Wednesday, 31 October 2012

ABC Wednesday: P is for Popper Posh popcorn in the Dragons' Den

Popper Posh Popcorn is a brand of artisan popcorn and an enterprising venture by three teenagers. 

Alex, Sam and Tim are the brains behind the business, which has won through to the finals of the regional Dragons’ Den schools contest. The Year 10 boys make the popcorn in the food tech department at school, in a variety of flavours which include:

  • Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
  • Early Christmas
  • Sweet Chilli & Lime (my favourite)
  • Chocolate Temptation
  • Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar 
As their slogan says, it’s "popcorn without all that ‘naughty’ stuff".

It retails at £1.50 a box with all profits going to St. Ann’s Hospice. Popper Posh Popcorn is sold at their school events (Altrincham Grammar School for Boys) and also locally. They’ll have a stall at 
Altrincham Vintage & Artisan market on Sunday 18th November (11.00-3.30). The Little Deli Company on Stamford Park Rd by Altrincham’s Stamford Park have also agreed to sell the product. 

The boys also have an ingenious idea for a stocking filler- a make your own popcorn kit called DIY POP which contains a sachet of popcorn for you to cook, along with a sachet of your preferred flavouring plus ribbons and materials to decorate the box with.

The Dragons’ Den panel that they pitched to offered a three figure amount of pump-priming cash. The panel consisted of senior management from Thomas Cook, Enterprise Rent-a-Car and the Duty-Free shop at Manchester airport. The final is in the Concorde hanger at Manchester Airport. Good luck to Popper Posh Popcorn

I caught up with the young entrepreneurs during one of their mega popcorn making and packing sessions. This is what they had to say about their product: “Our name is a play on the saying 'proper posh' and incorporates the top hat to show the stereotypical features of a British gent. We produce virtually fat-free, guilt-free popcorn snacks, infused with sophisticated flavours at affordable prices. At Apollo Cinemas, a small popcorn box costs £3.25, the flavours are very dull, and the popcorn is cooked in oil. At Popper Posh, our popcorn will be much cheaper at £1.50, more exciting and healthier."

Linked to ABC Wednesday .

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Oxjam at the Cinnamon Club: Lewis Mokler

Photo of Lewis Mokler by Holly Sutton-Brand.

Oxjam goes from strength to strength raising funds for lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. This gig at the Cinnamon Club on Sunday was set up by 16 year old Abi and supported by dozens of local teenagers who turned out in force. The acts were Adam Moss, Lewis Mokler, Ryan Jarvis, Dan Mur, Just An Apology, Lizzie Jane, Saskia and Tom Vail. The gig raised about £700 for Oxfam.

Lewis is a 20 year old singer-songwriter who has released four EPs and an album which came out earlier this year called Fingertips.

Linking today to Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Monday Murals: Art On the 8th Day

The staff at On the 8th Day are always friendly and knowledgeable as well as ethical and advocates of sustainability. Some of them are artistic as well. I saw one of the cooperative women, Sam, painting this wonderful mural for Pukka teas on the window 10 days ago.

The On the 8th Day cafe downstairs is perfect for breakfast, lunch and tea. Upstairs in the shop there are creative gifts and a wide range of foods and toiletries. Events are also held here, such as music afternoons and wine tastings. 

A weekend isn't complete in our household without a lunch consisting of some of the take out food you can buy here. Wraps made by Forest Food in Chorlton or vegan pasties and flapjacks from an artisan bakery in Todmodern. Burrito Grande, Mediterranean calzone, and spinach, potato and pea wrap are probably our family's top three at the moment.

Thanks to Brenda for some details for today's post. You can follow her on Twitter at  @BudGardenCentre and do visit her and Severine's Bud Garden Centre in Burnage:             Linked to Monday Murals at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Weekend Reflections: Red leaves

On the Trent and Mersey near Barnton last weekend. Even mundane modern day suburban houses like these can look ok when they are part of Weekend Reflections!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Old money and new, Deansgate contrasts

The old merchants' wealth of Manchester's 19th century on Deansgate is nowadays superseded by the 21st century glass rising above it. I know which building I prefer...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Skywatch Friday: A rising rural rainbow

Last Sunday morning at Marbury Country Park. A rainbow rises above grazing cows. The walks and trails take visitors through the historical landscape which includes Lime avenues, an Arboretum and raised terraces looking over Budworth Mere. 

