Category: Manchester


Alexandra Park is a popular place for the Walley Range doggies to take their daily constitutionals. As part of the weekend of events to mark the reopening of the park after the restoration, Betty & Butch, nearby Chorlton’s dog lifestyle store, was hosting a dog show on the, yet to be restored, bowling green near the Claremont Road gates. There were lots of dogs in attendance and, most, were being well behaved…

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Ruby, a little Yorkie, won two titles in the show and as I was leaving was changing into her costume for best dressed. I think her dancing helped her to one title. And she knows how to wear a bandana stylishly without tearing it off unlike other dogs we know…

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Absolutely nothing to do with the dog show except one of the people watching was wearing these amazing shoes. Were they perfect for a walk in the park on Sunday afternoon? I couldn’t decide between super stylish or super silly. I wouldn’t ask their owner, she might have taken offence and I wouldn’t want to upset anyone wearing those…

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After a few cool days, Sunday was set to be sunny and warmer so we headed for Alexandra Park. I’ve posted about this park before. It’s just south of the city centre between Walley Range and Moss Side and sandwiched between the busy Princess Parkway, the road to the airport, and Alexandra Road South. The park was laid out in 1868 as a pleasant green lung for the well-heeled Victorian inhabitants of the spacious villas of Walley Range and even Moss Side. They would go there on warm evenings and Sunday afternoons in their most fashionable clothes and promenade along the terrace to admire the gardens. And so it remained for a long time. But, after World war 2, the fortunes of the area and the park changed. The bombing of central Manchester during the war made it an unpleasant place to live. The middle classes decamped from around the park and moved to the southern suburbs or out into Cheshire. The villas were split into tiny apartments and the people who moved in were less affluent than their predecessors.

The area probably hit rock bottom in the 1980s and 1990s. To the north of the park, Moss Side became a centre of drug trafficking and gang violence. There was even gun crime, something virtually unknown in the UK. Manchester became known as Gunchester. At one point there were riots and the shops along Princess Road were burned. Alexandra Park was caught up in all this, it was scary in the day and a no go area at night. But strong police action plus the determination of the local population has seen the area turn around. City living is now back in vogue. People who can no longer afford to buy into nearby Chorlton have turned to Walley Range to find reasonably priced period houses. And Moss Side, close to a completely rebuilt Hulme to its north is also becoming a place where people will consider buying into.

And Alexandra Park has benefitted from these changes. The local people were determined to revive this beautiful space. Its taken a while. They began in 2002. It took a while to get the necessary money together to fund the project. £5.5 million apparently. That done, it’s taken 3 years to put the plan in action. It wasn’t popular with everyone. To restore the park to how it was in 1868 it was necessary to clear some undergrowth and take down some of the trees, particularly on the terrace. Some of the older trees were in a bad way and needed to be felled. For a while we had an encampment of green eco-warriors living in the trees. They eventually abandoned the trees and the plan was begun.

Today the park was officially reopened after a weekend of events. It was good to see the park full of people out enjoying themselves. There was even some promenading along the terrace but no where near as well dressed as it was in 1868.

I like this part of the park. There are still a lot of the original trees here over the wide path that runs parallel to Alexandra Road South. With the tall trunks and curving branches, it reminds me of a great, green Gothic cathedral.

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The terrace is where the promenading used to go on. This area became overgrown and, with its position closest to Moss Side, was the most dangerous part of the park. It’s all been beautifully restored. The planting is new and looks a bit thin at the moment but will bulk out quickly. I think it’s very successful. They have even replaced the lost urns. They used to be stone but these ones are cast iron. They will be going nowhere.

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This house was the park keeper’s lodge by the Claremont Road gates. It was in a ruinous state a couple of years ago but it’s back to its original condition now.

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Thanks again to the Greater Manchester police helicopter for this picture of the area around Victoria Station, currently getting a major restoration and a beautiful new roof. It’s all coming together nicely. The old part, which is the most attractive railway building in the city, is being cleaned and restored. Nice coffee shops and the like are queuing up to have space in it. The old leaky, bomb damaged roof has gone completely and it being replaced by this elegant, glass glazed, curved roof. A beautiful mixture of Victorian railway architecture and 21st century engineering.

