Category: News


Politics….

There’s an awful lot of politics going on these days. We’ve just had a bit of a political earthquake in the UK or at least a nasty aftershock after last year’s Brexit vote. Prime Minister May decided to have a snap general election to strengthen her hand in the Brexit negotiations which start on 19th June. With her personal standing in the country head and shoulders above all her rivals and the Conservative party 20 points ahead of their nearest rivals, it looked like a walk over and she would be returned with a huge majority in Parliament. It didn’t happen. The numbers converged and we now have a hung parliament with the Consevatives the largest party but, if the rest got together, they can block anything she wants to do.

The map above shows where the parties hold power. The blue areas were won by the Consevatives, it looks impressive but they are, mostly, the big, affluent, thinly populated country areas. The red areas are the Labour areas. They are strong in the big cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle. Small in area but dense in population. The orange areas are the Liberal Democrats, a centrist party. The yellow areas are the Scottish National Party, a political party that would dearly like independence for Scotland. The green areas are Plaid Cymru, a Welsh party not as strong as the Scottish National Party. Look carefully on the south coast of England, south of the red blob of London, between two red patches there is another green patch. This is the constituency of Brighton Pavilion, the only place where the Green Party have an MP. Seaside city Brighton does like to march to the beat of its own drum.

Tom’s ideas about what’s happened….

CONSERVATIVES. The Consevatives should have won handsomely. They didn’t. I think it’s for three reasons. First, it was all about Theresa May. They thought she was so strong that she could carry the country with her but, as we got to see her more, she came across as cold and distant. Other big personalities in the party, including Boris, were kept out of the campaign. Second they talked about Brexit to the exclusion of everything else so we never got to know there they stood on other important issues. Bad move. The third reason was Brexit itself. The vote in 2016 was very close. Since then it’s been all about the people who voted leave. Those of us who voted remain have been sidelined. Yesterday we voted and made our voice heard. Brexit will have to be considerably softened now (we were going to crash out of Europe in a hard Brexit) and there will have to be changes in our approach to Brexit. Especially as the Conservatives will need a Northern Ireland party to support them, the DUP. They don’t want a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland. Neither do we. A hard border could take them back to the bad old days of virtual civil war. Yesterday’s election will stop that.

LABOUR. Β Labour have lost. They have a deeply divisive leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has spent the last six weeks wandering round the country promising everyone who will listen free money. He could do that because he knew he’d not win. Young voters have been seduced by all that but older voters aren’t so gullible. Personally, I’d want to see the money in my bank before I’d vote for him. They are posturing today as if they have won. They haven’t. They won a few constituencies in university towns where they promised to pay everyone’s tuition fees but that was that. But they have decisively lost but are in delusional denial.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS, PLAID CYMRU, GREENS. These three parties are too small to have any real effect on politics. Fun to have about but not powerful enough.

SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY. The leader of this party, Nicola Sturgeon, wants Scotland to be independent. They had a referendum a couple of years ago and the Scots said ‘No’. Then Brexit happened. Scotland voted to stay in Europe while the UK narrowly voted to leave. Ms. Sturgeon started banging on about having another independence referendum. That’s all you ever hear from her. The Scots have had enough. Yesterday morning all but two constituencies in Scotland were controlled by her party. Last night she lost 21 of them to the Conservatives and Labour.

So there we are. Another fine mess. It’s going to be fun seeing how they get out of this one.

About a week ago I said I was posting my last post on the Manchester Arena attack but I can’t leave it alone. The city is still profoundly affected by what happened. There are reminders everywhere and it’s going to take a long time to feel normal again. We were just beginning to get some sense of normality back and there was the attack in London on London Bridge and Borough Market. We are not down and defeated but we are still experiencing a deep sense of shock. And last night we had the One Love Concert at the Lancashire Cricket Stadium at Old Trafford.

