Friday, 30 November 2012

Skywatch Friday: Mr Blue Sky meets Mr Whitebeard, aka Zippy

The clock counting down to Christmas is ticking, like it or not, and the Manchester Christmas Markets are in full flow. A giant Father Christmas takes pride of place at the Town Hall, as he has done since the 1980s.  The current incarnation is nicknamed Zippy as he bears more than a passing resemblance to the said character from Rainbow (look below!)..Visit other Skywatch Friday posts around the world.

You can read my latest guest post Mulling over some midwinter magic in Europe's north west at 4 Manchester Women for a brief history and overview of the festive Mancunian markets.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Coffee calling...any flavour you like #aromarama

If only the internet had an "aroma" app (aromarama?), then I could share with you the wonderful smells drifting across St. Ann's Square from this Christmas Market stall, trading solely in coffee beans of many flavours. My fellow Mancunians and I are fortunate needing only to wander into the city centre to get a fix.

Please join me here at Mancunian Wave throughout December where I will be showing you some of the hundreds of festive market stalls spread around the city. Manchester City Centre does do Christmas extremely well!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

ABC Wednesday: "T" is for tasteful tactful toilet talk at the Lowry

Linking with ABC Wednesday where we have arrived at the letter "T". Sorry to lower the tone but toilets are an everyday necessity. Here we have a fine example of the sink area in the plush pink ladies at the Lowry Centre.

I co-wrote a proposal a long time ago for a book called The Urge to Go, which looked at everything from Roman sewers to loos in space, via Australian dunnies and the loos with the best view (one near Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio got my vote). Although rejected by publishers, there were a plethora of similar books and websites that appeared within the following decade. We were ahead of our time I guess.

Toilet hire is not something we might thing of often but it is a big job for events and festival organisers. Nixon Toilet Hire have, I'm sure, heard all the jokes as they go about their business providing an essential service at events such as firework displays, music festivals including Leeds. Reading and T in the Park, the Newark beer festival and the Great North Run.

World Toilet Day  was on 19th November.  It's a serious health issue if you do not have access to such facilities, as millions of people round the world still don't...

Back nearer to home, I was pleasantly surprised by a toilet block on the Trent & Mersey canal near the Anderton Boat Lift at the weekend. It was a cold and frosty morning outside but inside the loos were beautifully heated, spacious and even had a shelf full of books in the lobby entrance. Narrow boat voyagers are treated well along that stretch of canal!

My monthly guest post for Smitten By Britain is now up and it features Polperro, which is where I recently visited after a morning in nearby Looe…  Do You Know Polperro? .

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Normandy stalls at Alty-all over by Christmas?

This coming weekend (1st and 2nd December) the Normandy Markets return for a two day visit to sell sell sell at Altrincham Market. Sunday 2nd December is also the Altrincham Christmas Market, so there are plenty of opportunities for some creative and thoughtful Christmas shopping. 

Every Thursday evening until Christmas Altrincham also has a Twilight Market  from 5.30 until 10.00, with seasonal produce, quirky gifts, crafts and vintage, live entertainment and warming street food. Could it be the most stylishly festive of all Manchester's suburbs?

The monthly vintage market (as seen in this photo) is in Altrincham Market on Sunday 16th December: it'll give you a final chance to buy home-made cards, crafts, locally produced cakes and ales, and various vintage and retro gifts for the special people in your life. 

It's so much nicer than going to the supermarkets or chain stores with their over-packaged soulless offerings- Support independent traders ;-)  @altyxmas @altvtgmarket

Linking today with Ruby Tuesday.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Monday MMUral... For fox sake?

The Chatham Building at MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University ) is being refurbished externally. The enterprising students and staff have come up with some wacky self portrait life-size murals and interpretations of themselves, which line three sides of the building at present. More next Monday.

The fifth one, top row is rather freaky, being made up of almost all hands. The fox on the bottom right is my personal favourite, followed by the anti- Government cuts demonstration montage on the bottom left.

Linked to Monday Murals at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Closed on Sundays...Cross Keys dance bar

The Cross Keys pub and "dance bar" in Ancoats has seen better days. Plans to demolish the Jersey Street and Radium Street pub were thwarted in 2010. 

The pub has been licensed since the mid 19th century, when Radium Steet was named German Street (It was hastily renamed in 1914 as World War I commenced....) 

