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Manchester is in full Christmas shopping mode now as people get ready for the great day. The police helicopter has been out and about watching the crowds, trying to anticipate any problems due to pressure of people and traffic congestion. Thanks to @NPAS_Barton for these aerial shots of Manchester’s Christmas preparations. This is Manchester’s out of town shopping experience by the M60, the Trafford Centre. It will have been rammed this weekend. Doesn’t look as if there’s a parking space left down there.

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Here’s some shots of the Christmas Market in Albert Square. It’s just one part of the Christmas Markets that snake their way through the city centre from Albert Square to Cathedral Gardens. Father Christmas presides over the Albert Square one. And I like the night one with the Town Hall all lit up. They estimate that 250,000 people visited the markets this weekend. Most seem to be in Albert Square in these pictures. I stayed away. Living in the city I can pick and choose when I visit. I’m waiting for a nice cold, frosty week day evening. People not fortunate enough to live in the city may have to try come at the weekend.

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I’m still trying catch up on last weeks photographs. After the camera safari around Manchester Museum we had a wander around the campus looking for some good shots. I wasn’t sure if we were still working on the ‘we have only 12/24 shots’ idea like in the days of film, so I ignored all the dull, verging on ugly, 1960s buildings and saved my shots for the more photogenic 1930s and Victorian buildings. I think other people did as well. I thought the batteries in my camera were about to die so I used my iPhone camera. I did it quietly as almost everyone else was using their complicated black cameras including one guy who had a very complicated job you could probably filmed an Hollywood epic on. Those who knew about cameras were cooing at it like a new born. I just wondered how much it cost and how many of its features would I ever be able to master? I’m impressed with the quality of the pictures my iPhone takes. When cameras were first put on phones the quality was poor but no so anymore.

I did a couple of panoramas. I like this feature. The results are always good I find and it make me feel like a real photographer. These two are of the lawns on what was once Burlington Street. It used to be thick with traffic and buses but is now a quiet place for students to sit and study. The building on the right is the 1930s classically inspired Faculty of Arts. This part of the university reminds me of one of those Ivy League colleges on the east coast of America. I can imagine inspirational professors reading inspirational poetry to adoring students on sun lit lawns.

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This is one of my favourite parts of the city. It’s part of the courtyard of the original Manchester University buildings. It reminds me of the kind of architecture you see in the quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge colleges. The new ones of course. The old ones have architecture that goes back hundreds of years when Manchester was a tiny market town in an overlooked part of the country. The courtyard is having some work done but I managed to keep the scaffolding out of shot. Which was a pity because the best building is the courtyard is behind me.

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I took a few pictures of individual buildings around the courtyard and some other photogenic parts of the campus.

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We were supposed to take pictures of some of the students but there weren’t many about. It was Sunday afternoon and not many live in this area. Plus it was a bit cold. I find it difficult to take pictures of people. When they are in my shots they tend to be there because they were passing something that I wanted to shoot. I’m a bit shy and would find it difficult to go up to complete strangers and ask them if I could take a picture. And I don’t like the idea of taking surreptitious of people either. It’s intrusive. So I took these back shots of students sitting out on the lawns. Am still not comfortable with having done so.

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I’m behind with all my posts. Work is so busy in the run up to Christmas that I don’t have the time to keep up. Today, Friday, isn’t so bad. I can do some work at home which gives me time to type up this and load pictures. These ones are from last Sunday. I went on a camera safari with the Photography club at the Post Box Café to the Manchester Museum in Manchester University on Oxford Road. I thought that it might be quiet on a Sunday afternoon and we would have lots of space to look for some good pictures. How wrong I was. It was full of the middle classes and their offspring, the parents making sure that their children didn’t fall behind educationally on the two days off at the weekend. Then a choir turned up. They sang rather well but caused congestion in the foyer. And there were kids all over in animals onesies for some reason.

But I got some pictures. We had to treat our digital cameras like an old fashioned camera with film. In those days you had to think really hard about a shot before you took it or waste a part of the film. I had a wander and eventually settled on a huge ammonite fossil in the Geological Gallery. I liked the textures and the maths. Here it is…

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I cheated a bit and took a couple of back up ones…

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I’m fascinated by ammonites. These creatures ruled the roost for hundreds of millions of years. They appeared in the Devonian Period (400,000,000 years ago) and died out in the Cretaceous Period (100,000,000 years ago). That’s about 300,000,000 years. I’m not sure why they died out. Maybe the dinosaurs ate them? This is what the geologists think they looked liked in those ancient seas. I’m not sure how they know the colours though. A bit of artistic licence I suppose. And, of course, they are a distant relation of ours.

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I could have gone for the Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil skeleton. It’s a popular exhibit with everyone especially the kids.

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And I was tempted by the model planets in the Space Gallery.

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I really thought I might go for something in the Egyptian Gallery. I’m fascinated by this culture and civilisation. I’ve enjoyed my trips to the country and love to visit galleries that have collections of Egyptian artefacts. In the Manchester Museum, I particularly like this bowl. It’s about 4,000 years old and made of a highly polished granite. How they did it I’m not sure. You can actually touch this one and, while I stroke the perfectly smoothed sides, I try to think about who made it and who owned it and how it made its way through time from an ancient house near Aswan in Egypt to Manchester, a city that didn’t even exist when this artefact was made.

