Monday, 29 February 2016

#MondayMural: A panacea to #Microsoft ills?

Happy Leap Day! I was at an event in the downstairs bar at Panacea last week for Microsoft's Surface Book, A nice, sleek, well designed bit of expensive kit. For me the most interesting apps it was running were a music compositional app and a cool pen-based design and drawing app. Monday Mural.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Weekend Reflections: My balcony

The reflected view from the door onto my balcony. Enjoy it, as 31 and 43 storey apartment blocks are soon being built and will block my views- I'm happy to lose the sight of Strangeways prison (right) but will miss the River Irwell and the distant hills and wind turbines. It'll be two or three years before the new tower blocks will be completed though... One for Weekend Reflections.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

#STOPTRIDENT Today Sat 27 Feb, 12 noon, Marble Arch- march to Trafalgar Square #CND

Gather today, Saturday 27 February, 12 noon at Marble Arch in London. March to Trafalgar Square for mass rally.

Rally speakers include:
• Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader
• Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland
• Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party
• Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader
• Kate Hudson, CND General Secretary
• Bruce Kent, CND Vice-president
• Vanessa Redgrave, actor
• Christine Blower, NUT
• Mark Serwotka, PCS
• Giles Fraser
• Francesca Martinez

CND is calling a national demonstration to protest against Britain's nuclear weapons system: Trident.

Join us to say No to government plans to buy a new system at a cost of £100 billion. Parliament will be voting on this in 2016. So this is urgent – we can't delay.

The majority of the British people, including the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and other parliamentary party leaders, oppose nuclear weapons. They are weapons of mass destruction that can kill millions. They don't keep us safe and they divert resources from essential spending.

Let's get message out loud and clear: we don't want Trident and we don't want a new Trident

Join us in London on February 27th to say: #STOPTRIDENT

For full details, including transport and resources to promote the demo, visit

Friday, 26 February 2016

#SkywatchFriday: Cornflower blue sky at #Cornbrook. Start of #Endgame #CityDailyPhoto

There have been some strikingly sunny days this week, cold but with a sense, or perhaps more a hope, of spring on the horizon. Sadly I have been stuck in an office most of the daylight hours so only able to glimpse through windows, such as here from the tram at Cornbrook, giving me a shot for Skywatch Friday.

But yesterday was my freelance day and it was a productive one - editing British DX Club’s “Communication” at Honest Coffee on Chapel Street, meeting at the Soup Kitchen to plan a Manchester People’s Assembly Against Austerity fundraiser night of poetry and music in late April, the inaugural meeting of NQR FM, Northern Quarter Radio FM, a new station I hope to get involved with, then a quick dash across town to HOME for the first night for Beckett’s Endgame (it’s on until 12 March).

The latter was amazing, with a suitably desperate and grim set, bleak and painful voices, banal conversations. As I said to actor Chris Gascoyne, who played Clov, afterwards in the bar, it reminded me of spending time with my parents, siblings and others, trapped in a world of poor communication, bound by blood but not shared vision. He agreed. Recommended (Endgame that is!).

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Tania Kovats' Evaporation #Gaia

A great exhibition, if a little small, at MOSI until May, Tania Kovats’ new exhibition of sculptures and drawings explores the significance of our relationship with the world’s seas and oceans.

Taking inspiration from scientists James Lovelock's Gaia theory-of the Earth as an interconnected super organism-Kovats reflects on water as the connective element on earth. Atlantic, Indian and Pacific are three large metal bowls which replicate the shape of the world's largest oceans. Note this sceptred isle (septic isle?) - the UK and Ireland anyway on the top right of the photo below, plus the western coastlines of Europe and Africa. Each bowl holds a saline solution that, due to evaporation, will transform the work over time.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

ABC Wednesday: "G" is for George Gershwin

ABC Wednesday: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin was one of four pieces we saw at the Bridgewater Hall on Saturday evening. It always sounds good but I don’t recall very hearing the whole price performed before- just that swirling jazzy famous section.

Other pieces in a musically diverse evening were an interesting avant garde piece by Mark Simpson (Sparks) and James MacMillan’s Viola Concerto. Ending with Stravinsky’s The Firebird. Not bad for a £10 last minute seat in the choir stalls.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Duck in the water

I saw a pair of these on the canal recently and had not noticed their like before. Can anyone help with identification?

