Monday, 31 December 2012

Monday Murals: NYE in the city

The doves of peace have been here on Little Lever Street for a while; the bright shapes above the flock point to a New Year's Eve party in town. 

I've never enjoyed New Year's Eve much, even in my teens and 20s- it seemed a kind of enforced joviality to me. There is a whole industry built around tonight with bars and pubs, clubs and restaurants all charging over the top prices for entrance to places that are crammed to the rafters and cannot possibly offer a service half as good as they usually would.

Maybe I'm alone in such thoughts, but I would rather have a quieter night with family and friends. Have a fun New Year's Eve however you spend it.

Linking for the last time this year to Monday Murals .

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Winter's night, winter light

This suburban house's Christmas tree lights seem to pop through the window to dance outside with the external Yuletide lights, resulting in some festive magic. 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Fast and Ferrious

The Ferrious furniture showroom at Arch 61 on Whitworth Street. They design and supply furniture for homes and interiors throughout the UK and around the world. Ferrious began life in the 1990s and has created, exhibited and supplied good design practice ever since. It's owned and staffed by designers who all contribute to the carefully selected range.

Taking part in Weekly Top Shot which is hosted over in Seattle.

Friday, 28 December 2012

A Cinderella story?...

Laundry Boutique on King Street

Many of the designer shops and tv commercials would have you believe that everyone but everyone, has a whole host of glamorous midwinter and festive occasions to attend. Glitzy affairs which require suitable outfits. Is that really the case, are such high end, high maintenance events an every night occurrence for the masses at this time of year?

Or are most of us content with the odd blow-out and occasional low key parties, in between warm gatherings with family and friends over the 10 days of seasonal festivities? Are the majority of us Cinderellas that don't make it to the ball? (Hmm, I seem to be having a Carrie Bradshaw moment...)

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Giovanni Battista Barbirolli, three heads are better than one

Giovanni Battista Barbirolli is better known to Mancunian and classical music fans the world over as John Barbirolli. He was born in London to Italian - French parents in 1899 and became a cellist and conductor. John saved the Manchester Hallé Orchestra from dissolution in 1943 and led it triumphantly until his death in 1970. There is a bust of him outside the Bridgewater Hall and also this spectacular three sided statue inside the Town Hall.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

"X" is for BoXing Day & walking off Xmas eXcess

After all the overindulgence of the past couple of weeks, Boxing Day is a good time to go for a walk in the countryside. It's a cold and frosty morning in Styal village amidst the 18th century timbered homes.

Linked to ABC Wednesday where we have reached the letter "X".

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christingle Orange at St Peter's Hale, #ChristmasbeginswithChrist

Tim holds a Christingle orange at St. Peter's Hale Christingle service. These services are held twice every Christmas Eve and are always packed out, with no room in the church, let alone a room at the inn.

Christingle means ‘Christ’s Light’ and the custom of giving out lighted candles in Christingle services originates from the Moravian Church in Germany in 1747, but they weren’t introduced to the Anglican Church in England until 1968.

The orange represents the world whilst the candle is to remind believers of Jesus as the light of the world. A red ribbon goes all round the world and represents the blood of Christ. The four cocktail sticks could have either of two meanings: the four seasons or the four "corners" of the world. The jelly baby sweets are the races of people and the raisins a reminder of God’s gifts to the world including kindness and love.

You may enjoy Manchester Harmony Gospel Choir's 2012 Christmas Medley

Merry Christmas one and all!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Monday Murals: Snoopy & snow on Stevenson Square

Stevenson Square's latest makeover has some wildly different themes and artists going on. I'll cover them all eventually on Monday Murals  but this is the festive one- Snoopy in the snow. I really like the pop art boldness and the childhood memories it evokes of Charlie Brown cartoons on telly at Christmas.

The art collective’s revolving exhibition utilises existing walls in the square. Every three months the blocks are reworked to unveil a new piece of artwork for the city. Artists at work:

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Christmas Carol? Bah, Humbug!

Unusual Christmas lights at Joanne's chippy on Massey Road, who are celebrating 111 years of business. 

Although fish and chip shops are not my cup of tea, I confess to quite liking the aroma of chips emanating from within as I pass by here on a Friday evening.

