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We had the first of a series of theatre treats last night that have been lined up for the autumn. We went to see Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre. I finished work late so decided to drive to Chorlton and have a drink and some early dinner in ODDEST. I could then catch the tram into the city centre and meet the people who I was going to the theatre with and then make our way to the Royal Exchange.

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When we got there it felt like Saturday night. I’m told that in the past you could hear a pin drop in Manchester city centre on a Tuesday night but it felt like we were in one of the big, buzzy European cities like Milan, Amsterdam or Barcelona. Which I suppose we have become, its just that, living in the city, it’s happened so gradually that we haven’t noticed. So many people live in the city centre these days it’s had a huge effect on the atmosphere. It was warm and dry on the last night of September. There were 1000s of well dressed Italians in the city having an early dinner before making their way out to the Etihad Stadium for the Manchester City/Roma game. And it was the MCR Student Takeover but more of that later. The shops were open late and people were in town for the theatres and concerts. I like Manchester when its all vibrant and cosmopolitan.

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On Cross Street I spotted these two beauties dressed as Marie Antoinette. Why? Why not? I love that two guys can dress like this and walk down one of the main streets in the city and not get beaten up. Quite the opposite. People were delighted to see them. We are a very tolerant city.

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In St. Ann’s Square there was a pavilion as part of the MCR Student Takeover. The MST is an event that happens once a year just after the students come back to study. The universities reopened last week bringing life back to the Oxford Road corridor after its summer slumber. The MST is designed to get the students to know their new home. The stores stay open late, discounts are offered and there is entertainment in the streets. It’s a lot of fun.

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The pavilion was full of fashion stalls and there was an event to which Manchester fashion bloggers had been invited talk about what they do. I noticed a guy, Jordan J McDowell, who I know whose blog I follow (Fashion Rambler). We met once at a fashion based party in Kendal’s and I’ve spotted his bright orange satchel in the distance a couple of times but we mostly keep in touch through the blogs and TWITTER. There he was dispensing fashion advice to the freshers whose clothes bought in Barry, Scunthorpe, Gateshead (fill in name of town as appropriate) aren’t going to cut the mustard in Manchester. I surprised him with this pic on TWITTER this morning.

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I liked the mobile DJs in the streets and squares pumping out club music.

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And then it was to the Royal Exchange Theatre for Hamlet. It’s one of Shakespeare’s plays I’ve not seen before. Basically Hamlet’s father, also called Hamlet, King of Denmark, has been murdered by his brother, Claudius. Within weeks of the murder, Claudius has married Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. Hamlet isn’t pleased with this situation and realises what’s gone on. The rest of the play is about how Hamlet’s desire for revenge on his uncle impacts on all the other characters. I wont spoil the ending for anyone who doesn’t know it, but this is a Shakespeare tragedy and it doesn’t end well. I lost count of the bodies. It was ‘The Godfather’ or ‘The Sopranos’ transposed to Cheshire (with added scally, scouser gravediggers) via the medieval Court of Denmark at Elsinore. Kind of weird but it worked.

It’s an unusual production in that Hamlet is played by a woman, the wonderful Maxine Peake. She’s a local actor who lives in the Salford area of the city and, in spite of her fame, hasn’t decamped to London. She’s very careful with her projects on the TV, in films and the theatre and if you see she’s going to be in something it’s always going to be worth watching. In this she was brilliant. With her blond hair cropped short and carefully cut clothes you forgot she was a woman and she became the young Prince Hamlet. When she was on you were fixed on her. At the end she was allowed a well deserved bow to herself, something which the ensemble based Royal Exchange doesn’t do often. I’ve seen the great and the good of the theatre world take their bows with the actors with one line. It was deserved though. She carried the play. And I’ve discovered that there is a long tradition of women playing Hamlet.

