Category: Manchester

The first rule of Cake Club is…


Well I’m kicking that rule into touch. Last night I found myself back at The Post Box Café taking part in their fortnightly Cake Club. Cake is big in the UK at the moment. The popularity of the BBC’s programme, ‘The Great British Bake Off’ has been credited with a revival of home baking. We are all channelling our inner Mary Berry. The supermarkets have reported a boost in selling all kinds of baking paraphernalia and people are getting together to share their love of baking. Personally Mary Berry is preaching to the converted here. Cake and I have had a long and pleasant relationship and I look forward to it continuing.

What I’ve never done is gone to a Cake Club. They are popping up all over the UK and the enterprising people behind The Post Box Café have set one up so that the Mary and Paul wannabes of Chorlton can learn new skills and polish existing ones.

For those who haven’t been to one of these clubs, this is what happens. The baker has chosen a cake or cakes that will be made. A demonstration is done. The members of Cake Club have a go themselves. The cakes are baked. The cakes are eaten. Perfect night out…

Last night we made BREAD PUDDING. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t even need to be measured out accurately. Here’s all the ingredients ready for use…


Chris, who runs the café, making me an Americano…


Ready to start…


First you need bread. You can use any bread you like and it’s a good way to use some bread that has, perhaps, gone a little past its sell by date. You tear it up into pieces and add milk. You can leave it for about 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the liquid. It can be a communal bonding exercise if you like…



You add candied peel, dried fruit, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. A couple of eggs are beaten and added. This will bind the mixture. And not forgetting some melted butter. Icing sugar can be added to taste to sweeten the pudding…



It all gets mixed together thoroughly…


Put the mixture into a baking tray, it’s then baked in the oven for between 40minutes and an hour. Keep your eye on it so that is doesn’t catch. You can cook it for a longer time if you reduce the temperature. Cooked well, it will have a nice crunchy top with an unctuous interior…


The finished Bread Pudding…


Chris did a Summer Berry version of the Bread Pudding substituting frozen summer berries for the dried fruit…



We then did a quick but impressive pudding called a Berry Pavita. It’s a layered pudding that looks great but was so simple to make. And you get to use those cool food rings that the top chefs use when the are cooking on TV. For this pudding you need some fruited tea bread, a coulis made of juice from berries and water, some berries (the frozen ones are cool) and some icing sugar…


We used three slices of the fruited tea bread and cut out three circles of the bread with the food ring. You dip a circle of bread into the mixture of fruit coulis and water and lay it on a plate at the bottom of the food ring.


On top of that you layer some of the berries topped with a little icing sugar. Repeat with the other two slices of bread, more berries and icing sugar…



Carefully lift off the ring, Here’s the finished Berry Pavita…


Here’s mine finished…


Here it is five minutes later…


It was a fun way to spend an evening, meeting new people, learning some new skills and enjoying some cake. There was room, I thought, for a few more people to join in. So if you live withing easy reach of Chorlton and feel like improving your baking skills, check out The Post Box Café site and come along. If baking isn’t your thing, they have lots of other events to enjoy. Contact them on…

0161 881 4853

Check out their website…

Follow them on TWITTER…


They also do the FACEBOOK thing but I don’t I’m afraid…


Manchester United has found itself on the front and back pages of all the newspapers and on the rolling news broadcasts. Even when it is doing badly it can still dominate the news. Not just in Manchester and the UK either, it’s been front page news all over the world with people from Sydney to Seattle via Sao Paulo having their six pennyworth on the latest twist on Manchester United’s appalling (by their standards) season. Here it’s bumped the on-going disaster in Syria, the nasty state of affairs in the Ukraine and the sad news about the Korean ferry sinking with the loss of all those young lives, from the front of the news.

But this is football and as legendary Liverpool FC manager, Bill Shankley, once said:

‘Football isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s far more important that that!’

