Monday, 30 June 2014

Monday Mural: crocodiles and pegs

I thought this was really imaginative, on a street near Shudehill in the Northern Quarter. I hope it will remain should the rest of the building ever get some tender loving care, but I doubt if it would. Some street art you have to just enjoy while you can. 
My contribution to this week's Monday Mural.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

World Cup woes...Bearing no umbrage at Umbro HQ

Despite the England football team's kit deserting Mancunian manufacturer Umbro I am sure they bear no umbrage. In fact, to not be associated with such a calamitous football team as England may not be such a bad thing for the sportswear company...

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Fun for all at the Manchester Children's Book Festival @mcbf2014

Any literature festival is good in my book... The Manchester Children’s Book Festival got me thinking of my favourite childhood books. Mine were the Uncle the elephant series by JP Martin, (illustrated by a then relatively unknown Quentin Blake) which has undergone a small renaissance in recent years, although had already attained something of a cult status.

A benevolent elephant in purple dressing gown lives in Homeward, a huge swathe of land and castles, towers and communities, and with friends who include the old monkey and the one armed badger, explore the immense grounds, encountering all kinds of characters (good and less so), caverns, municipal creations, unlikely buildings, wonderful landscapes, quirky water features… 

I first read several of the series when travelling from London to Loch Ness one summer decades ago; a lifetime later I was delighted to buy a special omnibus version last Christmas thanks to a Kickstarter campaign

JP Martin lived all over the place but one of his favourite excursions was around the industrial streets of 1930's Manchester and Salford- the monolithic gasholders influence some of his imaginative constructions that appear in the books. 

Uncle has lived on into this century though and even has his own blog, Tales from Homeward. See also other modern interpretations at

Which brings me to the question, what's your favourite childhood book?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Skywatch Friday: fuffy floating, blue beyond..

Big fluffy clouds gather over the Green Quarter (I'm not sure what is green about it- just a marketing ploy?) on a lovely summer's evening this week in the city centre. I recently bought a book about clouds from a charity shop, so one day I will be able to spellbind you with the correct terminology. I think these are everyday cumulus. Taking part in Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Bag It Manchester campaign

The Bag It campaign is in full flow - plastic bags being banned throughout Manchester is the aim (today Manchester, tomorrow the world). See a short video of the first day of action.

Please read about it and sign the petition. 8 billion plastic bags in were used by UK shoppers in 2011 and, unbelievably- in these so called more green-aware times (the age of the jute bag and all that), this was actually an increase of 20% from 2010! 

99% of bags end up in landfill. It is sheer madness, the waste of oil and resources to manufacture the damn things is bad enough, they then they end up killing wildlife, clogging drains and sewers, and being incinerated, creating more pollution. 

Chrissy rant alert > Personally I despair when I go a to mainstream shops and see the majority of people still not taking their own bags and happily (and IMHO immorally) accepting plastic bags. I have always felt there really should be a worldwide ban on plastic bags, no more should be made, and a £1 charge for all remaining stock should be charged, which goes to environmental causes. Most of the public sadly are either still too unaware, or ill-informed as to the consequences of plastic bag use. We need legislation to be in place and enforced for the greater good...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

ABC Wednesday: "X" is for the Axe and Cleaver Pub in Dunham

It's always hard to find an "X" for ABC Wednesday  so my offering for "X" is for the Axe and Cleaver pub, which is on School Lane in Dunham Town. I pass by on a walk at least weekly although I haven't been inside for an age. But it was pleasant enough in the past for food and drink and I imagine it still is. On a hot summer's day like those we've had the for most of the past month then any pub with a garden (and chilled wine / an ice bucket) is welcomed!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

National Insect week: Name the species @insectweek

It's National Insect Week from 23 June. I would like to identify this species that was in its hundreds on my 8th floor balcony in May. There are now just a handful which seem to visit in the evening. I am guessing the River Irwell below provides their sustenance. Can any experts at National Insect Week help me out please?

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday Mural: Midsummer's Eve with The Enid @therealenid

Midsummer’s Eve watching The Enid at Bury Met Theatre was a pretty good experience. 

