Category: My Life


I liked how this shot of No1 Spinningfields turned out framed by the trees in Hardman Square. I love how the blue glass reflects all around it especially when it reflects the sky and almost disappears. They are fitting out the building for the new tenants at the moment. That includes the top floor restaurant with the garden terrace on the roof. I really am looking forward to getting up there, eating and enjoying the view. I WILL be taking pictures. And I’ve heard of another building planned for Trinity Islands. There are five towers planned and one will be 213m tall, 13m taller than the Owen Street Tower currently under construction. The Trinity Island Tower will have a restaurant at the top AND a viewing platform which we have been wanting for years. 

After my mini Mobike adventure I wanted some lunch so I went to Pret a Manger on Spinningfields. I got some of my favourite Smoked Salmon Sandwiches, some Smoked Chipotle Crisps, a pot of Lemon Pudding and a Grape and Elderflower Soda. I can recommend it. 

It was warm so I sat outside. I had a look around while I enjoyed my picnic. Work is still going on with No 1 Spinningfields. And they are giving Hardman Square its, possibly, final incarnation. It’s changed a lot over the years of its existence. Allied London seem to enjoy playing with it. Originally it was just a lawn where they were going to build another tower on some of the most expensive land in Europe. But people enjoyed the space so Allied London used it for pop up bars in summer, outdoor movie presentations and ice rinks at Christmas. People regarded it as permanent but it’s never really been. So we have a compromise. The wooden structure being constructed is a pavilion that with be occupied by a branch of London’s lauded restaurant, The Ivy. The rest will be turned into gardens.

I seem to have caught a lady who has found that the long summer school holidays are just a bit too long for her.

Lunch done, I had a mooch around the shops. In the Arndale Centre I went back to the VANS store to visit the red version of the shoes I bought last week. I resisted the temptation. It was a different story when I went into NOTE on Thomas Street in the N4. NOTE is one of the coolest shops in the city in the pink painted old Thomas Street Post Office. It sells limited edition cool clothes for guys. If you buy here you’re not going to see it on every other guy in the city.

Another brand I liked to wear when we were in California was Converse. There were a beautiful pair of Converse shoes in terracotta suede. I really wanted them but, as I haven’t worn the VANs yet, I couldn’t justify buying them. So I played a game. I stood in the store with one of them in my hand. If one of the guys working there noticed me and spoke to me I would buy them. If I was ignored I would put it down and leave the shop. Well….here they are on out kitchen counter a couple of hours later…

 

I was supposed to be working from home today. I got up early and did all I needed to for the day. I had a call from work. They want me to do some extra stuff in September and it could go on to November. I did know about it and I had said ‘yes’ to it as it was the sensible thing to do to show willing. I’d thought I’d done it in such a way that they had got the impression I didn’t really want to do it but it looks like they have chosen to ignore my broad hints and have taken me at my word. At least it’s well paid. And they have hinted about a trip to Barcelona in October in recompense. Barcelona seems to hinge on me doing the extra work with a smile on my face. For a trip to Barcelona I could manage a smile I think.

So I took myself off into the city centre as I needed to get my hair cut for my trip down to Bournemouth at the end of the week. It may not be Barcelona but it does have its charms apparently and I’m looking forward to seeing places like Stonehenge and the Jurassic Coast. When I got to BarberBarber in Barton Arcade, all the chairs were busy but I was the only one waiting. I barely had chance to drink my coffee. Jonny, the charismatic owner and main man, was in residence in the chair by the window. Always good to meet up with Jonny. We had a bit of a chat and I had a serious case of shoe envy. Check out his shoes!

My hair was cut by Jonathan. He’s a new guy. He’s only been working there for less than two weeks. We had a good chat as well which is part of the BarberBarber experience. He commutes everyday from the Summer Wine country of Holmfirth in Yorkshire. It’s 40 minutes each way by train and costs him £250 a month to do the journey. Quite a lot out of your salary, I imagine, when you are just starting out. But if you want to get on, a job at one of Jonny’s barbershops is good to have in your CV. He cut it well so I left a decent tip. He’ll have to learn how to deal with beards he told me. In hipster Manchester that’s a given. And another guy used the cut throat razor on my neck as Jonathan hadn’t used that much either. 

