Category: My Life


I’ve spent the weekend getting my team in order for the work I have to do over the next few weeks. Here they are! Not really! The real team are scattered across the UK in reality. But I’m going to be facing this crew for most of the time. One of the techy guys from work came to put in a new wireless printer and make sure all my devices ‘talk’ to it. It’s a good job he did as I usually end up swearing at new devices, which I’m told, does no good whatsoever. 

The laptop is my work one. It stays at home these days. I work on my iPad mostly and transfer whatever is needed to the laptop. Until this morning there was an old desktop computer and monitor that used to be state of the art but are now obsolete. So, that gone, I had lots of room to spread out the ‘team.’ The techy guy went behind the desk and pulled out a spaghetti mess of unused wires and cables. He even found the old copper ‘dial up’ cable that we used to use when you couldn’t make a phone call and use the computer at the same time. All this lot on the desk is wireless connected which is cool. At some point I will have to take all the wires and cables to be recycled. There must be valuable metals in them and we’ll never use them again. 

I wonder what our computer setups will be like in 20 years time? I’ll still have the crew though.

It’s been the second day of the big meeting at the Mecure Hotel today. It seems to have gone well. And it was nice to be in a building with great air con on such a hot day. It’s a couple of degrees hotter than it was yesterday and even more sticky as thunderstorms are about.

It was about 70 when I arrived in the city centre at 7am this morning, quite pleasant except that was as cool as it was going to get. I had a very Manchester experience just after I got off the tram. I went for a coffee in the branch of Starbucks I went to yesterday. I ordered my coffee and moved to the other end of the counter where the barista prepares it for you. The guy behind me in the queue ordered his and followed me to the end of the counter. He looked at the barista guy, decided he liked what he saw and in less than the two minutes it took to prepare my coffee, he’d flirted with the barista and managed to secure his number and a date for a drink at Barca this evening. I’d just ordered a flat white, where would he have got to if I’d ordered something more complicated?

My life is going to be busy for the next few weeks, certainly got no time to flirt myself into dates with any staff at Starbucks. But I am going to have to make time to go see something I’ve been specifically invited to. It’s Manchester International Festival time. It’s a big deal for the city with all kinds of world premieres taking place. Like with all these big festivals, a festival fringe is growing up around it.

I’ve been invited to one of the Manchester fringe events. The old Bauer Millet car showroom in the arches near the Hilton Tower has been converted into a theatre space, 53two. A production called ‘The Marriage of Kim K’ is being put on in it. From what I gather it’s a mash up of Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians.’ Intrigued and looking forward to it….

Today was the first day of my really busy period of the year at work. I won’t be getting out and about much for the next few weeks so there won’t be many opportunities to be out and about taking pictures and writing on here. If you are a regular reader please forgive me. Normal service will be resumed at the end of July unless I can organise myself and my team so I can get out earlier.

We have two days at the Hotel Mecure on Piccadilly Gardens to kick off with. It’s a good venue, all retro 1960s decor after the refurbishment. I really wanted to go back to the Principal Hotel (Palace Hotel as was). We stopped going when some of the ornate ceiling fell onto our stuff while we were having lunch. They have had a major refurbishment (including the ornate ceilings) and the food is A-MA-ZING since West Didsbury restaurant, Volta, took over. May be next year.

I came into the city early this morning. We are having a heatwave at the moment. It was 32C yesterday and climbed a degree or two more today. I had a coffee in the branch of Starbucks on Peter Street, off St. Peter’s Square, while I checked through my notes and plans for the day.

I like this branch of Starbucks. It’s in a little 1960s office block on the corner of Peter Street and Mount Street. What I like is that it has these huge plate glass windows that look out onto some of the best architecture in the city. No1 St. Peter’s Square, the beautiful Midland Hotel and St. George’s House (used to be the YMCA). The flags are still at half mast on the Midland, and on buildings across the city. It’s been a month since the attack at the Ariana Grande concert but, sadly, that wasn’t the last of the attacks. We are living in ‘interesting’ times as the Jewish curse says.

