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One of the latest additions to Manchester’s food offering is the Mackie Mayor Market on the very edge of the Northern Quarter where it meets busy Great Ancoats Street. Named after a Victorian grandee, Mayor Mackie, it used to be the produce market where Victorian butchers would come to select their meat to sell in their shops. All that finished decades ago and since then this wonderful building has been allowed to decay and decline.

It’s been taken over by the people who developed the popular food market in Altrincham Market and they have applied their concept to this building. The building has been made perfectly safe but they haven’t over-restored it. They have kept a lot of the sense of history of the building. If I had to name the style it would be ‘tasteful, studied decrepitude.’ It opened while I have been out of sorts and this was the first time I’ve been able to get to see it, meeting up with a couple of workmates for a pre Christmas, out of office, bit of lunch.

What happens is, is you arrive and find a space on one of the long, refectory tables that occupy the centre of the market. Then you go to one of the food concessions that line the walls and order. They bring it to you. The best of the street food Manchester has to offer has been invited to set up shop, with them being chosen so you have a good selection of food to choose from. The communal, refectory tables are great because you end up chatting with complete strangers which is cool. The hipsters of the Northern Quarter have taken to this place like ducks to water.

I had some pizza from Honest Crust. I’d had their pizza at that beer festival I was involved with a few weeks ago just before my accident. From where I was sat I watched them make the dough, put on the toppings and then cooked it in one of the wood fired ovens. Fresh as it gets. I had a glass of wine to go with it from one of the bars.

Here’s the menu…

The rules! Doggies are welcome and so are children. But, if the children get out of hand they WILL be fed to the Mackie Mayor Monsters. You can see them below. I’m a big fan of kids in restaurants but only the well behaved ones. If I’m paying a lot for a meal I don’t want rug rats running riot about me, if I wanted that I’d be going to certain international, chain burger joints, #nevergoingtohappen  On the other hand, I will put up with any amount of doggies…

 

My foot decided it had had enough of the Christmas Markets and Manchester in general. No way was it going to carry me to the new M&S store on Spinningfields and it was time to go home. This had me hobbling back along Lloyd Street to St. Peter’s Square. Normally a 2 minutes walk, Lloyd Street is an easy passage between Deansgate and St. Peter’s Square and fit Tom has never noticed before that it’s built on a slope leading down to the river. I felt every centimetre of the climb this time. It may not have been an assault on the North Col of Everest but it certainly felt like a climb up Snowden. Two years olds passed me with effortless ease. 

Eventually I got to the tram station in St. Peter’s Square and must have just missed the tram to East Didsbury which stops at Chorlton. Being a seasoned tram traveller, I know that if you jump on any tram heading west, you can get off at the next station, Deansgate /Castlefield, and catch the Manchester Airport tram which also stops at Chorlton. ‘Jumping’ isn’t something I can do at the moment. I arrived just as the airport tram was leaving. Sometimes the universe just conspires to thwart you.t

However it did give me time to look around. The Hilton Tower looked wonderful looming over the station into the cold, blue sky…

The Axis Tower has reached the 10th floor on its’ tiny plot between the Rochdale Canal and the tramline. It doesn’t look that tall because the station is way above street level so you can’t see the bottom bit of the tower. Another 18 floors to go…

But the towers that have really grown since I was last here are the Owen Street Towers. They are building the podium with all the services at the moment. The taller of the two towers in the pictures will be almost as tall as the Hilton Tower. The shorter one, in the distance, with eventually be the tallest, breaking 200m and 64 stories to become the new tallest building in the city. Two more towers are going to join them. The entire development has now made a impact on the most blinkered of commuters who assumed it was just another block of apartments. The towers were looking good against the winter sky. By the time the Christmas Markets 2018 roll round they will have reached their full height. And by Christmas 2019 they may be occupied and all lit up…

Having got as far as the Cross Street end of King Street, I was within a mulled wine whiff of the main Christmas Market in Albert Square. It had to be done. First thing I noticed was that the entire market was ringed by a concrete barrier. The Manchester Arena attack, back in May, showed us we were not immune to problems elsewhere in the world. So with that in mind, and the memory of an attack on the Christmas Market in Berlin last Christmas, we have these precautions put into place to keep us safe. Sad but necessary…

Inside the concrete ring it was its’ usual festive self with Father Christmas presiding over it all from his perch outside the Town Hall. It was Monday so it was pleasantly busy but without the weekend crowds. I got talking to a nice couple from Yorkshire who’d come over to shop and enjoy the city…

Singing Moose was back in his place serenading us with carols in German. He swaps from that to English, he’s very good at languages…

I was sad to find that the ladies from Luxenmbourg, from whom I like to buy my first mulled wine of the season, weren’t in their usual place. Maybe they have decided to retire. Here’s this year’s mulled wine mug. As usual, I paid my deposit but took it home as a souvenir…

The bright, winter sun lit up the buildings brilliantly but my phone camera couldn’t cope with it and plunged the paths between the stalls into darkness. But you get the idea…

At this point my foot had had enough exercise and I hobbled back to the tram stop to go home.