The ancient woodland, open parkland and streams provide a rich haven for a host of wildlife from bats to beetles. Visitors are able to enjoy the children's play area, orienteering courses and a range of events throughout the year. 

Taking part in Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Are PC games PC, or a far cry from board games?

Another shop that is closed for business -Game Station in Altrincham. Computer game shops are among the many victims of the decline in High Street shopping. They suffer from a double whammy: the worst double-dip recession since computers were invented plus people buying online rather than in person. 

Do violent computer games make people violent in real life? It's an often posed question and our household is divided. One teenager says of course they do while the other argues that copy cat behaviour does not stem from pc games. It is of course a complex issue. Some people are going to be more predisposed to acting in certain ways, and their upbringing and peers will have an effect too.

Apart from the odd family game on the Wii and a Farmville flirtation a few years ago, I don't play them myself. I must admit that I am impressed by the graphics in some games though. Grainger Games’ Far Cry 3 was released recently and the Jules Verne-like tropical island and its inhabitants looked amazingly lifelike to me. From the Richard E Grant-like host to the flora and fauna, I did like the look of it. I might have been inclined to play or delve further were it not for the gore and violence that spoilt it for me (but I am not the target audience) and this just in the trailer. It is rated 18 for good reason.

Do Far Cry and their ilk keep people on their screens and off the streets, or do they lead to violence on the streets? What's your view on computer games?... Education, escapism and entertainment are surely good things?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

ABC Wednesday: O is for old & orange on Nicholas Street

We are spoilt for choice with so many restaurants in Chinatown. I liked this one for its arching lights which emphasis the old windows. I haven't eaten here but it has some good reviews.

It's housed in a fine 19th century building. About 15 years ago I spent a happy few months co-writing, designing and painting a series of greetings cards in an office on the top floor of this block. (Rex the cartoon dinosaur since you ask!). A rickety old lift took you up to the top, passing Chinese herbalists, wholesalers and legal offices all aimed at the local Chinese community. It was an evocative and privileged atmosphere to work in.

Taking part in ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Our World Tuesday: Sun on the tow path

A wonderful morning walk along the canal can usually lift the spirit. I can also recommend two series of canal travel books: Narrowboat Dreams: A Journey North by England's Waterways (and others) by Steve Haywood; and Narrow Margins (and others) by Marie Browne. 

Linking today to Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Stuck in the middle with Hannibal Lecter

Drivers to the left of me, buses to the right, here I am - stuck in the middle with you...A glass of Chianti anyone? A current Stevenson Square classic mural featuring Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. You can read about these murals at Outhouse Manchester .

Taking part in Monday Murals at the Oakland California Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Weekend Reflections: at one with a Kafkaesque bridge

An ancient bridge on the Bridgewater Canal heading towards Daresbury takes a long hard look at itself in the early morning misty waters.

One of many mind blowing Franz Kafka short stories was about a bridge. There's an extract below, and you can read and watch an animation at: 

"I was stiff and cold, I was a bridge, I lay over a ravine. My toes on one side, my fingers clutching the other, I had clamped myself fast into the crumbling clay... I heard the sound of a human step!.. Straighten yourself, bridge, make ready, railless beams, to hold up the passenger entrusted to you...

He came, he tapped me with the iron point of his stick... But then – I was just following him in thought over mountain and valley – he jumped with both feet on the middle of my body. I shuddered with wild pain, not knowing what was happening. Who was it? A child? A dream? A wayfarer? A suicide? A tempter? A destroyer? 

And I turned so as to see him. A bridge to turn around! I had not yet turned quiet around when I already began to fall, I fell and in a moment I was torn and transpierced by the sharp rocks which had always gazed up at me so peacefully from the rushing water."

Linking with other Weekend Reflections postings and also with Sunday Bridges .

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Indian summer at India House?

As we look down on a sunny day at the entrance to India House apartments on Whitworth Street, is it fair to say have been experiencing an Indian summer this month? Certainly some lovely sunny days here in the north-west with an October crispness. And the local weather forecasters are predicting more on the way.

The term Indian summer is used both sides of the pond but has different origins. The correct usage is when the weather is sunny and 21°C (70°F) or above, after there has been a sharp frost. This is a period normally associated with late October to mid November, although most of us actually use the expression Indian summer for any warm spell from late September onwards.  