You can see half the roof in place, the remaining part will form a ‘L’ shape being joined to the part of Victoria Station on the right. I was intrigued by the blue glazing and went to see what it was. Sadly it wasn’t glass which would have been really cool, it was blue netting slung under the glazing panels while they are secured in place to catch them should there be an accident. The large, slightly curved, roof to the right and slightly up from the station is the roof of the Manchester Arena, the largest indoor arena in Europe and the second most busy in the world after some place in NYC.

The sixties building at the bottom left of the picture in New Century House, part of the sixties development around the CIS Tower which is just out of the picture.

Just above the station you can see the new building of Chetham’s School, Manchester’s world famous school of music. To its left are the medieval buildings of Chetham’s School. Once a hospital, they are now the music school and contain some of the oldest buildings in the city. In among them in Chetham’s Library, the western world’s oldest lending library. It is steeped in history. Mr Engels and Mr Marx, appalled at the poverty of the poor in Victorian Manchester compared to the incredible wealth of the cotton barons, met here to talk and laid the foundations for Communism in the city that also took the concept of Capitalism and ran with it making the city the richest on the planet for a while. It was also in this library that John Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s alchemist, allegedly conjured up the devil in a black magic ritual. There is still a desk in there where the devil is supposed to have burned with his cloven hoof. In reality, John Dee was an early scientist whose bangs, whistles and nasty smells scared the bejesus out of Late Tudor London. They wanted him hung but he was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth so she banished him to the then remote country town of Manchester where he carried on his experiments/black magic rituals depending on how you like to look at it.

Above Chetham’s you can see a crane on a site where they have just begun building some skyscraper apartment towers. To their left it a plateau of land where Exchange Station used to be, they have just started new office blocks on it. This part of the city is busy transforming itself.

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One of the problems of Victoria Station is that it has been one of the main entrances to Manchester Arena next door. This means 1000s of people are trying to get into the arena at the same time as 1000s of people are trying to get home through the station. To stop this problem they are building a high level walkway under the new roof that will take the people into the arena without getting mixed up with the people rushing for a train or tram. I’m stood on part of it to take these pictures under the partially finished roof. The roof is due to be finished by Christmas. We will see…

I took a picture with a tram in so you can get the scale of the roof. You can also see the beautiful curve. Modern architecture can divide people but I am yet to find anyone who isn’t complimentary about this project.

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The positioning of the ribs of the roof have to be done in the middle of the night when the station is closed for about three hours to the public. I’d like to see it happen but its far too late and past my bedtime. But I did find this cool video…

While I’m on about Victoria Station I thought I’d post these old pictures I found. Today Victoria Station is little used (that’s going to change after this refurb) but, in its day, it was super busy alongside the now disappeared Exchange Station next door. They were connected to each other by the longest station platform in the world. Getting goods about the station was tricky with all the platforms and steps and people moving about at ground level. So they had this rather cool system of hoists and track’s across the roof of the station that lifted things above the trains from platform to platform. It looks a fun job. Health and safety nightmare though.

I found these pictures on the website of the National Railway Museum in York. The don’t mind you posting them as long as you tell people where they come from. They have lots of cool pictures so check them out at www.nrm.org.uk 

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A few last pictures from the Pride Parade on Saturday. This gentleman above is 91 and was at the front of the parade on his mobility scooter leading it around the route from Castlefield to Canal Street. There was a huge cheer as he went past and he seemed to be enjoying it.

As he was 91 that means he must have been born in 1923. He spent the first 44 years of his life in danger of imprisonment if he acted on any of his natural inclinations. That was because of an Act of Parliament of 1861 that brought the prison sentences in. Allegedly it was also supposed to do the same for Lesbian women but Queen Victoria refused to sign it because she didn’t accept that women could do anything like that. While we might look at the 1861 Act as a backward step it actually was a step forward as it replaced the Buggery Act of 1533 (yup! that’s what they called it) that had the death penalty for homosexual behaviour.

Since 1967 being gay hasn’t carried the prison sentence in England And Wales but it took to 1981 in Scotland and 1982 in Northern Ireland. Now the age of consent has been equalised, there are civil partnerships and marriage.