"Bah, humbug" is of course the phrase uttered by Charles Dickens' most famous character, Ebenezer Scrooge, who always steps into the limelight at this time of year. Possibly the most endearing character in A Christmas Carol though, is that of Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim was actually based on the son of a factory owner in the Ardwick area of Manchester, who was a friend of Charles Dickens. However, my Dickens' reading recommendation for this period between Christmas and New Year is The Chimes.

I am sure that the great man would have been taken aback by the year long celebrations throughout 2012 that have marked the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Weekend Reflections: ice blue wheel

A photo of a reflection of the Manchester Wheel, taken a year ago. I certainly haven't missed the Wheel since it was taken down in the summer- I prefer the open spaces and bars and urban gardens in its place, and now the Christmas markets. 

It might be good to have a wheel somewhere in the city but it could be positioned somewhere else, with a better viewpoint- I'm not sure where, Castlefield maybe...

More Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Skywatch Friday: Skyline Central's spherical art

I really like this piece of floating spherical art at the Skyline Central Apartments on Goulden Street. With 248 apartments over 17 floors and a pool on the 18th it seems a modern and exciting place to live. Taking today part in the Skywatch Friday global posts.

The sphere's not actually a Crimbo decoration but a permanent fixture, I'm glad to say. But here's reminder of my Christmas-related guest posts this month:  

For Smitten By Britain - A Tour Of London’s Christmas Lights; 
For 4 Manchester Women - Mulling over some midwinter magic in Europe’s north-west; and a guide to a homebaked, homemade Christmas (with the baking all thanks to Susie, Holly & Tim).

However, with the torrential rain most of this week and more festive floods forecast, plus a million Brits going down with illness,  I'm now simply dreaming of a dry (and novovirus-free) Christmas....

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Frozen in time, frozen canal

The Trent and Mersey canal, frozen over near Barnton. We saw four swans near here, led by an adult who was breaking its way through the ice, using its breast as an icebreaker. 

Judging by the channel they had made from when we saw them at the start and finish of our walk, they were moving at about 100 metres an hour. I really felt for them (Disappointingly perhaps, it wouldn't have made a good enough photo to show, being just four swans in a row on a bleak day). 

Time to head inside for the warmth and comfort. My guide to a homebaked, homemade Christmas (with the baking all thanks to Susie, Holly & Tim) is now up at the 4 Manchester Women blog.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

ABC Wednesday: "W" is for two waitresses waiting...

It's another ABC Wednesday, and on the "W" day of Christmas, my true love sent to me, three winter warmers, two waitresses waiting, and a partridge in a pear tree...

An impromptu snap through a window captures the lull before the storm, waiting for customers at city centre restaurant Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte. Set up by a Toulouse family, it opened in Paris 50 years ago. London, New York and Manchester now have branches. They serve just the one option- a green salad with walnuts and mustard vinaigrette (yes please) followed by steak frites (no thanks). Bizarre, no matter how élégante the serving...

Mention of London reminds me that my monthly guest post for Smitten By Britain is A Tour Of London’s Christmas Lights.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Looking down on Santa and the markets...

Looking down on Father Christmas and the markets, in more senses than one... I have had some interesting messages on Twitter the past week or so which were quite negative about the Manchester city centre Christmas markets.  I want to open the debate up so am mentioning them today.

On the plus side the Christmas Markets do provide opportunities for stalls for local crafts, and the traders that travel from all over Europe (Greece to Lapland) do sell some nice items. There is also (usually) a lovely atmosphere that seems more sincere than the soulless Arndale and Trafford Centres. From what I have seen (in Chorlton and Altrincham), the suburbs' festive markets are well attended too and packed full of local independent stall holders.

On the negative side of the city centre markets: "Unfortunately there are stalls selling Chinese goods, and is it really a good thing to entice so many people out of the suburbs?"; 

"Thousands of people in the city, largely spending with big businesses, high streets are dying. It's a MASSIVE problem for small businesses outside the city. They're selling bulbs and trees undercutting local garden centres - money flowing back to Europe. I know that they also promote local crafts people; that I do agree with, but stalls are soooo expensive"; 


"I agree. Manchester Xmas markets suck the suburbs dry of people from end of November onwards."

As someone who is into sustainability I deplore the tide of plastic disposable rubbish that anyone sells. But I think the suburbs first lost their heart, and trade, thanks to the 1980s Tory government who encouraged the American model of out-of-town shopping centres, where (generally) only well-off chain stores can afford to lease space. That, coupled with the insatiable rise of mega-sized supermarkets like Tesco, has caused many an independent to go under and a high street to lose out... 