Not that the rest of the cast were shabby. It was an accomplished cast who made the 3 hour long play spellbinding as we worked through the beautiful language to the play’s grim conclusion. There aren’t many women’s parts in this play, just Gertrude and Hamlet’s doomed love interest, Ophelia. So some of the roles traditionally given to men were given to women. And major character, Polonius, became female and was renamed Polonia. This bit worked but I was less than convinced about Polonia having a white daughter (Ophelia) and a black son (Laertes). Genetically, with a white mother, the son was an impossibility. That’s not to detract from the acting ability of any of the actors who played the parts.

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Because of the inclusion of Maxine Peake in the cast, it has been a sell out and deservedly so. As I said it wasn’t a play I’ve not seen and, like all Shakespeare plays, it was fun to see how many phrases from Hamlet are used by people on a daily basis without realising where the come from….

‘NEITHER A BORROWER NOR A LENDER BE’

‘THAT IT SHOULD COME TO THIS’

‘GET THEE TO A NUNNERY’

THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH, METHINKS’

‘IN MY MIND’S EYE’

And slightly amended…

‘WHEN SORROWS COME,THEY COME NOT SINGLE SPIES, BUT IN BATTALIONS’

THOUGH THIS BE MADNESS, YET THERE IS METHOD IN ‘T’

Just a random picture of one of the most handsome churches in the city. It’s St. Margaret’s CE Church in the parish of Dunham Massey. It’s on the main A56 which brings a lot of commuter traffic in the city from the wealthy Cheshire villages where it meets St. Maragret’s Road. It was built in 1851 in high Victorian Perpendicular style to meet the religious needs of the growing population of this part of the city. They were extending it in 1923 but then scaled back the plans which meant part of the wall was finished in brick instead of the Yorkshire stone. Inside it is stunning, being modelled on Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster (aka Houses of Parliament) in London.

Today it caters for the religious needs of the well heeled Christians who live in the big houses on the leafy roads and lanes (like St Margaret’s Road in the picture) of affluent Bowden. It was also used by the Earls of Stanford who used to live in nearby Dunham Massey Hall. He was great friends with the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haille Selassie and he used to worship in this church when he stayed at Dunham Massey.

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Some more pictures of Manchester from above, courtesy of the Greater Manchester Police helicopter guys. Click on them to see more details. The first one is of the growing new roof of Victoria Station which is coming along wonderfully and, at ground level, looks very elegant. You can just see a little of the Victorian façade of the station at the bottom of the picture. I love it when old and new architecture come together and this project is a stunner. Across the top of the picture you can see the huge Manchester Arena. To the left of the station is the new part of Chetham’s Music School. In the top right hand corner you can see the curve of the Peninsula Building in the Green Quarter. It’s an elegant building. Bottom right is the 1960s, New Century House. It looks a bit like the CIS Tower which is next door and was built at the same time.

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This is the new Coronation Street set in the new ITV Studios on the Trafford bank of the Manchester Ship Canal. You can see the famous street itself built to look like one of the 1000s of tiny working class streets that used to be all over the city. They were they type that Granddad used to live in, in Hulme. I posted a picture of them a couple of posts back. While the houses look the same as Granddad was used to, his life in them was far poorer than the inhabitants of Coronation Street but he says they never had the amount of drama that they do on the TV street.

I didn’t realise that there was a dock beyond the studios that was still being used. Of course this entire area was Manchester’s docks which, at its height, was the fourth busiest port in the country. Now this part of town is all about big business, culture, media and upmarket apartments. But they are building new ports along the Manchester Ship Canal, one is under construction near the Trafford Centre. Another one is planned for the other side of the canal from here just beyond Media City and a third at Warrington to the west. The idea is that a lot of the container traffic that brings stuff into the city from our docks on the Mersey Estuary will use the canal instead of blocking the M62 and M56.

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I had a lot of fun with my iPhone the other day using the panorama feature of the camera. I’m amazed how that slim phone and camera can take such good pictures. I like the way it curves the buildings and how you can see how different buildings in the city fit together. These are of Albert Square. The Manchester Food & Drink Festival is on at the moment so the square was busy with field kitchens selling food from restaurants all over the city. The warm September weather we have had has been perfect for a little alfresco dining. The Albert Memorial and the Town Hall come out well in these.