In 2011 we had a record breaking spell with temperatures of 26°C in the last week of September but, alas, not in 2012 - although I can't complain about some wonderful days in the past month...

I read this week that globally September 2012 was the warmest on record and, with governments STILL failing to act effectively or quickly enough on climate change (despite my having been campaigning and talking about it for 30 years now and of course other green groups and campaigners for even longer!), quaint phrases like Indian summer will be consigned to history as the planet experiences ever more extreme ranges of weather, with massive consequences everywhere...

I recommend that everyone from crazed climate change sceptics in government down to us mere plebians should heed, read, follow and act upon the wisdom of George Monbiot on this topic. Twitter @GeorgeMonbiot and:

Friday, 19 October 2012

Well into Wellington boots...

Arthur Wellesley was the first Duke of Wellington and the man who popularised the Wellington boot. He asked his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James's Street London, to modify the 18th-century hessian boot so that it would be hard-wearing for battle and comfortable for the evening. 

So it came to pass that in the early 19th century it was mostly worn by the British aristocrats to run around in outdoors, killing animals and birds as they went.

For most of the 20th century the Wellington boot came in a bog standard black, and then by the 1980s was also manufactured in green - albeit for those in the country who considered themselves part of the barbaric hunting, shooting and fishing brigade. They were then adopted by townies too, grateful for an alternative to black Wellingtons.

Red and blue wellies were options for tiny tots, certainly by the 1990s if not earlier, adorned with Thomas the Tank Engine, Postman Pat, Paddington Bear and other giants of children's literary world. Then, when festival-going become a trend rather than just the passion it had previously been, a whole host of fashionistas were to be seen backstage and in other privileged parts of muddy festival fields...wearing Wellingtons. And wellies in an array of exciting patterns colours and designs which transformed the market. 

A company which delights in selling modern day fashion and practical Wellingtons, with both sole and soul is Brantano. They've shoes for all the family but their Wellingtons are traditional, sturdy and practical (in black or green) for gardening or muddy family walks.

Brantano's wider investment in the fashion shoe stakes can be seen in their range of autumn and winter shoe trends which I've been looking at. The blue wedge is especially eye catching.

In the past week I have noticed a lot of Wellington wearers, especially among students, (yes, even on days it's not wet). Women with style and some great looking wellies, it has to be said. They have become a daily, all-weather option of 21st century footwear.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Rural Thursdays: Elementary, my dear Ramsdell ...

I passed Ramsdell Hall for the first time back in frosty February and posted details of its origins then, and the loose connection with Sherlock Holmes ;-) click that link to see the contrast... 

Last week we were back on the Trent and Mersey Canal near Congleton and it was showing off its seasonal colours... Linked to the Rural Thursday blog.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

ABC Wednesday: N is for North & normal service

Grimm Up North was a performance at the nineteen thirties' era venue The Dancehouse and part of the Grimmfest horror film festival which took place last week.  

Normal service was then resumed at The Dancehouse (which is also home to the Northern ballet) with nature cameraman Doug Allan: Life Behind the Lens: Adventures, encounters and insights from the award winning cameraman whose TV credits include the epic wildlife series: "Blue Planet", "Planet Earth", "Life", "Human Planet", "Ocean Giants" and "Frozen Planet"

Dance is a regular occurence here too but comedy also features heavily. Next up in October are comedians Tim Key and Mark Thomas, then one of my heroes on 16th and 17th November, the wonderful John Shuttleworth. ("A National Institution...the 42nd Best Reason to Love Britain"  - Sunday Telegraph).  And check out his homage to Manchester "You're like Manchester (you've got Strangeways)" and more on YouTube.

Linked to ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

"God is a Manc" (so was Anthony Burgess) @McrLitFest

The Manchester Literature Festival started on 8th October and runs through to 23rd October. It includes the Blog North Awards on Wednesday 17th, for which Mancunian Wave was commended this year (thanks for all your support):
There are many diverse festival events with details at: 

Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange was published 50 years ago and is still a worrying read, depicting as it does a future, violent, dystopian and dysfunctional Britain. The photo above depicting the well known Clockwork Orange icon was taken outside the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Cambridge Street. A lecture commemorating this was given, and a plaque unveiled, last Wednesday.