We had a huge meeting in the ballroom of the Mercure which was the only space we could find available and big enough to take all the people. I spent the day organising flapjacks and watermelon lollipops and making sure people who’d arrived that morning could get to their hotels across the city. Then giving advice on which restaurants they might enjoy for dinner, ringing to make reservations and the like. I am exhausted! I like the bling chandeliers. It a a favourite spot for weddings, especially those over the top, Bollywood inspired Asian weddings.

The restaurant of the Mecure looks down into Piccadilly Gardens. On a hot, sunny lunchtime it was busy with people chilling (not really possible when the temperature is 33C) and relaxing. The fountains are working again! But for how long? I stayed inside with the air con…

I’m making the most of the last of my few remaining days of relative freedom before I get really busy next week. The sun is out and Manchester has summer big time. The little display in my car registered 30c (86F) this afternoon, and the hot weather is going on into next week. I went into the city centre this morning to find pollen bakery again. It was easy this time with no trips down dank underpasses. And, with it being sunny, the queue was longer than last week. But I stuck it out. Last week’s baguette was a huge success but people were miffed I’d eaten the only custard tart I’d bought so I had to buy more. This is this week’s haul. The bread, I’m assured, is great with cheese, TWO custard tarts and the other confection is croissant dough baked in a muffin tin, filled with some kind of curd and topped with chocolate and edible gold. Not tried them yet. Will let you know!

I walked, in the increasing heat, to St. Ann’s Square where a market had been set up on the newly scrubbed paving. The city seems to have invested in some black and yellow, bee coloured awnings for the stalls. The idea of the market was to bring a bit of normality to the city centre which has, of course, experienced some very abnormal times. St. Ann’s Square in particular was involved as the central point for mourning. The market was mostly food and Manchester and bee based pharaphalia.

Robinson’s had a stall there. They are a much more established Manchester bakery than pollen. They have been around the city since 1864 and sell their baked goods in the north of the city. Can’t think why they don’t come to the south, they would go down well in Chorlton and the like. They do like to come to the city centre markets though. 

They make local delicacies. They are famous for their breads which would give pollen or Barbaken in Chorlton a run for their money. 

These are potato cakes, a flat bread made with potato flour. Originally something the poor of the city would eat, they are popular and delicious. You grill them slightly and then melt butter and cheese into them. Wonderful stuff.

And these little beauties are Manchester Tarts. They are a sweet pastry bottom covered with a layer of raspberry jam (jelly for Americans reading), then you get a rich vanilla custard topped off with desiccated coconut. I remember having them made by grandmas at home and eating them made at school for lunch. Now you will find them, admittedly changed a bit, on the menus of the finest restaurants in the city. And I’ve even had a Manchester Tart flavoured vodka.

Some I ❤️ MCR shortbread and gingerbread.

On King Street, which also looks as if it’s had a bit of a clean, the All England Tennis Club had set up shop. With all the goings on in the UK going on we have rather lost sight of the the ordinary pleasures of life. One of which is the annual Wimbledon Tennis Tournament which starts soon (3rd July). Sir Andy Murray had lent them his trophy he won last year at Wimbledon. You can just see it under heavy guard. The original trophy, which they get on the finals day should they win, stays in Wimbledon but each winner is given a rather nice replica to keep for ever. Just today it was announced that his motivational mother, Judy Murray, has been awarded an OBE by the Queen in her Birthday Honours List. She got it for services to tennis. Well she has produced our two best tennis players at the moment. And she does do an awful lot to promote tennis around the country. 

This little vehicle is one of the street cleaners that keep the city centre spick and span. They have been decorated as bees for years. It hasn’t just been done in the last few weeks. I wonder how the guys who operate them feel about riding around in a bee on wheels all day?

