmering curtain sweeping in gusts through the distinctly brisk air. That's right: it's Manchester, and it's raining.
Still, this is why we love Manchester - it has simply ignored the weather and turned up in its best finery to celebrate anyway: I even see one brave girl in a maxi dress and sandals, with no umbrella or coat (oh no, wait - that was me). We visit The Long Bar first, the more industrial of the two spaces with its sculptured curves and, um, very long bar, and sample a Long Bar Iced Tea cocktail. This is a little too sweet for me, as although it supposedly combines rum, gin, vodka and Cointreau with watermelon, lemon juice and mint, I can't really taste the last two ingredients and find it a little cloying. Still, it seems to be going down a treat with the numerous men in suits lining the bar.
A quick sprint across the path (and I mean quick - you try strolling daintily in maxi dress and sandals during a monsoon) brings us to The InBloom Bar, an altogether more rustic affair that is much more to my liking. Here there are no men in suits; instead, we find fleets of ladies in pretty dresses, sipping elegantly on Prosecco and Bloom Gin and Tonics, and a band playing a brassed-up version of Beyonce, and cute girls with hula hoops, and gorgeous girls carrying round deli boards loaded with olives, cheeses, Italian meats and hummus. You DO have to use your imagination a little, as the bar is essentially a small hut over which ivy has been artfully draped, but there is a lovely outside space here, with plenty of comfy seating that I feel may beckon next time the weather is fine for Screenfields.
Bit by bit, Spinningfields is turning itself into a great area for a night out. I remember when there wasn't really much here, but a willingness to embrace the pop-up (remember last year's Yacht Club?) and to welcome a range of different bars and restaurants has brought new life to this part of the city - as shown by the fact that The Long Bar and The InBloom Bar between them took over £100k in their first 10 days of operation (most of it mine, probably). Manchester will continue to enjoy itself whatever the weather: give me a choice between seeing Rihanna at the Arena and dancing in the rain to a brass band, I'll take the latter any day.
PS Many thanks to Gareth Davies Photography for allowing me to use his lovely photos - they are definitely less grey than my own turned out. There are more photos on his webpage, and you can also check out both bars by going to Facebook or Twitter - or indeed, by going in person, which is better as they will sell you some gin.