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It’s been months since I’ve been in China Town so I thought I’d give it a Chinese New Year checkout. While no where near as busy as Sunday was, with the streets filled with stalls and fairground rides and thousands of people, Saturday was still busy with people coming out to celebrate new year. Most of the restaurants had queues outside. People were milling about by the Imperial Arch and looked as if they were staking a claim to a prime spot to watch the arrival of the dragons and lions the following day.

The two cranes in the last picture below mark where they are building another office block, on the edge of China Town, on the site of the old Odeon Cinema. And it’s nice to see that building (top picture), behind the arch that caught fire is being restored. There were businesses on the ground floor but the top floors were empty. Sadly some homeless people got in, lit a fire to keep warm in the depths of winter, and died in the ensuing fire. 

I popped into Wong Wong Bakery on Princess Street and bought some delicious baked goods. Two cream filled doughnut type cakes (one with alarming purple cream) and half a dozen Chinese takes on the ever popular egg custard tarts.

The golden dragon was in St. Ann’s Square. The BBC had tweeted that he was on the plaza in front of their studios in Media City. He wasn’t! I know because I’d gone out of my way on the tram system to go find him. It’s a good job I like riding the tram. He had been there but at some point he’d flown back to St. Ann’s Square to pose with people for selfies on Twitter. He was doing a roaring trade. He’s become something of a fixture at Manchester’s Chinese New Year celebrations. 

There were some street kitchens cooking Chinese food. They were doing a roaring trade as well with queues across the square. There was Japanese food as well. It was new year there as well. A few weeks ago I saw fireworks in cities like Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong for western new year so it’s cool we return the compliment. 

The Confucius Institute at the University of Manchester has set up in the Arndale Centre letting passing kids have a go at Chinese crafts like calligraphy. It looked cool and I wanted a go but queuing for an hour with 8 years olds wasn’t going to be on the itinerary. 

Yesterday was Chinese New Year. I also noted that it was New Year in Korea as well. So possibly it’s New Year right across Eastern Asia? Vietnam? Japan? I’m really not sure. It’s the Year of the Dog. It is a year where traits such as loyalty, unconditional love, positive attitudes and kindness come to the fore. Qualities that many dogs have. On the negative side they can be rigid and stubborn. They can be irritated and pessimistic when things don’t go their way. What that means for the world, I’m not sure. We will see. We are all, sometimes, too pessimistic about the way the world is going. But, it seems that the planet has never been so peaceful or prosperous with billions of us having increasingly good, long, fulfilled lives. When you look at other periods in history when we could have lived we are very lucky. We just need a few people to calm down and join the party.

Manchester likes to celebrate Chinese New Year. We have the third largest Chinese community in Europe after London and Paris. The city is enjoying a boom, partially financed by Chinese money with developments like Middlewood Locks and Airport City being bankrolled from China. More flights to Chinese cities are only going to encourage this and groups of Chinese tourists have become a feature, touring the city. 

Albert Square was decorated with Chinese lanterns in readiness for the dragon and lion dances tomorrow and the parade that will make its way from there to China Town.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

When Darth Vader isn’t conquering galaxies and destroying random planets with Death Stars, there’s nothing he likes better than entertaining the shoppers with his keyboard outside Marks & Spencer’s in Manchester.

We’ve had Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and we are now into Lent. I’m still thinking about what to give up. That’s means we’re getting closer to Easter. Easter Sunday is April 1st. It used to be something of a low key celebration restricted to going to church and eating the odd chocolate egg. But of late it’s morphing into a kind of yellow and green Christmas like Hallowe’en is orange Christmas. A celebration of the return of Spring. All very pagan. Commercial businesses have begun to catch onto it and there are now Easter cards and the shops are filling with things to decorate your home. Bents, who always do the most wonderful Christmas displays, have used their skills to do a very pretty Easter display. I took some pictures…

I’m not sure when or how I became interesting in garden. It used to be something that older members of the family did. But sometimes I would help and something of their enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on me. I love the idea of planting something in the ground or in a pot and a few weeks later you are rewarded with something beautiful or edible. 

I wasn’t able to do much gardening this winter because of my ankle and the garden did look in a sorry state. I had to engage a gardener to do a good tidy up. I’ve now got a blank canvas to work on and I’m full of plans. I’m having a shed delivered on Tuesday. It will be part for gardening and part for sitting in and doing ‘real’ work on nice summer days. I’ve sited it so I can log onto the house wifi. And I’m poring over the Farrow & Ball paint charts to find a suitable colour to paint the interior. Favourite so far is Parma Grey, which is actually a shade of blue. 

I had bought some tulips to plant just before my tumble and they finally made it into their pots in January. I’ve discovered that tulips don’t like our damp soil, they just rot. But they are very happy in pots. I wanted some violas to plant with them but had a specific idea of what colours they should be. Sadly the fashion seems to have changed and my choice isn’t available this year. Even Bents let me down.

