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One if the things I find really exciting about living in Manchester is the juxtaposition of different architectural styles. Manchester has been 2000 years in the making and there are examples of architecture from the Roman period to the 21st century. Not for us the Georgian uniformity of Bath or the medieval delights of York. Different architectural styles exist cheek by jowl. Some people, like me, love it, others hate it.

I  particularly like the juxtaposition of the Victorian John Rylands Library on Deansgate with the neighbouring, uncompromisingly modern, 21st century building that houses the Armani store.

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And I like the contrast between the Victorian buildings of Deansgate and the Hilton Tower.

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It’s been a beautiful day in Manchetser today. Warm by Manchester standards for April but sunny by anybody’s standards. After some work I had a wander around Chorlton which was busy with the inhabitants enjoying their favoured part of the city.

I then caught the tram into the city centre just to see what I could find. I was excited to see that the Empress/Princess trees that had been planted in the refurbished part of St. Peter’s Square were coming into bloom, with their purple flowers, for the first time. In the imagined designs for the square, these trees had deep, purple flowers and almost seemed to glow. They were the thing that swung it for me when the possible designs for the square were put forward. I was pleased when the design for the square that I favoured was chosen. 

The blooming flowers were no where near as deep a purple as was imagined and they certainly didn’t glow. But this is their first season and the bright sun tends to drain the colour out of everything. It will be interesting to see what they are like next year. I still like them though.

For the moment, this is what they look like. And while the purple of the flowers might have fallen short of expectations, the Manchester sky was really that astonishing shade of blue…

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When I first posted about the ‘Lost. Gardens of Manchester’ installation at the Manchester Art Gallery it wasn’t really finished and hadn’t been officially opened yet so I thought it was worth a revisit. It’s a collaboration between the gallery and Manchester’s National Trust gardener. We’ve had a number of garden installations at the gallery. My personal favourite one was the Raqib Shaw garden that was set up alongside his beautiful and disturbing, thought provoking exhibition inside the gallery. And more recently we had the snowdrops to mark the centenary of the start of World War I.

This one was inspired by a postcard from the middle of the last century where a garden was set up on the terrace outside. I love how it looks now but it still isn’t finished. The other half of the terrace is yet to be done. It will be planted up with medicinal plants apparently.

I liked the deck chairs. They were empty when I visited but, as the sun moved across the sky and the terrace was filled with afternoon sunshine, people came out to take advantage of the temporary garden. It’s going to be here, presumably changing with the seasons, until the end of October when there will be a pumpkin festival to celebrate Halloween.

Pictures of the terrace and the foyer with the, almost, acrostic at the top of the stairs….

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Well the Russians are already here. The giant Russian energy company, Gazprom, already have an office in Quay Street. They are the second largest supplier of gas in the UK and are making inroads into our electricity market. Mr. Putin with a huge interest in the UK energy market? I’ll just leave that thought hanging in the air…

Gazprom want to build on their presence in Manchester and have decided to take more space in this office block. They won’t be moving in until 2017 as, the last time I passed this site, they were just beginning to start digging the site out.

It’s yet another new build office block in the city. It’s hard to keep up with them all. But, as I may have said before, a city that isn’t constantly redeveloping is in decline. There’s no standing still. This one will be on First Street where they are putting the finishing touches to Manchester’s new arts venue, HOME, and the surrounding hotel, restaurants and the rest.

I like that the picture is a much more realistic render of the Manchester weather. Rain and one guy has his umbrella being wrecked by the wind. Usually these fanciful pictures of new builds make Manchester look as if it’s been built on the French Riviera with cloudless, blue skies and sun kissed people drinking cocktails in summer clothes. Apart from the drinking of the cocktails, that doesn’t happen very often. Much though I love my city, we don’t have the weather of Nice or Barcelona. I like the indoor trees as well. There seems to be a fashion for it at the moment that I like a lot.

I’d heard that another massive new building project had begun on Salford Quays. Four massive apartment towers by the Harbour City tram station overlooking the NV apartments and the Huron and Eire Basins, within sight of the studios of Media City. They will be the first part of an extension to Media City between the basins and Broadway. 

Manchester is the fastest growing city in the UK at the moment, businesses are piling into the city creating  jobs and we have run out of houses and apartments in the nicest parts of the city, like the Quays, and this is having an adverse effect on the housing market. 