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This wonderful column carved with hieroglyphs from a block of pink granite is in the museum shop.

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And you could take a little of Ancient Egypt home with you as one of these facsimiles of ancient artefacts.

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And in the Pottery Gallery there were these beautiful pots from ancient civilisations from South America and Africa.

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The choir entertaining the museum visitors.

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Adrift by name and adrift by nature. This sculpture was executed by Irish sculptor, John Cassidy, who was a sculptor of some repute in Victorian and Edwardian Manchester. He donated this sculpture, which represents humanity adrift in a sea of troubles, to the city in 1907. It was supposed to go in a huge new art gallery that was going to fill the space where the old Royal Infirmary was in what is now Piccadilly Gardens. It seems that what to do with that part of the city has been on the agenda for a LONG time.

The art gallery was, sadly, never built and the gardens were created. The statue was put in the centre of them. After the present Queen ascended the throne in 1953, Adrift was moved and replaced with the Coronation Fountain in that year. Adrift ended up on the edge of the gardens on the Portland Street side. The disastrous remodelling of Piccadilly Gardens in 2001/02 saw the fountain shunted off to the rose garden outside Platt Hall (aka Museum of Costume) in Platt Fields Park and Adrift put into storage. The poor fountain still does not work. Does the Queen know this?

In 2010 it reappeared in St. Peter’s Square for all of about five minutes it seemed. I remember talking to the guy putting the finishing touches to it. I thought it had found a suitable permanent home. But within weeks of it being revealed, the hoardings had gone up across the square for its grand refurbishment and it disappeared from view again. I did a post about it on this blog back in August 2010.

It’s just reappeared again as part of the St. Peter’s Square refurbishment. It’s actually on Peter Street on the space between Central Library and the Midland Hotel. And very fine it looks. Hopefully it’s come to a final resting place. Although it’s been wandering the city for over a 100 years now, people were treating it as something new. It looks as if it’s finally getting the appreciation it deserves.

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No. 1 St. Peter’s Square is finished now and tenants are moving in. And splendid it looks as well. There was a big party with coloured lights and lasers a couple of nights ago to celebrate it being finished. And right next to it, I was talking to the demolition team who were putting up scaffolding around the buildings that are being demolished to build No. 2 St. Peter’s Square.

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The Christmas adverts are out as well. They have become a much anticipated part of the run up to Christmas. Well the good ones are. Marks & Spencer’s have gone for some cheeky fairies bringing Christmas…

John Lewis’s have done a nice one stressing giving people the kind of Christmas they dream of with a sweet story about a boy and his toy penguin, Monty. John Lewis’s never show what they have in store but, apparently, Monty the Penguin is flying off the shelves. Or waddling at least, they can’t fly can they?

But the one that has blindsided us this year has been the Sainsbury’s one. Theirs are usually something with a nice, middle class family enjoying a perfect family Christmas with food and presents all conveniently supplied by Sainsbury’s of course. Or they have the likes of Jamie Oliver showing you how to produce the kind of Christmas that would only happen if Jamie Oliver came round and did it for you. With back up from Nigella, Delia and Mary of course.

They have caught the zeitgeist of the nation by a mini saga about the event in World War 1 when there was a Christmas truce and the British and German soldiers came out into no-man’s-land and shared some Christmas cheer and a game of football before going back to their rat infested, filthy, muddy trenches to kill one another again. It’s centred on a British soldier who receives a little Christmas gift from his wife/fiancé back home. I won’t say more as it would spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Click below and have some tissues handy.

It doesn’t show anything that Sainsbury’s sells and you don’t even realise it’s a Sainsbury’s advert until the last few seconds. It’s come under attack from some people who think the representation of war is unrealistic. Others object to the idea that Sainsbury’s might make money off it. But it was made in conjunction with the Royal British Legion who organise the annual poppy appeal. All profits from the sale of the chocolate bars will go to the Royal British Legion who look after soldiers who have been badly hurt in various conflicts. The bars of chocolate are flying out of the stores faster than the penguins from John Lewis’s…

 

The police helicopter has been keeping its eye on Manchester’s Christmas as well. With all those extra people in the city they like to see if the crowds are getting out of control anywhere. Which was just about everywhere last Saturday! In this picture we are looking down on Manchester Town Hall which is the triangular building at the centre of the picture. It’s connected across Lloyd Street by the two foot bridges to the Town Hall Extension. Next to that is the unmistakable circular Central Library. You can see the controversial glass link now blocking Library Walk. At the moment nothing seems to be happening there. There’s an inquiry into where the council acted legally in blocking a public right of way without permission. It will be interesting to see what happens as the council have spent £3.5 million on it! Just below the bottom point of the Town Hall triangle you can see an ellipse, this is the site of the re-sited Cenotaph looking splendid on St. Peter’s Square. Above the Town Hall, Albert Square has disappeared under the Christmas Markets. Click the picture to see it in more detail. Thanks to @NPAS_Barton for this wonderful picture.