Two weeks ago I hadn’t even heard of Ariana Grande. Her fanbase seems to be mostly girls from about 8 to 18. She’s obviously popular with them as she sold out the 21,000 Manchester Arena with ease. Of course the rest is history. After the attack the first picture I saw of her was of a stunned, fragile looking, young woman leaving the city after cancelling the rest of her European tour. She looked little better when she arrived home in Florida. But Ms. Grande is obviously made of sterner stuff than she looks. She was determined to do something to help her fans who had been damaged and traumatised by the events. She announced a desire to put on a concert. She started pulling some strings and calling in favours. When Ariana Grande pulls strings the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Coldplay etc… are at the end of them. Within a few days a star studded concert of epic proportions was put together.

While people at the original concert were given free tickets, the rest sold out in 6 minutes. People gave their time, talent and resources for free and, possibly, the best concert the city has seen was put together and was broadcast to the world. Even the weather played along with a dry, sunny evening with dramatic clouds drifting across the skies. The concert raised Β£2,000,000 last night alone taking the total raised for the victims so far to over Β£10,000,000. Ariana Grande is my new best person.

The people who planned and carried out the attack have a problem with the way we live in the UK and other countries like ours. They hate that we have freedoms, that we are educated, that we question the status quo that has been so for 100s of years. They don’t like the freedoms that women enjoy in the UK. They prefer their women to be subservient, to restrict their roles to maintaining the home and producing babies. They are threatened by anyone who’s lifestyle conflicts with their narrow view of how the world should be. They hate pleasures we have like music, getting together with friends to eat and drink. That was why they attacked Ariana Grande’s concert at the arena. The attack was supposed to make us cower and be afraid, give up and adopt their way of life. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Two weeks after the attack, Ariana Grande was back in the city performing before 50,000 in the stadium and millions worldwide. And this is why they won’t win. We love our way of life and we will defend it. The London attack showed that. People didn’t run, the stood their ground and flung bottles, glasses, furniture, anything that came to hand and defended themselves and others.

Some pictures from the concert. Not mine. I found them on TWITTER and a lot will be from the BBC. I thank them for them. Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus having a quiet moment…

The magical moment when Ariana Grande sang with the choir from Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury…

A fabulous picture of Katy Perry in a coat made of all the feathers in Manchester against a glorious Manchester sky…

The clouds stuck around for the end of Justin Bieber’s set…

Chris Martin, with Coldplay, did a stirring set that included the emotive ‘Fix You’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’…

Rumours about Liam Gallagher, of OASIS, appearing turned out to be true. He sang with Chris Martin while everyone was expecting a reunion with bro, Noel. It didn’t happen. They have a tense relationship that not even this could bring them to be together on the same stage. If you fancy having Liam’s orange coat, you’re too late. It sold out while the was singing on stage it seems. I loved the tweet I found, surprisingly, on TWITTER…. ‘Nothing says ‘fuck you, ISIS’ quite like a snarling Manc with an orange cagoule and maracas.’

This picture went viral. A Manchester policeman circle dancing with a bunch of children…

Here’s a link to the BBC coverage of the concert if you haven’t seen it. If you watch maybe you can make a donation to some worthy cause near you and spread the love…

Prince Willam has been in town. I know I said that I’d done my last post about the Manchester Arena atrocity but it’s hard to ignore. As I post, while enjoying a glass of wine and some excellent pizza in HOME, the police and the bomb squad are doing something on The Curry Mile in Rusholme about three miles from where I’m sat having seen Noel Cowards ‘Blithe Spirit’ at the theatre here. Wilmslow Road is closed, there is traffic chaos in the rush hour while they deal with something there. Prince William has been meeting some of the people who helped with the victims, police, ambulance personnel and so on. Then he went on to the Cathedral and from there to the hospital to meet some of the people recovering. We’re pleased that none of the people, some having horrific injuries, in the hospital have died. Hopefully, having survived almost two weeks after the attack they will recover more. Some have ‘life changing injuries’ though so it’s going to be a long haul for them.

