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I went into Manchester Art Gallery to check out the rest of the ‘snowdrop’ installation put in to mark the opening of the gallery’s World War 1 art exhibition. I posted pictures of the ones outside a couple of weeks ago. They are still looking fresh in the cold, early spring, Manchester weather. I couldn’t get inside the gallery then as it was closed. Some more pictures here.

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Inside the warmth of the gallery has caused the snowdrops to flower early and there were few on show. That was a pity. When the installation is taken apart they will all be replanted in the city’s parks and gardens.

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Work has started on No. 2 St. Peter’s Square, a new office block next to No. 1. Am I alone in thinking there’s been a lack of imagination in the naming of them? I suppose they do what they say on the can.  At the moment they are demolishing the existing buildings including, sadly, Century House. From St. Peter’s Square this is what you see….

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But behind you can see the demolition taking place. You can see a part of No 1 St. Peter’s Square and the building on the left will eventually come down for another new office block called No. 3 St. Peter’s Square. More imaginative, creative thought I guess…

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Buildings seem to be shooting up all over the city at the moment. They start a project and then it seems to take months for anything to appear above ground. There’s lots of groundwork to be done, basements to be cut out and foundations to be laid. When that’s all happened suddenly the buildings shoot up. The first bit are the cores that will have the lift shafts and the like in.

This one is where Cambridge Street where it turns under the Oxford Road Station viaduct and into Whitworth Street. They are shoehorning a series of apartment towers into this tight spot. This core is for the tallest which will be 26 floors tall when complete. It reached floor 21 on Valentine’s Day (you can see the heart) and is now up to floor 25 in less than a week.

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This is what it’ll look like when it’s finished….

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Meanwhile, in Spinningfields, one of the cores of the Cotton Building has shot up to its full height. I posted about this project a couple of weeks ago on the 7th when there was one crane and no core. Now there are two cranes  one of the cores. The huge yellow struts have disappeared as well. As had some of the fencing around it. It was blown down in the wind and I was able to get to the edge of the hole to take some of the pictures. Having done so I went and reported it. Didn’t want anyone falling into it in the dark.

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Diagonally across Whitworth Street from the Deansgate/Castlefield tram station and the site of the Axis Tower, one of Manchester’s biggest building projects of the last few years is nearing completion. It’s on what’s called First Street and will be the home of Home, Manchester’s newest art centre that will bring together the homeless Library Theatre and the Cornerhouse gallery and art house cinemas later this spring. I’m still not sure about the location of this venture. It’s a bit off the beaten track. Cornerhouse is on Oxford Street near the Palace Theatre on the main route from the universities into the city centre and the Library Theatre was on St. Peter’s Square in the actual library. We shall see how it fares. I read what they are putting on in their first season and there was nothing I actually wanted to go and see. Oh dear….

And I’m not that keen on the look of the area. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can get in and the landscaping is in place. This is the hotel they have built. It’s one of a Spanish chain called Innside. It’s a bit too blocky and red for my taste. It took me a while to see it actually had windows. The red did look good against the blue of the sky though.

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The new buildings are all different, geometric shapes, building materials and styles. There’s no harmony. Sometimes a jumble of styles can work, most European cities are like this and people come from all over the planet to visit them. But it doesn’t work, yet, here. This block will be full of restaurants and cafes. It’s all pointy and angular. The restaurants worry me as well. We have a slew of new restaurants opening along Deansgate and in Spinningfields. And later in the summer the entire Corn Exchange on Exchange Square will open with goodness knows how many new eateries. These, in an out of the way part of the city, might struggle. Oh dear….

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This is the home of Home. It looks black but is blue. And it looks a bit overshadowed by the surrounding buildings. It’s not a ‘look at me’ building which I think arts institutions have to be. I’m told the inside will be state of the art but the outside looks like it is apologising for taking up the space. The gold coloured building behind it is a multi-storey car park.

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Jammed between the Deansgate/Castlefield tram station and the Rochdale Canal is a tiny piece of land not as big as our garden. It’s minute. On to this tiny, but expensive piece of land they are going to build a twenty eight storey apartment building, the Axis Tower. It was actually started in 2008 as an office tower but fell foul of the recession. With the UK economy bouncing back and the Manchester economy out performing the economy generally, it’s time to dust off the plans. The ground floor will fit the piece of land but then the rest of the building will be canterlivered out so that the other floors will be much wider than the ground floor allowing them to provide space for the apartments.  There will be some huge, very expensive penthouses at the top. It’s an interesting idea.