I haven't read much Burgess but recommend his less well known short story The Muse.

God is a Manc is a witty work by Mike Garry from the 2009 Mcr Lit Festival at: 

Linking today to the Our World Tuesday blog. Other good news is that the City Daily Portal is back, at a new location and address, of: .

Monday, 15 October 2012

Monday Murals: Ciao Bella on Portland Street

I am not sure if today's post strictly constitutes a mural or not? Building work is going on on the corner of the Portland Street and Charlotte Street block. 

I have noticed ever more these days that instead of scaffolding protected by plastic sheets, technological advances have led to giant photo montage reproductions of the actual building being renovated underneath. 

Shop signs are then mounted on top, as we have here with the Ciao Bella and Ocean restaurants. This also goes around the corner where there is a giant advertising hoarding mounted on top of the mural, which is a shame. There is a frame on the front too if you look closely, so I fear this too may be ruined by adverts... I wonder how long the work will take?

Linked to Monday Murals at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Southmill Street vista

This view from Southmill Street, onto an autumnal Albert Square, gives a taste of late 19th, late 20th and early 21st century Mancunian architecture.

Linking with Weekly Top Shot, over in the Pacific North-West, at:

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Weekend Reflections: Dunham Massey swamp

The turning trees reflect in the waterlogged fields in an inspiring circular walk we took last Sunday afternoon at Dunham Massey. More Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Skywatch Friday: A walk in the Goyt Valley

With the wonderful sunshine in the past week or two, you simply have to head for the hills, where you only have to point your camera to capture some early autumn atmosphere. This is a walk in the Goyt Valley in East Cheshire. 

Have a look at this week's other Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Rural Thursdays: Bridge water, Bridgewater canal

Soft early autumn reflections on the Bridgewater canal between Stockton Heath and Moore, with a distant pink jacketed jogger adding some unnatural colour to the scene.

Linked to the Rural Thursday blog.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

ABC Wednesday: M for Mancunian Maharajah

In 1872 the owner of Belle Vue Zoo, James Jennison, bought Asian elephant Maharajah in Edinburgh from a travelling circus for £880 (£30,000 in today’s money). The plan was to travel south to Manchester by train but the 8 year old elephant was not enamoured with the idea of public transport, ripping the roof off of his compartment with his trunk.

So instead elephant keeper Lorenzo Lawrence and Maharajah spent 10 days walking the 200 miles to Belle Vue Zoo. Maharajah spent 10 years at the east Manchester zoo where he was a popular attraction, giving rides to visitors and helping out with day to day work which included pulling around carts of bricks and foodstuffs.

Mancunians and other visitors can now pay their respects to Maharajah here at the Manchester Museum. An elephant to never forget...

Linked to ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Ruby Tuesday: Outdoor living at Cotswold Outdoor

We are a long way from the Cotswolds but Cotswold Outdoor stores are a synonymous high street name across the UK, specialising in clothing and kit for walkers, mountaineers and skiers. 

Their North Face clothing and equipment range covers base layers to hats and gloves and quite a cool looking range of rucksacks, boots and  ski wear too. I covet the Parkway jacket but at £280 I can only dream, likewise the bitsy jacket at £100. But there is the Karina hoodie at £40 which I could buy, and there are always options for bargains too (which are a hit with me). You just click on The North Face discount 

Or you can pop into the Cotswold Rock Bottom store on Oxford Road, as illustrated in today’s photo. The other local branch of Cotswold Outdoor is on Deansgate. Elsewhere in the north west there are three in Cumbria and the Lake District, one in Liverpool, another in Preston, Chester and even one at Bridgemere Gardens in Nantwich, Cheshire. There are about 60 in total across the UK. 

A friend told me only last week how much she enjoys shopping at Cotswold Outdoor, due to the friendly and knowledge staff who are themselves outdoors enthusiasts and keen to hear your adventures and share their own. A cut above the usual disinterested and demotivated lowly paid shop assistants that other high street and large companies employ. My friend purchased a lovely blue reasonably priced headtorch, then couldn’t resist a Rab jacket she spotted on the way out. She had to ask the staff to escort her from the premises before she bought more items ... 

Taking part in Ruby Tuesday.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Monday Murals: Panda on the wall at Band on the wall

There has been building work at the back end of Band on the Wall for a while now. While BOTW, one of my favourite venues, had a refurb and reopening back in autumn 2009, it seems there are still further plans round the back?