We have Victoria Station back now and today was the first time I had the opportunity or need to use it. It’s back to its busy self but the scaffolding marks the entrance beyond which is the foyer where the attack took place. At some point it will have to be opened again as it’s the main thoroughfare between the Arena and Victoria and life will have to go on. It will be difficult for everyone who passes through it though.

When Victoria reopened the Mayor of Greater Manchester, the government Minister of Transport and other people connected to the station laid these tributes by the Soldier’s Gate Memorial. This gate was the gate through which soldiers left Manchester for the battlefields of France and Belgium in WWI, many never to return. Other people have left their own tributes as well.

All over the city these ‘I ❀️ MCR’ and ‘We ❀️ MCR’ banners are up. These were outside Victoria Station on the building site of the new Hotel Indigo.

To get to where I needed to be I cut through St. Ann’s Square. It was full of silent people just looking at the memorials brough by other people. I’ve felt sadness and, this last year have felt it deeply on a personal level, but never this sense of communal sadness that has overtaken the city. The flower carpet starts near the church, has now spread down around the Cotton Bud fountain, around the Boer War Memorial and towards the steps of the Royal Exchange Theatre. It covers the space where I built my garden two years ago. It will stay in place until people stop coming and the families of the victims want it to be removed.

There is talk of a permanent memorial to the people who died in the city. No one is sure what it will be or where but the space between the Cathedral and the river, close to the arena seems a good spot as the plans are to landscape it and turn it into gardens. Β At some point all the flower tributes will be collected and composted to use in the gardens.

It’s the weekend of the Manchester Street Games. Olympic athletes come to the city and perform in a temporary arena in Albert Square. A special track is built along Deansgate for them to run along. One year Usain Bolt took part. It’s quite an event. Today there is the Greater Manchester 10km run and a half marathon. There is an elite race and then thousands of ordinary people run the route to raise money for their favourite causes. The BBC cover the event, it’s a big deal. But this time they have an added poignancy.Β 

Of course, after the events of the last week, there was a big question mark over it all. But, if we cancel anything we planned to do, the terrorists will have won. Last night The Courteeners played to 50,000 people at Lancashire Cricket Club’s stadium at Old Trafford, the first big music event in the city since the ill fated Ariana Grande concert. It all went well with everyone showing their defiance of terrorists and their works. So the Manchester Street Games have gone ahead as planned. Defiance and a desire not to give into fear or hate and do exactly as we planned have been themes in Manchester this week.Β 

Of course we are overrun with security. Police vans lined up outside the Town Hall Extension in St Peter’s Square while people enjoy the hot sunshine and some alfresco lunch. One of the simple pleasures that these terrorists would rob us of.

A police van from North Wales parked on the site of my Dig The City garden. They were keeping an eye on the people leaving tributes in St. Ann’s Square.

In Albert Square I saw my first policeman with a pretty impressive gun. British policemen, famously, go unarmed as a rule. But, if necessary, like last week, they can get access to them pretty fast. I got talking to him, he was friendly and polite but, while chatting to me, his eyes were flicking across the crowds arriving in the square, looking for any possible trouble. There were some more of his mates, with more impressive hardware, along Deansgate watching the crowds gathering along the race track.

We were off to HOME for dinner and to meet friends, drink cold beer on a hot afternoon, socialise with people of the opposite sex that we weren’t related to and other things that they would stop us doing. We watched some of the women athletes warming up for the pole vault. It was an astonishingly hot afternoon, I didn’t envy them. Some pictures of them setting up the arena and the practice.

TV crews from across the world have descended on the city to cover the events. Their vans of equipment are everywhere. I’m almost disappointed not to be ask to appear.Β 

The temporary track on Deansgate.