United have hit the headlines because they have sacked their manager, David Moyes, after less than a year in the job. He arrived last year having been personally selected by Sir Alex to take over the reigns. He was, as the banners said at Old Trafford, ‘The Chosen One.’ Personally I wasn’t surprised to hear he has been sacked. To be honest he hasn’t looked up to the job since the autumn. It was only a matter of time. United have had a miserable season losing games at home to teams that they would have brushed aside a couple of seasons ago.

Why this has happened is complicated. Losing Sir Alex has a lot to do with it. He pushed the players way beyond what they were capable of and made United the most successful team in the UK by sheer will power. Now he’s gone, the team that won the league just last year looks tired and old. The players have to share the blame for the teams problems. Some are getting on in footballer’s years and are frankly past their best. They need to be moved on a new blood brought in. The team has gone from winning the league to looking confused as to why they are losing to looking as if they don’t give a **** if they win or not. There are rumours that the players don’t respect David Moyes in the dressing room and aren’t prepare to back him up. If this is true this is outrageous as they are paid a lot of money to perform for 90 minutes a week and ordinary people pay a lot of money to watch them, they need to sort that out. David Moyes had brought in new players at great expense but they haven’t made a mark on the team and don’t even seem to be good players. Fellani has been a poor investment. and as for Mata? Does he? I don’t think so.

Lack of investment in the team hasn’t helped and this is down to the loathed Glazer family who own the team. Every year £60,000,000 of Manchester United’s money is sent to New York to service the debt that has been loaded on the club. And £10,000,000  goes into their pockets. Before the Glazers took over was one of the most profitable and successful in the world. Personally, I think they are at the heart of this mess. Compared with Manchester City across town, Manchester United looks shabby and tired, everything from the team to the stadium to the food you buy at half time looks poor compared with what is on offer at the Etihad Stadium. And that wasn’t the words of a Manchester City supporter, it was from Fred Done, local millionaire, Manchester United supporter. That £60,000,000 a year could go a long way to bring in new players, improve the stadium and do something about the pies.

We’re not sure who is going to manage Manchester United for the new season. The guys who are capable of doing it all have good jobs with good teams elsewhere and they may not want to move to Manchester United as it is. For the moment, long term player. Ryan Giggs will be looking after the team for the last few games. His playing career is coming to an end and he’s looking to be a manager himself. It will be interesting to see how he does. He has the respect of the team as a player so maybe he can inspire them to win a few games before the season closes.

The game that brought things to a head was last weekend’s game against Everton, David Moyes old club. United lost it and this meant there was no chance of United being in the lucrative and aspirational European Cup contests next year. The city itself will suffer as a result. These European matches are big business. We are used to fans from all over Europe descending on the city for the games. They are usually the richer fans who make a few days of it. They come for the match, look round the city, stay in the hotels, shop in the stores, eat in the restaurants. It all adds up. Next year the local economy will only have Manchester City’s European games to provide this.

Meanwhile across town, Sheik Mansour is still raining cash on Manchester City. Here are a few pictures of their new training facilities that have been created next to the stadium on abandoned industrial land. You can see part of the two lesser stadiums that are being built for the various teams to play. You can see the school that is being built for local kids. It will all be in landscaped parkland. And the latest project is to take the roof off the Etihad Stadium and build another tier to expand the capacity of the ground, By 2017 it will be the third largest ground in the UK. Where Manchester United will be in 2017 is anyone’s guess. It’s a testament to Sheik Mansour’s commitment to the club. He can’t walk around town in safety as he might be mobbed by delighted City supporters. Meanwhile the Glazers have to creep into the city surrounded by security…













This is my attempt to do the shot of the Hilton Tower that appears in all the tourist information for the city. The strong vertical of the Hilton contrasts pleasingly with the curve of the bridge and the Central Conference Centre. To get the full shot I had to wait for a tram to cross the bridge. The bridge is the colour of the old trams but I like the contrast of the new yellow trams and the blue of the bridge. It didn’t take long for a tram to come along but it would have taken days for the sky to turn a tourist blue and longer for the tree to come into leaf…


Manchester is giving some of its monuments a bit of a makeover. Most of them are in St. Peter’s Square. The area where the Centotaph will be is being made ready. Already some of the stones that were in the square a few weeks ago have already made it to their new position near the back entrance to the Town Hall. It all has to be up and ready by November 11th, Remembrance Day.