While I’ve been laid up the city has been changing with new places opening. I did try to get to the new Marks & Spencer’s store in No.1 Spinningfields but had to give up that idea. It was definitely a bridge too far. It’s not the ankle that aches I’ve discovered, but where the swollen part of my foot rubs against my shoes. I can walk around barefoot in comfort but shoes, especially after a workout at the gym or a longer than normal walk, can be painful. 

I’ve been keeping up with developments through social media and one development that intrigued me was something called the Google Digital Garage that has opened up shop in the old Boots Store on exclusive King Street. Rent of a store on King Street isn’t cheap but Google can afford it I suppose. I had expected it to be selling all kinds of Google goodies but there isn’t a thing on sale.

What it actually is, is a resource set up by Google to support people in the city to grow digital businesses. It runs courses on various topics that you can book into and they are all free. The idea is that Google help grow the next generation of digital businesses. Manchester is really into the digital industry. There are hubs around the universities, the airport, at Media City and in the Northern Quarter where unassuming old Victorian buildings house digital businesses that have been grown in the city that are worth billions. 

When Manchester was Cottonopolis and was a huge, old industry city, making cotton that clothed  the world, the presence of the industry was obvious with cotton mills and grand warehouses across the city’s landscape. Tens of thousands of people worked in the industry and the city was black with the smoke the industry produced. The digital industry is far more low key and subtle but incredibly important to the future of the city, producing jobs and wealth. 

Google have recognised that this is going on in the city and we have to applaud them for doing their bit to support the city. It’s not restricted to companies either. Individuals can go in and I was interested in the ‘writing for social media’ session that was taking place while I was in the garage. The young lady in the reception thought, as I have this blog, I was a good fit for it. This blog is a hobby but, regular readers will know, it has got me into places and doing things I wouldn’t normally have had the chance to do. I don’t intend to set it up as a business (well not at the moment but who knows?) but if it can be developed to open up new opportunities I’m up for that. I’m going in on the 2nd January to start. 

Just near the Google Digital Garage, a nice new store has opened on the corner of King Street and Cross Street. Called Patagonia, it’s an American company that sells rather nice casual clothes. I went in and had a look around and got chatting to a couple of the staff. It’s a new store and they’re on a charm offensive getting their brand known in the city. They were rather sad that they’d had news that the company’s HQ building had been badly damaged in the dreadful fires that have swept through Ventura in California. No one was hurt, vital business information was safe and it was just the physical building that was damaged. This store in Manchester, selling rather nice clothes, will be fine.

 

I’d been wearing my favourite jeans when I had my fall 9 weeks ago. I’d bought them from GAP a couple of years back and they were developing nicely. They were good with sports shoes and a sweatshirt but looked equally good with a pair of dress shoes and my wool/cashmere overcoat. Before they put my dislocated ankle back in place they had to cut them off me. I was high on gas and air and I don’t know what pained me more, the manipulation of my joint back into position or the ruining of my jeans. So while I was in St. Ann’s Square I visited the GAP store and replaced them. I fell lucky and there was a sale on with a whopping 40% off!

It also gave me a chance to have a first look around the Christmas Markets. By now I’d usually have visited them on several occasions but this hasn’t been a normal Autumn for me. Here are some random pictures from the market in St. Ann’s Square…

And a few more taken in King Street…

Top of my list of things to do yesterday was to get my haircut. My favourite place, BarberBarber, in Barton Arcade, off  St. Ann’s Square has been off limits for two months. We considered various ways of getting there but being thrown out of a moving (albeit slowly) car outside Barton Arcade on the Deansgate side just wasn’t feasible with a broken ankle. I was taken to a local place where they tidied it up a bit but I’m used to the attention to detail you get at BarberBarber. It’s never a chore to go to BarberBarber, much more an experience. And I love the sense of theatre of the place. The guys dress in a particular way and how they cut hair, shave guys and dress beards attracts the tourists outside who stand and watch and take pictures to show off to the folks back home in Houston, Tokyo, Sydney etc….of this piece of old England that looks as if it’s been here for ever but has, in fact, only been here for a shade over 4 years. Don’t let that put you off  though, if you are in the city, it’s well worth a visit to experience it, but only if you are a guy, it’s a guy only place ladies. And, before, people get all uptight about that, I can show you places in the city that are women only businesses where men are barred from entering as well.