Radium is to do with the radium treatment for cancer which was taking place at the world famous Christies hospital a few miles away. More on the chequered Cross Keys history at the always reliable Manchester Pubs blog.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Weekend Reflections: Chetham's through the looking glass

Chetham's School of Music bends and bows but does not break in yesterday's beautiful late November sunshine. Today Mancunian Wave is taking part in Weekend Reflections. 

From the Chetham's website I have borrowed this snippet which I found to be fascinating- I hope you do too...

"The 20th century brought huge expansion in educational opportunity and at one point three schools shared the yard – The Manchester Grammar School, Nicholls Hospital School and Chetham’s Hospital School, where boys still wore traditional Tudor dress. Music slowly but surely put down the firm foundations throughout the 1950s and 1960s, helped by Manchester’s strong musical tradition, manifested in the success of the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic Orchestras, and the City’s music colleges (amalgamated into the 1970s into the Royal Northern College of Music). 

In 1969, a bold and far reaching decision was taken – to change the boys’ Grammar School to a fully co-educational boarding specialist Music School. Today, over 40 years later, Chetham’s enjoys a reputation as being a celebrated and internationally renowned specialist Music School."

Friday, 23 November 2012

Skywatch Friday; raindrops aren't falling on my head

Some of the infamous Manchester rain settles on the glass canopy at the Royal Exchange Theatre, as we look out into St Ann's Square and the skies beyond. Here's a surprisingly  rather romantic video of Manchester in the rain.

Visit other Skywatch Friday posts around the world.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Fall foliage - she comes in the fall at the Ritz....

The last of the autumn leaves are rapidly plummeting, the beech trees are all waving goodbye to their foliage in the suburbs, and at a pace faster than people can sweep up. 

This time of year often reminds me of the classic Madchester 1990 tune by Oldham's Inspiral Carpets - She Comes in the Fall. This gritty live footage of the Inspiral Carpets at the Ritz in March 2012, captures the energy well...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

ABC Wednesday: "S" is for The Studio

"S" is for The Studio in the Royal Exchange building. The Studio's an award-winning fully flexible space dedicated to new and innovative performance premiering in the North West. It's a space for commissions, new work and new ideas, the support and encouragement of groundbreaking participation from all ages and groups and where they develop and collaborate with the next generation of theatre makers. The Studio theatre space holds 90 people. (The main theatre in the centre of the Royal Exchange itself holds many more of course!)

Linked to ABC Wednesday .

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Developments at Jessops Camera Shop

I was disappointed when Jessops closed their branch near Albert Square and I am not sure if their Deansgate branch is still open. I have happily bought cameras and accessories from their branches for a few years.

I was pleasantly surprised then to be told that there was a Jessops on Market Street which had opened in 2011.  The upstairs is a lovely space, full of artistically framed prints, photos and murals, highlighting some striking photos of Manchester as well as the more obvious global tourist attractions further afield from Paris to San Francisco. The machines where you order your photo prints are quite sophisticated as well, giving plenty of options and excellent results. 

Frank Jessop opened a camera shop in Leicester in 1935 and today there are about 200 branches in the UK. Frank's son Alan sold the firm in 1996 and the company is now owned by Snap Equity Limited who seem to be doing a good job with the brand so far as I can see.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Monday Murals: Stepping out with Ludwig van Beethoven

This coming Thursday, 22 November, the Ludwig Van series commences at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). With over 100 events during the next eight months it's one of the largest Beethoven festivals ever seen in the UK. Many are free and at various venues around the city, to encourage and enable as wide a participation as possible.

Even better for me is that I now work at the RNCM, so I have few excuses for not attending. Three clever murals went onto three flights of stairs last Wednesday. One was a black and white depiction of Beethoven, one features the 40th anniversary RNCM logo, and this bright offering. 

There are also banners marking the series on lamp-posts along Oxford Road. If you look closely at them you see that Beethoven is listening to a pink mp3 player. (In the photo above you can see the white leads but the mp3 player is not depicted). 

Taking part in Monday Murals .

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The long and (wealthy) winding road...

Driving in the suburbs, just past the plush, posh and picturesque village of Prestbury in northern Cheshire on a Sunday morning, homeward bound. 