Monday, 22 February 2016

Monday Mural: Van Gogh?

For this week’s Monday Mural entry we go a little north and east of Manchester to West Yorkshire and the lovely community of Hebden Bridge. I was there the weekend before last and saw this stunningly decorated van in Holme Street, which was for sale for a low price of £700. Note that to the left there is a tree with a free library- take a book and donate another one- some were looking a little weathered but what a great idea.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Holme Street in Hebden

Another photo from our Hebden Bridge visit last weekend- this tree as well as a library below was festooned with photos of musicians who've played at the Trades Club opposite.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Through the round window... at John Rylands

A view through the bottle glass windows in John Rylands' Library, looking down below (below!) onto a slightly ghostly in appearance Deansgate.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Skywatch Friday: Hardcastle Crags softens

A wondrous sky with sunshine after the clouds had gone. Taken last Sunday on a fabulous walk above Hardcastle Crags, just over an hour's drive from Manchester in West Yorkshire. My contribution to this Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Cinderella on Gravel Lane

I stumbled across a Cinderella story on my walk to work today.  Did someone fall from their high heels late last night in their pursuit to catch the last tram? Is, at this very moment, a woman awakening wondering how she limped home with one foot being some six inches (15 cm) higher than the other? Most likely that she had sore feet after a night out and was carrying her shoes, only to drop one. 

Sh(o)e may be a neighbour of mine- perhaps I should put up a notice in my apartment block? Found, one shoe, slightly dusty, designed for partying not comfort- If yours just wander along Gravel Lane off Blackfriars where it may still be searching for its solemate/soulmate…

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

"F" is for Finesse Fashion at Forty

I love the way that Finesse Fashion on Hilton Street have (had?) retained the shop's old signage. Finding an "F" for ABC Wednesday

Monday, 15 February 2016

Monday Mural: Tibor Reich

A wonderful mural of Tibor Reich patterns at the Whitworth Gallery. The Tibor Reich exhibition is a must with his iconic 1950s to 1970s nature as art wallpaper and fabric designs. I'll blog in more detail another time about it. Monday Mural.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Romance is dead at Ordsall Hall? #Ghosts #CityDailyPhoto

It looks suitably romantic for St.Valentine's tonight (if you go along with what to me is rather a naff event once you have moved beyond your 20s) but you could be sharing this four poster bed at Ordsall Hall with the Hall's Tudor ghosts...

Saturday, 13 February 2016

My suggestion box for Bon Bon Chocolate Boutique @Bonbon_NQ

All in faded black and tucked away, a haven for chocolate lovers on John Street in the Northern Quarter. I've not been in before but am sure they must create some good vegan chocolate options. This week their regular menu consists of:

Salted Caramel
Strawberry Snowballs
Goats Cheese Honey Flake
Coffee Cream Tonka Bean
Stilton & Caramel
Honey Bee Pollen
Coconut & Lemongrass
Rose & Cardamom
Ginger Blonds
Chai Latte
Pecan Salted Praline

In the unlikely event that I ran a chocolatier, it would be vegan and I think I'd add localised names to the produce. So 
Salted Caramel might become Salford caramel, Rose & Cardamom perhaps Emmeline, Rose and Cardamom. Others might be Chocolate Blossoms, Chorlton and Lemongrass, Prestwich praline, Suffragette City snowballs etc. Hmm, I'll stick to the day job!


Friday, 12 February 2016

Weekend Reflections: St Mary's Parsonage

Bright morning winter sunshine and a crispness in the air all add up to create a half decent photo, along with a longing for looking at the unusual. This building on St. Mary's Parsonage the other morning looked far more interesting than normal when seen in a car's rear window. My contribution to both Skywatch Friday and Weekend Reflections.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Holyoake House

Holyoake House on Hanover Street is one of the Co-op buildings around the back of Angel Meadow and Victoria and is looking good after the area's clean up. It was completed in 1911 as a building for to the Co-op Union.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"E" is for Emmeline Pankhurst #statue The Pankhurst Centre #Suffragette #CityDailyPhoto

I've chosen an "E" for Emmeline for this week's ABC Wednesday. It's good to hear the recent and long overdue news that there will finally be a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester. 

