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On the news they have just said that Halloween is the most celebrated holiday in the UK after Christmas and Easter. The supermarkets and other stores that trade in Halloween paraphernalia have reported a 2000% increase in business since 2000. It seems that all those American suburban family movies and TV programmes that feature Halloween have had an effect. Commercial considerations aside, I like Halloween. I’ve decorated the ducks for Halloween again. I think they look cool.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN TO ALL MY READERS!

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I’ve been saving this pictures up since last Sunday. Halloween seems like a good day to post them. The Printworks, Manchester’s pleasure palace on Exchange Square organises an annual Zombie Apocalypse. It’s a great bit of fun and raises money for a variety of charities. People dress as zombies, gather in the Printworks then there is a Zombie Walk across the city centre. It’s usually on one of the weekends nearest to Halloween.

The people organising it are called ’28 Hours Later’. It’s a reference to a movie called ’28 Days Later’. In this movie some animal rights activists release some chimpanzees, not knowing that they are infected with a virus that induces madness and extreme rage in anything it infects. The virus is released into the human population and 28 days later almost the entire population of the country are dead having torn itself apart and only a few people remain unaffected. A group of these people in London try to escape the capital and get to a remote valley in the lake District where they hope to find safety. On their journey they travel through the north west of England. At one point they see smoke and fire in the distance. It is Manchester burning from end to end as a fire that started in the turmoil has got completely out of control. Living here, it was quite a sobering scene.

28 Days Later road

Here are some of the zombies The Printworks last weekend…

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We’ve got people coming over for a Halloween supper tomorrow. It’ll start about 5 pm when it gets dark in Manchester these days. Supper will be…

Roasted Tomato and Pumpkin Soup

with

Cheesy Witch’s Fingers

Beef & Ale Pie with Mustard Mash and Green Beans

Halloween Cupcakes

Lots of wine

We’re starting early because it’s then that all the little kids come round all dressed up for the occasion to do their ‘trick or treat’. We’ll be busy cooking tomorrow so I thought I’d get on top of things and do the Halloween pumpkins today.  

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On Sunday I went to have a look at St. Peter’s Square. It’s far from finished but most of the work that they have been doing has come to an end. What startles you is how big the space is. It will be the biggest open space in the city centre and it shows off the grand buildings like the Midland Hotel, Central Library and the Town Hall Extension wonderfully. Half of the square has been paved with its permanent paving stones and very fine it looks. The trees look good and I’m looking forward to seeing them flower next spring. People are delighted with this new space and it seems to be popular with everyone. The other half has been covered with asphalt which is temporary. But even when they have moved the tram station to the corner of the square near the Art Gallery, the space will still be huge. The old tram station will go, the paving will spread across the square to No. 1 St Peter’s Square and they are going to start No. 2 St. Peter’s square soon as well. The cross marking the position of St. Peter’s Church will be returned to its place on what is still consecrated ground. The crypt of the church, complete with its residents, is still there. I wonder if they will relocate them like they are doing with the residents of the Cross Street Chapel Cemetery?

Already visitors are taking advantage of the space to have photographs taken. The bit around the relocated Cenotaph is a triumph. It shows off the neglected back door to the Town Hall and you can see along Lloyd Street, between the Town Hall and its extension.,with the beautiful footbridges linking the two buildings. I was pleased to see that the brilliantly white, curved stone wall that was built to mark the sacred ground around the Cenotaph had been cleaned. Cyclists and skateboarders had moved in with in hours of it opening and were using it as a playground. The graffiti on the benches had gone as well. Talks have been had with the skateboarding community and 24 hour security is in place. It was back to being dazzlingly white on Sunday. Someone alerted the Manchester Evening News about the damage who started a campaign to get something done. I’m whistling and looking nowhere in particular. But TWITTER can start revolutions and it can also get damaged monuments cleaned.

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Here are a few pictures of No. 1 St. Peter’s Square. It’s finished now and the offices are being made ready for their tenants. People are queuing to get space here. Popular Manchester restaurant and celeb haunt, San Marco, is taking space on the ground floor for a new restaurant. Sadly there’s no news that the much loved and much missed Dutch Pancake House, will be making a return. It occupied the corner of Elisabeth House where Oxford Street enters the square. It was a Manchester institution and one of the longest open restaurants in the city. People were sad when it closed before the demolition. No. 1 St. Peter’s Square is widely admired as well. I did think it was too big for the space, but the quality of the build has been so high with the shape, colour and materials echoing other buildings in the square that I have changed my mind. It will look even better when the clutter of the old tram station is moved. I hope No 2 looks as good.

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The whole square wont be finished until 2017. Hopefully there will be more cafes and restaurants around it that can spill out into the square on warm days. And it would be good to see the Christmas Markets spill into the square.