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This is what it will look like as you leave St. Peter’s Square near the Midland Hotel. You can also see the city’s symphony concert hall, the Bridgewater Hall. It’s just passed its last hurdle of planning permission. They want to put a huge screen on the side facing the city for advertising. The people running the tram system were concerned that the moving images might distract the tram drivers. And we wouldn’t want a tram in the Rochdale Canal would we? It’s a very striking building. The people behind it have also hinted at the possibility of another tower just across the street from this one.

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Saturday looks like it’s going to be the best day of the weekend weather-wise. Tomorrow is going to be wet and windy and they are talking about blizzards up in the hills to the east of the city. And on Monday, as the kids go back to school after their half term break, there might be snow in the city itself. It’s a shame about tomorrow as Sunday will be the main day for the celebrating of Chinese New Year with the heavy rain arriving just as the dragon and the lion are about to dance in China Town. I hope the rain holds off until after that but it’s not looking hopeful.

I decided to go in on a bit of a camera safari, see what I could find and take pictures of the Chinese New Year celebrations that were going on today. I drove the new car to Chorlton, parked up, had some coffee and cake in my favourite Post Box Cafe and then took the tram into the city. I decided to get off at Deansgate/Castlefield station. It, like the rest of Manchester it seems, is a building site. They are expanding the station to cope with all the extra traffic it will have to take when the second city crossing is finished.

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It was busy today. Lots of trams….

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I really like the new glass canopy over the platform. It is engraved with leaves and butterflies…

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Some pictures of the Hilton Tower that looms over the station. Compare the sky over the Central Convention Centre at the top of this post and the sky behind the Hilton in the picture below. They look like they were taken on completely different days but were actually taken with in minutes of each other this morning….

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I’ve got a new car. It’s been a bitter sweet experience. It’s always nice to have something new and I do like my new car but I was very sad to part with my old one. I’ve had him (I’m sure I’m not the only guy on the planet to have a strong relationship with his car) a long time and I was very sad to see him go. There was actually a little tear as he was driven off. But it had to be done. He was getting on and was costing a lot to keep on the road and the figures didn’t stack up. Hopefully, where he’s gone he’ll get a thorough service and go on to give pleasure to someone else. That’s what I like to tell myself anyway.

He’s been replaced with this spiffy Mini Clubman with a hard top in beautiful British Racing Green. I love the white roof and the mirrors. Just picked him up this afternoon so I was driving him tentatively but he does handle well and certainly has some power under the bonnet. I’m sure we will be happy together.

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The app for my online banking was acting up. Now my bank is the one that says that if you go in they will help you with computer problems. And they were as true as their word. A few clicks and a couple of phone calls somewhere and my app was working again.

The lady helping me spotted the picture of Albert Square below that I took a while ago and use as a wallpaper on my iPad. ‘What a beautiful picture!’ she said. ‘Is it Rome?’ Visit Manchester were delighted…..

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I’m very fond of this stand of cherry trees that grow alongside the playing field of a school near where I live. At the moment, in late winter, very early spring, they show their bare bones against the deep blue of the sky. In a few weeks they will be covered in white cherry blossom and then tiny, bronze coloured leaves. In summer the leaves deepen in colour to a dark green and, if the weather is kind, we get a wonderful crop of dark red cherries. Walking to pick up the Sunday papers I help myself to a few. Then in the autumn, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow before falling to start the entire process again.

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ISIS is still in control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, doing vile things to the people who live there. They are now in control of parts of Libya. Their murder of some Egyptian Coptic Christians has brought down the wrath of the Egyptian military upon them further ratcheting up tensions in an already tense part of the world. Unpleasant people are still up to no good in Nigeria. And even seemingly safe cities in civilised Europe like Paris and Copenhagen are not immune to attack.

In the Ukraine the cease fire didn’t really start with the two sides still lobbing shells at each other over who owns which ruined town or city. How that’s going to play out is anyone’s guess.

Greece has a new government that wants an end to the conditions forced upon them because of their dire financial condition. Basically they have been enjoying a German style standard of living on a third world income. The debacle is unsettling the Eurozone and stopping the continent from recovering economically. Although we are not part of the Eurozone, we won’t be immune to what happens as Europe is our biggest trading partner.

But, to put it all in perspective, in Chorlton we have Quinoagate….

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