I was outside the Pankhurst Centre on Nelson Street in Chorlton on Medlock yesterday. It's where the Pankhursts lived for ten years until 1907 and is now open on Thursdays from 1000-1600 for visitors.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Zouk of the day - a #vegetarian masterclass @ZoukTeaBar

What better way to spend a rainy Saturday morning than in the kitchen creating some mouth-watering dishes? It’s even better if you are with half a dozen other friendly souls signed up for a vegetarian masterclass under the guidance of Zouk chef, Mangal Singh. Unlike TV’s Masterchef programme, cooking does get tougher than this as Mangal was gentle with us.

After an initial meet and greet and a flick through the tantalising recipe booklet, we donned our rather stylish black chef aprons emblazoned with the bright Zouk logo and went into the kitchens.  We were to make three starters and three main courses in the three and a half hours we had. First up we were chopping peppers, onions and paneer cheese before mixing it with a ginger and garlic paste and threading it onto skewers (this was Paneer tikka). While they were grilling over a flame we moved onto the Zouk falafel, an Indian interpretation of this Middle Eastern staple. I’ve mentioned before that they were the best I’d ever tasted, so I was delighted to be making some myself. Next was partially deep-fried Jalapena chilli peppers stuffed with herbs and spices.

The group of us were wide ranging in age and while some were curry cook veterans others, including me, certainly weren’t. All united in this city by a love of good food, it was nice to make new friends over drinks from the bar in the breaks. I think we were all in awe at the facilities, the range of spices being used for each dish and the ease at which these curries came together, when you are being guided. The tasters every step of the way went down a treat too.

The main courses involved chick peas, channa and mung beans, spinach, potatoes, rice and spice- look for Tarka Dahl, Channa Masala and Palak Aloo on the menu. Seeing the naan and roti bread chef in action (photo below) rounded the morning off nicely before we got to relax with the fruits, or rather the vegetables, pulses and spices, of our labour.

Seeing things from this side of the kitchen reminded me that often a lot of salt goes into restaurant food, which is one thing you can’t control in the way you would at home. I was still feeling thirsty from the previous night’s over-salted Persian Platter at HOME, where I saw the excellent new Bryan Cranston film, Trumbo.  Also the large tub of butter ghee that was used in some of the main courses reminded me to be sure to ask for the delicious vegan menu options when I next eat at Zouk- which is actually tomorrow night, so my stint in the kitchens has encouraged me to sample more of the menu. 

Yup, I can stand the heat, perhaps the heat of the kitchen more so than the heat of some of the hottest spices, but I will be happy to step into the lush restaurant surroundings as a paying punter once more! If you fancy a go yourself, Zouk offer a range of masterclasses in Manchester.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Monday Mural: Wedgwood, perturbing potteries' plates

An amazing plate mural of Joshua Wedgwood, made of 1200 or so plates in 18 different shades of colour, at the new Wedgwood Factory in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent. A MondayMural with a difference. It looked better or rather, easier to see, through a lens than in reality- lots of optical illusion going on.

I had a great day in the Staffordshire Potteries recently. An hour south from Manchester. After a look around the wonderful Moorcroft Pottery (new Glasgow School of Art inspired creation below left) shop, museum and new collections display we went to the new Wedgwood complex. As well as a factory and museum there are some upmarket places to eat and drink- all rather a fine experience (see photos below).

An amazing tour of the factory- some was what you’d expect but with many interesting facts, then we chanced upon some of the highly skilled  workforce, hand painting a pottery trophy for a top annual Canadian horse race, and a Harley Davidson fan who was delicately applying gold to a bespoke tea service for Russian oligarchs. We also handled a tea pot that retails at £7,000. Quite a contrast from the tea mug in my office which is a freebie from a local hi-fi shop.

Meanwhile back in Manchester, we are Europe’s 18th happiest city, evidently.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Weekend Reflections. Dunham dawn

One of the lakes in the middle of Dunham Massey's grounds, quiet and atmospheric early in the morning. My contribution to the latest Weekend Reflections posts.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Chinese New Year - Year of the Monkey #CityDailyPhoto @CNY_MCR


There'll be dragons, street food, street art and more as the year of the monkey dawns in Manchester. Markets in St Ann's Square since midweek, Chinatown is buzzing as usual and there's the dragon parade on Sunday.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Heads up for Friday at @M3inds

These amazing heads were in storage at the Artwork Atelier (workshop, studio space) on Queens Road, Greengate, M3. They are laser-cut from cardboard and were made by artist Jai Redman and M3 Industries Art.