There was a Maker’s Market at Spinningfields this weekend so I went to see what was on offer. It was getting quite hot by now. I took this picture along Deansgate. The Hilton Tower is on the left but look beyond and you can just see the closet of four cores that are rising above Owen Street.  Over the next year this view will radically change as two of the towers are about the same height as the Hilton and the fourth will be a 64 floor giant, looming over that end of Deansgate. Here they are just beginning to make their presences felt.

I caught the tram back to Chorlton. There was ANOTHER Maker’s Market to explore but it was getting a bit too hot. It was luchtime so I called in to my favourite Chortlton watering hole, ODDEST, for something to eat. They had the BBQ fired up on the terrace so I had a burger with some salad and a glass of wine. 

In a couple of weeks they are going to have a Doggy Social for the well heeled and bandanaed doggies of Chorlton. They are allowed to bring their well behaved humans as well. I’ll have to create some time to go see this.

Tuesday marks the start of the busiest time of my working year. I’ll barely have time to draw breath until early August. It will only be the thought of the inflated August pay check, and possibly September’s, that will keep me going.

So I’ve awarded myself a a quiet day off today. I went to BarberBarber in Barton Arcade to get my hair cut. I’ll have precious little time to get it done over the next few weeks. I passed through St. Ann’s Square to get there. They were setting up a market for the weekend, a little step to the city getting back to normal life. And they’ve jet washed the square to remove all the candle wax from the paving and around the Cotton Bud fountain so it all looks spick and span. 

At BarberBarber, Johnny (the head guy) was no where to be seen. He was down in that there London overseeing the refurbishment of two new barber shops he’s opening. Called Tommy Guns, they were something of a fixture in their respective parts of the city so he’s keeping the name, mostly. They will be brought up to Johnny’s high standards and called Tommy Guns Reloaded. Can you see what he did there? And Andy, who I like to cut my hair, was having a day off as well. So I had it done by another guy, who’s cut my hair before (name gone sorry) and I was happy to let him do it. He’s in his early 20s but has been born out of his decade. His music tastes are 1990s and there’s more than a hint of the OASIS Gallagher boys about how he dresses.

It was after 12 so I had a cool beer. I got talking to the guy next to me. He was in having his hair cut and beard trimmed in readiness for his wedding tomorrow. He’s having the coolest wedding. For a start the ceremony is taking place in the Dinosaur Gallery of Manchester Museum! Then the reception will overlook the Manchester Ship Canal, being held in the circular Compass Room at the Lowry Art Gallery and Theatre in Salford Quays. He showed me the tables that will be decorated with little dinosaurs. They are then off to the Maldives for their honeymoon. 

I went for lunch. I liked this view of the Midland Hotel and Central Library from inside the colonnade of the Town Hall Extension. It’s a classic Manchester view so here it is BIG….

And I like the view from out of that glass blob thing into St. Peter’s Square towards No.1 St. Peter’s Square….

HOME is turning into my favourite venue for an after work (in today’s case no work) attitude adjuster. I was picking up a brochure for the 2017/18 Hallé season from the nearby Bridgewater Hall so I went in for lunch. In this case a delicious Smoked Salmon and Caperberry Pizza and a chilled glass of my favourite Pinot Grigio…

The middle of June to the end of July (and tying up odds and ends into August) is always a crazy, busy time at work for me. I got called into the boss’s office today and was told it’s going to be even worse than usual and I’ve been asked to take on more. They have promised to cross my palm with more silver. I said I wanted enough silver to have a suit made at a tailors of my choice and some handmade shoes that have taken my fancy. Neither of these will come cheap. As people know me can testify, I’m practically walking around in rags and tatters. They said yes. 

All that extra work means my team will have to rearrange stuff we need to do, reschedule some, put some off until later, do what we can before the 19th. We went for a walk to clear heads, have a coffee and see what could be done. Most will be OK but I’m going to have to go back in, I think, and negotiate some temporary help. We spent the afternoon putting everything on the new calendar and made a list of stuff that can’t go on. We put that on a separate calendar and, hopefully, the extra person can do that. If you go in prepared with lots of flow charts you can generally get what you want I find. Especially if you threaten to take them through all your flow charts dull detail by dull detail.