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I liked this  Christmas mural of penguins on the electrical substation at the bottom of Thomas Street in the N4. I think I’ve seem the picture as Christmas cards somewhere as well…

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I seem to have a slew of Christmas posts to get through as Manchester gets ready for the big event. Manchester, with its markets, does Christmas like no other place in the UK. What started as an attempt to pull people into the city centre after the IRA bomb of 1996 has grown into one of the largest and most visited Christmas Markets in the world.

But today’s Christmas post comes from my favourite Manchester suburb of Chorlton and from one of my favourite stores there, the Betty & Butch dog lifestyle store. I’ve written about this store before. It’s not a pet shop, it doesn’t smell of stale dog biscuits. It’s not a place where you go, get whatever you need for your dog and leave. The goods aren’t piled up in heaps and sold badly. This is a destination shop. It’s a pleasure to visit. The things on sale are the best that the owners can find. OK, they might be a little pricier than other places but the quality of the things on offer is far superior to many others. Everything is stylishly set out and you have the same pleasure you get from browsing as you do in some high end store on New Cathedral or King Streets. I like to visit and I, sadly, don’t have a dog. If I did I’d never be away.

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They have just done the big reveal of their Christmas store and their decorations. Some stores have an ‘here’s what we want to flog you this Christmas and here’s a bit of tinsel’ approach to dressing their store. At Betty & Butch the approach is ‘here’s a wonderful Christmas window and you’d be welcome to come in and browse.’ It has a Sleeping Beauty theme this year. The front of the store is decorated with the white lights reindeer. and fresh pine branches. Inside the ceiling is hung with brown paper parcels wrapped with red ribbon around the chandelier. The Christmas items are carefully shown off, placed just so, so you can see them to their best advantage. The range is extensive and interesting. They have things you just don’t see anywhere else. It’s a great place. If people want their small business to survive and prosper they could do worse than check out how Betty & Butch do it. If more stores on the high streets were run and presented like this one it would go a long way to reviving them.

If there’s a better Christmas display in a small store anywhere else in the city I’d like to know where it is. This one gets GOLD and BEST IN SHOW from me.

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I was pleased to find that the guy who sells wooden ducks was at the Christmas Markets in his usual spot on Brazennose Street, just off Albert Square. Every time I mention this street it reminds me to try and find the origin of its name. It’s such an unusual one. So far I’ve had no luck though. But back to the duck guy. I’d realised it was last Christmas since I’d seen him and his ducks. Sometimes I’d see him at the markets in Piccadilly Gardens, not one of my favourite parts of the city and I try to avoid it. But on the odd occasion I’d been through the area and a market was on, he wasn’t there. Nor had he turned up at any of the markets in the more salubrious areas of the city like St. Ann’s Square which I do frequent a lot.

It’s not good news. After 10 years of selling his ducks he has decided to give it up. He’s opening a model shop in Wrexham in North Wales and this is the last time he will be selling the ducks at any of the markets. I’m sad about this. Regular readers of this blog will know that we have a lot of fun with the ducks we have bought from him, dressing them up for various celebrations that we have. Other people have appreciated them as presents as well. All good things come to an end I suppose.

Some final pictures of the last of the ducks at the Christmas Markets…

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Work is crazy busy at the moment. November is always like this it seems. We seem to be trying to get everything finished before the new year. Saturday was busy. I finished about 2 in the afternoon. At one point I’d decided on a bit of a wander around Chorlton but the Christmas Markets had begun the day before and they were too big a draw for me to resist. I knew I was going to hate going but I couldn’t help myself.

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It wasn’t easy getting there. They were working on the metro line near St. Peter’s Square which effectively cut the system into two parts. Why they had to do this on the busiest weekend of the year so far I don’t know. When I got to the Chorlton tram stop it was closed and they were offering a shuttle bus into the city centre. I decided to drive in. That bit was easy but parking wasn’t. The city centre was busy with people Christmas shopping and they had descended in their thousands to go to the market. Last year 9,000,000 visited the markets. They are that popular. Most of that 9,000,000 must have been there on Saturday.

I arrived in Albert Square and felt full of Christmas spirit but that lasted all of about 40 seconds. The crowds were horrendous. And I’m probably going to upset a lot of people when I say that the people who annoy me most at the Christmas Markets are those parents who insist on bringing their very small children in buggies. They take up a lot of space, they ram them into your legs (I have a red mark on my shin to prove it) and the kids in them must be terrified in those crowds surrounded by all those legs. The weekends are jus too busy for them. Bring them in the week or the evenings when they aren’t as crowded.

We all shuffled about but it was next to impossible to see anything on the stalls. Where people stopped to look at stuff, we all ground to a halt. I left to visit other parts of the markets across the city centre but they were all as bad. I will go back but I’m going in the evenings or during the week so I can have a proper look around. Before I left though I had to just observe one annual ritual and have the first mulled wine of the season. I went and found the ladies from Luxembourg who make delicious mulled wine. They were back…

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Here are this year’s Manchester Christmas Market’s mulled wine cups…

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The first mulled wine of the season…

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