I have discovered, I think, why there are black patches at the top and bottom of some of the pictures. I have to be careful to keep the arrow on the central line I think when I move the camera.

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This is one of my favourite bits of the city. It’s St. Ann’s Square, Manchester’s oldest, I think, public square. Central in the picture is St. Ann’s Chruch itself surrounded by some of the most attractive buildings in the city. The square is the regular venue for markets and other events, it is Manchester’s front room.

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This is Exchange Square at the centre of Manchester’s retail offering. From the left you can see Selfridges, then Harvey Nichols, the beautiful Corn Exchange which is currently being given another makeover to make it a foodie destination in the city, filled with restaurants, cafes and other food related businesses. Next you can see The Printworks in the distance. This used to be a newspaper office and print works. Papers are now printed in Trafford Park. This building is now one of Manchester’s pleasure domes. It’s full of bars, clubs, restaurants and a huge cinema complex including the city’s IMAX screen. Then you get just a sliver of the enormous Arndale Shopping Mall, the biggest city centre shopping mall in Europe I’m told. You can see where the square was dug up to move the underground services to make way for the new tram line down Corporation Street and through Exchange Square. Because of the nature of these pictures you can see where the line will enter the square, between the Corn Exchange and The Printworks, and where it will leave, between Selfridges and the Arndale. There will be a tram station in the square behind where I took this picture. The asphalt will be dug up and the square restored I was assured. I will be watching carefully.

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St. Peter’s Square has been returned to us. Well most of it. Some is still cut off while they finish a few bits a pieces but we have the north side back and pretty good it looks too. If you stand in a certain position, ignoring the asphalted surface where they still need to build the new tram station and the bit in front of No 1 St. Peter’s Square, it all looks finished. I thought I’d try a panorama photo. You get to see three of Manchester’s grandest, most iconic buildings; from the left, the Midland Hotel, Central Library and the Town Hall Extension with its colonnade and you can see the Cenotaph in its new position…

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Some general pictures of the square, showing what they have done so far. The paving looks to be of high quality and the purple flowering Princess/Empress trees are looking good. I hope they survive the winter. I do like the colonnade of the Town Hall Extension. It was kind of overlooked and ignored before, but is now a great feature of the  new square. I hope they give over some of the space in the Town Hall to a restaurant or two at ground level. This square is crying out for some alfresco dining…

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They have put back the two red telephone boxes that have been there for years. Who will use them I have no idea. I can’t remember the last time I used one. Everyone over 10 seems to have a mobile. A lot of them have already disappeared but they get kept in the prettier bits of the tourist cities. Tourists love having their pictures taken using them as they try to capture a British experience. While we use our mobiles to take pictures of them and post them on our FACEBOOK pages…

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The Cenotaph is looking wonderful in its new position. It has space to be appreciated and a relatively quiet corner of Manchester city centre where people can sit and think. A class of teens were having a lesson about it as I arrived…

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As well as the main Cenotaph, there are these little memorials to various wars and groups of people who have fought in wars in the last century…

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The view up Lloyd Street towards Albert Square. The two bridges joining the gothic Town Hall to the Town Hall Extension look great and give the street the look of Venice with its Bridge of Sighs. And the controversial tree that partially blocks the view… 

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Another panorama of St. Peter’s Square taken from the tram stop while I was waiting for the tram back to Chorlton…

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Many thanks to the Greater Manchester Police helicopter guys for these pictures. While they are up in the air keeping us safe and keeping an eye on assorted rascals and rapscallions who might be up to no good, they take these wonderful pictures of the city. This one is looking west over the city centre and the suburbs towards Liverpool. Warrington is out there in the distance as well. You can make out Central Library, the circular building at the bottom of the picture just left of centre. If you move left from the library and up a bit you can make out the curve of the old Central Station, now the Central Convention Centre. Last week it was full of Labour politicians having their annual conference. Highlight of the week was their leader, Ed Miliband, who would be our Prime Minister, who talked for a hour and said not one word about how he would guide the economy back to strength. He’d forgotten about it apparently.