This gentleman has seen huge changes in how GLBT are seen in his lifetime. Manchester has gone from a position where gay people had to keep their inclinations and activities secret, a city where Alan Turing, who deciphered the Enigma Code and shortened WW2 and then went on to develop the world’s first working computer, laying the foundations of the world we live in today, was forced to commit suicide because he was gay. It’s now a city with a thriving GLBT culture where a 91 year old guy can ride along Deansgate on Saturday afternoon and be cheered for what he is.

Some more pics from the parade. Look out for the Queen, she usually turns up…

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This little Yorkie was having an extra specially exciting walk this morning. All the way from the marshalling area in Castlefield to Canal Street, being admired by the crowds and constantly photographed. His paws must have been sore when he got there…

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I’m not sure what breed this doggie is, but he was walking from Castlefield to Canal Street like this all the way. He was getting tardy so his master would come and encourage him to walk faster…

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The theme of this year’s Pride Parade was ‘The Summer of Love.’ Apparently this has something to do with a bunch of hippies in San Francisco and the surrounding area who took a lot of interesting substances, listened to a lot of music and ‘let it all hang out ‘back in the 1960s. I’m not sure if Manchester ever had a ‘summer of love’, even in Chorlton, and I’m pretty damn sure Salford didn’t have one ever. But this picture claims otherwise. Please excuse the finger…

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But back to the subject of the post. The UK, along with most of western Europe, wears its religion lightly. I think it’s got something to do with the continent’s history. Centuries ago we were riven by religious wars as people fought over which particular version of an imaginary friend in the sky was better than another person’s imaginary friend in the sky. They were vicious wars and many people died. We are talking millions. We are still putting out the dying embers in some parts of the continent. But then we had the Age of Enlightenment which gradually rolled back the religious bigotry.

In the UK we love our churches and cathedrals, the sublime music and the beautiful art. We celebrate the festivals. But, by and large, religion plays an increasingly smaller part in people’s daily lives. Something we are grateful for when we see people decapitating innocent people because they believe their version of an imaginary friend is better than someone else’s and that imaginary friend is telling them to do that.

We do, however, have a very small number of so called Christians who are very convinced that their version of an imaginary friend is better than anyone else’s and a group of them were at the Pride Parade yesterday. They like to stand on Deansgate near the John Ryland’s Library and sermonise to the crowd and the parade as it passes. We had about an hour of them doing this before the parade got to us so I was able to listen to them at length. From what I can gather, unless we join them, we are all going to burn in hell. Apart from the obvious at a gay event, we can go to hell for drinking wine too much (oh dear), too much shopping will get you there (oh deary dear) and too over zealous use of computers, iPads and iPhones will also get you sent to a fiery pit of brimstone. Pretty much everything I do will get me sent there. But at least I will have lots of company. I wanted to ask what book, chapter and verse of the Bible banned iPads but the parade arrived so I will have to investigate at a later date. They were loud and vociferous while we waited but became incandescent when the parade arrived. It was good fun.

They were a particularly joyless bunch…

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People in the parade took great pleasure in expressing their love in front of these people. Here two guys from the Canal Street Racers (a running club) kissed to the delight of the crowd and the disgust of the so called Christians…

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Not all Christians share these views and gay Christian groups and Christaians who support gay people were marching in the parade. Apparently there is a specially nasty part of hell is going to be reserved for them…

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I’m not convinced these are real nuns. Possibly their placards…

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And I know the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence aren’t. Do you think he’s a choir boy?

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I haven’t been to see the Manchester Pride Parade for a few years now. Which is a bit sad as it’s one of the best free shows in town and, sadly, marks the end of Manchester’s summer. From now on we are looking forward to darkening nights and deteriorating weather. That’s the downside. The upside is we still have the Food & Drink Festival, The Literary Festival and the Christmas Markets to look forward to.

I nearly didn’t go this year either. It was raining heavily this morning but, about 10 30, the clouds parted and the sun came out. I drove into Chorlton to go to the Arts Market at the Post Office Café. I’d ordered some things at the last one and needed to pick them up. They are actually intended as Christmas presents but the person who makes them gets busy towards the festive season so I thought I’d order early and pick them up in November. But, as she does get busy she decided to do them straight away so she has time for later orders towards Christmas. So I picked them up today. Apologies, but I seem to have inadvertently started Christmas shopping.

