Thursday, 31 December 2015

Waters of life

The waters of life (in a flooded Dunham field) bring us to the end of another year. I hope you have an enjoyable, entertaining and fulfilling New Year's Eve. I'm off to see 2016 in with a New Year Celebration for World Peace in Chorlton. Let's hope it's successful in its aims... 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

ABC Wednesday: "Y" is for Young love...

Down in The Temple, the underground bar, my attempt at an impromptu Robert Doisneau type photo, 60 odd years on. Taking part in the "Y"s and wherefores of ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

#Floods aftermath at the Addy #CityDailyPhoto #Cameron as Canute?

The Mark Addy pub on the left bank of the River Irwell in Manchester City Centre/Salford was flooded when the river burst its banks and overflowed on Boxing Day. This is the scene earlier today. A beach of silt on the terrace and rumours that the pub may not reopen.

Thanks to the Tory-Cameron regime's ignoring of climate change while making cuts to flood barrier funding this sort of flooding will become a regular event from now, even in (northern) city centres. See York, Leeds, Salford, Manchester,  this week, not to mention Carlisle, Lancaster and the rural north-east and north-west earlier this past months...

Cameron may still turn up in green welly boots mumbling platitudes for benefit of the media but most northerners despise him and his policies.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Monday Mural: @honest_coffee #citydailyphoto #vegan #vegetarian

Three Mancunian/Salfordian icons adorn the walls of the fabulous Honest Coffee cafe on 77-79 Chapel St, Salford (just over the Blackfriars Bridge from Manchester): Anthony Wilson, Frank Sidebottom and John Cooper Clarke. Murals by Stewy.

Honest Coffee opened in August and is my local cafe, 3 minutes' walk from my flat. Great food, I recommend the chilli style beans on toast: five beans-red kidney, black eye, borlotti, pea navy and lima on sourdough, with rocket. All food is veggie-friendly (with the exception of bacon), the beans and soups are vegan. 

There's also a workspace, meeting space, cool music (chillout as well as classics from ancient history like The Who and The Cure), and wonderfully welcoming friendly people. It's gonna be my new fave cafe for 2016- I look forward to chilling (and working) there some more.

Taking part in the Oakland CA-based but globally inspired Monday Mural posts.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

My albums of the year: #WolfAlice #Gwenno #Horsebeach #Lonelady

The album I've played the most since it was launched in June is Wolf Alice's My Love is Cool- they are adept at balancing raw energy and melting melodies with a sonic smorgasbord going on underneath. Am still working out some of the lyrics' meanings. Seeing this wonderful London based band live twice in Manchester made me love them even more. Looking forward to seeing them again in March.

The next three choices are all in Piccadilly Records top 100 albums (in fact they all make their top 10, for what it's worth). Wistful wondrousness in the form of Gwenno and her solo album Y Dydd Olaff. It's far more than mere synth-pop, with a mix of Stereolab and Saint Etienne in there. the album is based on a Welsh sci-fi novel from the 1970s by Owain Owain about a dystopian future where humans are turned into clones by medication. Themes covered include this patriarchal society, government-funded media propaganda, cultural control and threat to minority languages.

Ryan Kennedy's creation Horsebeach II is wonderful and I missed the chance to see them at Band on the Wall this month- next time. Emotional at times and you are washed over by guitars and synths on a wave of melancholia-tinged positivity. They are a Manchester band, as is final choice- Lonelady (Julie Campbell). Hinterland is an audioscape exploring Manchester's unloved urban decay with a nod to the gloom of Joy Division but with its own energy and hope.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Weekend Reflections: Ice rink at New Bailey Salford

There are two ice rinks in town- the first photo is just over the River Irwell along Bridge Street at New Bailey;  the second is below and another of my snaps from the rink at the Great Northern Warehouse on Peter Street. What else is happening this festive weekend at Weekend Reflections?