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This one is looking over the area around Piccadilly Gardens. On the right you can see City Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the city. Underneath it, in the pool of bluish light, you can see where the buses arrive in the city centre from suburbs all over the city. To its left you can see the Manchester Wheel which has begun to turn again after months of doing nothing. The fountain still isn’t working though. In the top left hand corner you can see the glass roofs of the train shed of Piccadilly Station.

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Here is the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City’s ground in Eastlands. City are playing at home tonight it seems. They are doing well again, poor United are having another bad start to their season even though they have a new manager and new players. The stadium above the main stadium is Manchester’s athletics track. It was the practice track when the Commonwealth Games were in the city in 2002. The main event was in what is now City’s stadium. You can’t see the Commonwealth Games Velodrome which is just out of picture. It’s the home of the UK’s incredibly successful Olympic cycling team. You often see them doing road training about the city. Nor can you see City’s huge new training facility which is almost ready just below this scene. If you look carefully you can see some cranes outside the stadium on the left. They are raising the roof at one end to provide another tier of seats. When that is done they will do the same at the other end. Manchester City is the world’s richest club.    

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This is an old aerial photograph of the Hulme area of the city. It’s pre 1960s because virtually everything in this picture has been wiped off the face of the earth in slum clearances in the 60s and 70s. In the top left hand corner I found Whitworth Park and the old buildings of Manchester Royal Infirmary on Oxford Road. I guess the Whitworth Art Gallery is there as well but it was hard to pick out in the park. This picture has family connections. My grandfather lived down there in that warren of streets lined with tiny houses. If you start at the bottom of the map, right in the centre you can see a street running straight up. Where that street ends you can see a triangle of houses just to the left. He lived in one of the houses on the street that forms the base of the triangle as we look at it.

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It was called Piggott Street. This is it. Granddad thought that picture must have been taken from outside his house as he remembers being sent to that tiny shop on the corner for provisions. The houses don’t look in the best state of repair and are very tiny but often huge families lived in them. They were called ‘slums’ and were torn down eventually. Strangely you can still see houses like this around the city in places like Chorlton and Didsbury. In suburbs like that they are called ‘artisan’s cottages’ and have been done up, bought by people desperate to get into those exclusive postcodes and change hands for £250,000!

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This is Granddad’s school. It was called Webster Street School. It’s a rather grand Victorian building. Granddad remembers separate entrances for boys and girls, though the classes were mixed. He remembers the boy’s playground was on the roof of the building from where you could see for miles. He remembers getting the back of his legs rattled for pushing over great tins of powder paint on a stockroom floor because he liked the patterns they made on the floor. He was so busy doing it that he failed to notice the teacher stood behind him. He also remembers getting the cane when he was in a throwing competition with a bud. The idea was that they should see who could get a pair of scissors onto the top of a cupboard. His missed and smashed a window! And, somewhere in the building, he was dared to kiss a girl on the lips. It was the first time he’d done it and was reluctant but then discovered that he actually liked it. He was 11 he said. Granddad was a scamp!

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After a frustrating and expensive week with the car it was good to enjoy a free Friday with nothing much to do but have some fun or, at least, do things that I actually enjoy. Which is the same as having fun really isn’t it? Today is the date for the Macmillan Coffee Morning. For people outside the UK, Macmillan is a charity that provides extraordinary nurses for people in the last stages of terminal cancer. Not only are they adept at providing pain relief for the patients, they are also trained to support the cancer sufferer AND the families and friends of the person with cancer. This kind of care doesn’t come cheap and fundraising needs to be done. Today was their really big event. The idea is that people bake cakes, make coffee and other people buy from them and the money raised is sent to Macmillan. It’s really taken off and I saw people on their way to work this morning carrying cake tins and came across several places where sales were in full swing.