I love The Enid’s stage backdrop mural- (my contribution to this week's Monday Mural). I imagine everyone reads different things into it but for me the face and the acorns, leaves and lines all evoke natural aspects: woodlands, good and bad, light and shade, which are reflected in the moving music they make- a hybrid of classical music meets intelligent rock music. Where there are lyrics they touch on romanticism and our links to nature, where there are none, then the music does the talking (all IMHO!).

Hearing the band play Summer from The Spell, the whole of the (self-parody-title?) Aerie Faerie Nonsense album and tracks from the recent powerful Invicta and Journey's End albums left the full house very happy. Nice to see a wide of ages and both genders represented in the audience. Encoring with the gripping Dark Hydraulic is always a good move, too.

The band and their music have always been part of the counter-culture for me- doing their own thing, away from the mainstream and record labels’ commercial demands. These days they have a couple of original members in their 60s but the band will live on through the other members in their 20s and 30s. See them live when you can and hear them online too.  They are touring and playing various festivals at present as well as heading to eastern Germany to record a new album. I can't wait... If you don't yet know of the band, look them up at The Enid and on YouTube etc.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fire and water... end of an overture in orange

This good ship, or rather narrowboat, sadly lost out in a battle of fire and water sometime on Friday night. As we walked through the woods yesterday we saw an empty police van. then we a policeman and an official with clipboard looking at the burnt out wreck.

The boat had been moored here on the Bridgewater canal for a few years at least, and I assumed was lived on semi-permanently.  I pulled a wooden clothes horse out of the canal but could not reach other debris. A slick of oil polluted the surface water further along... Very sad, be it arson or accident. 

The photo on the left was a camera phone snap I took last month- and (taken with a camera rather than a phone) here's the boat featured on Mancunian Wave in happier days. I never knew its name but it was always a bright and lovely overture in orange to me...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Weekend Reflections: Banking on a rumpus at #RBS

The RBS Bank on Deansgate disappears when you take a photo of it, acting merely as a mirror for far nobler buildings such as, in this case, Eliot House. That made it even more galling for me when I was taken to task by an RBS jobsworth after taking this photo.

An employee wandered out to say I wasn't allowed to take photos of the bank. This is also rather ironic when it was us- the taxpayers - who bailed the RBS Bank out when they went under the other year (not that the Blair-Brown government gave us a choice, and protest we did). Anyway, we now own RBS. So I should be allowed to take a photo of something I part own.

I asked why I could not take a photo but the man merely answered "Because you are not allowed to". I asked for a slightly more detailed explanation, and also who I could email to ask why this was so, and what policy stated this. 

I got nowhere of course but now delight in taking photos every time I pass. Maybe my fellow Mancunians and Salfordians would like to do so too? Let me know how you get on...

Taking part in Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Skywatch Friday: Dawn on Tuesday

Dawn is ushered in eastwards of the city- this was taken at about 4.30 a.m. on Tuesday. Here are the other Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Rush hour at the Rover's Return

Under the railway bridge, across the cobblestones and onto Chapel Street in M3 where the Rovers (sic) Return pub waits to serve you...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

ABC Wednesday: "W" is for Withy Grove, where willows waved...

Taking part with the other "W" entrants at ABC Wednesday

I am sure that this old shop on Dantzic Street has been in apparently derelict condition since I first noticed it 20 odd years ago. You might think it strange that a city centre property can be left to rot like this. I like the ghost signs it has resulted in though and would rather it were left like this than converted to a fast food outlet or similar.

But surprisingly this company is still trading here- it's been selling safes since 1850 and in the same Manchester family all of that time. "The Managing Director has over 50 years' experience in the safe business, ensuring clients benefit from our expert knowledge and personal advice." Maybe there is method in their madness!

Wythengreave or Withy Grove meant a grove of willow trees which grew in the vicinity when Withy Grove was a country lane - sadly I have never seen any here... 

How about replanting some today please, Manchester City Council?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

There goes the Neighbo(u)rhood...

Neighbourhood restaurant and bar in Spinningfields (since last year) says it's a "New York eatery inspired by Manhattan's definitive neighbourhoods" (if so then surely then that should be "neighborhood/s"?) .