I decided to go on another Mobike Mini Adventure. I found one of the Mobikes parked up by St. Ann’s Church just off the square…

 

My intention was to start at St. Peter’s Square and cycle down Oxford Street, Oxford Road and Wilmslow Road through the universities. These roads have had an upgrade recently from Whitworth Park into the city centre. They used to be one of the busiest routes into the city which kind of ruined the academic vibe of the universities. Cars are now banned, only buses, taxis and cycles are allowed. And the cycles have their own designated routes on either side of the road separating them from the buses and the pedestrians. When I’m on a Mobike I’ve noticed that the traffic gives me space. If there are any problems it comes from pedestrians walking out in front of you without looking. I should use my bell more.

In St. Peter’s Square this chap and his daughter came over to chat and ask how the system works. They’re from Chorlton which is full of Mobikes apparently. I suppose if Mobikes have a spiritual home in the city, it was bound to be Chorlton. We had a good chat and I showed them how it all worked with the app on my phone and so on. I wonder if you can take two bikes out at a time? One for dad and one for daughter? I’m not sure. Though most kids have a smart phone as well these days so…

This Mobike adventure started outside the impressive portico of Central Library…

Mobike with a tram and the impressive offices of No 1 and No 2 St. Peter’s Square looking good against the blue Manchester skies…

The old Odeon Cinema building has finally lost the fight against the demolition crews. It’s been replaced by a huge hole in the ground and soon a third, blindingly white office block will rise here. Mobike checking out the hole…

Sheridan Smith is ‘Funny Girl’ at the Palace Theatre. Are Mobikes a fan of musical theatre?…

Mobike outside the stunning façade of the Principal Hotel (formally the Palace). Millions have been spent on refurbishment. Was it needed? Well the ceiling in one room was in dire need of work but that’s another story…

Mobike checking out the new buildings at Circle Square. This used to be the BBC site. They are about to start a huge office delvelopment here…

On the corner of All Saints’ Park an ugly 1960s building has bit the dust. All that’s left is the attractive portico of the old Chorlton on Medlock (not to be confused with trendy, leafy Chorlton a few miles away) Town Hall. The new building looks better and will house a new theatre and extension to the Art School and teaching facilities…

Mobike likes the tiled façade of the old Grovesnor Picture Palace. It used to be a cinema but is now a popular student bar when the universities are in session. It will be quiet at this time of year of course…

Mobike outside the Manchester Aquatics Centre which was built as the Commonwealth Games Pools for the Commonwealth Games of 2002. It’s now used by the university and is open to the public. Some building works seem to be going on, possibly to do with the new School of Engineering that is going up behind it….

Such sweet thunder. Mobike outside the Royal Northern College of Music…

Mobike by the Manchester Business School redevelopment of its 1960s building. It is looking good…

Mobike outside the Manchester Museum, a great place to check out dinosaurs and other cool stuff…

This drum contains lecture theatres for Manchester University…

Mobike outside the stunning Victorian buildings of the original Manchester University. Waterhouse, who designed this, also designed Manchester Town Hall…

Mobike’s furthest point south on today’s mini adventure. Mobike meet Edward VII in Whitworth Park. Time to turn back towards the city centre…

Mobike on the plaza outside the Whitworth Art Gallery…

There’s a special hospital for Mobikes in town but this one, Manchester Royal Infirmary, is for people, Mobike…

The old Royal Eye Hospital is now City Labs, a centre for biochemical research. There’s are huge modern building behind the Edwardian façade seen here. Further along the road the old St Mary’s Maternity Hospital is getting the same treatment with City Labs 2 being built behind it…

Mobike outside the funky Contact Theatre…

Mobike with a Mobike chum outside the Church of the Holy Name…

Mobike on the campus of Manchester University. It’s relatively quiet in August but is used for summer schools…

I’ve always liked this ivy covered wall in the quadrangle….

Mobike with a boulder. It started out as lava spewed out of a volcano in what is now the Lake District millions of years ago. It was transported down to Manchester by an glacier in the last ice age. They dug it out of the clay on Oxford Road when the original buildings were built…

Mobike in All Saints Park…

This mini adventure was brought to you courtesy of Mobike 55…

Mobike back with his mates in St. Peter’s Square. I like to leave my Mobike in a designated place…

I’ve ridden 29.1 Kms, saved 3.5kg of carbon and burned 1569 calories so far…

And I’ve found a page on the app that shows all my rides on Mobikes, two so far…

I’m still not used to having free time. I must get used to it again. Yesterday was pleasant so we decided to drive down to Sandbach (pronounced sand-batch), another one of Cheshire’s pretty, well heeled, market towns south of the city. Providing you can cope with the rush hour traffic on the M6/M56, it’s a pleasant place to live if you work in Manchester. 

