Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Lola's lights

I must try and pop into Lola's cocktail lounge sometime, it looks a fun place, but may be a little crowded for my liking tonight. It's a Miami-style (whatever that may be?) cocktail bar on Tariff Street.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Monday Mural: Fauna graphic's woman of song

An icy blast with bird song from Fauna Graphic around the back of Band on the Wall. Four pandas dancing, three songbirds chirping, two eyes a-gazing, one painted wall... 

Taking part in the last Monday Mural of the year.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

On the pink day of Christmas... I went to Edward Gee...

Edward and Geraldine Dee have been in the design business since 1975. Edward Gee sells soft furnishings, interior design ideas, reupholstering services, wallpapers and blinds etc. But their Stamford Park Road shop is planning a move to new premises. This may be the last festive season in their present location... 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Weekend Reflections: The Bake House castle cake

The Bake House in Altrincham was looking devoid of both life and baked goods yesterday, apart from this festive cake, based on Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The more pedestrian suburban housing stock reflected opposite cannot compete! 

Taking part for the last time this year in Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 27 December 2013

St Stephen's sunrise...

An invigorating walk along a short stretch of the Transpennine Way yesterday was a perfect start to Boxing Day /Feast of Stephen/ 26 December, seeing the sun rise. Great to walk off some of Christmas Day's cashew nut roast and all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and other delicious rich food, before returning home to to eat a similar feast.

Click to see today's other Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Canine Christmas at The Crown & Anchor

This dog is definitely for Christmas and not against it, or so it seems. The Crown and Anchor on Hilton Street in the Northern Quarter is obviously a dog-friendly place. 

Let's hope everyone remembers the annual adage, that a dog is for life and not for Christmas. If you are thinking of becoming a dog owner there is always the Manchester and Cheshire Dogs' Home to consider, which gets no government funding and is dependent on public donations.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

ABC Wednesday: "X" is for Merry Berries' Xmas frosting

It may be Christmas Day but ABC Wednesday has reached the letter "X". Merry Christmas to one and all. 

Thoughts go out to all those who are lonely or impoverished this Christmas time, as the UK governments cuts bite ever deeper to all but the very rich. So much for equality and goodwill to all- A big thank you to organisations such as Mustard Tree who exist to create choice and opportunity for people who are homeless and marginalised.

Radio can be a great solace at Christmas, whether you are lonely or just zoning out from overindulgence for a while. What was on the radio at Christmas ten years ago? Read all about it here. And if you want to hear some British festive humour try BBC Radio 4 Extra or the ROK radio app.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Home (baking) for Christmas #festivebaking

I turned off the radiator, unplugged the computers and locked up the office. I decided to walk all the way to the tram terminus rather than fight with the crowds at St Peter's Square, to ensure I could get a seat. I needed one, laden as I was with jute bags full of Christmas cheer. Eventually a southbound tram arrived, tooting from the tunnel. It rattled and rolled through darkened streets, with ever more commuters and shoppers squeezing on board.

I trudged through the side streets, bathed in the suburban glow of festive lights and trees in many a window. Eventually I turned a corner to see our own house, lit up with pink lights on a tree outside and the white light of a Christmas candelabra on the window sill.

Slipping through the back door, the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and gingerbread wafted across the kitchen to greet me. The family had been baking mincemeat crumblies, icing the Christmas cake and making gingerbread stars to give as presents and to hang on the tree. I was home for Christmas...

Monday, 23 December 2013

Bright's bright Christmas tree

One of several festive trees inside Manchester Town Hall, this one on a staircase by a statue of John Bright, Quaker and Anti-Corn Law League member.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Frosty wind made moan...

Some last minute preparations before the start of a carol concert at Christ Church Timperley in the week. Highlights for me were the excellent choirs - Sing, the Wellington School Choir and the Chamber Choir who sang an Anglo-Welsh carol Hwiangerdd Mair.

The church was built between 1848 and 1851 from local red sandstone, in the Neo-Norman style, with a slate roof. Sadly the spire was removed a few years ago when it became unsafe.

Taking part in the Inspired Sunday meme.

Some pupils held up large wrapped presents displaying headlines from a school survey:

(i) What do you want for Christmas?
(ii) what do you want for the world for Christmas?

The first set of answers were, of course, a range of electronic gadgetry that the planet's resources cannot really afford to give up, and the second set, which made my heart sing, included: Equality, peace on earth, love.  Maybe some of the western world's leaders should have been in attendance to hear and to act accordingly.  