I was pleased to see that Johnny, the owner, was working there today. I was one of the original customers when it first opened. The first time I met him he actually kept the shop open late for me one evening so I could have a haircut. Good customer service there. He’s always dressed in his trademark ‘Johnny’ style and he didn’t disappoint today with the shirt either. He’s a busy guy these days but, if he’s in actually barbering, he tries to make sure he cuts my hair. He always has the prime chair by the window which delights the tourists. We had a good chat (Johnny would call it ‘craic’ he is from Ireland) on a range of subjects from Father Christmas (Johnny isn’t a fan of the one he met on the steam train that runs from Bury up to Ramsbottom) to Brexit (not a fan at all). He’s opening a hairdressing academy in the new year, above this barbershop in Barton Arcade. And he has two new barbershops in the pipeline, a second one (not counting the Tommy Guns ones he bought) in London and a second Manchester one in the upmarket suburb of Hale.

I was watching this lad getting his hair cut. He was going the full ‘Peaky Blinders’ with the close shaven back and sides and the longer, floppy hair on top. He’d certainly pass for an extra in the show. If you haven’t seen Peaky Blinders, find it and watch, it’s a violent, bloodfest joy of a programme. I got talking to the guy next to me who turned out to be his dad. They were down from Ulverston in the Lake District and had come for the weekend to do some shopping, visit the markets and enjoy the vibe of the city. His wife and the lad’s girlfriend were off elsewhere having their hair done. The dad had twins in a buggy. His son was 18 and the babies were three months old. I wondered if this had been planned or was a joyful accident. Dad said at the moment the 18 year old is more of a worry but the two three month olds are causing the most lack of sleep. On the plus side the lad is getting lots of practice in with his new brother and sister for when he has some of his own. I don’t think Johnny had realised that someone had smuggled a female person onto the premises either. And, I ended up looking a bit Peaky Blinders myself. I just need to work on my Cillian Murphy chiselled cheekbones (one of my personal trainers must have an exercise for that) and the ice blue eyed stare.

 

Jimmy, my personal trainer, has sorted out my gym routine so I went in early to try it out. It went well but the part of the cycle really defeated me. I told Jimmy and he said he will scale it back for next time. I hope he remembers.

After the snow yesterday, we’ve had one of those ice cold, blue sky December days. I decided on a bit of an adventure. I drove over to Chorlton to find Eddie at the car workshop to say thank you for rescuing me after the accident. He’s been in Ireland when I’d last called in. It was good to see him and thank him for helping me out. He had been amazed at how calm I was when my foot was obviously so badly hurt. To be honest I couldn’t feel any pain, probably due to the shock and adrenaline pumping through my system.

With the weather being so good, apart from the worrying ice patches here and there, I thought I’d go into the city centre. I needed a good haircut and wanted to visit M&S. I did get the haircut but I got distracted by the Christmas Markets which I haven’t seen of course so far so Marks will have to wait. I thought I’d go as far as St. Ann’s Square but ended up in Albert Square. It was a lovely winter day and the markets were busy enough to be buzzy but not so crowded that they become unpleasant, like they can be at the weekends.

I took this picture that I was pleased with. I liked the Victorian Gothic spires of the Town Hall tower and the Albert Memorial and then the reindeer on the roof of one of the market chalets. All against the cold blue of the sky. I just wish I’d left a little more sky between the memorial and the reindeer. More pictures soon, I’m back!

As I haven’t been out and about properly for nearly two months I’ve not seen how the city has been developing. Driving to Chorlton, there were low clouds and a bit of drizzle which restricted visibility. Later on the clouds lifted and the sun came out. I drove through the huge, complicated roundabout road system near Manchester United’s stadium. Those who know it will realise that, after driving along streets with a restricted view you suddenly get a spectacular vista that stretches from Media City to the city centre.

I had my breath taken away by the view towards the city centre where the two towers (of a total of four planned) of the Owen Street development have made a real impact on the skyline. They’ve really grown while I’ve been stuck at home. One of the ones currently being built will be a few floors below the height of the Hilton Tower and the second one will be Manchester’s new tallest building, at 64 floors, 17 floors taller than the Hilton.

Not my picture. I found it on the Manchester section of Skyscrapercity and they found in on Twitter somewhere. Thanks to both for this stunning picture. It must have been taken on one of those cold, frosty, brilliant blue sky days we had last week when the east of the country was snowbound but we had the sun. The new tallest building is on the right with the Hilton Tower sparkling in the centre.