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas at the Printworks

Merry Christmas to all. May peace prevail throughout the world, whether Christmas is celebrated or not, and may the over privileged remember and support the under privileged this season and beyond.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

ABC Wednesday: "X" is for XYZ building

The XYZ building in Spinningfields opens nest spring and several commercial radio stations are due to move there from Salford Quays. Solving the troublesome letter "X" without resorting to "Xmas" for this week's ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A great northern ice rink

One of the wonderful ice rinks in town that create such a festive spectacle. This one's sponsored by Manchester's Key 103 radio station. I hope you too are gearing up to a long winter break (or a summer break for my southernmost hemisphere blogging friends and visitors) from work and are able to see friends and family.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Monday Mural: Last year's #NQXmas @outhousemcr @neighbourhood

Here are the Christmas space invaders murals which adorned the Northern Quarter last Christmastide and which I didn't get a chance to show at the Monday Mural portal last December. Thanks to Outhouse Manchester for the commissioning and support of such wonderful artworks all year round!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Songs of the Solstice season

Sing out for the winter solstice, the shortest day, the holly and the ivy, the yule log too. Listen to a wonderful instrumental penned for the 21st/22nd - Winter Solstice.

December may be magic again and you can dream of a White Christmas walking in a Winter Wonderland... but there's time for a last minute shop at the Christmas Markets- Manchester's close tomorrow. 

You can read more on Yule at Brighter Blessings:

"The Solstice is the complete antithesis of what has now become Christmas in contemporary society. Also known as ‘Yule’, the Solstice is generally celebrated on the 21st of December, Yule celebrates the birth of the Sun God - child of the Goddess in the Pagan belief system. Yule is primarily the celebration of the rebirth of the Sun. Many people associate the Winter Solstice, or winter itself with death, as it is the season in which nature is dormant, and in which many plants die off and crops are scarce. Conversely, the Winter Solstice, although it is the longest night, (boasting more than 12 hours of darkness), it is also the turning point of the year, as following this night the sun grows stronger in the sky, and the days become gradually longer once more. Thus the Winter Solstice is also a celebration of rebirth, and there are many traditions that stem from this perspective."

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Curling on Spinningfields

It's been great to see curling on Spinningfields even if climate change has meant temperatures of 15C most of the month and the ice is melting...

Friday, 18 December 2015

Grindsmith tree

One of my favourite trees so far this Christmas is in Grindsmith's coffee house on Deansgate.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Manchester Cookbook: a review

Meze Publishing asked me to review the 
latest in their series of cookbooks. The Manchester Cookbook. It follows the same format as six previous versions, all to the east of here: Sheffield, Suffolk, Nottingham, Derbyshire, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

It’s part cook book, part guide book, part Sunday supplement. A nice size to handle (American A4?) and a cartoon cover of some Manchester landmarks draw you in (it’s not Meze’s fault the Manchester Wheel was taken down - I suffered a similar dilemma when I used it as part of the logo for a conference I co-ran this year). Inside there is some wonderful photography of some of Manchester’s canals and architecture, food and foodies, chic restaurant interiors and traditional urban pubs.

Good points continue with the warm and friendly vibe it gives. It’s good that it goes beyond the city centre, to the gastro hotspots in Prestwich, Chorlton, Heaton Moor, Didsbury, Salford Quays and Saddleworth. The book covers wine and coffee, plenty of desserts as well as main courses of many the major culinary countries. It made me stop and realise how far Manchester has come in recent years on its journey of quality eating out experiences.

There’s a great feature on Trove in Levenshulme, artisan bakers- I wish there was one in the city centre like that, although I bake my own bread so maybe I should stick to that. It’s interesting to read about “Manchester’s first distillery” (but surely there have been others?)- the local craft brewery Zymurgorium which is also the UK’s first craft meadery. I hope to try their cocktail recipes Cranachan and Stratospheric Aviator. 

The Little Italy feature is good as is the one on the wonderful chocolatier Isobel Carse (I can’t comment much on her at the moment as I may have bought some of her cruelty-free produce to give to a handful of special people as Xmas presents!) and the Ancoats Coffee Company- How to use an aeropress (a what? - you’ll learn). I bought some of their coffee in the 8th Day this year- not bad, and I will return for more in 2016).

Hospitality Action is the charity for those in the hospitality industry and they get a mention and hopefully some of the book’s profits.

Where the book fails IMHO, like many a cookbook, is in its main courses. Barely an animal goes unharmed in the making of this book- from octopus to ox, snail to deer, clams to monkfish, pigs to lambs, cows to mussels, chickens to scallops. The line appears to be drawn at dog, cat and horse.

There are just a few veggie options: Teacup Kitchen's Excoticado is a variant on my own smashed avocado on toast treat,  Podium’s truffle pasta and wild mushroom open lasagne with watercress emulsion, which sounds tempting to make. Tampopo’s vegetable tempura less so for me, although at least it is vegan. 