E Q U A L I T Y - take note please local Tory Members of Parliament Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, who voted against same-sex marriage) and George Gideon Osbourne (Tatton, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer takes from the poor to give to the rich). I trust too that you will both be turning down (or donating to charity) the 11% pay rise being awarded to MPs?

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Barton Arcade says it with lights

Barton Arcade looks good any time of year with its Victorian glass and iron and some quality non-mainstream shops inside- twinkly atmospherics is something it gives out all year round, but of course it has the props to match such a mood at present.

Meanwhile, 60,000 people in Britain will need to visit for a Christmas at the Food Bank.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Homely Hale

Some of the large and lovely old houses in Hale and Hale Barns were built in the nineteenth century for wealthy merchants and factory owners, who had been made prosperous through the industrial revolution. Some still function as family homes, others as spacious and characterful apartments.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Craving & carving the Christmas we deserve...

The wooden carvings speak to me of a Germanic Yuletide. 

The Christmas Markets are in their final flourish and I have enjoyed mulled wine, gluhwein, mulled wine with a shot of cherry brandy and other warmed concoctions with a kick. I drew the line at the bright green cocktails that I saw some stalls selling, although they did remind me of a lovely peppermint drink I had in a French cafe on my first ever trip away from the British Isles...

Meanwhile at Bury Met tonight, a Christmas show called Smug as a Buzz in a Rug with comedians Smug Roberts and Buzz Hawkins. Andy Wilkinson aka Smug Roberts, is a stand up comedian and actor. In 1983, Buzz Hawkins created archetypal Northerners The Bradshaws and this laid back, behind the times family have been on the radio ever since.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

"W" is for the wired winter's wreath on the heath

ABC Wednesday is at the big "W" where we have a Christmas wreath and flowering basket in the lovely town of Stockton Heath, out Warrington way. That's heading a little westward from home but to get fully immersed in the Christmas spirit at this time of year I always I head (virtually) for the American Mid-West. 

By that I mean a selection of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion from Decembers past and present. Dip into the archives section at the site for some melancholy wit unlikely tales from Lake Wobegon and a musical array which can include bluegrass and folk, ballads and wistfulness. Try the Xmas 2012 show for starters and also this December's batch. Wonderful.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Lowry lights, art & enlightenment versus greed & consumerism...

Opposite the wonderful Lowry Centre and outside the dire Lowry Outlet Mall, two white trees herald the advent of the year's darkest days...

And they will be dark days indeed for tens of thousands of British families who will be dependent on foodbanks this Christmas, thanks to the coalition government's cuts and support of the ultra wealthy instead. Homelessness too has risen - by 34% since 2010 - with government welfare cuts to blame, says a new report  (Joseph Rowntree Foundation / Crisis).

Monday, 16 December 2013

Monday Mural: Safety for sisters

A mural that has recently appeared replacing  this one, also by the talented female artist known as Lispencie. "Fleeing gender violence" is painted on a substation in the Northern Quarter,  Part of the 16 Days of Street Art Action initiative. 
Taking part in this week's Monday Mural.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Strolling down the Avenue ♫ or Walking in a winter wonderland? ♫

Rather a simple and tranquil festive scene on The Avenue. It amazes (and amuses) me how somewhere as commercially-oriented as Spinningfields can be such a melancholic and desolate ghost town at times.

♫ Walking in a winter wonderland anyone? ♫ 

The Spinningfields ice rink on Wednesday 18 December at 7 p.m. has a screening of Cool Runnings on the big screen. Cue 1990’s music, Jamaican beats and pop-up bars serving up icy winter cocktails.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Weekend Reflections: Turn your back on the markets? @MCRSanta @XmasMarkets2013

Turn your back on the heart of the Manchester Christmas Markets in Albert Square and you begin to see things in a whole new light, reflecting in office and eatery windows. More Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Skywatch Friday the 13th

A moody and slightly ominous late autumn, north-western sky. Have a safe Friday 13th and a wicked weekend... Click to see this week's other Skywatch posts.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Spinning on thin ice @Spinningfields

It's fun for all ages down at Spinningfields' ice rink, especially when you hire a plastic seal or penguin to be pushed around on... For my monthly guest post at Smitten in Britain, here's Nadolig Llawen- Merry Christmas From Wales

Elsewhere tonight, an important 30th anniversary commemoration by the Manchester branch of the National Union of Journalists. They are holding a public meeting and Christmas social to remember the Stockport Messenger dispute of 1983. This was the first time the Thatcher government’s new anti-trade union legislation was tested. 