It was having one of those Maker’s Markets I like to go to and I wanted to see if a guy I know was at it as I want him to create some wooden things (potting bench, staging for the greenhouse, a garden seat) for a project in our garden. And Sandbach has a Waitrose so we could pick up a few things. As it was we discovered that they had that Brie cheese flavoured with truffles that I like. 

First we had a wander around the town. These are the town’s offices…

This is the Town Hall, the ground floor of which has a market…

Like most of these prosperous Cheshire market towns, Sandbach has a handsome, Victorian church, St Mary’s. It wasn’t open so we couldn’t check out the inside but I did like how the path through the ancient churchyard (the Victorian church was built around a much older one) went under the tower through this huge arch. I’ve never seen a church do that before…

Sandbach has been a wealthy place for centuries. This is Sandbach Old Hall, a Tudor mansion built for a wealthy family that is now a restaurant…

Lots of pricey, well built Victorian villas if you have deep pockets and would like to buy into the Cheshire lifestyle…

Lots of half timbered Tudor buildings in the town. Some were old pubs. Even the local Botox parlour was Tudor! People in Cheshire injecting themselves with poison in an attempt to look younger? Who’d have thought? 😏😏😉😉…

These are the famous Sandbach Saxon Crosses. They were carved by early Christians about 1,200 years ago and have managed to survive, mostly, in one piece. They are Grade 1 listed (like St Paul’s and Manchester Town Hall) and have Scheduled Monument status (like Stonehenge). They are covered in beautiful and intriguing carvings from the Saxon period…

The Sandbach crosses are in a little square called The Cobbles, probably because they are paved with cobbles! This cross isn’t Saxon, it was practically built yesterday in the Victorian period…

The Maker’s Market was there. I loved the thatched roofed, half timbered Tudor building that houses the pub, Ye Olde Black Bear on one side of The Cobbles. If you look carefully you can see him, in thatch, walking along the roof. A note on pronounciation. ‘Ye’ is the old English word for ‘the’ and is pronounced as we pronounce ‘the’ today. And ‘olde’ is the old spelling for old, you don’t pronounce the ‘e’ at all, you just say ‘old’. So, on trips to the UK you won’t make a fool of yourself by saying stupid things…

Pictures of the Maker’s Market…

Delicious cake…

I didn’t find my guy but I did find another guy. He makes these wonderful, driftwood bars for wine, gin (well, anything you fancy) and glasses. I’m having one to incorporate into our garden project…

I just had to do a couple of hours work today and the rest of the day was my own. This time next Friday I’ll be somewhere on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset in southern England, possibly Bournemouth, where dinosaurs fall out of the cliffs daily. The Mini and I are having a bit of a road trip and are going to see all kinds of ancient things which will be exciting news for regular readers of this blog. Or maybe not…

I decided to replace some of the rags and tatters that I usually wear and buy some things for the trip. I’m hoping it’s going to be dry, maybe even warm and sunny down there while I’m about. I needed a new pair of trainers (sports shoes in the US) so caught the tram to Media City. Just across from Media City is the Lowry Outlet Mall and I had at the back of my mind there was a Nike store there. Not being a 14 year old lad with parents who have more money than sense, I don’t need the latest styles sold at stupid amounts of money. I’m quite happy with some of the left overs from last season at a much cheaper price. But the Nike store had gone and nowhere else there looked like a good place to buy something of the right quality at a reasonable price.