This project is for four towers containing 1000 apartments. It’s a huge project. Some of the apartments have already been sold. It kind of reminds me of the situation we had pre-economic crash with projects like the Hilton Tower. People bought apartments in that before it had even got planning permission, let alone a brick being laid. As the tower was being built people were selling their apartments in the unbuilt tower at a huge mark up. People were literally making money selling thin air above the city. You had to know which bit of fresh air to buy though. The people who bought into the Hilton Tower got lucky of course. But that entire debt/housing thing didn’t end well did it?.

When I got to the site of the four towers I expected to see a few holes, some machines. All they seem to have done was cut back some of the scrubby vegetation that had grown up there over the years. It’s a start I suppose.

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This is what the scheme will look like when it’s finished. Looks pretty impressive. Hope it all goes well.

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The city’s parks and gardens have reached that point in spring when the magnolias are in full bloom and looking magnificent. These trees have been around for a very long time, fossil records show that they have been on the planet since the Cretaceous Period, 92,000,000 years ago. Dinosaurs would have seen them, maybe even eaten them. They evolved before bees did and rely on beetles crawling among the flowers to fertilise them. 

This one is in a garden in Egerton Road North in Chorlton where it’s been a while since it was troubled by any dinosaurs.

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In the garden next door I spotted another variety of a Magnolia, this time with these star shaped flowers.

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We’re all enjoying Sylvester Stallone’s new advert for Warburton’s Bread, a local family company that have managed to go national and make enough ‘dough’ (see what I did there?) to employ Hollywood royalty to appear in their advertising campaign. It cost £15,000,000 to make, I wonder how much his fee was?

The family started making their bread (I love their seeded batch bread)  in the Bolton area of Greater Manchester and it’s to there that they have returned to make the advert. Sly is a bread delivery guy who goes to extraordinary lengths to get the bread to his customers, including the Manchester traffic. All the way through the advertisement there are little nods to his movies. At the end he runs up the steps of Bolton Town Hall instead of the Philadelphia Art Gallery. He wakes up wearing an I (HEART) Bolton shirt and drives past a BOLTON sign, reminiscent of the famous, iconic HOLLYWOOD sign. He runs through the terraces of working class houses which you can find in former industrial towns and cities across the north. I love the bit where he jumps into his bread van and finds himself on the wrong side of the cab. It’s a mini movie and thanks to Warburton’s for making and Mr. Stallone for agreeing to be part of it. 

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I couldn’t go to a Chorlton this morning without making a trip to Betty & Butch, the dog lifestyle store and one of my favourite stores in the city. I love its classy displays, its style, its ethos and it’s wit and there are usually lots of dogs to make a fuss of.

Since it’s opened one of the fixtures if the store has been Duke, the owners’, Angel and Paul, dog. Duke didn’t have have the best start in life and ended up at the Manchester Dog’s Home in north Manchester. This was the place that had the terrible fire last year that so touched people that nearly £2,000,000 was raised within a few days to rebuild the home. The number of people who tried to donate at the home’s Cheshire site caused traffic jams around Warrington and places to donate had to be set up at service stations on the motorway to keep the traffic flowing. We do love our dogs in the UK.

Paul and Angel gave Duke a home and, under their care and love, he went from strength to strength. A few years ago he had some health problems and his owners began to source organic foods and grooming products that greatly improved his condition. This gave them the idea of selling the products themselves and so Betty and Butch was born. Begun in the teeth of the worst recession since the 1930s, it has prospered on its site in Chorlton.

If you called in, Duke was often there, keeping one eye on what was going on. Just the one of course because he did spend a lot of his time relaxing on his day bed in a corner of the store having made sure the human staff were running things well.

Sadly, last week at the good age of 14, Duke passed away. It was a sombre trip. While I waited to pass on my condolences, some other people were doing the same. I imagine many of the loyal customers of this business will have been in to do so. I’m not sure who said it but it’s true that ‘grief is the price that we pay for loving.’ This is just as true with a much loved pet as it is with a human friend or family member.

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‘ONE CANNOT THINK WELL,

LOVE WELL,

SLEEP WELL,

IF ONE HAS NOT DINED WELL’

Many thanks to Virginia Woolf and Marks & Spencer’s for this sage advice on my M&S bag for life that I got with my shopping today. I couldn’t agree more….

Supper club….

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Spotted on a wall on Brazennose Street. The Manchester Secret Supper Club. I’d really like to join this...