More support of independent and sustainable shops is surely what is needed? 

Linked to the Ruby Tuesday blog.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Monday Mural: Hitotzuki, sun & moon @print_and_paste

The Print & Paste billboard space off of Oxford Road recently highlighted the work of Tokyo based wife and husband Kami and Sasu Hitotzuki (Print & Paste state that their surname is Japanese for 'sun and moon'). Personally I think it's one of the best Paste & Paint curations so far. 

The 19th century brickwork of the Print & Paste building contrasts with the gleaming copper coloured angles of the Manchester Metropolitan University building on the left.

Linked to Monday Murals .

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Resisting temptation or mulling it over...

So there I was, a week before Christmas, peeking through the beckoning chalet windows into the bar area, with shopping on my mind but trying hard to resist popping in for a mug of mulled wine. Should I stay or should I go? A good question and also a link to an acoustic cover version of The Clash classic by Louise and the Pins, performing at Night & Day Café

Linking with Weekly Top Shot at the View From Right Here.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Weekend Reflections: A little touch of Paris in King Street

The pungent aroma of French cheeses, vin chaud bubbling away at an outside bar, the chic shops and arcades, it can only be Paris, King Street in Manchester...

Taking part in the worldwide Weekend Reflections postings.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Office party: Yang Sing for your supper

The downstairs tables are set at the Yang Sing Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown, complete with festive party hats. I peeked through the narrow street level windows one evening this week to take this photo.  It reminded me that a company I once worked for had our Christmas 2010 meal here. 

Tonight is the night that many offices go out for a Christmas meal (and drinks). We are into the time of year when too many offices wind down and indeed can be known to overindulge. Partying, hangovers and long liquid lunches can lead to mistakes and protocol breaches, so it is reassuring to know that the business network is secure when underpinned by a company like LAN2LAN. They have offices in nearby Ardwick and an HQ deep down south in Surrey,

LAN2LAN is a specialist systems integration, installation and project management organisation focused on driving technologically innovative solutions that deliver intelligent networks for the needs of businesses today and in the future. The computer consultants specialise in infrastructure, collaboration, security, mobility, wireless, support services and you can follow their tweets at @L2Lnews.

The Yang Sing Restaurant opened in 1977 and has a good reputation amongst the myriad of Chinese restaurants in the city centre.  Chinese food is not my favourite fare but I do like the idea of the round tables and the sharing it encourages, both food and conversation-wise. Those central platters hold a lot of food and there were many courses to get through. I think the banquet we had there was at least eight courses... "Yang Sing" is a phonetic translation of the nickname of the city of Guangzhou in Southern China (formerly known as Canton) – "the City of Goats".

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Teutonic toy tower...

I am sure that there must be a proper name for this large wooden Germanic tower at the heart of the markets on Manchester's Exchange Square but I cannot discover it. Any ideas? Until I know better I shall call it a Weihnachtsmarkt großen hölzernen kreisverkehr...

My latest guest post for Smitten By Britain is now up, titled A Tour Of London’s Christmas Lights.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

ABC Wednesday: "V" is for Vivi In Stile app

Mancunian Wave is linking today with ABC Wednesday  where we have reached the letter "V".

Nastro Azzurro Peroni are known for being a brand of stylish and rather nice Italian bottled lager (since 1963). They have also produced a suitably stylish app that brings some Italian class to seven British cities which is called Vivi in Stile. ("Live Stylishly").

Choose your city (Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London and, of course, Manchester) and then be guided to a wide range of bars and restaurants, as well as some of the fashionable shops and galleries.  
Downloads are available for Android and Apple.

It’s a useful culture (and cultured) app with only the most subtlest of mentions of who is behind it (i.e. Peroni)  - a welcome change. It’s ideal for planning a visit to any of these cities and also a useful little tool when in your hometown. The app’s map is handy too if you are a new kid in town.

I like to think I’m pretty much on the ball when it comes to places to eat and drink in Manchester and Vivi in Stile does list and review a wide range of places. From the upmarket Edwardian domed, linen-tabled Stock restaurant and celebrity hangout San Carlos through to more homely eateries.

At the weekend I met up with friends and family and we had a go at putting Vivi in Stile through its paces. Sunday lunch for 11 people aged 2 to 80+ is a big ask, so we all ate at an Italian restaurant, which always guarantees something for everyone.  I had long wanted to check out Dough Pizza Kitchen in the Northern Quarter- it's stylish while retaining a fun and down to earth element too.