Here are the choices I’m looking at as a substitute… 

Yesterday I was back at the hospital for, what proved to be, my final appointment after my ankle injury back in October last year. It was a final time with my physio, Neil, and, while I’m pleased to be putting the entire business behind me, I will be sorry not to see Neil again. He talks a lot of sense and while I’ve been exercising we’ve had a bit of a laugh as well.

Neil…’Do you wake up stiff in the morning?’

Me….’We are still talking about my ankle, aren’t we?’

He got me running on the treadmill yesterday. I’ve not run since October. It wasn’t very good and I woke up limping this morning (avoided ‘stiff’ there). But it’s up to me now to make progress. So I was in my gym, with personal trainer, Jim, to up my routine so that I continue to get better. While I was with Jim, our cleaner was cleaning the house and the guy who cleans the windows was there as well. What with the gardeners and all, I’ve become very ‘Cheshire’ with all these staff. Ideas way above my station.

I’ve been thinking about the care I’ve had over the last few months with the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK. It came under fire from Mr. Trump who had been watching something on Fox News saying that it was falling apart and people were out on the streets protesting about it. He was holding this up as the kind of system they didn’t want in America as it was expensive and didn’t work. Well it was ‘fake news’ Mr Trump. People weren’t protesting that the NHS should be replaced, rather they were protesting that not enough money was spent on it. It’s had a bad January it’s true. We have been hit by Aussie Flu and the jabs we can get to counter the flu have no effect on this strain. It’s a nasty one it seems with bad symptoms. The best thing to do is to take time off work, stay in bed, take some paracetamol and let your body deal with it, it’s a virus and there’s nothing hospitals can do about it anywhere, regardless of how they are funded. People were taking their vulnerable relatives to hospitals where they could do little and the virus could spread to people who are ill with other things. So that was that.

January was difficult to be sure. But most of the year our well provisioned hospitals and health services with some of the top facilities on the planet do very well. So to me. This is how my care developed at the Manchester University Hospital at Wythenshawe. It, along with the Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) is one of the teaching hospitals for the medical school in the university. It has the best of everything and is well staffed with top doctors and nursing staff. As well as making people better, they do masses of research into new procedures. If you’re going to get ill, Manchester is a great place to do it. 

I slipped and damaged my ankle on the 7th October last year. Within ten minutes of my rescuers phoning, the paramedics had arrived and I was being loaded into an ambulance. The people who found me were wonderful and the traffic came to a halt on Barlow Moor Road as people in cars realised that my needs were more important than their Saturday morning errands. All through this event I’ve found that people are very kind and considerate. 

Twenty minutes later I was at Wythenshawe Hospital. There was no wait and, seeing the perculiar angle my foot was to my leg, I was taken straight into Resus. There I was seen immedialty and a doctor eased my dislocated ankle back into place. Not something I’d like to have done again but the ‘gas and air’ certainly helped. If ever offered it, please do try it! Within a hour I had been X-rayed and it was found that two bones were broken, one fully, the other partially.

It was a sufficiently interesting situation that the top doctor/consultant, the wonderful Miss Fox, decided she wanted a crack at it. ‘I can do this’ she said exuding confidence. You always want a doctor with confidence when they are going to cut into you. Because of swelling, it couldn’t be done that day so was done the following day, Sunday, in a well provisioned operating theatre with a full complement of medical staff. I remember arriving and waking up after but nothing in between as I was away with the fairies somewhere. I did have to option to be awake while they did it but didn’t fancy two hours or so of being cut into while awake even if I didn’t feel a thing.

The next day they had me, and cast, up on my feet and ‘walking’. Two days later, possibly three, I was home. 

Then there was the aftercare. I had three appointments with Miss Fox and several with Neil, the physio. On each occasion I was seen on time by both of them and once, because I like to get there early and Miss Fox had some spare time, I was seen early. On each occasion I was given time to talk and discuss my case, and each time progress was seen to be made. Miss Fox says it could be another eight months before I’m fully recovered. She also offered, if the metalwork in my ankle begins to hurt, to take it out. All I have to do is see my own doctor and request her to do it.

I don’t recommend anyone breaking an ankle. It’s painful and it ruins your life for several weeks. But if you do have one, having it in the UK is a good place to have it. You will be looked after by some of the best medical staff on the planet in hospitals that bear comparison with the best in the world. I had a fair amount to think about while I was disabled but the cost of it wasn’t one of those things. All my hospital expenses, plus making up my wages at work, was covered by the state. I may have been disabled but I didn’t have to worry about how to pay for my excellent care or how I could afford to live while I recovered.