Prestbury is one of the most sought after and expensive places to live outside of London. As well as old money there is a lot of new money due to multi-millionaire footballers, such as Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez, who live here. One local road is even known as "Footballers' Alley".

Thanks to Susie for taking the photo as we drove...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Weekend Reflections: Bösendorfer blues at Forysths

Weekend Reflections at  Forsyths  music store on Deansgate. Tim indulges in an impromptu practice for his Grade 5 piano exam. He's playing a Bösendorfer.*

Forsyths is the UK's largest specialist music shop and has been established for over 150 years. It really is a hive of culture and beauty. Step inside and you are a million miles from the fraught hustle and bustle of the consumer madness and hedonism which consumes and distracts the majority of people out on Deansgate.

* The Bösendorfer piano company was established in 1828, when Ignaz Bösendorfer registered his business as a piano maker in Vienna. The imperial city was already considered a centre for musical culture and a traditional city for piano music.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Idiot at the Palace...

Until I saw this sign at the Palace Theatre I had no idea that Green Day's excellent American Idiot concept album was being performed as a musical. Sounds interesting. The title track lays into the USA of 2004, with lines referencing the danger of the "new, biased media." It's now on at the Palace Theatre, running from 12th to 17th and 19th to 24th November.

After a run of tame musicals it is good to see quality and thought provoking performance at the Palace Theatre again. The theatre was originally known as The Grand Old Lady of Oxford Street and opened on 18 May 1891. The opening presentation, to a capacity audience, was the ballet Cleopatra.  Sadly the theatre then had to go down a more commercial route to meet costs. During the early part of the 20th century it came into its own, with artists such as Danny KayeGracie FieldsCharles LaughtonJudy GarlandNoël Coward and Laurel and Hardy making appearances.

In September 1940 the theatre took a direct hit from a German bomb. In the 1970s audience numbers declined, as they did in many live venues, and it was threatened with closure. The Arts Council supported it in the 1980s, and after major internal refurbishment and an enlarged stage facility, it was run by a charitable trust, Norwest Holdings.

It is now one of the best equipped and popular theatres outside London. In its repertoire it hosts major touring musicals often with major celebrities and performances of opera and ballet along with various other comedy acts and one night concerts.

With thanks to Wikipedia for some of the above information ;-) 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Rural Thursday: Mellow yellow on the Weaver's bank

Photo taken on the banks of the River Weaver in Cheshire.

George Edmunds' Song  by Charles Dickens

"Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around he here; 
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear! 
How like the hopes of childhood's day, 
Thick clust'ring on the bough! 
How like those hopes in their decay- 
How faded are they now! 
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here; 
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear!

Wither'd leaves, wither'd leaves, that fly before the gale: 
Withered leaves, withered leaves, ye tell a mournful tale, 
Of love once true, and friends once kind, 
And happy moments fled: 

Dispersed by every breath of wind, 
Forgotten, changed, or dead! 
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear! " 

In similar vein is my first guest post for 4 Manchester Women

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

ABC Wednesday: "R" is for Red Chilli restaurant

The Red Chilli Chinese restaurant specialises in Beijing and Sichuan dishes. There are two branches in central Manchester and two more over the hills in Leeds and York. I can vouch that the food and ambience are good and the decor is stylish.

Red Chilli have twice been in The Sunday Times Top 10 Chinese Restaurants in the UK (in 2006 and 2007).  Their chefs are "well trained with experience gained from various Chinese embassies and five star hotels. The menu is compiled with an appreciation of customers' various experiences and adventurous spirit in Chinese food"The wine list, according to gourmet writer Ray King of the Manchester Evening News, is exemplary.

Linked to ABC Wednesday .

My first guest post for 4 Manchester Women is up today, How Autumn leaves me mellow.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The three Rs for modern life: Reduce, reuse, recycle @Pelican_PR

Chinese Weekly newspaper box in Chinatown

PR is probably a necessity in this day and age. A good public relations campaign, led by the right team will get you the exposure you want and increase public awareness of your presence. 

Have any readers ever been tempted to move their blog up a notch and try to get more hits or a wider audience by employing someone’s skills? Or by accepting advertisers or sponsors or even trying to sell a product or service of your own? 

For most of us bloggers, self-promotion is an easy enough task. Linking your blog to a twitter feed, a Facebook page or a Vimeo or YouTube channel are obvious options that work well. Just as effective is being part of the City Daily Photo community. Whatever method, for me it is always about quality of readers rather than quantity. 