It's amusing to see this Panda on the Wall there. Paint my Panda is a small UK based arts organisation run by artist Claire Rye who has been involved the graffiti scene for 15 years.

Linked to Monday Murals at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Early evening at Chets

Early evening at Chetham's School of Music, established thanks to Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653). To this day "Chets" is a specialist independent music school in Manchester's medieval quarter.

Linking with the Weekly Top Shot in Seattle at: .

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A monochrome monolith? Pearl Assurance House

Pearl Assurance House on the corner of Clarence and Princess Streets is a white stone monolith completed in 1955 and I rather like it. It replaced a more ornate 19th century building that was bombed in World War II. 

The rather grand looking Stanton Travel Agency used to take up much of the ground floor, but it's long since been a you-know-who coffee place and a camera shop (Jessops), although that has closed this year.

Some interesting views and information on the preceding building and its usurper at:

Taking part in Black and White Weekend at:

Friday, 5 October 2012

Oktoberfest this weekend

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival's fortnight is almost up but it goes out with a bang and a bier keiler from Friday 5th to Sunday 7th October. It's a tribute to the world famous Munich Oktoberfest, although a cider festival, wines and cocktails have also seen centre stage these past couple of weeks.

I wonder what German-Mancunian Friedrich Engels would make of this in the city he was first sent to 170 years ago, to work at Victoria Mill in Weaste? Or German-Mancunian Charles Hallé who arrived in Manchester six years later?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Rural Thursday: Wizard's woodland walk

The magic of a woodland walk on a sunny early autumn day at Alderley Edge. The woods here have a certain mystique about them, as well as the more famous sandstone rocks which have inspired many a story. Josie Whitehead's poem is among these:

"...Now at Alderley Edge stands a very large stone
And here, by this rock, stood the wizard, alone.
When the farmer returned, he called loudly and said:
Stop here one moment. Please don’t ride ahead..."

You can watch an animated version of the full Wizard of Alderley Edge poem by Josie.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

ABC Wednesday: L is for Lass O'Gowrie, UK Pub of the Year

Two weeks ago the Great British Pub Awards named The Lass O' Gowrie as UK Pub of the Year and also the Best Live Music and Entertainment Pub

The Charles Street pub did amazingly well to win two such prestigious awards. It has always retained a traditional pub feel but also embraced many modern twists such as a lively theatre showcasing a range of new talent.

So who is the said lady of Gowrie? The name comes from a piece by Scottish poet Carolina Nairne which was a favourite of the Scottish landlord in the late 19th century when the pub opened. More at:   Personally I have popped in from time to time with friends and colleagues ever since the late 1980s. 

Linked to ABC Wednesday .

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Labour-ious, victorious?

The Labour Party conference is in full swing at GMex. 

The Manchester Guardian sums up better than I could. "Labour is entitled to feel pretty upbeat about its prospects as it meets for its conference in Manchester this week. The government's centrepiece economic austerity strategy is deeply unpopular. The two coalition parties are increasingly at one another's throats. The Tory party is dangerously out of touch, as the "plebs" row illustrated so exquisitely. Labour meanwhile leads in the opinion polls by an average of 10 points(though one poll on Sunday had the lead as low as five) and is poised to capture a Tory parliamentary seat next month – something it has not done in a by election since 1997."

I'm aiming for a Green-Red coalition in 2015 and a fairer, more equal society...

Today's post is linked to the Our World Tuesday blog.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Monday Mural: Flying Yorkshireman

Although I am not a rugby fan I was struck by this poster advertising the Rugby League play offs which are currently taking place. The final is on 6th October.

I was pleased to see that the medieval War of the Roses (1455 to 1487 between the House of Lancaster and the House of York) has been put behind us and that Yorkshire- represented by this Leeds player, has a prominent place in the old Lancashire capital of Manchester.  Linked to Monday Murals .

I knew little of rugby league (generally northern England and working class) nor rugby union (generally southern England and upper class/private schools) until my research for my 2007 book Wembley: Stadium of Legends by Tomsett & Brand (Dewi Lewis Media).
In my book research I discovered some fine illustrations of 1940s and 1950s Cup Final programmes featuring Lancastrian and Yorkshire rugby league giants (below) which today's mural reminded me of.

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