I crossed the dock back to Media City…

I had a Pret a Manger picnic for lunch in the company of a couple of Mobikes. Media City is the spiritual home of Mobikeism and BBC and other media types were cycling around the area on them to important meetings and lunch dates and the like…

I enjoyed my Pret picnic but might have gone for some street food had I noticed the sign before buying my lunch. Especially as one of the offerings was from The Hip Hop Chip Shop of which I’ve heard good, if not ecstatic, things. I did like the name of the pie and mashed potato van, Pietanic…

Lunch over, I caught the tram into the city to do my shopping. Shockingly, Manchester was NOT in a state of festival for a change. We are having a rest for a couple of weeks before the Pride weekend at the end of the month I think. First stop was the GAP, where I got some useful T shirts in plain colours that are great for the layered summer look. And I liked this check shirt so I bought it. I have worked hard these last few weeks and deserve it!…

Next I went to M&S to buy a belt. All of mine seem to have fallen apart and I’ve been trying to use one that I bought when was about 16 and had a 28″ waist! It’s been a struggle. I got this one that is reversible, brown for dressing down and black for a smarter outfit. Then I spotted this shirt with fossils on which will be perfect for the Jurassic Coast…

Close up of the pattern…

I was heading for a certain sports store (which I hate) in the Arndale Centre to buy some trainers. It’s way too big, way too crowded, badly set out and the company has a bad reputation for how it treats its employees. I was loathe to go there and was pleased I remembered the VANS store nearby. I lived in VANS, along with Abercrombie and Fitch, GAP and Hollister when we were in California. I found these beautiful suede shoes. And there’s the same pair but in a red which might have to be bought as well…

Then it was to the Lindt store to buy some of their delicious truffles. As you can see it got out of hand. I have a loyalty card which I wanted to redeem. I picked my selection (top bag) and went to pay. The guy said that it made more sense to buy a few more and get a discount for the larger amount. With my redeemed loyalty card that was 23 more truffles (middle bag)! Then, because I’d bought so many I got a free gift of another bag (bottom bag)!

It was then off to Federation in the N4 for some coffee and cake. Federation was full of hipsters busy on their iPads and Macs doing wonderful things of great importance I’m sure. I just had a piece of this Raspberry and Cream Victoria Sponge wonderfulness. I discovered that it was made by Robinson’s, the Manchester bakery that makes those delicious Manchester tarts… 

I went back to Exchange Square to catch the tram home. I was delighted to see that they are restoring the square to how it looked before they built the tram station. To build the tram station they had to move underground services from the tram lines. That involved digging up the square and destroying the beautiful paving which they then filled with tarmac. It looked bad and the architect of the square was less than pleased, and took the city council to task when she saw the state of the place on a visit. It’s good to see it being put right. Hopefully they will sort out the tarmac gash across Albert Square, also caused by the building of the new tram line…

I’ve been so busy with work the last two months that I can’t relax properly yet. I’m so used to being busy, it’s hard just to sit and read or watch TV. I keep wondering what I need to do next and the answer is really ‘nothing.’ I might be called upon to do some more extra work in September but that’s optional. I’ve shown willing because an outright ‘no’ wouldn’t go down well but I’m hoping they don’t call on me. I don’t want the July thing running into the November thing. We shall see.

Yesterday I was so free I was able to go out for a walk and check out a wildflower meadow that has been planted up along a grass verge by a road. It’s just coming into high summer flower. It was alive with bees, butterflies and other insects enjoying the food the flowers provide. Formally it was something of a green desert when it was just mown grass. They should do these meadows everywhere.

Saturday morning was sunny and warm. The rest of the week didn’t look so good weatherwise and I couldn’t really concentrate on work. I’d done more than I was set so decided to give myself the day off and have a mini adventure.

There are a few things I want to do over the summer and one of them was to ride a Mobike. Mobikes arrived in the city a few weeks ago. They are big in China and Singapore and Manchester was to be their first city in Europe. Basically they are bikes you can hire for short trips in busy cities.

How is this done? Well it’s quite easy. You download the app. Make sure it’s the UK one. Unless you are fluent in Mandarin of course then fill your boots. You register and pay a refundable deposit of just under £30. You can do this on your phone or tablet. Once you’ve done that you’re good to go. The bikes are all over Manchester. You don’t have to go to a docking station like with the Boris Bikes in London. Each bike has a chip in it that shows up on a map on your phone. It tells you where they all are. You walk to one. Scan the code on the bike with your phone, the lock opens with a satisfying click and off you go.

Mobike has had a spot of bother since they launched in the city. They said the bikes were virtually indestructible, which was red rag to a bull to some of the local riff raff who took pleasure in proving them wrong. And you can leave the bike anywhere once you have finished your journey. I don’t think Mobike thought about the bottom of the Rochdale/Ashton/Bridgewater Canals. Some people thought that once they had ridden one it was theirs and some ended up behind people’s houses to be used as and when they wanted. Those people get visits.           