But were I promoting a product or service I needed to get it to a mass market, (as opposed to the select market of Mancunian Wave readers), I could do worse than hire Pelican PR. They are an award-winning Manchester PR company who move in circles some of which I would approve of, such as the outdoor and recycling industries. 

I do agree with their sustainable packaging campaigns, for instance WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), promoting green packaging. See the environment section of their case studies.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Monday Murals: A cross word under the arches

Someone went to great lengths to paste up this giant crossword puzzle underneath the railway arches. Despite there being no clues to accompany it, people have over the years added their own words to it. And they are not all as daft or offensive as you might expect! 

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

Sunday, 11 November 2012

For Remembrance Sunday. Middlewich blues & reds

Back in late September the Cheshire town of Middlewich held a World War II parade, led by this vintage Macclesfield fire engine. It seemed an appropriate photo to post for today.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Weekend Reflections: the Cornerhouse grid

The Cornerhouse arts cinema and galleries are reflected today in November sunshine, as the Palace clock attempts a Salvador Dali melting clocks impression... Linking with Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Office working vs Home working and solutions with TSG

The UK has become a service sector economy and Manchester is no different. It was ranked as Europe's top city for business competitiveness and rated fourth in the world in 2010, Although there is much home working these days, many workers still rely on a daily commute to city centre offices. 

There are pros and cons. I think the best solution is a split between working from home and working from the office, enabling you to get all the work done without distractions but also to be able to keep in touch with colleagues and meetings. What's your preference for working?

Businesses are dependent of course on reliable technology and TSG offer a friendly local service for hardware and software solution. They are one of the UK’s leading IT support companies, trusted by thousands of businesses across a wide variety of industries. They  offer a full range of IT services to small and medium sized businesses and can also help larger organisations through a specialist division TSG Enterprise Solutions.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Rural Thursdays: Nature's traffic lights

Green for go and green for grow.
               Amber = get ready to change colour, autumn's here.
                              Red = Stop, end of the line for this leaf.

                                        Linked to the Rural Thursday blog.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

ABC Wednesday: "Q" for quirkiness @TheOastHouseMcr

When the Oast House was built a year ago I considered it to be a very quixotic project. A replica of a south-east England building designed for drying hops, in Spinningfields?- the 21st century capitalist quarter of Manchester and full of the suited and booted? It seemed incongruous to me. 

I had deliberately avoided it until last week but once inside I was won over by its quirkiness and charm. Certainly Spinningfields needed some architecture that was different to the glass and steel square office blocks that dominate the heart of it. The design with wooden beams, shabby chic furnishings and rustic doors with metal latches somehow all works. The staff are lovely too, bright and cheery and well intentioned, in  fetching pink and white checked tops. Their enthusiasm shines beyond the meagre wages they are probably earning, like so many of the waiting and serving staff in the catering trade.

I enjoyed the atmosphere but my only gripe is with the food. There is nothing for vegans on the menu and not enough choice for those who would like to eat vegetarian. It is all heavily meat-centric and although the barbecued skewers are well presented on little stands, I would expect there to be veggie options for this too. 

I went for a Waldorf salad, which was so disappointing. The bed of salad leaves comprised about 95% of the dish. Far too much salad, and only a handful of grapes, a few pieces of celery and a couple of bits of broken walnut. The dressing was ok but too sweet for me. There may have been apple too but I cannot recall it. 

A Waldorf salad is so simple to get right and a healthy dish of beauty, but not at the Oast House on this occasion sadly. At least the Waldorf salad in Fawlty Towers got a few laughs...

I previously posted about the Oast House's exterior in summer:

Linked to ABC Wednesdays , the Sesame Street of the bloggers' world. This week it's the letter "Q".

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Barn charm: a barn for barges near a breach in the canal

Here on the Trent and Mersey Canal is a shelter, almost a barn, for narrow boats, or barges. Taken last week near Preston Brook in Cheshire. Linking for the first time today with the Barn Charm blog.