Yet another building project is about start off in the city. It’s a project if 1036 apartments in four towers and will be the largest single building project largest single building project in the north west of England. It’s going up on a piece of land behind the Harbour City tram station in Salford Quays. It’s called XI Media City and is within 5 minutes walk of the BBC HQ there. Media City has been an enormous success. Besides the BBC and ITV, 800 other companies have set up shop here providing support for the big TV companies located here. It’s attracted a lot of people who have relocated to the city because of the job opportunities and they need places to live. There is a shortage of suitable places for these people to live with waiting lists for apartments in the Quays and the city centre. This project will go some way to meet the demand. Lack of properties is forcing up prices all over the city as Manchester has its own mini boom echoing London’s. Great if you are selling somewhere but making it very difficult for people who want to buy, especially young people just starting out. This project is due to break ground in Spring 2015.

I quite like the look of these. I like tall towers. Some of them will have great views across the Quays and the city. But you will have to choose your apartment carefully. If you don’t you might end up with a view of someone else’s apartment.

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This is what one of the penthouse apartments might be looking over. You can see Media City a few minutes away.

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I called in to Manchester Art Gallery. I love this institution and go a lot. I’d like to say I’d gone in this time to immerse myself in great art and bathe in high culture. But I hadn’t. I’d come into Manchester in search of Zombies (more later) and had just gone into the gallery to use the bathroom facilities. They are top notch if you are caught out in this part of the city, clean, well cared for and fragrant. They come highly recommended by this blogger. As do the ones in the Royal Exchange Theatre and on the top floor of Harvey Nichols. The Arndale Centre ones are well looked after as well.  I’m speaking from a guy point of view here but I assume the facilities for women are of as high a standard. If you want to see some original Victorian facilities, you should go to the John Ryland’s Library on Deansgate. They are exactly as they were when the building was built and are worth a visit. Well the men’s are, I’m not sure about the women’s. Their’s may be a little austere for ladies today. But I get off the point…

I was about to leave when I spotted a stunning garment in a room just off the main foyer. I went to investigate and thought I’d walked into Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe. It was full of stunning gowns (I think that’s the best word for them) designed and made in the 1050s. They were all designed and made in Manchester when cotton was still a significant industry in the city though it was no longer ‘King Cotton’ and Manchester had relinquished its pseudonym of ‘Cottonopolis’ to some nondescript city in India. They were made to shout about the quality of Manchester cotton and the quality of the designs and level of manufacture that could have been accessed if people did business in the Manchester garment industry. With the quality of design and manufacture seen in these garments, I’m at a loss to wonder how Manchester isn’t a fashion capital like London, New York, Paris and Milan. Of course the answer is obvious. We are just too close to London and that is the centre of the fashion industry in the UK. That, and the cotton industry in Manchester was about to enter its period of terminal decline.

These dresses have been brought into the city centre form the Museum of Costume in Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield. It’s housed in a Georgian mansion in the corner of the park just by  where Wilmslow Road leaves the Curry Mile behind and enters leafy, green suburbia. I’ve never been in it. I’m going to have to go and see what’s in there.

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There was a lot of noise in our part of the city last night. Sirens blaring in the distance and I think I heard the police helicopter overhead as well. It disturbed my sleep. Not sure what it was about but I suspect that it had something to do with this. An almost perfect fairy ring of mushroom/toadstools that has appeared overnight on the lawn of our garden. Fairies search these out and dance in them. Many people think fairies are quiet, shy, unassuming little creatures that occupy the overlooked spaces at the bottom of your garden. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fairies like to party. The could drink a Blackpool stag or hen party under the table. and this would have accounted for all the noise in the neighbourhood last night.

Seriously, I am quite fascinated by these strange growths that love a damp, warm autumn. They are there underground most of the year but at this time they come to the surface to ‘flower’ and spread their spores. They have an important job breaking down dead material, releasing nutrients that other plants can use to grow that other creatures use for food. They are an important part of the food chain of which we occupy the top spot. We should treat them with respect and be pleased when they erupt through our lawns.

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Mr. Scruff (aka Andy Carthy) is a Manchester born and bred electronic music producer and DJ. The ‘scruff’ bit relates to the state of his facial hair and his style of drawing. While a lot of people in the music business might be into strong drink and interesting substances, Mr. Scruff likes nothing better than a ‘nice cup of tea’ while he’s working. So much does he like tea that he’s opened an immensely popular tea shop on Thomas Street in the N4. Called ‘Teacup on Thomas Street’, it does what it says on the can. If you want tea and some nice cake here, be prepared to queue. It’s a very busy tea shop. He’s even gone so far as to manufacture his own brand of teabags and other tea making paraphernalia under the name ‘Make Us a Brew’. A very Manchester phrase that means ‘Would you please make me a nice cup of tea?’ If you want to try his tea you can pick it up at the teashop on Thomas Street or it is now stocked by Selfridge’s and upmarket supermarkets, Waitrose and Booth’s no less.

If you want to see him in person and enjoy his music, Mr Scruff will be ‘keeping it unreal’ at the Band on the Wall music venue in the N4 on November 1st. The poster was on Cambridge Street near Chorlton Mill and the new building site for the new apartment towers there.