It could be that normal service is going to be restored on my blog. After a two month (almost) hiatus, I’m out and about again. I have to say I was a bit naughty about it. I said I was going to a local sports store to get some new trainers for when I go to the gym on Monday. My existing ones are a bit tight on the damaged foot so I decided to buy some new ones, half a size up. That done I really needed to get to my opticians on Seymour Grove to pick up some new glasses I’d ordered just before the ankle incident. They had offered to send them but I really wanted to go in so I just carried on driving to Old Trafford. The optician was at their other store but would be back at 1pm so I went into nearby Chorlton, where all my recent travails began. Here’s the place where I slipped on the leaves. No one has cleared them away yet! I didn’t risk it by wandering down there again.

I wanted to see Eddie who either runs, or works in, this little car workshop just by where I had the accident. He, and one of the customers, came to my aid when I slipped, organised the ambulance and kept me calm and comfortable while I was waiting. Unfortunately, Eddie was over in Ireland attending a family funeral so I didn’t get to see him. He’ll be back on Tuesday. But the rest of the guys who worked there knew all about me it seems. I’ll go back again and see him. 

I went to the Post Box Café and treated myself to some of their delicious Eggs Benedict and coffee. By this time home was texting me wondering how long was it going to take me to choose a new pair of trainers. I said it would be a while to get a pair that were both comfortable and supportive of my ankle.

I wandered along Wilbraham Road to Cocoa, the artisan chocolate shop and café where they make the chocolate treats on the premises. I got some to enjoy while we watch the Strictly Come Dancing quarter final this evening. I saw a few things that would be good as Christmas presents as well.

Chorlton is lucky enough to have a range of independent shops including Out Of The Blue, the fishmongers. I loved the way they have painted their window.

A bag I saw at the Chorlton Art Market. It seems the local cats, operating out of the Horse and Jockey pub, are running a cartel in catmint! You don’t mess with the Chorlton Cat Cartel!

Before I headed to the opticians to pick up my new glasses, I treated myself to a glass of Pinot Grigio in ODDEST. A simple pleasure that I’ve not been able to enjoy for over two months. It was very satisfying. The bar was its usual self but they did have some new staff. I was served by a guy who was channelling his inner Tommy Shelby with his Peaky Blinder cap at a jaunty angle. 

I checked my blog. I had a message from someone else in the city who’s just suffered from a broken ankle. It seems we have the same doctor. Her operation was just last Wednesday and she was doing what I did at that time and searching the Internet to see how long it would be until her ankle would be back to normal. Her search had brought her to my blog. I’ve gone from operation to being able to get about, with some restrictions still, in just 7 weeks. I hope she has the same speedy recovery, if not faster. 

It was back to Wythenshawe Hospital yesterday for my first physiotherapy session to get my ankle working as it should be. I wasn’t sure what to expect, except I had heard these physiotherapists are tough! Mine, Gary, came out right on time to find me. He took me in a little cubical to chat. I’d thought he’d want to look at the foot but, once he’d found I was relatively mobile, he was more interested in how I was moving. He made me walk along a long corridor while he followed me to see how I moved. We ended up in the hospital gymnasium which looks like a high end gymnasium you’d pay a lot to belong to in Cheshire but without all the people checking themselves out in mirrored walls in state of the art Lycra. 

Gary immediately had me on an exercise bicycle set at a level so I could just feel it and the muscles in my ankle were working. Then there were stretches that pulled my ankle muscles in various ways and then some work on the treadmill. He made me stretch to the point that it kind of hurt. It’s a ‘no pain, no gain’ scenario I suppose. Once he was happy that I was OK with the exercises, he printed out an exercise schedule and let me go. I can go to my local gym to do the cycle and the treadmill and the stretches are any time I fancy. 

I left feeling good. That lasted until I got home and found that my ankle, unused to exercise at that level, had completely seized up! It’s going to happen like that until my ankle gets used to the new regime it seems. Over the evening it loosened up but after two hours watching Mary Berry explore Scone Palace in Scotland and last nights cliffhanging  episode of Peaky Blinders my ankle was as stiff as a board. It felt better this morning.

Another new pair of shoes arrived today. This time some Goodwin Smith Dark Wine Brogues. Ironic as I can’t get my left foot into them yet. But they are an incentive to get fit. On Monday I’m booked in at my gym with a personal trainer, Jimmy, so he can be sure that what I’m doing at the gym doesn’t work against with what Gary wants at the hospital. Somehow I’ve acquired two personal trainers! I could be a Khardashian. 

The shoes arrived by special delivery. I’d just about put them back in the box and the postman arrived with another parcel for me. This time it was some Christmas boxer shorts and PJs for me from myoddballs.com, the company I support because it supports research into male specific cancers. PJs for Christmas Eve and boxers for Christmas Day.