What did I learn riding my Mobike?

1. I haven’t ridden a bike since I passed my driving test. It’s true you never forget but it takes a while to get back to speed.

2. I’d ridden my bike in the leafy suburbs of South Manchester. City centre traffic and crowds are a completely different kettle of fish.

3. Your legs will feel wobbly after your ride. Your butt will hurt the next day…and the day after!

4. You will be surprised how many slopes and cobbled streets Manchester has until you cycle! Mobike has one gear so I’m not sure how well it would do in a hilly city like Bristol or Lincoln.

5. The tyres of your Mobike will fit comfortably into the tracks of the tram system on Cross Street (or anywhere else for that matter). At that point you will fall over. Much to the amusement of the crowds heading to the Jazz Festival in Albert Square. Nothing to see here folks. Move along please. At least there wasn’t a tram behind me or my Mobike and I would have had our adventure curtailed pretty quickly. Remember, in a tram vs Mobike clash, tram always wins.

6. Riding your Mobike around flat, beautifully paved, spacious  St Peter’s Square is a pleasure. Deansgate? Less so.

So where did we get to? I got off the tram in St Peter’s Square and there was a nice line of them by the library. There was also a Chinese TV crew doing an interview. I picked my Mobike from the other end of the line. Then fell into conversation with one of them. Am I destined to be big in Shanghai?

Here’s my bike, number 563. I think there are a 1000 in the city at the moment.

Mobike checking out progress on Manchester’s newest tallest tower on Owen Street…

Small bike, big tower…the Hilton Tower, currently the tallest building in the city…

Little bike, big bike outside Deansgate Station.

Mobike meets Frederick Engles outside HOME….

Mobike ready for some classical tunes outside the Bridgewater Hall…

Mobike paying respects to the city’s war dead at the Cenotaph…

Mobike soaking up more culture at Manchester Art Gallery. He’s a regular culture vulture…

Mobike staying a respectful distance from the trams in St. Peter’s Square in a city getting ready for the Pride celebration at the end of the month…

Mobike selfie in front of the stunning portico of Central Library…

Mobike chilling at the Jazz Festival in Albert Square…

Mobike buying flowers for his Mobike gf at Flourish under the tower of St Ann’s Church…

Shopping, eating or having your haircut at BarberBarber in Barton Arcade. Off limits for Mobikes I think…

It’s having its summer break so the theatre’s dark, nothing to see at the Royal Exchange Theatre until September, Mobike…

Fancy a pint at the Old Wellington Inn, one of the city’s oldest buildings? Not when in charge of a Mobike…

Mobike with a Mobike bud outside Manchester Cathedral. It’s having some work done on the tower it seems…

Checking out another of Manchester’s new skyscrapers, Exchange Court with its golden cladding at Greengate…

Mobike wants to play with the kids in the dancing fountains in Greengate Square…

How much for insurance of a Mobike? Check out the offers at Swinton Insurance in their swanky, new offices at Embankment…

Mobike outside the National Football Museum with the iconic CIS Tower behind it…

Checking out Medieval Chetham’s School of Music and Library with Mobike, the oldest, in use, building in the city I think…

Mobike with a new Manchester iconic building, the Co Op HQ on Angel Square… 

Afternoon tea at the Midland Hotel with Mobike…

Some fellow mobikers. People who live and work in the city have taken to them as a fun and convenient way to get about. Would they be good for tourists given you need to download apps? Could I use my account on trips to China or Singapore? Or Florence, Italy? They have opened there I hear but, as I remember, Florence is is a river valley surrounded by the beautiful, but steep hills of Tuscany…

Saying goodbye to my Mobike, returned safely to St Peter’s Square. Just click the lock back into the closed position and your ride is finished. I was sad to say goodbye after our mini adventure. I wish him well in the future and hope other people treat him with respect…

Mobike 563. I’ll have to keep an eye open for him and see if we can do it again sometime…

To pay you transfer money to an online wallet on the app. My 92 minute ride cost me £2. I covered an amazing 16.6 Kms, just over 10 miles. I think I’d save 2kg of carbon emissions and had burned 895 calories doing it. It was a fun experience and I will be doing it again. More Mobike mini adventures to come…    

Work has been so stupidly busy of late that the really busy June/July time has run on into August. Usually, by the start of the Manchester Jazz Festival, the bulk is done and all I have to do is some dotting of ‘i’s and crossing of ‘t’s leaving me the flexibility to visit the Jazz Festival. This time, it’s almost over and we still haven’t finished and I can see it running into my little road trip down south in less than a fortnight.