This is why we have the NHS. All the care I got would be given to anyone else in the UK from someone living on the streets to the Queen in her palace or the Prime Minister. It’s how we like it. Of course, it isn’t free, it just appears to be. It’s paid for through our taxes. And we may pay a little more in taxes than say, America, but we pay NOTHING in insurance. And, I suspect that if you looked at the amount we pay in taxes and compare it to the amount Americans pay in taxes and medical insurance, we will be better off.

So Mr Trump was calling out our NHS on Twitter. It certainly provoked a reaction this side of the Pond. But a few facts…..the UK spends 10% of its GDP on healthcare, the US spends just under 17%. For that UK men live, on average, 3 years longer than their American peers, for women there is a 2 year gap in the UK’s favour. The infant mortality rate in the US is TWICE as high as in the UK and we get upset about ours. There are 28,000,000 people without adequate health insurance in the US, in the UK the number is 0! We spend less money and have a better outcome. The NHS may have its problems but we will cope with them and they pale into insignificance compared to being poor, or even quite well off, in America where people are bankrupted by medical bills. For now, I’ll be staying this side of the Pond.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Manchester. Here we are feeling the love from No1 Spinningfields with this huge red heart lit up across the building for the last few nights. The building is finished now and the tenants are moving in. The top floor restaurant, with its outdoor terrace on the roof of the building, opens in early March. We’re thinking we might leave it for now and try it out for a lunch or dinner on a warm day in summer when we can properly enjoy the views from that, open to the elements, terrace. May not be quite so much fun on a cold, wet, grey day in March.

Pictures courtesy of No1 Spinningfields itself via Twitter…

While I’ve been incapacitated I’ve got out of the habit of taking pictures for my blog. Walking to places can be difficult still. Hopefully I can get back into it. I was over in Northwich this morning and then had to head back to Manchester. I could have come back on the busy M56 but decided to return by the quiet lanes. I wasn’t quite sure where I was but I kept my eye open for signs for Knutsford and eventually found my way home. At one point I went past a place called Feldy Oak Farm. Two things made me stop. The first thing was these two carved figures gauarding the farm gate…

And the second thing was these clumps of  beautiful snowdrops that have fought their way through the tangle of grass to flower. They are one of the first flowers to bloom in an Engkish Spring and they are a welcome sight after a dark winter. They look delicate but they are tough little cookies, being able to survive bitterly cold, frosty nights…

Nothing to do with my trip but I found this picture on TWITTER. Someone has gone to the trouble of doing this picture of future Manchester. Took me a while to work out what I was looking at. Bottom centre is the Central Convention Centre and the roof of the Bridgewater Hall, to the left you can see the Hilton Tower dwarfed by the fantasy skyscrapers. On the extreme right you can just see the tower of the Town Hall, almost invisible against an enormous tower. Some of the city’s most attractive architecture will have been torn down to build it. All a fantasy of course but the likes of English Heritage would have a fit if any of these towers ever made it into the real world in their present positions. Good fun though and a lot of hard work by someone. 



After months of living in a cultural desert, there were three outings in the same week. After ‘Strictly’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’ it was off to the Bridgwater Hall, last Friday, to see the Kodo Drummers from Japan. I’d heard of them and seen them on TV but never live. When I saw they were coming to Manchester I thought they would be perfect to take, good friend, Andy, and his lovely girlfriend, Leanne, to after they turned up at the hospital with a card and chocolate when I needed it most months ago. Andy is an accomplished drummer himself and I keep getting at him to do something with it. But running a house and a life needs a steady income so that has to come first. But, with a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time, I’m convinced he could do well. I’d hate him to get to 70 and wonder ‘what if?’

Andy and Leanne had no idea what they were going to see and I suppose it could have all gone horribly wrong. It didn’t. Well I doubt it did. We caught the train into Manchester and began the evening in my new favourite, Refuge Bar, at the Principal Hotel drinking cocktails. Life is hard.

It was then down to the Bridgewater for the concert. The Kodo Drummers are good on TV but are amazing live. They beat rhythms on drums of various sizes, singly, in pairs, in threes, the entire ensemble. From quiet, complex rhythms to great walls of thunderous sound from huge drums. We marvelled at how they kept together as the rhythms became more and more complex, till the sound filled the hall and your body rhythms meshed with the sound from the drums. It was thrilling. They must just go into the zone and do it. If they thought about what they were doing or where they were they would lose it. Lots of practice I suppose.

Some pictures of the tour from the Kodo Drummers. Many thanks to them for them…

We went to Homemade Burger Co. on Deansgate for some supper. Then it was home on the train.

Here’ s a little video of the Kodo Drummers in action. We saw some of this but I think they change the concert for each venue to keep it fresh and to rest the drummers. As you can see you need a lot of strength and physicality to be one of these drummers, especially the guys on the huge drums…