St. Peter’s Cross isn’t moving anywhere so it appears to be being given a makeover where it is. It will be in the middle of the new square and the new tram lines will be on either side of it giving it a wide berth and some dignity. At the moment it’s almost on the tram stop platform. While the work is being done the hoardings have been covered with quotes from the side of the Cenotaph.






I wondered what was going to happen here where the workers were surrounding a part of the square with a fence. So I asked the guys. What they are doing is digging down under the square to move the various services so nothing is actually running under the newly laid tram lines. They can’t dig up the tracks for weeks on end every time they need to fix a water leak to one of the underground pipes.


Meanwhile over in China Town, the Imperial Chinese Arch has disappeared under plastic. There was a lot of banging going on inside and I hope they are going to do a paint job on it. Some of the paint was peeling off a few weeks ago. It should all be done by late Spring.






Just before I got back to the car I came across this beautiful Bentley Convertible on a street just off Canal Street. Its top was down and I can only assume that its owner was somewhere near watching over it, may be enjoying a drink at one of the bars on Canal Street. If I had a car like this I wouldn’t even park it on the street let alone leave the top down unattended. There are far too many people about who might decide to spoil it in some way. I have no idea who owns it but the number plate says they are DIRTY…







On Good Friday, after leaving my lost Spanish lady, Carmen, at Victoria Station to catch her train to Liverpool, I picked up one or two things from Marks & Spencer’s and wandered back through to where the car was parked. My route took me across one edge of Piccadilly Gardens, not, regular readers of this blog will know, one of my favourite parts of the city. What should be a gem we should be proud of is a city wide embarrassment, ugly in the day and quite threatening at night. The council have been replacing the rotting benches but with more wood which, if not looked after, will be back to the state it was a few weeks ago in a couple of years time. But now the Manchester Evening News and Manchester Confidential are coordinating the anger in the city about the state of the gardens so even the council is having to sit up and pay attention.

However, Piccadilly Gardens is not the reason why I like living in Manchester. Rather something that I saw happening there on Good Friday. The sun was out and the city was busy with people out enjoying themselves. Under the Manchester Wheel a food market was in full swing. I bought a beef burger on a wholemeal bun with blue cheese and a chilli tomato salsa. I’m not a fan of burgers from certain chain restaurants, even before the horsemeat scandal I was very dubious about what was in them, but the ones you get at these markets tend to be a far superior product.



I needed somewhere to stand while I ate it. The guys who play the African instruments on the corner of the square struck up with some of their beautiful, exotic, rhythmic music. The guy who dances with them was there as well. He began to dance in synch with the music. He’s really good at it, he’s a pleasure to watch. You can see him above, the guy in the elaborately decorated shirt. A guy of about 17 or 18 in a blue tracksuit came and joined him. At first I thought he was going to act the fool and dance a stupid over exaggerated version of the guy’s dance. But he wasn’t. He was trying hard to mirror the dancer’s moves. As the dancer realised this he kept changing his moves for the other guy to follow.




Out of nowhere, a little blond guy of about 11 joined them. Now he was good. He followed the dancer perfectly and moved with the same fluidity and grace that the dancer had but the older teen couldn’t quite manage. The little guy’s friend or it might have been his brother, joined in emboldened by his friend’s/brother’s success.



More people joined in until we had a long line of people all following the dancer in tune with the music in the small arena that had been created by the growing crowd who had stopped to watch the dancing and listen to the music. People smiled and laughed. we were all enjoying the moment. Cameras came out to record it and when the music finished there was a huge cheer. It was a lovely moment in the city and that’s why I like living here.

I headed down to the river to find a place where I could watch the races. I wandered along the banks that were filling up with people to find a good spot. As I did I took some pictures. The start was under the Bridge Street bridge where they had parked the bus that I’d spotted a few days earlier outside the Armani Store on the Deansgate side of Spinningfields.