In these post-Paris #COP21 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) days where everyone carries the responsibility to eat sustainably and to be aware of their carbon footprint, and when it is proven (in dozens of reports and articles the past few years) that the best way to combat climate change is for everyone to go vegetarian or vegan, I find it hard to believe that so many cruel recipes are showcased in this cook book. Meze are, sadly, hardly alone is doing this of course.

It is even more galling when the UK Vegetarian Society was founded nearly 170 years ago in this city and thrives to this day, when celebrity chef Simon Rimmer has been championing (in part) gourmet veggie food for a quarter of a century at Greens, when the best restaurant the area is the all-vegetarian/vegan Bistro 1847

So, it’s because of that that I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you want a Manchester cook book go and buy Vegan Street Food - travels from India to Indonesia, which came out this year, written by the lovely Jackie Kearney (who appeared on BBC Masterchef 2011). She’s on Twitter/Instagram as @hungryGecko.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

ABC Wednesday: "W" is for Written in moss

The graveyard at Chadkirk Chapel has seen many a year pass, and for me there's something comforting and rather lovely in the way that the moss now adorns the tombstone engravings. Taking part in this week's global round of ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Monday, 14 December 2015

Monday Mural: Swag and Wonderhaus

Pop up shop SWAG (Shop, Artspace, Work, Gallery) on Oldham St has nice signage, which is my contribution to this week’s Monday Mural.

Inside is plenty of fascinating art and craft work and beautiful designer jewellery, all at affordable process. I was put onto this by one of the jewellers, Julia (Wonderhaus), who I was chatting to at last week’s St Etienne gig. Some of her jewellery is right up my street- chunky, statement and unique. Great present ideas away from the mainstream and supporting local talent …

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Basil and Nicholas' American diner ...

Popular and photogenic night and day this newish American diner looks inviting but is not my cup of tea. At Basil Chambers on Nicholas Croft.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Gravel Lane

My current blog header photo is taken on Gravel Lane, where the Salford Central to Victoria trains rumble overhead. The underside of the bridge exudes this pinkish night time post-industrial glow throughout the year. I wish more bridges were lit underneath like this, for safety reasons- but possibly even more so for aesthetics.

Friday, 11 December 2015

the Blue Pig - what a building! @TheBluePigMcr

The Blue Pig restaurant and bar is on the ground floor here on High Street- it's somewhere I bet David Cameron got excited about when he was in Manchester for his nasty party's conference back in September. But I hope he wouldn't have been welcomed, like he wasn't anywhere else in our city. 

Anyway, I just stopped and stared when I saw the light on this building last week- I nearly dropped my early Christmas shopping, so taken aback was I. I had to snap it, but only had my phone to hand. Turned out ok though.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Only St Etienne can break your heart... @bobpetesarah

For me St Etienne were always the epitome of cool, both in sound and image, ever since Foxbase Alpha in 1991 (and I am sure I saw them play a set at Glastonbury the year before that). They have always been on my musical radar - inventing a whole new sub-genre of music in my mind (sometimes literally in my mind- their music is always but a trigger away for me): electronica-melancholia. The wistful lyrics and lilting sounds always go straight to my heart and soul. 

St Etienne's music has always made me sigh, cry and even dance around my flat (a rare feat achieved by very few bands, I'll have you know). I thought I may never see them live again but last night they were back, at the Albert Hall in Manchester, which they seemed to appreciate as a venue as much as the audience appreciated them popping in on their Christmas tour.

I tend to swoon at Tales from Turnpike Lane and its Milk Bottle Symphony- because of that album I always listen to an album of St Etienne whenever I am on the train to London- their heartfelt London references set me up for the Big Smoke.