This may be my last post on the terrible events of last week. I may mention it if anything occurs that needs recording. It has been a deeply upsetting time for the city and those, like me, who love it and love living here. But nothing I feel comes anywhere near what the families and friends of the victims must be feeling. I can’t think of anything to say that will begin to make them feel better. But, hopefully, they will be able, once time has made the loss less raw, take some solace from the millions of acts of kindness and concern that Β have occurred since those terrible events. Maybe, if one of them happen onto this blog, my posts and words will give them some comfort. A handful of people will have planned, and put into action, this terrible series of events. But millions upon millions of people around the world have been touched by what has happened in Manchester this week and care about the people who have been hurt and died.

Love and Peace.

Tom xxx 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝

In the centre of Stevenson Square there are three concrete and brick monoliths. At first glance it isn’t apparent what they are about. It seems that, at some point in the past, it was deemed appropriate that a public convenience was a suitable focal point for one of the city’s squares. To give them their due, Stevenson Square, now in the trendy N4, was being used as an outdoor bus terminal and wasn’t surrounded by cool cafΓ©s and bars in those days. The conveniences were closed decades ago because of, what was euphemistically called, antisocial behaviour. I’m not a fan of these outdoor ‘restrooms’ and they have all but disappeared from the city. I do have a list of places in the city centre that I am prepare to use that are clean, well maintained and have soap, usually in nice shops, cool bars, theatres and the like. The nearest we have to an outdoor one is in the Town Hall Extension, right next to the police station. It’s well maintained and, given its position next to the police station, there is zero chance of coming across any antisocial behaviour. Maybe I should do a post about my 5* public facilities in the city for this blog? But taking the pictures could be construed as antisocial behaviour I suppose.

TheΒ monoliths in Stevenson Square have found a new use as canvases for local artists to do some street art. It’s frequently very good. One of them was recently used for an artwork of sadly missed David Bowie.

He’d been there for a year and a couple of weeks ago there was controversy when he was painted over by Sloth from The Goonies. The artist added the Aladdin Sane slash to Sloth afterwards.

But Sloth/Aladdin Sane has gone. All three monoliths have been reworked as a tributeΒ to the victims of the Arena attack and the resilience of Manchester to adversity. Bees are all over it. They are there because they are a symbol of Manchester. They represent the industry and hard work that made the city great. They appear on the city’s coat of arms, on buildings and are all over street furniture in the city. Real bees live in hives on the tops of buildings and bee friendly plants are grown in squares and quiet corners of the city like here, on the central monolith, in Stevenson Square, with its green roof. And, in the wake of the attack, they are being tattooed on people, the money from the tattooing going to the victim support fund.Β 

There have been more raids across the city today as the police follow leads. It was pretty obvious that the terrorist who did this wasn’t working alone and it’s all been about rounding up his mates. He was known to the police but they had no intelligence on him that said that he was about to do this. Apparently there are 23,000 of his persuasion in the UK alone and 24/7 surveillance of them all isn’t feasible. As someone said ‘we need to be lucky all the time, while they need to get lucky only once.’

The reaction of the city, the country and the wider world has been nothing short of wonderful. There haveΒ been thousands of acts of kindness and offers of help. The collection to raise money to support the families of the victims stood at over Β£5,000,000 this morning. Manchester City and Manchester United together contributed Β£1,000,000. Wayne Rooney of Manchester United personally contributed Β£100,000 with Yaya TourΓ© of Manchester City gave a similar sum. Liam Gallagher is doing a benefit concert for the fund. Guy Garvey and Elbow will do another concert with the HallΓ© Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall. Would love to go to that one but tickets, for which you could donate any amount you wanted, went in minutes. And Ariana Grande has announced that she will return to the city to do a benefit concert as well. Quite brave of her I think considering. It will be an emotional gig I imagine.Β 

It’s the weekend of the Great Manchester Street Games and the Manchetser 10km run. The latter is a big event in the country’s sporting calendar and is always covered by TV. Cancelling it would have been an indication that terrorism had won. So it’s going ahead. The organisers of the 10km have been overwhelmed with requests to take part in the already full event.Β 