Spelling differences aside, I'm not sure what it means- it's definitely more Manchester than Manhattan to me. Afternoon tea is served outside which is great in this weather, the bar area looks good and I'll stop by one day for a drink. The food is too meat and burger focused for my liking. It's modern, stylish, perfectly nice but I couldn't see the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island or Manhattan influences myself. Maybe I missed something?

Taking part in Our World Tuesday.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Monday Mural: a psychedelic walk on Tariff Street

On Tariff Street the current slightly psychedelic mural doesn't faze this Basset hound. Taking part in Monday Mural.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Weekend Reflections, under the bridge

A hot day but it's cool and reflective under the ancient bridges on the Trent and Mersey.

Taking part in Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Skywatch: sunset in the city

Sunset, looking from my balcony into Salford and beyond to the even wilder west. Taken last Thursday evening, 5 June, about 9.30 pm. Here are the other Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

World Cup weary?

I always feel happy when I see an array of different national flags like this around town (outside the Tib Street Tavern in this case) rather than the intimidating giant St George Cross flags - which put me off ever going inside.

Like it or not, the football World Cup starts today. There was a fascinating BBC World Service feature on how South Africans were let down and lied to after hosting the event in 2010- they were promised improved healthcare, housing and facilities but all they got were stadia. 

It looks like the same could happen in Brazil, with major disturbances by the people demanding the billions (including £3 Bn of public money ) wasted on the World Cup be put to better use for education, health and housing. Having travelled in Brazil for two months, admittedly a long time ago, and although the dark days of military dictatorships are now long gone, the inequalities that I saw in 1987- from Rio to Salvador, from Foz de Iguacu to Recife do not seem to have been tackled to this day.

On a football matter the BBC World Service's Sportsworld fan forum did well with some unbiased coverage - inviting fans from 24 of the 32 competing countries to their Manchester studios last Sunday to discuss the football side of the World Cup.

I'll always support small countries who have not won before:  So I hope that Bosnia Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Croatia, Chile and Honduras do well in particular. Failing that, I would want any country from a continent who have never won it, so an Asian, African or Australasian nation. Unlikely...

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

ABC Wednesday: "V" is for Valette

I'm not sure if you are allowed to take photos inside the City Art Gallery. I certainly wouldn't use a flash but I couldn't resist a snap of the Adolphe Valette gallery. Adolphe Valette - Manchester's own French impressionist. More on Valette in previous posts of mine- also here. Taking part in "V" at ABC Wednesday .

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A corner of Portugal on a corner of Portland Street #PortugalDay

The flag flies high at the Portuguese Consulate at 1 Portland Street on Portugal's National Day, 10 June.  I used to work in an office in this building, on the floor above, and it gives good views over Piccadilly Gardens. 

What I would give to have a week on the Algarve or to be wandering around lovely Lisbon or opulent Oporto...but summer holidays will be here soon.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Monday Mural: Slice of life and a slice of pizza

If you are going to run a pizza and bread bar in Stevenson Square, you'll inevitably need to keep up with the locals by adding to the area's artistic works. The shutters at Slice neatly combine Renaissance cherubs, Italian fast cuisine and a little Northern Quarter boho chic... The above photo is by night and the one below by day. 
Taking part in the Monday Mural.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Inspired Sundays: St Mary's of Nantwich

St. Mary's Church in Nantwich dates from the 14th century but was extensively renovated in the 19th Century. It is a typical Cheshire church in that it is built from local sandstone, giving that wonderful red-brown richness. The weather-beaten and eroded state that sandstone undergoes adds to the feel of antiquity.

The church's entry in Wikipedia speaks poetically of, "one of the great architectural treasures of Cheshire" and of St. Mary's being one of the finest examples of medieval churches in England. Next time I'm in the area I shall go inside and report back for you.

Taking part in Inspired Sundays.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Weekend Reflections: turning my back on Chopin...