As police launched brutal attacks on the picket lines, workers from across the country travelled to the Messenger print works in Warrington to support the NGA (National Graphical Association print unionin its fight against the new legislation – and to show solidarity with the printers and journalists who lost their jobs as a result of it.

Speakers include employment lawyer Colin Bourne, who was NUJ regional organiser at the time of the strike, and NUJ/NGA activists. Tonight at 7.00 p.m., Mechanics Institute, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD- All welcome.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

ABC Wednesday: "V" is for violas and violins

For this week's ABC Wednesday we have "V" for violas and violins - being hand-crafted at the RNCM and one of the activities in the build up to the annual Strings Weekend in November. The skilled professionals here include Helen Michetschlager and William Castle.

The Strings Weekend Inspired by Folk may have gone but you can hear some of the artists in action through the following links: Craig Ogden, Bach expert Simon Rowland-Jones,  the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio, International Chair in Violin Yair Kless, violist Garth Knox, Scottish folk duo Catriona McKay and Chris Stout, and quirky Prague trio Bardolino Listen here.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Fred Aldous' reindeer of Christmas past... @FredAldous

The shop window of Fred Aldous on Lever Street, supplier of art craft and design materials with a very clever and nicely subtle festive display of wooden mechanical reindeer and sleigh. This photo was taken two Christmases ago but as the company has been in business since 1886, what's another year? The 2013 window display is below. 

When I was a kid seeing the window displays of Hamley's toy shop on London's Regent Street signaled the start of the festive build-up for me.  In recent years it has been Fred Aldous' creative window displays that herald the start of my countdown to Christmas.

Over to them..."Manchester in 1886... a man called Fred. Fred had two things – a bright idea and a cracking beard. He had been working in a cotton mill, like many people in the city at the time, when he noticed that the cotton was being trundled around in baskets. This gave him the idea for a business – he wanted to start importing the cane for the baskets from abroad. We, Fred Aldous Ltd, were born out of that idea...
Supplying craft materials to Salfordian, Stopfordian and Mancunian artistic artisans soon followed and they had to overcome the fall of the cotton trade, to be reborn in new form. They've also had to survive:
"...2½ fires, a flood, a demolition ball, scam artists, two world wars and the invention of television."
They even have a blog. Cheers to Fred! 

Linked to the Our World Tuesday blog.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Monday Murals: Frogs a plenty

Invasion of the giant frogs...Taking part in this week's Monday Mural. Hopping their way to the top end of Tib Street.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A good read: Trautmann- Hitler Youth to Legend, & Wembley Stadium of Legends

The amazing story of adopted Mancunian Bert Trautmann who also features in a book on London's Wembley Stadium (that I co-authored several years ago). Both books would make good Christmas presents. 

Catrine's book is recommended (as is mine of course!) and both are as much about social history and culture as they are about sporting events. Available at your favourite online booksellers, second-hand or new.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Have yourself a Campfield Christmas @CastlefieldMrkt

Campfield Market Hall is a lovely old building at the best of times, and at the moment its wonderful 19th century iron and glass structure hosts what is billed as a Victorian Christmas Market. 

I would dispute the Victorian label on several grounds,  but it is definitely vintage and rather lovely, much more peaceful and relaxed than the outdoor Christmas markets. You can chill with a cocktail, a cider or a cuppa, try some Vietnamese street food and other cuisines, peruse plants and crockery, books and tastefully upcycled creations. Music and dancing too- the only way to do your Christmas shopping! 

It's the first year the market has been held here and it's already one of my favourite festive spots. Open daily from 10.00 to 8.00 until Wednesday 18th December in Campfield Arcade, corner of Deansgate and Liverpool Rd (same arcade as the Spanish Institute and Dimitri's), 2 mins walk from Deansgate-Castlefield Metro stop.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Skywatch Friday: Fluffy clouds

Last Saturday saw the most amazing sunset in the suburbs- it seems too early to be getting dark at 4.30 or so, but this was a spectacular show anyway. One of many Skywatch Friday posts.

Thinking of those around England and Wales - from flooded Rhyl to the Tyne and Tees which burst their banks, and those in the east of England affected by the horrendous floods at present. Yesterday in Manchester was bad enough with winds and storms uprooting trees and overturning lorries. The Evening News covered it well.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Christmas markets; Natale Italiano biscotti e torte

The Manchester Christmas Markets are in full flow all over the city centre. There must be a couple of hundred stalls from all over the UK and mainland Europe creating a special atmosphere. This regular stall from Italy sells a wide range of biscotti: amaretti, red wine biscuits, pizzelles, cuccidati, pignoli biscuits and a heavenly host of other sweet things Italiano, including panettone.