These We ❀️ MCR banners and signs have appeared all over the city on buildings, lamp posts and in windows. Flags are flying at half mast like on the tower of the cathedral. If you look to the left of the cathedral you can just see part of the Manchester Arena where the atrocity happened. It, along with Victoria Station, is still closed. We hear that the families of the victims are being offered a time to visit the site where their loved ones died. At some point I’ll have to cross the spot myself on some trip to the arena and will find it difficult enough. I can’t begin to think how difficult that will be for their families.Β 

Pretty St. Ann’s Square, tree shaded and surrounded by beautiful architecture, is a favourite spot in the city. We like to visit the markets there when they appear or just sit on a normal day and have lunch. With the temperatures in the high 80s yesterday, normally it would have been full of people having some alfresco lunch. But it’s not been a normal week.

It has become the place where people can come and lay tributes to the people who lost their lives in Monday’s atrocity. Once you have got past the TV crews and vans you can see the tributes. What started as a few bunches of flowers against the church wall on Tuesday has developed into a carpet of flowers, balloons and candles that grew as I stood there watching people arrive to add their’s. Apart from the voice of the girl busker singing thoughtful, appropriate songs (I heard John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ while I was there) and, later on, the guy who plays his African Kora with its mournful sound, the people looking were quiet and respectful, taking a few moments out of their day to think about what happened on Monday and think of the victims.

Someone had left out of a box of chalk. People were using them to leave messages on the paving stones further down the square.

We still haven’t got all of Manchester back yet. The streets around the arena are moving again but the arena itself and Victoria Station are still closed. There continue to be raids on addresses across the city and, now, in the Midlands’ town of Nuneaton. Arrests have been made. There are lots of rumours still flying about, especially about the raid on the apartment block in Granby Row, but I’m not posting anything here until it’s a known fact. We don’t deal in fake news on here. The Queen came up today to visit the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to see some of the young people who were hurt in the attack. In situations like this she likes to give it a couple of days before coming. Manchester has had a lot to deal with without having to cope with a high profile royal visit.Β 

And we’ve had a national one minute’s silence at 11am when we all stopped what we were doing and gave some thought to what happened. In Manchester the centre of the moment was St. Ann’s Square. People brought flowers to lay as soon as Tuesday morning. With the area around the arena and the cathedral in lockdown, the wall of St. Ann’s Church became the place to lay them. The numbers of bouquets became so huge that they spread across the pavement and into the road. So they moved them into the square proper and arranged them around the statue of Victorian cotton baron and politician, Richard Cobden. The Victorian Mancunian grandee is providing a focus for the floral tributes. This morning, the square and surrounding streets were packed with people there to pay their respects.

We have had support from around the world, from the great, the good and the famous. And cities have been showing support by lighting their famous buildings. We have done this in the past for other cities touched by terrorism, now it’s our turn.

Dubai…

Geneva…

Berlin…

Orlando…

Wembley Stadium, London…

Hong Kong…

Toronto…

Brisbane…

Tel Aviv…

Amsterdam…

Some cities decided to darken their iconic buildings.

Paris…

New York…

After yesterday’s post about some of the victims of the attack I hadn’t intended to do another like it. There have been 22 people who have lost their lives and other people have recorded their stories on social media. But I was touched by this picture. So one last one.

They are Chloe Rutherford (17) and Liam Curry (19) from the seaside suburb of South Shields in Newcastle. They had travelled down to see the Ariana Grande concert. They were posted as ‘missing’ on social media but by Tuesday morning it was apparent they really weren’t. Posting people as ‘missing’ gave the impression that there was chaos and people didn’t know where to look for them. In fact, by Tuesday morning most of the 21,000 in the arena had made it home, the injured had been quickly ferried to hospitals in the city and people stranded in the city were in various hotels that had opened their doors. The city has practiced for such an event and it all went like clockwork. By Tuesday if there had been a couple of dazed, confused teenagers wandering around Manchester someone would have found them and sorted them out. We used the word ‘missing’ but we knew that meant that they had been unfortunate to have been in the foyer of the arena at the wrong time and hadn’t made it out.Β 