Down on Deansgate the Chopin statue is in reverse, as are the signs. The modern glass buildings always give me an easy opportunity for an entry to the inspiring Weekend Reflections meme.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Skywatch Friday: Nantwich in blue

Today we are in the lovely Cheshire market town of Nantwich. I’ll post some of its most striking buildings another time in their now crooked black and white 19th Century mock Tudor glory. Today we look elsewhere, with a pleasant enough view over the town square, taken from inside Chatwins bakery and coffee house. Chatwins (what, no apostrophe?) has been serving bread and cake, tea and coffee to the fine folk of Nantwich for over 100 years. 

There was a nice patch of blue-ish sky in a rather grey week (after the wonderful sunshine and 23°C heat of last Sunday). Though summery sunshine kicked in again from Thursday afternoon. On Tuesday Nantwich's blue sky didn't quite match the blue of the shop signs and the clothes though. Here are others' Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Rurality blog hop: Henry the heron

Down at Venetian Marina near Church Minshull, Cheshire, Henry (or possibly Henrietta) the heron has been a visitor to the houseboat Arabia for 4 years. He often sleeps on the top of the boat and spends time wandering up and down. A heron's footsteps on the roof above you make a lot of noise- but I'm sure he is worth it. He seems friendly and tame too. Taking part in this week's Rurality Blog Hop.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

ABC Wednesday: "U" is for upcycling

Let's have some "U" time with ABC Wednesday. After I bought my city centre crash pad by the River Irwell the other month I wanted to source a small folding dining table. Trying to avoid buying new stuff, I had something vintage in mind. I was after a 1950's table with a funky formica top (they were en vogue back then). Eventually I found one locally on eBay.

First photo- it had spent the past 40 to 50 years in a garage, with tools and paints stored on it. I saw its potential and with some sandpaper, a reduced sample pot of grey paint (for the edging) and some marine blue silk emulsion, it was easy to upcycle it to what I wanted. A bargain at £15. RedUce yoUr consUmerist tendencies, and reUse.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Cornerhouse blank canvas...

Clifford Owens' Better the Rebel You Know is on one of the Cornerhouse’s current photography exhibitions. I liked the first floor gallery in particular, where people were photographed in groups, often breaking the stereotypes and reclaiming language. The photos reminded me that everyone is different even when they have similar life situations such as alcoholic parents, or religion, or race or other self-identity. The photo to the forefront of my photo was blank, as it is a photo of Tories in Manchester ;-) Very witty and true.

Quaker and radical John Bright stated (in the 19th Century)"If you find a Conservative in Manchester you should put him in a glass case." Happily that's still true today.

Labour came first in the council elections the other week, and we - the Green Party- came second in many wards. Should we have had the wealth of the Labour Party and the (disproportionate) media coverage of UKIP then the Greens may even have got some Councillors elected too... Next time.  Elsewhere, in Greater Manchester, affluent Trafford is still the Nasty Party though and there's a similar ward in Salford that is Tory too. Read an interesting interview from yesterday's Manchester Confidential with the Manchester Labour council leader.

A contribution to Our World Tuesday

Monday, 2 June 2014

Monday Mural: Vegzilla roars

The current window mural at On the Eighth Day features a green riposte to Godzilla- the vegetable and fruit crunching Vegzilla!

It’s not that difficult to eat 10 veg and fruit portions a day and to lead a healthy and good tasting diet, but I know many people seem to struggle. The hard part is turning away from all the sugary snacks, fast food, junk supermarket or packaged meals and fizzy drinks that capitalism hoists upon the unwary and which has created the western obesity pandemic.

Breakfast- juice and fruit with muesli; lunch - put some vegetables in a wrap or roll; main meal - steam some veg or have them raw or in a lasagne, chilli, stir fry or whatever. Maybe it’s harder when you are on the move or away with work but even then it’s still possible, as I am sure all 8th Day shoppers and diners will testify.

Taking part in Monday Mural.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

City Daily Photo Theme Day: Zest

City Daily Photo's Theme Day for June is zest. Either you think of a zest for life or you go for the zest of a citrus fruit. Or maybe both. Here we have the remains of a bottle of Limoncello liquor from Italy, a zester and a lemon squeezer. Take one lemon, including its zest, and bake a homemade lemon drizzle cake. This is the last slice... thanks to Susie for the baking...

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