We walked over to the Fountain Pool. I’m amazed how the camera on my iPhone catches the falling water. I’m told it’s not a great camera but really what more could you ask? I should upgrade my phone (9 year olds laugh at it) and am told that the phones on more advanced iPhones are head and shoulders better than this one. We will see.

The early summer flowers are coming out. These are Astilbes…

These purple flowers are a form of wild Geraniums. The bright red ones we see in pots and call Geraniums are actually Pelargoniums fyi…

These are Day Lilies. We grow them for their beautiful flowers but I was listening to James Wong on Gardener’s Question Time (when did I get so old?) and he said that where his family hail from in Malaysia they are grown for food as a salad crop. In my defence James Wong is a pretty cool guy…

I thought the Azalea season was over but I found this late one in a bed near the Fountain Pool. I’ll have to get one for our garden, I do like these beautiful, low growing, easy to look after bushes…

It wasn’t really a day for a wander in a garden. It should have been. It’s June and the summer flowers are coming in. But there were unseasonable high winds and heavy rain. Some parts of the country had all of June’s rain in one day. We did, at one point, wander into the woodland part of the garden but when branches started coming off the trees and we were pelted with pine cones, we beat a retreat to the safer part of the garden. Driving back to the city whole trees blocked the roads in places.

I’d like a garden that you have to go into through a gate in an ancient brick wall….

And leave by another gate in an ancient brick wall…

Peonies are in blousey bloom in all our gardens but these weren’t enjoying the wind…

They need a bit of a trim, but look carefully at these topiary trees and you can see two squirrels…

Rufford has a impressive, herbaceous border. It will be in full bloom later in the summer, lots of green today…

The tall purple/pink foxgloves and blue delphiniums should have been the stars of the show but, with their height, they were suffering in the wind…

A couple of cherubs (or are they putti?) having a rumble over a bunch of grapes…

I’d like a garden with a wildflower meadow with an orchard…

This rose is an ancient one that would have been in all Tudor gardens. Highly perfumed, it’s the red rose of Lancashire, appropriate for a garden in this part of the world. Put together with the white rose of Yorkshire and you get the Tudor Rose seen in paintings and buildings of that age…

Will have to try this. We have a big slug problem this year and I hate using chemicals in the garden…

Oversized deck chairs seem to be a thing this year. I only seem to see them on wet, miserable days though…

I’m about to go into my annual really, really, really busy time of the year. From the middle of June to early August I’ve barely got time to breathe. It’s hard work but I kind of enjoy it and I really enjoy the August pay check as, as everyone who knows me, I’m practically living in poverty. November is another time I get really busy but it does mean I’m in funds for Christmas. I’m also hoping for some kind of advancement in my job in September with a raise. Money isn’t everything but it does help. And people who say ‘money isn’t everything’ have usually got plenty in my experience. The weather today has been more like Autumn. A storm blew in with heavy rain which will be good for the crops and the gardens but, with the trees in full leaf, some have come down in the wind. We passed one on the way back to the city.

As we are going to be so busy soon, we’ve been awarding ourselves little treats. Today was one such when we had a drive out to look at a new place that could be used as an interesting venue for meetings and entertaining clients. It’s a National Trust property called Rufford Old Hall in the lush, flat countryside of Lancashire to the west of the city. We had a look around the house and gardens and then had to try the food offerings. We liked this place. It’s small and quite a long way out of the city at the end of winding lanes but I imagine that foreign clients might like the ride out and all the very Englishness of it all.

The building is a beautiful, but a bit of a ‘dog’s dinner’, building. There is a Tudor great hall (in the style of Little Moreton Hall). It’s all that remains of a much larger Tudor hall, most of which has disappeared. No one knows what happened to it. Maybe it was demolished or, possibly, burnt to the ground as it’s mostly made of wood. In 1662, a brick built wing was built in the Jacobean style and in the 1820s a Regency building was added to the back of that. Three very different styles but they hang together very well.

