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Bents….

Another day working from home. I did my allocation of work and, as I could leave my team until the evening, we went out for a couple of hours to look at Bents, the massive garden centre off the East Lancs Road between Leigh and Warrington.

Apart from the roses, there wasn’t a lot of colour there. We are in the June dip. The spring flowering plants have finished and, apart from the aforementioned roses, we are waiting for the late summer flowers to begin. It all looked a bit green.

We had a wander along the water features part. They have a huge selection. To be honest, I just like a natural pond. The water features were tacky and expensive. These were cute but neither will be making their way into our garden.

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I did, however, like the lanterns that you could hang in your trees. Would look wonderful on a warm summer evening if we ever get any of those.

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I’m working from home for the next few weeks. Well most of the time. I have to be strict with myself and make sure that I do my daily quota. If not it can pile up and I’m not great under pressure. So I got up really early, had a bath and then I was down to it. I’d achieved all I needed to do by the end of Woman’s Hour ( iconic programme on BBC Radio 4 in the UK for people abroad). And that was after hearing the latest news about last week’s calamity..it seems that Team Leave was really Team Liar. And listening to the latest politician to jump ship in the Labour Party. We are going through interesting times. If anyone in America thinks their political situation is a mess, they should try walking in our shoes at the moment. All I have to do today is check on my team if needed.

On the positive side I was able to drive over to Gemini, Warrington and get some stuff from the huge Marks & Spencer’s there. And I had a poke about in IKEA. After last week’s personal difficulties we are having a few jobs done on the house. I was looking at lighting. IKEA was packed with pregnant ladies. I’ve never seen so many in one place outside of Mothercare.

Between the two stores I saw this Bug Hotel. I’ve seen a few of these but this was the most elaborate I’ve ever seen. It’s the Ritz, the Waldorf Astoria, the Midland Hotel of the bug world. As you would expect near a Marks & Spencers of course. The store is in the background.

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I’ve set up a little potted garden on the ugly man (person?) hole on the edge of our garden. All the plants have come from my friend, Pete, from the Post Box Café in Chorlton. Yesterday he had a lot of roses. One was a beautiful coppery red colour and had a beautiful perfume. It was called Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’. So I bought one and some sweet smelling pinks as well, a big plant pot from B&Q and added to the garden. It’s a bit garish I suppose but I like it and it’s better than a grey, concrete slab. You can see the rose in the picture. The extra picture is a close up. Sorry you can’t enjoy the perfume.

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The little garden I designed and put together in St. Ann’s Square for last year’s Dig The City Festival is still going strong on the terrace at the Post Box Café in trendy Chorlton. It isn’t mine to look after anymore but It’s well looked after and I like to see how it’s developing and changing.

Pete, who sells plants outside the café most weekends, and who helped me with my garden last year, is a great fan of tropical plants which is is possible to grow even in cold, damp Manchester closer to the North Pole than the tropics. He’d brought some banana plants and other tropical plants to develop the garden. They will be quite happy here over the summer but will need to be taken indoors for the winter of course.

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It hasn’t been the best week for me personally. I’m kind of on an edge most of the time and likely to fall apart over the smallest thing. So…..

I really cannot come to terms with the calamity that has befallen our country in the last 24 hours. We now face a painful divorce from Europe, the destruction of the U.K., the young people of the country, who overwhelming voted to remain, have been betrayed and goodness knows who will be in charge of us in a few weeks time. I don’t like the selection on offer at all. And the country is bitterly divided.

All the advantages of being part of the largest, richest trading block on the planet have been thrown away because some people don’t like migrants coming here to work or refugees coming for safety. That I got from four different co-workers as they explained why they voted leave. Shame on them. As you might gather I’m annoyed. I appear to be working with racists. The sort that say ‘I’m not a racist but….’

In spite of what Boris says about moving into sunlit uplands or whatever, I have felt depressed and sickened about what has happened today. We are in for an unpleasant few years. Dark clouds are gathering like there were over Croft this afternoon.

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I’ve just been down to the local primary school to do my patriotic duty and vote in the EU referendum. Even though it was the middle of the day it was busy. The people manning it said that it has been busy all day and they expect queues later on today when people get in from work. It is the first time I’ve voted when I’ve felt my vote actually counted. I also took part in an exit poll as I left. That’s never happened before either. I have to say that I’m a big fan of Proportional Representation. It worries me that things like 15% of the vote for one party got 56 seats in the last general election while the same percentage for another party got them just 1. Democracy? Not a proper one yet.

The referendum has dominated the news here for the last few months. And as we have got close to the actual day, it’s being reported around the world. Important people from President Obama to David Beckham have been canvassed for their thoughts (both inners) and pundits from around the world have been opining about how it will affect the UK, Europe and the world generally. When the 5th richest country in the world contemplates a change in circumstances it will have repercussions for all. We will see.