So yesterday I went in work early, got what needed to be done done, and drove over to my good bud, Andy, to pick him up, and listen to some jazz and have a catch up. Andy updating his status to ‘chilling at a jazz festival’ by the way…

The jazz takes place in venues all over the city but the festival hub is in Albert Square. There’s usually a pop up jazz club in the form of one of those big marquees. But for this year’s they have really gone to town and hired the most wonderful structure for the musicians to play in.

It’s called the Salon Perdu (French for lost room I believe) and had been brought over from The Netherlands where a company specialises in these most beautiful of tents called, in Dutch, Speigeltenten, which means mirrored tents. It’s actually quite old. Outside it has an Art Deco vibe going on. Inside it is all oak, mirrors, stained glass and draped red velvet. You can sit in the middle, as we did, or sit in booths around the circular structure, where you can be served drinks from the bar while you listen to the music. The Salon Perdu spends its summer doing festivals in Europe but likes to winter in warmer places like Australia. Before coming to the jazz festival it was in Las Vegas at an event. It’s a beautiful place to be and the acoustics are wonderful.

In the Salon Perdu we listened to two local virtuoso jazz musicians, Iain Dixon and Les Chisnall who played cool traditional jazz on piano and clarinet. And very fine it was too.

We had 15 minutes to get ourselves down to St Ann’s Church for the second concert we had booked for. St Ann’s is a great supporter of the jazz festival and always has some of the best events in a beautiful setting.

One of the people who usually takes the religious services in the church welcomed us.

And the guy who seems to be in charge of the Manchester Jazz Festival introduced the band. I must find out who he is and what he does with the rest of his year.

I was intrigued by the idea of the concert in St Ann’s Square. It was by three guys, Medbøe, Eriksen and Halle, from Norway. Not a country you readily associate with jazz of course. They played piano, trumpet and guitar but the sounds that they conjured out of their instruments were like nothing I’d ever heard. You could see the jazz influence and hear the landscapes and seascapes of that stunning country. ‘Other-worldly’ was the description in the programme of concerts. The sounds and the acoustics of the church worked well together.

We went for lunch. We decided, well I did, on Mr Thomas’s Chop House in its tall thin Dutch inspired building on Cross Street. It’s behind the church and on sunny days people like to eat on the terrace that spills into the churchyard. We could have sat outside but when I’m there I like to eat in the Victorian, tiled dining room. You can imagine Victorian gentleman sitting there having lunch.

Andy studying the menu…

He had Shepherds’ Pie, made of minced lamb and topped with mashed potato. There was some pickled red cabbage that he didn’t touch…

I had Cheese and Onion Pie with heritage carrots (different colours) and Hollandaise Sauce. We shared some fat cut chips…

For pudding Andy has Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s a classic British pudding that people think has been around for ages. Actually it was only invented in the 1960s possibly at a very nice hotel on the shores of Ullswater in the Lake District. Other restaurants disagree…

I had Eton Mess, a much older pudding made of crushed meringue, whipped cream and strawberries, invented at Eton College, the famed public school near Windsor to the west of London. Traditionally it was served at the annual Eton v Harrow cricket match. Originally it was served differently but one year someone had an accident and the pudding was dropped and destroyed. Too late to make a new one , the scraped up the remains, stirred it a bit more and served it as a ‘mess’. However it came about it’s a good combination of tastes and textures…

Andy hadn’t been into some places in the city before. He’d never been in Central Library so I took him there to see the reading room. Then we went to the John Rylands Library to see that. It looks like a set for Hogwarts. We had a quick look around. I’d forgotten we were in the middle of the summer holidays and the library was packed with visiting tourists. We may not have reached the saturation point for tourists like Venice or Barcelona but we are getting there.

We headed for the N4 to visit some of the record stores that sell vinyl records. Apparently it’s having a revival and Manchester is a good place to visit as we have the largest concentration of such stores in the UK. But it was getting hot and the stores were busy and sticky so we went for a drink. I’d spotted a sign on a bar, TERRACE, on Thomas Street asking us to visit their roof top garden. It would have been rude not to. The roof top garden turned out to be something of a secret garden in a well surrounded by buildings. I’d imagined views but it was still a nice spot with makeshift garden furniture and apple trees growing out of old beer barrels. It was also busy. We found a spot sharing with a couple.