They are a cute couple and have been going out for a while. They had come to Manchester on a mini adventure and should have made it back to South Shields. Liam has had a tough year. His father died of cancer a few weeks ago. He had been fighting it for the last few years. When he was 15 Liam rode his bike from South Shields to London to raise money for cancer research. A guy who ‘walks the walk as well as talks the talk’ as we say. After having gone through that, coming to Manchester might have been seen as being a step back to some normality. I can’t even begin to think what his mother and two brothers must be going through at the moment. Β 

It’s difficult to get back to normal at the moment. The radio and TV are still fullΒ of news about the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena. The general election is on hold as Prime Minister May oversees what’s going on. The terrorist risk to the country has been raised to ‘critical’ which means that another attack is very likely. Getting about the city is difficult still with the area around the arena still in lockdown and Victoria Station still closed causing problems for trains arriving in the city and cutting the tram system in half. There are all kinds of rumours going about so I won’t report anything here that I don’t know to be true. I do know that there have been three raids on houses in South Manchester this morning and a rather spectacular one on an apartment block in the city centre that involved armed police and the special forces. They closed the railway line between Piccadilly and Oxford Road Stations while it went on. I’ve not seen any myself but we are having to get used to the idea of armed police and soldiers about the city.

We are beginning to learn more about the victims of the attack. This young lady was the first to be named. She is Georgina Callander from a little place called Whittle-Le-Woods in Leyland, north of the city. She was a Ariana Grande super fan and there are pictures of her meeting the singer a couple of years ago. Ariana Grande left the city visibly upset Β having cancelled the rest of her tour. Arriving home in Florida she was still traumatised. Maybe she feels some guilt that if she hadn’t been there singing, there wouldn’t have been the opportunity for the attack to take place. It’s not her fault, if it hadn’t been her concert it would have been someone else’s. We, in Manchester, have been touch by her offer to pay all the funeral costs of the victims.

This is Saffie Rose Rossus. She, at 8, is the youngest victim of the attack. She is from the village of Tarelton in the Lancashire countryside to the north west of the city. She came to the concert with her mother and older sister. Her sister and mother are still in hospital with her mother in a coma. This morning the entire village turned out to support the family. It was a moving sight.

Angelika and Marcin Kris are from York but came from Poland originally. They brought their teenaged daughters to the concert and left them there. They went off for dinner in the city and it looks like they took this selfie in Exchange Square outside Selfridges. They were waiting in the foyer, for their daughters, between Victoria Station and the arena. They were probably going to jump onto the train back to York. They must have been right by the suicide bomber when he exploded his bomb. The daughters are alive but must be so traumatised.

We are a big city of about 3,000,000 and we obviously don’t know everyone. Yesterday was all about finding if family and friends were OK. Mine were, though we are all upset and angry of course. This is Martyn Hett. He was due to fly to America today. A friend I met through TWITTER (he has a blog as well) knew him as a friend.Β 

There are 18 other people who lost their lives and we are told that some of the injured are still in a critical condition. Some are from Manchester, some from other cities and towns and two girls from the remote Scottish island of Barra who had come to see the concert and enjoy the novelty of being in a big city. We hope that they all pull through, though we are told that some have ‘life changing’ injuries.Β 

A beautiful, sunny, warm, late Spring evening in Manchester with the city looking lovely. We should be filling the city’s terraces and gardens enjoying a drink and some food. Instead we are gathering in Albert Square to show solidarity with the people who died or lost their lives yesterday. The youngest was an 8 year old going to a concert with her big sister and mother. I just don’t have words.

Elsewhere in the city houses have been raided in Fallowfield and Walley Range and someone was arrested outside Morrison’s supermarket in Chorlton next to the tram station, 100m from my favourite watering hole, ODDEST. And, as we suspected, the suicide bomber was born and bred in Manchester but had connections to Libya.Β 

Pictures were from Twitter. Thanks to the people who took them.