I was involved with the one at the Post Box Café in Chorlton. On Wednesday evening I was at Cake Club where the evening was dedicated to making cakes, tray bakes, muffins and all kinds of sweet confectionary to sell outside the café the following Friday. I nearly didn’t go because that was the evening the starter motor on my car packed in and I was stressed. Hours earlier my car had passed it’s annual MOT but only after I’d had the brakes fixed and something mysterious to do with emissions that I’d never heard of but was expensive. But I went and felt better for it. The day after the garage where I’d had my car MOTed (that is a verb in the UK), rescued my car and fitted the new starter motor. And they didn’t charge me for labour or being rescued. They are stars and I am VERY grateful.

Here we all are making cakes like they are going out of fashion…

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I was in charge of all the tarts. I’ll leave it at that…

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Chris also asked that, if we could, would we bake something at home as a contribution? I decided to get all ambitious and bake a big cake of my own invention. It was a triple layer coffee sponge sandwiched together with vanilla buttercream and then topped with vanilla glace icing, dusted with cinnamon. I called it a Vanilla Caffe Latte Cake. Here it is finished…

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I put it in a large container and set off for the café in Chorlton. When I opened it at the café I was horrified to find the icing had stuck on the lid. But, being at a café I was able to fix it and it didn’t look too bad. Maybe someone would take pity on it? One of the reasons I’d gone to the café was for a meeting with Chris (runs the café) and a representative of the Dig The City Garden Festival. But, before that, I ended up helping set up the bake sale on the terrace outside the café. We had hardly finished setting up when people began to arrive to buy cake. Lots were on their way to the tram station to get to work…

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And I needn’t have worried about my cake. I spotted one of the waitresses coming back to the café for a large knife and the only reason she might need that was for my cake. I wasn’t wrong and a piece was being sold to a woman who was going to take it to hospital as a treat for his father who was sick. I hope he enjoyed it. By the time I’d left four slices had gone. When I went back to pick up the plate later in the day, I found it had ALL gone. AND I’ve got an order for another one for next weekend. I’m not sure how much was raised at the sale yet.

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The meeting was a profitable one and the Post Box Café, Dig The City and I look like we might be involved in a project in 2015. We will see how it goes. I’ll be posting developments on here. I left the car in Chorlton and took the tram into the city centre. I wanted to get my hair cut. There were more people on the tram carrying cake tins to their own bake sales. I found myself next to two women. One was talking on her phone to Dylan. I wasn’t really listening but I heard the name several times and one phrase struck me as being so funny that I had to mention it to her before I got off. I’ve no idea what Dylan said to her but her answer was…

‘REMEMBER, DYLAN, THE WORLD IS YOUR LOBSTER….’

Once in the city centre I headed to BARBER BARBER to get my haircut. I’ve given up trying to find a quiet time at this extremely popular barbershop in Barton Arcade and now just turn up and enjoy the wait. Johnny the BaBa wasn’t there today. He’s in Liverpool a lot at the moment establishing his new venture in Liverpool 1. Inky Steve was in his place by the door. All the barbers were busy and there were several guys waiting to be seen to. But coffee, beer and whiskey were available and the wait for pleasant. I really like this place. After a haircut here I come out feeling better dressed, more intelligent and 3 inches taller…

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I had a wander about the city centre in warm September sunshine and then it was back to Chorlton for my Friday Attitude Adjuaster…

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I spent yesterday putting people off visiting the industrial town of Warrington with its chemical history, scary street art and air perfumed with soap powder. So I thought I’d redress the balance somewhat today. My route to my destination that day took me through Palmyra Square in the centre of the town. Quite why it’s named after an ancient city in Syria I’ve not been able to discover. But I also walked along Egypt Street, Cairo Street and Suez Street, three more places in the Middle East. As it was all laid our in Victorian times I imagine it has something to do with some British Empire related business that we were up to in those days. We were fond of acquiring bits of the world that we took a fancy to in those days, regardless of what the original people wanted. I’d lay a bet that for whatever reason Warrington decided to name parts of their growing Victorian town after these places so far away, will have a link to the present situation in that part of the world as I post.