The city centre was going to be busy with diversions so I left the car in Chorlton and took the tram into the city. The tram itself was busy with people heading in for the parade and other bank holiday weekend events. I found a place on Deansgate across from the John Ryland’s Library and the Armani Store and claimed my spot so I could take pictures. It’s an interesting spot to stand as it’s where a group of fundamental Christians like to stand and berate the people in the parade about their lifestyle choices. They are very entertaining and it’s fun to watch the interactions between them and the parade. Or is that just me?

I have taken dozens of pictures and I might be boring you with them for a few days. But I thought Id start with this one. I remembered I had my iPhone with me that has the panorama feature on the camera. It was so unusual to see the street empty of traffic but with thick crowds lining it, patiently waiting for the parade to begin, that I thought I’d try a panorama. I was really pleased with how it came out. The RBS Building, the Armani Store and the John Ryland’s Library came out really well. I love the way the old and the new contrast next to each other in the city. And we had bright, warm sunshine from a blue Manchester sky to enjoy the parade with. 

Just a few random pics…

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Many thanks, yet again for some wonderful pictures from the Greater Manchester Police Helicopter. At some point in the last couple of nights they’ve been over the part of the city centre called The Village which is the centre of gay and lesbian culture in the city. As it is Pride weekend they’ve uploaded some stunning pictures of the area.

In the days when it was illegal to be gay in the UK, quite a while ago now, the gay community in Manchester and the police had quite a difficult relationship with the police having to enforce some very anti gay laws. It has taken a long time for the police force to gain the trust of the gay community but things are a whole lot better theses days. In this Saturday’s parade one of the biggest groups to march in it will be GLBT police officers for the Greater Manchester Force and other local forces.

In honour of the event the police helicopter, well one of them, has had a rainbow makeover. Here it is landing at its base at City Airport at Barton Moss.

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Here’s a couple of shots they took of the village. Click on them to see them in more detail. In this one Princess Street runs from top to bottom on the left of the picture. Manchester’s famous Canal Street, lined with gay owned and run bars, restaurants, clubs and other businesses runs across the picture at the bottom. If you click on the picture to make it bigger you can make out the little white lights that hang in the trees that line the Rochdale Canal that gives the street its name. A long time ago this part of the city was the main port of the city with wharfs and warehouses lining the canal. Near the top of the picture on Princess Street you can make out the rainbow lights of one of the old warehouses that is now one of the city’s biggest gay clubs. I forget its name. At the top, on the right, you can see part of the Manchester 1, one of the tallest towers of 1960s Manchester. Just below it you can make out the car park on top of Chorlton Street Bus Station where the intercity buses arrive in Manchester.

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In this one the helicopter is above China Town and is looking towards Canal Street which is in darkness from this angle. You can see Manchester 1 again in the bottom left corner. Bloom Street is lit up roughly in the centre of the picture from this angle. It runs parallel to Canal Street and is lined with bars. Now, while the bars on Canal Street are big, smart and classy, the sort you could take grandma to if she felt like a fun night out; the Bloom Street bars are a little edgier and ‘interesting’ shall we say and leave it at that. In the top left hand corner you can see the green of Sackville Park, a little green oasis in this very urban part of the city.

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Just close to the gay part of town is Piccadilly Station. It’s one of the busiest stations in the country. This is where the London trains arrive in the city. It looks stunning from this height with the great glass roof of the Victorian train shed lit up.

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The Greater Manchester Police Helicopter have done this video of them flying over Pride. The helicopter gets used a lot in the city when large number of people get together just in case there’s any bother. You often see it over football games checking stuff out. And they were over the city centre a lot during the stand off outside that store on King Street over the situation in Gaza where they was a real chance of bother. But Pride, apart from someone having a glass of sherry or six too many, passes off trouble free.

The helicopter seems to have three different cameras up there. There’s the conventional one that has been providing all these stunning shots of Manchester at night. Then they have a night vision camera that makes the city look ghostly when its switched on. And then there is the heat sensitive camera that the police use when chasing bad people late at night in dark places. The people appear as white figures. This video uses all three. At one point the helicopter closes in on a surface car park behind Bloom Street. Its being used as an outdoor arena for the Pride concerts and you can see thousands of white dots enjoying the music.