I was there for a public consultation yesterday displaying the plans (below) for a proposed 44 storey apartment block on Greengate, by Trinity Way. I think the man-in-a-suit showing me the plans was taken aback at my vocal opposition, some of which were NIMBYish views but many were not. I object because it’s too tall, would block light form other buildings and has no designated retail spaces underneath it - which I thought Salford Council had earlier said was compulsory in all new builds in the vicinity. I'd want independent retailers, cafes etc. not supermarkets or chains of course.

I also opined that it was a completely uninspiring tower block- no interesting features, innovative geometric shapes or design to it. He disagreed with me of course and doubtless it will all get built anyway. I may be lucky and still have a slight river view when it’s finished, we shall see (or not see, as the case may be). Its completion date is 2018. At least they are building a nice public walkway through to the river which will be an improvement on the current unloved underpass.

Sadly, in time, the atelier space will be demolished- probably for a 12 storey (maximum) building. Evidently it is safe "in the short term" the suit I spoke with yesterday said. I replied that hopefully there will be artists' space created within in any replacement build - or is that too much to ask?...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Bright but grey on a grade "A" grey day

A splash on colour on the Salford left bank of the River Irwell on an otherwise steel grey day...

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

ABC Wednesday: "D" is for #DavidBowie #CityDailyPhoto

Manchester's Factory Club FAC 251 with a lad quite sane and hero to many.

ABC Wednesday where D is for David Bowie whose death is probably the biggest in the western world of pop/rock/indie music since Zappa in 1994 or John Lennon’s in 1980? Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse died too young to have enough of a back catalogue and personally I thought little of Michael Jackson's music, nor Freddie Mercury's Queen post-1975. Richard Wright’s death was huge for me but as he was in a group rather than being known as a solo artist somehow it seemed to be slightly diluted in its wider impact? Contentious?

When all those musicians/artists/artistes/people in general say that they were influenced by Bowie, (generations have been saying this since about 1970 and still do) they’re referring of course to the multi-faceted, multi-persona 1970s’ works. From Space Oddity and the man who sold the world through Ziggy and the Thin White Duke to the Berlin era via Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs. They’re the influential ones- little in the decades after Heroes could match what came before- but that nine or ten year spell produced an astounding array of atmospheres and ground-breaking music matched by very few others.

For me, Heroes and Low are the best works of art that Bowie made - the Eno (and Fripp) collaborations created new sounds (and visions) and both albums are going with me along with 98 others when I depart this planet with my top 100 albums.

But two earlier tracks, Life on Mars and Space Oddity sum up that alienation, and alien nation, perfectly for me. We felt it then, we feel it now. “Oh man look at those cavemen go… Is there life on Mars?”  = cos there sure as hell ain’t life of any quality on earth when you look around at the police and state brutality and submissive public acceptance of mundane living. And that was following on from cutting yourself free to float off into space rather than return to the drudgery of earth, in Space Oddity.

Ziggy played guitar - and the world was a better place for it. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Ann's Chinese New Year threatened by Henry's bluster

St Ann’s Square’s trees bear unusual winter fruit

In recent years Chinese New Year has moved well beyond Chinatown- the dragon parade on Sunday always loops out of Chinatown and onto Albert Square but the past five years that I’ve been writing this blog have seen red lanterns brighten up the city centre from mid-January onwards. I am all in favour. Surprisingly they have survived the battering that the various named storms have brought. It seemed especially bad overnight here in the city centre with Storm Henry.

Monday, 1 February 2016

City Daily Photo Theme Day: Scene From a Coffee House

This month’s City Daily Photo theme is an easy one for all to complete- Scene From a Coffee House.

I went for this café scene as much for the drink I consumed as the café itself (see below). It was at the Spoon Inn café in Chorlton (coffee, bar, tea house) last week when I caught up with a friend on a day off. It’s also hosts music and art as well as being a hot spot for working and a place to consume news, social media and good coffee.

Although I haven’t managed it yet this year, I do hope to work more from cafes and less from my desk or office, especially with my freelance writing work. Maybe I can achieve that better in February… My blog posts will doubtless tell how successful or otherwise I will be.

I'm a Vietnam coffee virgin no more- I tried one of these little beauties:

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