Back in the bar I’d chosen a glass of Titanic Plum Porter. A porter is something of a heavy, old fashioned, dark beer, this one flavoured with plums. You could really taste it. Titanic is an artisan brewery in Stoke on Trent, a city about 30 miles south of Manchester, famous for its pottery. 

The guy in the blue checked shirt at the next table spotted it and asked how it was. He ended up having a sip. The guy at our table was interested as well so he had some too. It was all very convivial and we were soon chatting and checking out phone pictures and the like.

We went home after this. But I returned the following day to do one or two things. I ended up in Albert Square again which was crowded with people enjoying the jazz, some of it free. I’d enjoyed both the concerts we saw on the Friday but would have cheerfully paid a lot to see the guys I saw for free in the square on Saturday.

There is a tradition of brass bands in the north of England. Almost every coal mine and small industrial town would have one made up of the men who worked there coming together to make music. The industries and the coal mines have gone but the bands remain. Anyone on TV or a movie wanting to give the audience a feel of the north uses a brass band. A bit of a stereotype but what can you do? Called Back Chat Brass, these seven guys have reconfigured the brass band idea. Using jazz and brass band ideas they rework pop music. Have you ever heard Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ done by a brass band? Justin Bieber? Well I did yesterday afternoon and it was pretty, damn good. They played, they sang, they danced and so did we all. It was joyful.

Enjoy Back Chat Brass doing ‘Stacy’s Mom’…

And for all you Belibers out there…

 

The Chorley Flower Show is held in the grounds of Astley Hall, a handsome Jacobean mansion that is on the edge of the town centre now but, when it was built, was in the countryside some distance from the, then, village of Chorley. The front façade is Jacobean but I think the back is older, it looks Tudor to me. But what do I know?

Behind the hall is a walled garden where fruit and vegetables were grown to supply the house. The walls shelter the garden and create a microclimate that is often warmer than the surrounding countryside. This means the growing season is longer than in the fields outside so more can be grown. And the red brick of the walls tend to store heat from the sun which means that crops like grapes, apricots and peaches can be grown even this far north. The garden has been recently replanted. It’s been a good year for apples as you can see here. The ones in our garden are also doing well.

These raised beds are full of vegetables and herbs.

Big houses owned by rich families would extend the growing season by building a conservatory. The glass would trap heat and there might be, like in this one, a coal fired heating system to heat it. I’m not sure what method they use these days. The rich could enjoy tropical fruits like pineapple.

I always get excited when I see citrus fruits growing. Here is a lemon tree or, as it’s known in our house, a Gin and Tonic tree.

This is a Echium Pininara. There were two spectacular specimens in the garden. They look a bit prehistoric, something a dinosaur might have snacked on. They are natives of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, hundreds of miles away and considerably warmer than Chorley. They grow well here because of the walled garden microclimate. 

I like Helenium. I like the shape of the flowers and the zingy, high summer colours. I need to get some for our garden.

Flower beds were laid out like this so the flowers could be cut to decorate the house.

These outsized deck chairs are a ‘thing’ this year. Great for selfies. I couldn’t persuade anyone to get in so you can see the size properly though.

Work is still ridiculously busy. I can’t believe we still have so much to do. I kind of hit a wall on Friday where nothing was making much sense. Time to step away from the computer screen I thought. So I’ve awarded myself a weekend off. Apart from dealing with a problem for one of the team I’ve done nothing. I’ve done more than I should so they can’t complain. And, having had the weekend free, I’ll feel ready to do some more. The money will come in handy for my little road trip in a couple of weeks time. Really looking forward to that. 

Yesterday we went a few miles north of the city to Astley Park in Chorley to go to the Chorley Garden Festival. I went last year and thought someone, who’s had a difficult week, would enjoy the distraction. On Friday it looked decidedly ‘off’. It was sunny in the morning but a light drizzle began around lunchtime which quickly turned into a monsoon downpour. The builders next door took to the cabins of their vans and eventually gave up. My bud, Andy, at an outdoor music festival at Kendal in the Lake District, texted to complain about the rain and the mud. Always thought that was part of the fun though. Another music festival in Derbyshire was curtailed as the mud actually stopped being fun and became dangerous.