As I posted a couple of days ago, it’s the BIG WEEKEND for Manchester Pride, the annual GLBT Festival that has been going on for the last couple of weeks. Most of it is happening in the city centre but there were echoes of it in trendy Chorlton.

I liked the window display of the Betty & Butch Dog Lifestyle Store (the other store in Chorlton run by a dog, Duke) ‘DOGS DON’T DISCRIMINATE’. How true. Dogs give their love unconditionally and don’t judge you on who you choose to love.

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And across the street from Betty & Butch is Chorlton Central Church (Baptist & United Reformed) which seems to be practising what Jesus actually preached about in relation to recognising that the love is more important than who you choose to love.

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It’s always good to find a new (to me) independent business. This one’s in Chorlton (of course) an area where I thought I knew them all as well. I’d finished work about 2 and headed for Chorlton to have a bit of a wander about and see what was going on. I headed up Wilbraham Road looking for the shop that sells Belgian chocolate, but it was closed while the owners have their annual holiday.

Turning back I noticed Tiny’s Tipple, a well set up independent wine store. It is a modern take on the traditional wine store with the front of the shop painted this tasteful grey. The window display contained wines and, intriguingly, dog beds and bowls.

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This is Tiny of Tiny’s Tipple. One of two stores that I know of in Chorlton run by dogs. Tiny wasn’t there today, he likes to start his weekend early especially as it’s holiday weekend. This oil painting catches his likeness very well apparently.

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Some wine stores can be dark and dusty which can be cool. One of my favourite ones is the one up in Clitheroe in a series of damp cellars which has a great selection of wine and a great atmosphere. This one, with the blonde wood shelving, stripped wooden floor, subtle paint job, with the wine arranged by country enticing you to have a browse, is the opposite of that one but still had a great atmosphere. Plus no dust or damp which is a bonus. Each of the wines are labelled to give you an idea of what the wine is like. Light streams in from the street and the counter looked like, to me, a tastefully toned down version, with its grey and blue tiles, of the bar just installed at ODDEST further along the street.

I’m sure the owners of this store will have had a good time choosing the wines to sell. They seemed to be all ones that I hadn’t heard of before so you’re not going to find anything that you might come across at your local ASDA, Sainsbury’s, TESCO etc. This is a store where you can experiment and try wines you have never seen before.

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The front room of the store contains the wines while the back room has a selection of interesting, artisan beers.

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I had a good time inspecting the wines on the shelves.

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As well as wine and beer they do sell some soft drinks. I was drawn to the range of Fentimen’s drinks. They make soft drinks but to traditional recipes and in traditional ways. We particularly like their tonic water which is the only one we use when we are drinking one of the expensive gins we like. And I like their Curiosity Cola and Seville Orange Jigger.

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This was my haul. At the back is a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio from the Veneto (near Venice) region. It’s one of my favourite grape varieties for making wine. I like the combination of fruit and dryness. The wine of the left is also from Italy. It’s called Mosketto. I’ve never had it before but the label promises me the scent of white flowers with peach and citrus fruit flavours. Without the pop of a champagne, it has a slight fizz to it as well. If you want a bottle you might be out of luck as I got the last one in the store. Maybe more will be on their way.

On the Fentimen’s shelf I spotted one I hadn’t had before. A cherry flavoured cola drink called Cherrytree Cola. Not sure what it will be like but am pretty sure it will be good.

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They have regular wine tastings which sound fun. They are not the kind of tastings where you are ‘taught’ about the wine. It’s more of a social occasion where you can try some wine and enjoy some food made by a company run by one of the guy’s girlfriend (I think that’s what he said, apologies if I got it wrong). It could be something fun to do in the autumn with a view to stocking up on some Christmas wines.

Their website is….

www.tinystipple.co.uk

And the food is provided by….

http://wendyshousesupperclub.co.uk/

She seems to run something that I have heard of but have never experienced. Rather than eating her food in a restaurant, she hosts restaurant evenings in her own home. I’ve heard of this happening in London but had no idea that the concept had moved up to Manchester. Something else fun to try…