The Esplorare part of the app contains places to enjoy around town: bars, restaurants, boutiques and secret design, foodie and fashion hotspots. Other places on a Mancunian magical mystery tour that the app conjured up for me to try out or revisit included Electrik, The Wharf, Lamarrs, Levenshulme Antique Gallery and the Victoria Baths.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating then in this case the proof is also in the drinking, the shopping and the perusal of art. Vivi In Stile has nice clear graphics and design which would be suitable for adults of all ages. The app is updated regularly and it was a refreshing change to be guided somewhere new or different from my regular haunts. Places it listed that I've covered on this blog before included The Oast House and Venetian tapas bar Chichetti. It also suggested a good wander around Media City and the Lowry Centre, which makes sense.

Having said all that, hopefully my favourite restaurants (1847 and Greens) will be added to Vivi in Stile soon, along with my top café stops (EarthNorth Tea Power and On the Eighth Day) and my bar of choice (Dimitri's).

As for the suggested clothing shops that the app lists, these were mostly too high end for my tastes and, I imagine, most people’s (Harvey Nicks and Selfridges are neither in my price bracket nor style) but Junk Designs in the Northern Quarter got a place on the app which was nice to see. Additions of others of its ilk to the app would be good and maybe attract a wider range of users. It was also a pleasant surprise to see another of my favourites, Magma. The Craft Centre deserves a mention too. Happy apping ;-)

With thanks to Deb, Kerry and Tim.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Get your skates on... @Spinningfields

The Spinningfields Ice Rink has its own festive village. A hot spiced cider at the rinkside Chalet Bar will make for the perfect aprés-skate drink. The rink is in situ until Twelfth Night (6th January) from 10.00 a.m. until 9.30 p.m.  Ice skating here in 2009.

Linking today with Ruby Tuesday and  Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Monday Murals: Street food

There are changes afoot towards the northern end of Oxford Road where, opposite the former BBC building (which is now reduced to rubble), come signs of a new street food business. Ku Koos' street food looks like it is an aside to nearby Zouk restaurant. I shall watch this space for developments. The striking artwork is by The Mural Masters.

Linked to the global Monday Murals blog which is hosted over in California at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Owl be seeing you Santa... @MCRSanta

Creative lampshades and wooden carvings nestle in the stall below, while the Manchester tradition of a giant Santa sits proudly outside Albert Square on a cold dark night. See my photo from last year of him to appreciate the scale of Santa . You can also follow him on Twitter @MCRSanta.

Or watch an eight minute overview by day of the 2012 markets by  Graham Houghton.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Midland fairy lights and tales of Cottonopolis

The Midland Hotel's impressive frontage looks suitably festive. With over 350 rooms the hotel also once had a 1,000-seat theatre where opera and drama were staged, and a roof terrace where a string quartet performed.

The hotel (built in 1905) was often used by American cotton traders on business in Cottonopolis (an old nickname for Manchester) selling raw cotton to Lancashire cotton spinners; the businessmen referred to themselves as the Old Colony Club. One of the hotel's restaurants has been renamed the Colony in recognition of this fact. 

In the 1960s The Beatles were once refused admission to a French restaurant inside because they were "inappropriately" dressed. Before that, in 1959 Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (mother of current queen, Elizabeth Windsor) became the first UK crowned head to eat in a public restaurant here. Rather radical for her to deign to dine with us commoners.  ;-)

Linking to Weekly Top Shot at The View From Right Here blog.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Yule Britannia

Christmas at Bank Chambers in Charlotte Street. The steel lady is Britannia, an ancient term for Britain, and also a personification of this island.  

Bank Chambers was formerly home to the Bank of England. The outer wall is 16 inches thick and was built to withstand bomb attacks, making it one of the safest buildings in Manchester. There’s even a small gap between the inner and outer walls, which is rumoured to have been patrolled by guard dogs. Every Tuesday the surrounding roads were closed off to allow the delivery of gold bullion to the bank. The bank, in its heyday, saw hundreds of millions of pounds pass through the vaults every week. The car parking for Bank Chambers is also a little more secure than most, being located inside the old bank vault.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

A kaleidoscope of waste...