Amidst swirling synths, mournful cellos, Charlie Brown Christmas cartoons, and a wander down cool (and cheesey) videos from bygone eras, we were treated to a winter wanderland through a glorious back catalogue: He’s On The Phone, Nothing Can Stop Us Now, You’re In A Bad Way, Don't Back Down, Who do you think you are? Tonight, and many more. If you know and love the work of Sarah Pete and Bob you will know what I mean. If you don't, well where have you been the past quarter century- time to catch up! And Maybe Only Love Can Break Your Heart, I certainly cried a little at various points throughout- not something that happens often to me at a gig. Thanks St Etienne, come back to Manchester real soon! 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Another shop window @WahuFood

As promised lastTuesday here's another colourful photo that I was going to use on theme day. Shop windows and entrances that look funky, and even festive, all year round. Say hey to Wahu on Spinningfields' The Avenue. I'm yet to eat here, breakfast, lunch or dinner but would happily review the place in exchange for a free meal for two ;-) Just like I did for Zouk last month!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Monday Mural: Manchester's giant advent calendar @24DaysofLeverSt

On Lever Street is this wonderful advent calendar. Good on you, Manchester creative people, for a brilliant idea.

"True North have brought together a number of Manchester designers and illustrators to count down to Christmas in style, creating a giant advent calendar on the side of 24 Lever St in the city’s Northern Quarter. Behind each window sits a unique illustration, specially commissioned for this project."

Taking part in the Monday Mural.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Weekend in Black and White: Penguin of Oklahoma

Let me explain the title. A penguin, with advertising slogan on his front, Outside Oklahoma gift shop in the Northern Quarter. Looks like s/he's been spitting chewing gum on the floor too 'cos that ain't snow...Taking part in the Weekend in Black and White.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Weekend Reflections: Mulled wine in the rain?

Downpours for early this week and some of the Christmas markets were even closed briefly last Sunday due to high winds. I risked a drenching while out one evening and took this slightly abstract photo. Taking part in Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Skywatch Friday: Hike to the Pike

I had a lovely hike up Rivington Pike the other Sunday, and this was the dramatic view as we reached the summit. By the time we were back down again the skies had turned blue. Such contrasts in such a short space of time! 

Surprisingly my only previous visit to Rivington Pike was almost two years ago and I posted about it Easter 2014. Taking part in Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

#NotInMyName #DontBombSyria @STWuk #citydailyphoto

Thousands of people demonstrated yesterday evening in the UK: in Edinburgh, London, here in Manchester where 2000 of us held a rally, a die-in,  went on a march with huge local impact and felt an overwhelming strength of togetherness. There were probably lots more cities with actions going on I've yet to hear about. Despite this, too many MPs ignored their constituents and voted for air strikes on Syria. 

We in the Stop the War movement will continue to demonstrate and we all know there will soon be blood on the hands of Cameron and the other 390 ill informed and misguided MPs who voted for bombs, some of which will soon kill Syrian civilians. 

Manchester Evening News coverage includes some great photos even if some of their facts are wrong, as usual.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

ABC Wednesday: "U" is for unnecessary casualties #DontBombSyria #WelfareNotWarfare @STWuk

The fabulous photo above was taken by my new friend Rina Srabonian.
The photos top and below are mine ;-)

Hundreds of us were in Manchester on Saturday to demonstrate against the likely UK government decision to bomb Syria. Thousands of others around the country marched too as part of the Stop the War Coalition. Even the racist Daily Mail is opposed to bombing Syria and Richard Shirreff, a former NATO General, points out how it will end in tears, and the spilt blood of innocents.

We are out tonight in Manchester to demonstrate, join us in Piccadilly Gardens from 5.30 if Cameron and other right wingers, including right wing Labour Party traitors, have declared war by then.

Yes, of course we need to remove the threat of ISIL but just as with UK bombings of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all that happens is thousands of innocent civilians get killed. Some of the mourning relations and friends are then more likely to become radicalised and take to barbaric actions like we saw in Paris, Bamako, Madrid, London, NYC etc. Did the UK government learn nothing from the illegal invasion of Iraq by Dubya Bush and Bliar?

As many have stated before, including Brian Eno on Saturday, a way to remove the threat is to trace the ISIL money and cut it off.

Taking part in ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

City Daily Photo Theme Day: Shop window

This month's theme day City Daily Photo is Shop Window. I was spoiled for choice and have a few photos of (non-festive) shop windows that I'll show over the coming  days. I went to the side windows of a dull department store on Tib St/Market St to take this photo of florist Flourish. I like the way their produce is as bright and colourful as the department store panels above, which look 1960s to me but may be later?  

I am into flowers from a florist providing they have been harvested locally, although for me the best bunch of flowers I could be given would come from someone's garden. Transporting flowers by planes like I imagine many big florist chains do is a shocking waste of energy and contributes to climate change.

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