An estimated 500,000 people flocked to the markets the first weekend they were open, in November. To try to limit damage to the environment, and to cut electricity costs (sorry Big Six shareholders...), the council uses 6,000 low energy bulbs on the strings of lights that snake around the stalls. 

It all began in 1999 when a small group of just 17 stallholders from Frankfurt pitched up in St Ann’s Square for the Christmas shoppers... The rest is history but don't forget to shop locally in your suburbs too.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

"U" is for an ugly, unnecessary & unethical side of Christmas... @vegsoc @TheVeganSociety

ABC Wednesday needs "U"... but u may not like reading what awaits u here today.

One of the many ugly sides of Christmas is the slaughter of millions of turkeys. People conveniently sweep it under the carpet but the carcasses and blood makes a mighty big pile, be it under the carpet or on the conscience of any who partake in this annual carnage

20 million turkeys are killed in the UK each year (300 million in the USA), most having been raised in tiny cages and force-fed for their short lives (usually about 2 months from innocent birth to gruesome death).

As well as being immoral and unethical it's completely unnecessary; there are so many healthy, tastier and cruelty-free options available. Check out some of the Birningham-based Vegan Society Christmas recipes  or click to the Altrincham HQ of the Vegetarian Society. As some famous Mancunians once sangMeat is Murder... 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Ruby Tuesday: Vintage Altrincham Market @altrinchammkt

There has been a regular market place in Altrincham since the year 1290. Some 723 years on, the Thursday evening Twilight Markets and the Sunday Markets with vintage and Christmas themed fare and craft are great fun to attend.

A contribution to Ruby Tuesday.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Monday Mural: Roberts' Manchester mountains @rp_roberts

Artist RP Roberts has been making mountains in Stevenson Square. This one was not a tribute to his beloved Wales but depicts Mönch (the Monk) in Switzerland. Taking part in the Monday Mural meme.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

City Daily Photo Theme Day: Looking Out

Photo by Tim

Looking out of the car at a biker looking out for traffic on the outskirts of the city.
You've got to love that Stitch hoodie! Stay warm and stay safe...

How have other City Daily Photo Theme Day bloggers interpreted the December 2013 theme of Looking Out?

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Weekend Reflections: Mist again (like we did last autumn)

Early morning mist as Daisy the Labrador has an early morning sniff and Wilson the green narrow boat greets another day on the Trent and Mersey Canal. 
See other Weekend Reflections.

Back in the city after a walk, and it's time to go to the Manchester Peace and Craft Fair at the Birch Community Centre on Brighton Grove (11.00- 4.00 p.m). Festive stalls including Nepalese treasures, Palestinian delights, jewelry, art and much more. Stalls from CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), Manchester Palestine Solidarity Campaign et al, and live music. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Save Barton Moss from the Frackers! @Frack_Off

All power to the Northern Gas Gala! activity which started this week at IGas Energy's fracking site in Salford. Brave people are protesting and taking action against shale gas exploration at Barton Moss though, see the The Northern Gas Gala and updates at Frack Off UK. We will not be conned by the powers-that-be.  

The Northern Gas Gala is a show of community protection against the threat of harm to health and environment posed by the fracking industry. There have been six earthquakes in Texas alone this past week in the vicinity of fracking sites. 

With thanks to the gallant protesters and photographers (some of whose images I have treated and am sharing here for the greater good).

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Skywatch early morning, late autumn

Taken on a country walk on a frosty morning near the River Dane last weekend.  See this week's other Skywatch posts.

A tough winter may lay ahead of us and it certainly seemed that way last Saturday. Heading off to a favourite walking spot of mine in northern Cheshire, the temperature gauge as we set off read -3°C. It felt rather chilly too, crunching through the frost in my battered walking boots, wondering if my thickest lined gloves’ first outing of this late autumn season were going to keep my fingers warm.

The gentle rolling scenery of the Trent and Mersey canal weaving its way from Whatcroft to Middlewich was a pleasant distraction from the cold. The River Dane was gushing away 20 feet downhill to the right of us, cartwheeling in crazy undulating bends when compared to the “Straight ahead boys!” approach of the ancient canal’s builders.  