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The buses from the south west of the city used to, and still do, enter the city centre along Cambridge Street. Just before Cambridge Street curves under the railway viaduct from Oxford Road Station, it used to pass through a very grim bit of Manchester. The city centre used to be ringed by Victorian, brick built, industrial buildings. At the top of Cambridge Street there was a mixture of cotton mills, engineering works and a printing plant, all made of red brick that had been blackened by 150 years of soot. The forbidding viaduct and a filthy River Medlock added to the general forbidding atmosphere of the area. I’m just old enough to remember it like that and, on trips into the city centre by bus, would close my eyes and hold my breath until it came out onto Whitworth Street and I could see the Palace Theatre and the grand commercial buildings along Whitworth and Oxford Streets. I was a child that needed to see beautiful things.

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But, like a lot of Manchester, this area has changed and for the better. The old mills and engineering works have been sandblasted back to their original warm, red, Manchester brick and have been converted into spacious and expensive loft apartments. Chorlton Mill is particularly fine. It still has its chimney and I’d quite like an apartment with the balcony that circles the chimney. I don’t hold my breath and close my eyes as I pass through the area anymore either. Chorlton Mill has nothing to do with my favourite Manchester suburb of Chorlton where I like to hang out. That, to give it its Sunday name, is Chorlton cum Hardy. The mill on Cambridge Street is in Chorlton upon Medlock, but no one uses the name anymore as it has been overwhelmed by the growth of the city centre.

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The area is about to have a huge amount of development in it. On one side of the River Medlock you can see all the developments that are going up around Home, the new home for the Cornerhouse Arts complex. And just where Cambridge Street turns under the viaduct, there’s an neglected patch of land that is the site of Manchester’s latest development, a series of tower apartment blocks. The crane has just gone up, it’s huge. I always wonder how things so top heavy and tall stay up. This one was erected just before that hurricane hit last week. But it stayed up I’m pleased to say. Here are some pictures of what the site was like yesterday. I couldn’t be a crane driver. I would be constantly dizzy or crying with fear, or both…

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Looking across the site at Chorlton Mill…

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Across the site you can see the clock tower of the Palace Hotel, the Green Building (apartments) and the Student Castle Tower (luxury accommodation for students at Manchester University with parents with deep pockets)…

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I was intrigued by this construction in a corner of the site. I think it’s an example of the white glazed bricks they are cladding the towers with. An echo of the red brick used in the area but something lighter…

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This is what will be built. The cranes in the last picture are where the building around HOME has been. They have now gone…

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As well as the apartment blocks, the railway viaduct is having a make over as well. It is being widened to take more trains into upgraded Oxford Road and Piccadilly Stations as part as the development to turn Manchester into the Northern Hub of the railway system as London is in the south. The development across the city centre at Victoria and the fast route to Liverpool are part of this. And, as I post, Mr Cameron is in Leeds to announce the fast route will be extended to Leeds and on as far as Hull on the east Yorkshire coast. The sweeping curve is the second picture is the extension to Oxford Road Station. It’s above where Cambridge Street joins Whitworth Street and where I used to close my eyes and hold my breath…

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The poor River Medlock is still not a thing of beauty but at least the water is clean(ish)…

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I’ve been posting about my attempt to spend an extra £60 in independent stores before new year. Apparently, if we all spent £1.20 a week in local stores, it would put millions of pounds into the local economy, keep open and encourage independent stores and provide jobs in the local area. What you have to do is just spend £1.20 a week on something you might buy from one of the big organisations (make your own list) and find a similar item but bought from an independent store. It’s not difficult.

£1.20 a week works out as £6o a year. I started late so that’s why I’m squeezing my £60 into the last few weeks of the year. So far I’ve spent £29.20 in my favourite suburb of Chorlton. You have to consciously do it. If you don’t keep it in your mind you’ll end up spending it in the nearest convenient superstore. It might take a little longer than in a supermarket as well but it’s good to walk around the shops and you will get to meets the business owners as well. they get to know you and are always happy to see you return and not just because you will be spending some money with them.

We wanted some bits for supper. They would have been easily accessible in TESCO, ASDA or Sainsbury’s and even cheaper but I headed for Barbakan, Chorlton’s much lauded (even the London press know about it) Polish Delicatessen. I bought a big pork pie, an olive ciabatta bread and some delicious cheese. It came to £7.06. But the quality of the food here is exceptional. I also had some BBQ lunch on the terrace and got to listen to a jazz band. That wouldn’t have happened in TESCO, ASDA or Sainsbury’s.

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Then I went to the greengrocer’s next door and bought some bananas, oranges, pink grapefruit and cherry tomatoes on the vine. It all looked delicious and I got to have a chat with the guy who runs the shop. It cost me £4.24. Again, it may have been cheaper with one of the big boys, but I did get to chat with the owner.

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So, so far, I have managed to spend £40.50 of my intended target. Just over 2/3 of the amount. With Christmas coming up I should be able to do the remaining £19.50 with ease.