But Saturday dawned clear and sunny and warm so, with umbrellas and water proofs at the ready, we went to Chorley. In fact it stayed dry all day and even became hot later in the afternoon. We had a good time.

The warm, dry weather was perfect for the Chorley Samba Band who brought a bit of Rio Carnival to Chorley. And very good they were at it as well. The drumming was stunning and, if you could drag your attention away from the scantily clad dancing girls who must have been pleased it was warm, you could do worse than watch the young conductor of the drum band who controlled them by drumming and using his fingers and whistle to change the rhythms and the level of drumming. He was fascinating to watch. 

The Samba Band are looking for new recruits. They meet at a pub in Chorley on Fridays and would love for you to come. You can either try the drumming or, if you are very confident and have a supermodel body, you can wear some feathers in your hair and dance. 

They had drawn a large crowd to the courtyard of the house that would have connected the family’s home to the servant quarters in the old days. The house is Jacobean which was English Civil War times in England and we are far enough north here for Scottish raiders to come south. Hence the cannons I suppose. The Scots have always claimed that the Lake District, just north of here, is part of Scotland. That’s as maybe as there are maps that show it as such. But the same maps show England stretching far further north up the east coast than it does today and includes Edinburgh. So they might gain the beautiful Lake District but would lose their capital city. 

We’re supposed to have finished with our really busy time at work last Sunday. There are usually a few odds and ends to tie up and I’m willing to help do some if they cross my palm with enough silver. Plus it’s always good to have the powers that be beholden to me rather than the other way round. But, this morning, I got an email about how much still needs to be done. At first I thought I’d read it wrong but, on closer examination, I hadn’t. I think there’s another two weeks solid work left. If we do something so big, like this, again, we’re going to need more people. The Manchester Jazz Festival starts on Friday and I don’t think we’ve ever run into that. We have plans for the weekend so I hope they realise I won’t be about. On the plus side, all this extra work will be handsomely rewarded I think and, as I am so poor, wandering around in rags and tatters, it will come in handy.

At least my underwear isn’t in rags and tatters. I’m not a fan of online shopping for clothes. I don’t get the whole buy 10 of every item, in different sizes and colours, pay for it, have it sent, try them on, send them back, get the money refunded thing. It’s much easier to go to one of those shop things, look at the quality, choose the right colour, try it on and see if it fits. Of course, we’re quite spoiled for shops in Manchester and we can make a day of it with lunch and so on. I sound like one of those women from ‘Sex and the City.’ Which one I’ll leave up to you to decide.

Back to my underwear. I do buy some of mine online. It’s from a company called ODDBALLS. They operate out of Newcastle. You can find their underwear in some shops but most is sold online. They have cleverly built the business on social media and it’s been spread by word of mouth. They’ve managed to get the country’s rugby clubs involved as they play a game with an odd shaped ball. They started by selling underwear for men called ODDBALLS. They’ve moved into sports wear. They do some women’s underwear and have brought out a range of boy’s underwear called GOOLIES. There are sunglasses for summer and warm, woolly hats called OBBLE HATS for winter. It’s like a club and guys who see each other wearing an OBBLE HAT, nod and acknowledge one another.

It’s not all fun and games and bright coloured pants of course. 10% of the profits of this company are put into a foundation that is used to find cures for male, specific cancers like testicular cancer. Hence the name.

They always come in these brightly, coloured bags.

This is this week’s haul. As you can see they are not exactly subtle. But they are fun. You can have plain ones if you like but I think that’s what M&S are for. I bought 4 pairs so I got a free pair of ODDBALLS sunglasses. I’m also an ODDBALLS ambassador so my pants end up on here and all over TWITTER. All very tasteful done of course. I get 10% off for my trouble.

And it’s always useful to read the back of the packets as they have valuable information about detecting testicular cancer. It’s the most common cancer among young men between 14 and 34. It’s a very curable cancer if caught early enough. Not caught, it can kill. One very young man, about 13, was bought some of them. His dad had some and he wanted some. As soon as he’d grown enough for them to fit they bought him some. He read the back, had a laugh at the pictures but thought he’d have bit of a check. He actually found a lump, told his dad and got it checked. It was cancer but they caught it in time and he’s doing well now. If you have a young guy like him (or any guy) in your life, you could do worse than buy him some of these pants and raise his awareness and, possibly, do him a huge favour.