While this is a typically gentile and picturesque vision for canal users, in September a less usual scene was seen, when the 240 year old Trent and Mersey canal burst its banks. The breach caused damage that will cost an estimated £1.5 million (and many months) to repair. A 12 mile stretch of the canal, not far from the above photo has closed as a result. A Repair the breach fund has raised over £12,000 so far but needs every £1 it can get. Breach diary  updates.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Monday Murals: Amy Winehouse

We return to ever reliable Stevenson Square where a diverse range of street art style is  on show. Amy Winehouse looks on somewhat surprised to see her new backing band who seem to be melting into the pavement, Mary Poppins-style...
Taking part in Monday Murals .

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Weekend Reflections: Brick, glass and leaf

In Spinningfields, where a solitary tree can hold its own and reflect just as well as as the Mancunian red brick buildings. Taking part in Weekend Reflections .

Saturday, 3 November 2012

North Tea Power- an antidote to autumn darkness

A shoot-from-the-hip photo in North Tea Power.

With the clocks turning back last Sunday we are now cruelly plunged into darkness by the end of office hours. As the dark gloom descends by 5 o'clock a way to counteract its effects is over a cafétiere of loose leaf mint tea at North Tea Power on Tib Street.

North Tea Power is one of my favourite café names and its warmth is ideal for an autumn evening. I feel at home surrounded by the laptop typing tea drinkers, artists and their design portfolios and the usual suspects of nicely quirky Northern Quarter dwellers. This ideal post-work pick me up was made even better by a catch up with my friend Miriam (published writer and blogger at Little Bones and more), before she headed back across the North Sea to Germany.

My teenagers don't get the café name so, for non Brits and the under 30s, North Tea Power is a play on words of North Sea Power - which (as well as being similar in name to a great band, British Sea Power) came into the vernacular in the 1970s with the discovery and exploitation of North Sea oil reserves. I hope it will soon be in everyday usage again and applied to harnessing the massive potential of wind power from the North Sea.

My latest Smitten by Britain guest post take us back to a summer's weekend.  A toast to the Gower Coast is at:

Friday, 2 November 2012

The carpet crawlers heed their callers... Sofa Carpet Specialists

One of the abiding memories of my youth are endless Saturday mornings in tow behind my parents as they seemingly explored every carpet store in a 50 mile radius of our hone. This interminable search for new carpets was an inevitability which came with the purchase of a new house.

It was actually quite fun. The wonderful smell of new carpets almost overpowering as you entered the warehouse or local shop- a nascent aroma that, on reflection, I have fond memories of. The giant rolls of carpet suspended horizontally on poles from ceiling to floor made for adventurous games for my brother and I, as we left the parents to debate underlay and fibres, patterns and costs, square footage and shag piles. 

Had I retained some of that information instead of playing hide and seek while inhaling the blissful carpet newness, then I may have been better equipped when it came to carpet decision making for my own home, decades later. All I can recall from childhood carpet expeditions is that we had a psychedelic carpet in hall and landing, deep browns and black with swirls of orange and yellow fire emanating from it. Great for playing on. 

So these days, I am completely in the hands of experts, be they local independents or the large out of town superstores that advertise on television. SCS (Sofa Carpet Specialists) are up there with the most familiar brands and have been trading for over 100 years. 

The style these days (I think) is for muted, neutral, plain carpets, with which I concur. You can then accessorise your rooms with splashes of colour from artwork that you choose rather than, as in my childhood, having to choose items that fit in with the technicolour nightmare which stalks every inch of your living room, forever reminding all and sundry of your foolhardy and outrageous choice in the carpet showroom.

Carpets unsurprisingly do not occur in song lyrics very often. A beautiful exception is a track called the Carpet Crawlers but, before carpet advertising executives get too excited, the song has more to do with nature and the creating of a new life than a paean to flooring… Sheer poetry. 

There’s a 2009 jazz cover version Fragile’s Carpet Crawlers or there is this 2012 live performance, preceded by a marriage proposal, Ray Wilson’s Carpet Crawlers . Justice was done with this version back in 1993 by Human Drama which is the most moving of the cover versions I've heard. The original version is probably the best and is from that very same era of the psychedelic carpets of my early years and tears...

Thursday, 1 November 2012

CDP Theme Day: At the water's edge

The City Daily Photo Theme Day for November takes the topic of At the water's edge. So, here we are (a few weeks ago, on 3rd October) at the Fernilee reservoir in East Cheshire, which was constructed in 1938. I was amused by the signs in the reservoir which state: "Do not pollute this reservoir- it's your drinking water."

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