Category: My Life


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!

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. 

Another little step on the road to recovery this morning but maybe I shouldn’t have done it. I like to go out and turn the engine over on my Mini. It’s not had a run for nearly two months and could do with one. I thought I’d put it into reverse and back out along the drive to see how my foot felt. My bad left foot just does the gear change pedal, the good right foot does the hard stuff with the accelerator and the brakes. I reversed onto the road. It felt OK. I put it in first and was about to go back onto the drive when I wondered if I could get it round the block? It was mid morning and quiet so I tried. It went well.

Then I remembered that I’d run out of shaving foam and forgot to mention it this morning. And, having made some toast, I’d noticed that we were running short of bread. I decided to risk it and drive to the little Sainsbury’s store a couple of miles away. I got there and realised I didn’t have my crutches so, as it’s not a huge hypermarket, I thought I’d try that as well. I felt pleased with myself as I hobbled (hobbling better these days) across the little car park and round the little store. I got my shaving foam and bread and threw in some of the mince pies that I like to eat around Christmas. I also liked this Christmas ‘bag for life.’ Not sure how much shopping you can get in it but it would be cool to put an awkward shaped present in in a few weeks time.  

I’m wondering if anyone notices my shopping  and puts 2+2 together and realises how they got here. Personally, I’m really pleased with myself. Another step on my road to recovery. Tomorrow I’m back at hospital for a physio session. Bring it on!

I had a bit of an afternoon out. OK, it was just back to the hospital for a check up on my ankle but it was out and I’ll take it. I got there early so they sent me for an X-ray first which speeded the entire thing up. It must have been ankle afternoon. I got chatting to a guy who’d done his ankle in 15 years ago and is still trying to get it sorted out. I’m hoping it takes a lot less time to sort me out! And then I found myself chatting to a little guy (about 9) who was with his dad. He had broken his ankle playing football. He had a cute mini boot a bit like mine. 

The doctor was delighted with the progress. Both fractures have completely healed and I’m ready for the physio stage. I got to see the X-rays close up. Fascinating to see the metalwork in my ankle and even more interesting to see the size of the break in the first X-ray and how it’s completely healed now. I’m happy.

Given that I’ve had an ankle injury I’ve been amusing myself doing some internet shopping and I’ve, ironically, bought myself some shoes from a company called Goodwin Smith who make them and sell them from their factory in north Manchester. Good to support a local business. They are a bit pricey ‘but buy cheap and buy often’ is my motto. They are classic shoes but with something of a cool twist. I was, originally, buying one pair but treated myself to two. The problem is, at the moment, I can only wear the right foot ones. But the doc wants me back in big boy shoes (and big boy pants instead of shorts) by my next appointment, apparently just after Christmas. 

The shoes were a pleasure to open. This is how they arrived…

Inside there were two shoe boxes…

The shoe boxes had a second shoe box inside the first…

Open the second box and each of the shoes came in its own seperate bag…

I bought a pair of classy, classic black brogues, great with a suit and for work. They come with laces of course but you also get to choose some funky coloured laces so you can give them a bit of a lift when you feel like it. I went for purple with the black and orange for the blue (see below)…

And my second pair were brogues as well but in this funky blue leather, good for work but could also go with jeans on a night out…

I’m feeling a bit down at the moment. Being stuck inside with the broken ankle is definitely getting old. I have to wait for others to take me out to places and most places I’d like to go are off limits as I’m still not very mobile. I can walk with crutches and the boot but I’m slow. And this morning I walked with just the crutches, just in bare feet. There was no pain just a stiffness which may be because my ankle is still a bit swollen. The marks where the doctor cut into my foot are still there but they are neat and will probably fade with time. I go back to the hospital on the 22nd to see the doctor and I hope she’s going to say it has mended and I can start physio properly.

I’m feeling particularly down as the Christmas Markets start today in Manchester. On an ordinary Friday I could have finished work at lunchtime and gone into the city to have a check and, maybe, have the first mulled wine of the season. I hope I can get in at sometime before they close. Online Christmas shopping just isn’t the same as doing it in the real world. 

And the Christmas advertisements from the UK retail giants are being released. The one we all wait for is the John Lewis’s who have, for many years, set the bar for the quality of how a Christmas advert should be. None of that ‘here’s a pile of stuff we want to flog you this year’, more the ‘this is what Christmas is all about.’ This year they have a little boy who’s scared of something nasty that lives under his bed and how he comes to terms with it. It’s sweet but I still prefer the snowman epic they did a few years ago. A big plus is Guy Garvey and Elbow (from Manchester of course) have done the soundtrack. Listen to how he sings the word ‘lullaby’ in his velvety, Manchester accent. If you have never heard a Manchester accent, we all sing like that (in our heads in the shower at least).

Department store chain, Debenhams, have done this rather nice ‘boy meets girl’ take on the Cinderella story with them being brought together by social media. Again, nothing being sold just a nice message.

But the one I’m enjoying the most is the Marks & Spencer’s one. Paddington Bear from the children’s books (not sure how well known he is outside the UK) who mistakes a burglar for Father Christmas and helps him return all the presents he’s stolen back to their sleeping recipients. Nothing being sold from Marks & Spencer’s but another nice message. Cynics among you may have noticed that the movie Paddington Bear 2 is about to hit the cinemas

I had my first proper trip out today since the accident. I did try going to the big, local ASDA last Friday but it was a bit of a failure. It’s a huge store and the method I was trying to use to get about (using the crutches to throw my entire weight forward while keeping my bad foot and the moon boot off the ground) was exhausting. I had to give up and ended up sat on a bench outside the Barclay’s Bank concession with two old ladies who had bad legs as well. They must meet there regularly, ‘ooooo look’ they said ‘we’ve got a fella!’ 

There’s no pain when I put my foot on the ground in or out of the boot now but walking normally is impossible. But I can do it with the help of the crutches and it’s a lot less exhausting than my previous method. So we had a little trip out. I went round the little Sainsbury’s in Culcheth and enjoyed it. I never thought I’d look at a trip to a supermarket as a pleasure.

And we went to Bent’s, the wonderful garden centre near Culcheth just before you get to the East Lancs Road. It was all ready for Christmas and I enjoyed taking these pictures of their display. They are always worth a visit. They do these beautifully decorated trees. With an average price of about £6 an ornament we reckon it would cost £1000s to do an entire tree. 

It was weird, at my age, to find that people were holding doors open for me and stepping out of my way so I could get about. Very kind of them but I didn’t expect to be here for decades! Hopefully by Christmas I’ll be the one stepping out of people’s way and holding doors for them as they get about on crutches. And I hope I will get a chance to see at least some of the Christmas Markets in Manchester. They open soon and I love to visit them but it will be difficult with the crowds and the huge number of stalls that are stretched through the city centre.

I had my first mince pie of the season at Bents and a delicious coffee. I arrived home and wasn’t exhausted as well. Some of the pictures might be a bit fuzzy. It’s hard to hold a phone camera and balance on your crutches at the same time I’ve found!