And Manchester will be at the centre of it all tomorrow when the result comes in as the announcement will come from Manchester’s historic Town Hall. Albert Square is packed  with TV companies from around the world and the hotels and bars are full of the press waiting for the result. I’m not sure why it’s happening in Manchester. Maybe the government don’t want, if it’s OUT, the news coming from London. Or maybe they want to show Northern Powerhouse Manchester off to the world. Pictures of Manchester will be flashed around the world tomorrow. The sun is out and the city looks good. I’ll wave.

If you are interested, I voted to remain.

Oklahoma, not the state or the Rogers & Hammerstein musical, but a shop on High Street in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. It sells all kinds of wonderful but kitsch bits and pieces that you probably don’t need but would like. Lots of bright plastics, ’70s lampshades, ornaments made from recycled materials, old tin toys you thought had been banned for health and safety reasons. It’s great for buying unusual presents for friends or finding funky stuff to decorate your home. 

It occupies the ground floor of an attractive Victorian office/warehouse building. Not one of the grandest buildings in the city but one of those that fills in the spaces between the big architectural set pieces and adds a great deal to the ambiance of the city. This building and business greatly add to the Northern Quarter.

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And if you are looking for an unusual present for a friend (or for yourself) here’s a selection on offer at the moment. And Christmas is a joy.

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I particularly like the chickens that seem to have been made out of old plastic shopping bags…

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And the flamingo corner was cool…

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Looking like a Monet Impressiont painting, these poppies, with rice paper thin petals, looked beautiful in a corner of Hulme Park on the edge of the city centre. We are literally within metres of the roar of the inner ring road but we could be in the middle of Cheshire somewhere. They are one of our most spectacular summer wildflowers.

Poppies are very emotive flowers in the UK. They are the ones we associate with our war dead. They like disturbed soil to germinate and they found the killing fields of Northern France and Belgium perfect at the end of World War I where they covered the battlefields in 1919 after the war finished the previous winter. Blood red, they were adopted as a symbol for fallen heroes.

On July 1st the Queen will be coming to Manchester Cathedral to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme which has particular resonance in this part of the world when 1000s were killed and injured on the first day of the battle from this region, including the Accrington Pals. Accrington, a former mill town north of the city, had nearly a generation of young men wiped out in just one day.

We should consider these things when we vote on the EU referendum on Thursday. Whatever problems the EU may have, one of the things it has helped guarantee is the 70 years of peace we have enjoyed.

Political speech over.

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Red Lion Street….

Red Lion Street is a little street in the Northern Quarter. I’m not sure how it got its name. I assume there might have been a Red Lion Public House on it at one point, now long gone. There are certainly no lions of any colour on it now. It’s just off Church Street which also confuses me as I can’t find any evidence of it ever having had a church on it or that it ever led to one.

Red Lion Street isn’t a thing of beauty. On one side it has an eyesore multi-storey car park thrown up in the 1960s when this part of the city was being eyed up for wholesale destruction. Thank goodness they never managed to get round to doing it. The Northern Quarter is one of Manchester’s most vibrant areas. I’d love to see that car park torn down and something more interesting put in its place. I’ve never worked out how you could get your car into this part of town anyway, the traffic system is so convoluted. I catch the tram these days and walk to it. The other side of Red Lion Street is a piece of wasteland. I’ve no idea what was there in the past, it’s just been a weed patch for as long as I’ve known it.

Bits of wasteland in the Northern Quarter are at a premium of course and it’s  this particular piece that’s attracted the developers who want to build some apartments on it.  This is what it will look like. Lots of glass and red brick to reflect the older buildings around it. You can see the car park as well. Not a thing of beauty.

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It’s a weird shape. While most of the building is on Red Lion Street it also includes a building on parallel Union Street. It looks as if it might have been a substantial house in the distant past. It’s very dilapidated at the moment but they are keeping it and restoring the facade.

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I suspect the back of the building will go though. It looks too far gone to save.

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This is what they plan to do with the Union Street house. Restore the brick, reglaze the windows.

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There has been a bit of controversy about the scheme as some people have objected to the plan because it hides a piece of street art on a close by building. The art work won’t be destroyed, you just won’t be able to see it as clearly as you do now. But it will still be there. We’ll see how that goes.

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However, if I lived in one of the apartments in an, already restored, building on Union Street, I might object to them building something literally a couple of metres form my large window and Juliet balcony. But, if you live in a busy city you have to expect this sort of thing. If you want space and no neighbours, move to Cheshire. 

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If the UK votes to leave the EU next Thursday, Mr Cameron may have to go as well. Who will be PM? The money is on Boris. If the American electorate vote for Donald instead of Hillary in November this could be how Anglo American relations could look by Christmas. Spotted today by Shudehill tram station in Manchester.