When the sun came out there was a sheer magical quality hanging in the frozen air; a bright blue sky, frosted leaves and berries, the canal frozen over in places until an occasional narrow boat broke through.  The wildlife was at its best last week as well; pheasants and grouse scurried along the roads and through fields. My highlight of the walk was a kingfisher, in fact we spotted a couple that day. One was always just ahead of us, swooping onto the next overhanging branch from where it could fish, only to be disturbed by us as we caught up 30 seconds later. It may have annoyed the kingfisher but it enabled us to delight at the sight of its vibrant turquoise body as it flitted along a few feet above the water.

I usually warm up halfway through a walk but not last Saturday- it was too cold. A hole in the top of my right walking boot didn’t help- if I walk about 12 miles every weekend and have had the boots 2 years that must be about 1200 miles I have walked in them, so maybe they are a little worn out. Likewise my fleece is not equipped for this kind of weather, nor my gloves really. And a hat that doesn’t look silly but does the trick is something I still yearn for…

Although most of my walks are on the flat Cheshire plains, when I was back in the warm, with a mug of steaming coffee and a peanut butter bagel, I checked out the Craigdon Mountain website. Their wide range of walking gear could suit my needs and for serious mountaineering and skiing friends there is some heavier wearing equipment. You might not catch me in crampons but I soon came up with a useful Christmas lists worth of items. 

So, this year so please can I have a lovely lime green Marmot sling shot jacket, or maybe a pink ice mountain Rosiere jacket; a North Face Messenger bag in red; an Alaska or an Electra beanie; maps and books on Scotland and the Munros would certainly make me want to head northwards too. I also found a few Christmas ideas for some outdoorsy types I know but had better not mention here lest they be read…

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

ABC Wednesday: "T" is for The Toast Rack

Taking part in ABC Wednesday where I'm happy to have some "T" with my toast today.

Down in Fallowfield opposite Platt Fields is this slightly surreal looking education edifice, built between 1958 and 1960.  Called the Hollings Building, quelle surprise, it has always been known to every Mancunian as the Toast Rack. 

Until this summer it belonged to Manchester Metropolitan University. Luckily listed, what will become of it next is yet to be decided. It even has its own dedicated blog which details its final academic year and comes up with plenty other archival and interesting items on the building.

I worked here for a month or so several summers ago, in the Faculty of Food, Clothing and Hospitality Management. It was an intriguing building on the inside as well as out, with the staff offices on the top floor rather small and almost attic like, as the building reached its apex. Another good blog post on it at Nothing To See Here.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Between the tick and the tock of the seasons

A contribution to Ruby Tuesday and Our World Tuesday. Autumn may be here until 22 December but the recent frosts herald the start of that overlapping of seasons, as late autumn meets with early winter. Nature leaves you speechless sometimes... 

It's lovely to be out in the crisp cold but only if you can come back to somewhere warm. Tragically hospitals have seen cases of hypothermia rise by more than a third to 28,000 under the Conservative-Liberal coalition government, who have allowed soaring energy bills from the Big Six Power companies to go unchallenged. Support the Fuel Poverty Action Group.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Monday Mural: Snow season at Spinningfields

A nice vintage style advertisement hoarding at this year's Spinningfields ice rink.
Taking part in this week's Monday Mural.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Inspired Sundays: St. Peter's Church, Ancoats

St Peter’s Church on Blossom Street in Ancoats was built in Italian Romanesque style in 1859 with a capacity of 1,350. The area was later, coincidentally, populated by many Italians and became known as Little Italy. 

It has recently been renovated and is home to the Hallé Orchestra, which itself was founded in Manchester by Sir Charles Hallé - a year earlier in 1858.  

Taking part in the Inspired Sunday meme.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Weekend Reflections: Red brick through the window...

A Chinese Travel agency reflects typical examples of the 19th century red brick grandeur of Princess and Portland Streets in central Manchester.

When I wander around the centre looking up at these Victorian red brick palaces I am often overcome by the richness of the details and the huge financial cost behind them.

More Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Skywatch Friday: Suburban mellow yellow autumn

Occasionally in suburbia your eyes can trick you; to me this could be a forbidden cottage in a forest glade, on a bright autumnal afternoon. Maybe the dark wood theme will hit you more if you listen to the rather manic, spookily sung Time for tea by Emilie Autumn?  I think I prefer Yellow Time by Mostly Autumn. Taking part in Skywatch Friday

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pink shoes...and 27 things Manchester gave the world

Pink shoes...and pink scarf and pink coat and pink nails. I saw these luminous pink-tipped shoes a mile off and had to try to take a photo. Meanwhile, from the streets of Manchester to 27 excellent things Manchester gave the world. Mostly these are good and groundbreaking but I can only apologise for numbers 1, 9 and 18 -  I'll celebrate the rest.

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