At the centre of Palmyra Square are Queen’s Gardens, named in honour of Queen Victoria I imagine. They are pretty and filled with large, mature trees including a couple that looked like they might be the same as they have just planted out in St. Peter’s Square in Manchester. You are only two minutes walk from the main shopping streets of Warrington but it’s a little oasis of calm in the centre of the busy town. It has the Parr Hall, Warrington’s little concert venue and the grand looking Old Technical School on the square; while just round the corner is the town’s little museum, art gallery and library, Originally I think the square and the surrounding streets were residential and, judging by the quality of the buildings, it must have been a wealthy part of the Victorian town. The best houses still overlook Queen’s Gardens. They are all offices for the town’s lawyers, solicitors, architects and the like now. But I noticed people have started moving back in where the old post office sorting building has been converted into apartments. The area around the square reminded me of the atmosphere of one of those pretty London squares that have gardens at the centre. But a little less grand than those in the capital.

In the square this military statue of Lt. Colonel McCarthy O’Leary. I don’t know who he is but I’m taking a stab at he’s got Irish connections somewhere. The statue is actually a memorial to the soldiers who died in the Boer War in late Victorian times. It was another of our imperial adventures, this time about wresting the control of South Africa with its resources from the Boers who were there first via Holland. Both the Boers and ourselves seemed to have ignored that the country already had a population of black people who had been there for millennia. The war made a big impact on Victorian society and memorials to the dead in the Boer War popped up all over the country. Manchester’s is in St. Ann’s Square. Of course these memorials have been overshadowed by the memorials to the dead in the great military conflicts of the 20th century. Warrington’s is down by the river at the end of Bridge Street. With it being the 100th anniversary of the starting of WWI this year, war memorials and soldier’s graves have been getting a makeover everywhere. They seemed to be doing it for Warrington’s Boer War memorial at the moment.

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I also spotted this pretty wrought iron pavilion in the gardens. I think it may, at one point, have been a drinking fountain.

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Yesterday I did a post about the town of Warrington, a town of about 250,000 squeezed in between Manchester and Liverpool. It looked quite pleasant with beautiful Georgian, Palladian style mansions, beautiful gates and parks full of meadows of flowers full of bees and other insects.

I did, in passing, mention that it was also an industrial town, specifically the chemical industry and anyone who thinks that all our industry has fled to the Far East should spend an afternoon in Warrington. The chemical industry is not a thing of beauty and it doesn’t smell particularly nice either. Within two minutes walk of the Town Hall and the park I posted about, one of our largest chemical companies, UNILEVER, have a huge plant that is dedicated to the making of all kinds of soap. Even if you didn’t know they made soap there, it wouldn’t take you long to suss it out. When the wind is in the right (wrong?) direction the town centre smells of washing powder. It’s that strong smell you get when you stick your nose, for whatever reason, into a box of washing powder. It can make you sneeze. They say it’s perfectly safe but I’m not convinced. And as I was in Warrington town centre for two hours yesterday, holding my breath wasn’t an option. Take oxygen next time?

If the smell isn’t bad enough, there is the look of the plant. It’s right by the town’s main railway station on the west coast line and is the first thing you see of the town when you arrive from London. People in London are convinced ‘it’s grim up north’ and if your first sight of ‘THE NORTH’ is the UNILEVER plant at Bank Quay Station I couldn’t really argue with them. There was a Renaissance artist who went against the grain by seeking out ugly, grotesque people and painting them. He did it so well that he was able to bring out a particular, fascinating ugliness that became a kind of perverse beauty. He was a Flemish painter who lived in what we now call Belgium called Quentin Massys. Here’s one of his portraits so you can see what I mean.

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I feel the same about these chemical plants. I find them fascinatingly ugly and weirdly beautiful. Or is that just me? They were designed to fulfil a certain purpose and I find whatever process happens in there quite fascinating. The plant is the opposite of the concept of style over purpose and, in doing this, creates a kind of beauty.