The recycling bin on Dulcie Street with a Kaleidoscope effect

DS Smith Recycling are the largest cardboard and paper recycling company in Europe and one of the leading waste management companies in the UK. Their customers include two ethical and empowering organisations- The Co-operative Group and the Guardian, as well as harbingers of waste such as the Ministry of Defence, Tesco and Marks and Spencer. But I am prepared to concede that all waste is equal and responsible for climate change. 

The statistics are so vast that they are hard to take in, but
 DS Smith Recycling recover circa 2.4 million tonnes of material in the UK and 5.4 million tonnes across Europe every year. In addition to this, they divert 250,000 tonnes of waste (which otherwise would appalingly be landfill-bound) to alternative technologies; all forming part of the recycling loop which results with ready-to-use packaging.

As individuals and through government legislation we should all reuse, repair, reuse, recycle far, far more than we do (climate change is the proof of what happens otherwise). Maybe take a leaf out of Mumbai-based designers Nishant Jethi and Aalap Deasi. They have developed a psychedelic public trash bin that rewards people for properly disposing of their waste by displaying kaleidoscope patterns. Named the Cleanoscope, the eco-friendly bin shows that cleanliness creates beauty by making waste disposal creative.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

ABC Wednesday: "U" is for urban living's ups...

Urban living has its undoubted ups but also some undesirable downs.

Among the ups of living in or near Manchester’s city centre are the array of cultural benefits: theatre, galleries, art house cinema, mainstream and off-beat festivals, pop-ups, the variety of quality places to eat and drink, the thriving independent businesses and creative types that give a real buzz to certain quarters. A good public transport network of tram, train and buses, and free city centre shuttle buses. The city's radical roots and multicultural and demographic diversity add further layers of depth and the feelings of being part of something special.

Unwanted side effects are the fast food litter, the smokers who consider it acceptable to drop cigarette butts everywhere and anywhere, the people who spit, the tens of thousands of pieces of chewed gum which plaster the pavements in a shameful way as in no other city I have ever seen, and the people who take part in far worse crimes than those.

The plethora of free newspapers and magazines is another side of metropolitan life. While some are undoubtedly better than others, far too many are printed unnecessarily. The photo shows discarded copies of Urban Life laying on the 300 year old steps of St. Ann’s Church. 14,000 copies of it are printed weekly.

So, urban living unravels many unavoidable quandaries.

Linked to ABC Wednesday .

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hide and seek with Albert and Santa

I think Prince Albert (with his back to us) would be pleased to see how Manchester celebrates Christmas in the 21st century. The German Prince is responsible for Brits having a fir tree indoors at Yuletide, importing the idea from Germany when he married his cousin Queen Victoria. 

He would surely approve of what were originally (in 1999) 17 traders from Frankfurt who started the Manchester Christmas Markets tradition which now brings such trade and cheer to all of us annually.

Although I took the photo, I am not the first to take one from this angle ( I've seen one on Flickr from December 2007) but it is too good to resist.

Linking today with Ruby Tuesday and  Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Monday Mural: Magma for Russian books, bears & more

Magma Books on Oldham Street is open daily until 6.30 p.m. (6.00 p.m. on Sundays). This independent bookstore started in London's Covent Garden, and also has a branch in Clerkenwell. They headed north in 2002. The story of owners Mark (he is Brazilian) and Montse (she is Spanish)  is rather inspiring...If you can't pop in in person have a virtual wander over to Magma Books.

They proclaim: "Can't this thing we call ‘shopping' be changed into a rich and inspiring activity? Isn't that why we go out wandering through the streets in the first place, for a breath of fresh air? To use that dreaded term, can't retail be more creative? We believe the answer is yes. Though we're not quite there. In fact, we're not even sure as to whether we will make it at all. But, with your help, we will certainly give it a go."

Ok, today's photo is not really a mural but I liked the display and the pale blue surround, so I'm still going to link with Monday Murals .

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Weekend Reflections: Where the new reflects the old...

Lunchtime shopping on Exchange Square, with the Corn Exchange (built 1897) reflecting in the windows of Selfridges (opened 2002).  Linking with Weekend Reflections.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

City Daily Photo Theme Day: My Street

My Street is the theme for December’s City Daily Photo. 

I divide my time between two streets; one in the city centre and one in the suburbs. To show you the contrasts I'm posting a photo of Manchester at dawn and a suburban snow shot from two Decembers ago. It's been cold enough the past few days to think that a December snowfall is a possibility this year too.

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