You can’t photograph in most of the house. I don’t think they like their treasures being photographed, it could encourage people to come and help themselves but I did manage to get a picture of the dining room before we learned that.

We could take pictures in the Tudor great hall which would have been the centre of life in the Tudor mansion.

There was an exhibition of Medieval armour as worn by the officer class of the day. Ordinary soldiers would have had to go into battle with a lot less protection.

I asked about the family who used to live here. They gave the house to The National Trust in 1938. Sometimes the family would be struggling with the upkeep of such a building so passing it on was a good option. They were the Hesketh family, an ancient, rich and powerful Lancashire family. As well as this house they also owned Rufford Hall, a much larger Victorian mansion just a mile or so away. That was sold and it’s now very upmarket apartments. The family are now based at ANOTHER country pile surrounded by 100s of acres of prime, Northamptonshire agricultural land. They have a house in Mayfair, London and a very nice villa overlooking the Mediterranean in Monte Carlo. They’re doing fine. Please don’t worry about them. 

The hall is reputedly haunted by a grey lady, a man in Elizabethan clothing and Queen Elizabeth I no less! The figure of a man floating above the canal at the rear of the building has also been reported. On 20 February 2010, the crew of the paranormal television series Most Haunted filmed at the hall. Recently there have been cakes mysteriously vanishing from the tea rooms, many think this is down to the grey lady. Or maybe small children helping themselves to delicious National Trust cake. Or maybe the Little Moreton Hall ducks have paid this place a visit. No self respecting English mansion is without a ghost or six. 

Finished work early yesterday so we could go out to lunch. Doesn’t happen every Friday but if I put in the hours in the week and accomplish all set tasks it’s a treat that’s usually on offer. We went to the George & Dragon, the picture perfect village of Great Budworth deep in Cheshire. It was the place we went to for a pre Christmas lunch where you could sit by a real fire. Too warm for the fire yesterday though. The food was good at Christmas and I saw cheese pie on the menu. I’m very fond of cheese. So we had some. I can recommend the George & Dragon and the cheese pie which we had with a bottle of Chilean Merlot.

The village street was packed with cars. There was a wedding at the pretty church across the street from the pub. The bells tolled through most of the lunch after the service. We didn’t get to see the bride and groom but some of the guests came in for a drink before they moved on to the wedding reception which was being held at the Mere Country Club near Knutsford. Very nice! Expensive wedding I imagine. I was fascinated with the lady’s (green dressing right) hat which threatened to take someone’s eye out every time she moved her head. Shawls seemed to be a thing at this wedding with most of the ladies who came in having one. I like to be bang on trend. 

After lunch we went to the big Waitrose in Northwich to pick up a few ‘essentials.’ Anyone who knows the UK will understand that ‘essential’ in Waitrose doesn’t mean the same as essential to 90% of the world’s population. Fortunately I’m in the 10%. On the way home we stopped off at the Hollies Farm Shop for more ‘essentials.’ We like this place but I’m always disappointed to find it’s not in Christmas mode, except at Christmas of course when it actually is. I bought a couple of mugs for tea with rabbits printed on and a can of grapefruit flavoured beer that intrigued me. I’ll try it out tonight. The hand made green mugs we use for hot chocolate and I bought them at the Christmas Markets a couple of years ago.

Our two visiting ducks wander about the gardens of the local houses as they feel like. They are untroubled by people and cars but keep a weather eye open for cats. This evening they turned up on the lawn between our house and the drive. They were sheltering from the rain under a Silver Birch tree. So much for ‘nice weather for ducks.’ The lawn is looking a bit brown in places because of the dry weather we have had. We’re entering a more usual mixed weather pattern and we’re going to have sunshine and showers which the gardens and the farmers will appreciate.