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One of the buildings has this huge eye painted on it. I find it quite creepy…

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And, even though this is one of the ugliest spots in the UK, if not the world, someone had made an effort. Just by the station, on a sliver of land, someone had created this little garden with a red painted bike as a sculpture. Or maybe not. On one side it says ‘Virgin Trains’, so it could be the alternative transport to London should the train fail…

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Life blew me to Warrington this morning and then dumped me for two hours with little to do. I will have to have a word with life! For people who don’t know it, Warrington is a large, industrial town shoehorned into the space between the urban sprawl of Manchester and the urban sprawl of Liverpool. There shouldn’t be a town there at all really as we could really do with the space and a few green fields and some trees but there is. It’s a funny old place. It’s been there since Roman times when the Romans found it was a good place to cross the River Mersey when they wanted to get from their legionary fortress at Chester to the equally important one at York. And that important connection and crossing point have served the town well over the years. It’s quite a wealthy town as it’s situated where the east/west M56 and M62 motorways linking the big northern cities cross the M6 motorway which links Scotland to the Midlands and London. The main west coast railway route from Glasgow to London passes through the heart of the town. Lots of companies have set up here because it’s easy to get their stuff to other places quickly.

As well as being in the distribution business, it’s also an industrial town with chemicals being very important. The centre is Victorian and is surrounded by the older houses in the town in tightly packed rows and it’s not a part I’m keen on. But the outer suburbs are leafy and green with the suburbs towards the south, where it merges into Cheshire, being downright rich. Two canals run east west through the town. There’s the great Manchester Ship Canal linking the city to the sea and the smaller, older, more picturesque Bridgewater Canal that does the same job but is easier on the eye. Warrington people think they have ‘made it’ in the world if they have made enough money to jump the Manchester Ship Canal and buy homes in places like Stockton Heath and Grappenhall. But you’re really something if you can jump BOTH canals and buy in the Cheshire villages like Appleton.

But, as I had some time free in the town centre I went for a wander to see what I could find. And I found the Golden Gates. These are outside the Town Hall. They were originally gong to be put up outside Sandringham House, the Queen’s home in Norfolk where she likes to spend Christmas. Sandringham, along with Balmoral in Scotland, actually belong to the Queen. Places like Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace don’t. They belong to the state but the Queen uses them for her official business and has a little apartment in both. If she decided to give up being Queen she would probably move out to Sandringham and Balmoral. Queen Victoria was going to have these gates put up at Sandringham (she had very dubious taste) but when she went to look at them, the company who made them had stupidly erected a statue of Oliver Cromwell they had made near them. Oliver Cromwell was the guy who ran the UK for 11 years when we didn’t have a king. We didn’t have a king (Charles 1) because Oliver Crowell had had his head cut off. Queen Victoria was offended by this and the gates never made it to Sandringham, They languished in the builder’s yard for 30 years until a local Warrington industrialist bought them and presented them to the town and they were erected in front of the Town Hall. Recently they were refurbished to how they were originally with all the gold paint. I’m not sure about them.

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Behind them is Warrington Town Hall in Bank Park where the town is run from. It’s a rather elegant Georgian mansion that was once part of the estate of the Patten family who were rich merchants in the town, well very rich if they could afford a place like this. They were a well connected family who had Chancellors of England (like a Prime Minister) in their ancestry in the 16th century. When the house was built it was in parkland on the edge of the town, but now its right in the centre of it. The family sold the house to the town for use as a Town Hall in Victorian times and decamped to somewhere a lot more pleasant than Warrington with its chemical industries. I like the building with its elegant Palladian front.

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I went for a wander in Bank Park which used to be part of Thomas Patten’s estate when he lived in the house. Today, it’s a little park for all to enjoy. Part of the lawns have been given over to these flower meadows. There is still a lot of colour in them at the end of September but I suppose they are past their best to us humans. But the bees and other local insects were still enjoying them so I think they should stay until the frosts arrive and see them off.

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