The corporate ducks were all lined up ready to go for the first race at 2.00pm. Last year, this was the race where there was mischief and one of the ducks had been fitted with a motor. It tore down the river to disqualification.



This new footbridge links Spinningfields to the Salford side of the river. It is hoped that the development on the Manchester bank will cross the river into Salford. Beyond a new building is going up. It’s a new hotel just beyond the Quay Street bridge on the Salford side. It’s built on a place called New Bailey. A long time ago there was a Georgian prison on this site. Before this hotel was built, the archaeologists were on site seeing what they could find.


These are Manchester’s twin towers, a huge apartment complex that looms over the river in Spinningfields. They look good in the sun and I like the freshness of the green in the leaves against the geometry of the buildings. I’d quite like an apartment in the part that links the two buildings.


Crowds gathering along the banks to enjoy the races.


This is the Mark Addy, one of the city centre’s popular waterside pubs. It closed a few weeks back when the chef decided to move on. It had a great reputation for its food. But it’s reopened again after a bit of a makeover. Not heard about the food though yet. It’s named after Mark Addy. He was a boatman who ferried people across the river at this point. He was a big guy apparently. For various reasons he found himself rescuing a large number of people who got themselves into difficulties on this stretch of the river. It was a popular place for suicide in those days. And, even if you weren’t going to end it all, if you fell in the water was so polluted that it could kill you if you accidentally swallowed any. The scum of the water was so thick and solid that birds could walk onto it and the chemicals in the water so toxic that the river used to spontaneously combust! People had to be rushed to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped. Some didn’t make it that far. While it’s not exactly a pure, mountain stream these days, it’s nowhere near as bad as that now and people have been spotted fishing in here. I wouldn’t eat anything I caught in there just yet though.


The Mark Addy and the start again. The 5 * Lowry Hotel, beloved of visiting rock stars and the like, is in the distance beyond the spine of the Caltrava Bridge.


This family had come prepared for the races with a complete picnic.


I didn’t actually see the races. At this point I was approached by a young Spanish lady, Carmen. She was lost and pulling a heavy bag trying to find the station to get her to Liverpool. To cut a long story short I escorted her to Salford Station where we found that the trains to Liverpool didn’t stop. I couldn’t leave her there so I took her to Victoria Station where I definitely knew the trains to Liverpool went from. I pulled her heavy bag through the streets and we had unscheduled photo stops at the Cathedral, the Old Wellington Inn, URBIS and Chetham’s Library. By the time I got her to her train the races were over. We did swap emails though and I have an open invitation to an escorted tour of Madrid next time I’m in town…


The warm, sunny weather on Good Friday brought the crowds out into the city. People were out and about marking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ with a cocktail or two. We are a Christian country but we do wear our religion lightly here. We had centuries where we were ruled by despotic kings and bishops who thought they had a private line to God. Now with the church firmly in its place and a Queen we can respect who is an asset to the country we are, generally, comfortable with our society. We value our secular society and the freedoms that it has given us. 

The lawns of Hardman Square were packed with people and there wasn’t a deck chair to be had. They were all enjoying the sunshine and waiting for the movie to start on the big screen set up on the west side. Appropriately enough it was ‘The Mighty Ducks’. I have no idea what the GOOGLE logo was doing here but I know they have offices in the city somewhere near here.










The mighty duck that was advertising the Good Friday Duck Race on the River Irwell  on Greengate Square had moved to Spinningfields for the actual event. Here he is on one of the lawns outside the Civil Justice Centre. And, yes, the sky was really that shade of blue in Manchester in April…





The rest of the lawn was being used for rides for the kids while they waited for the races to begin. Next year they might not be able to use this lawn. It’s due to be built upon soon to provide more office space in this popular area of the city.




The building will be called The Cotton Building, a nod to Manchester’s industrial past I suppose.


With Easter being so late and the Spring being so warm there are virtually no daffodils in the gardens on Easter Day while the pink cherry blossom we usually out in May has been brought forward a couple of weeks. It looks wonderful with the trees covered in pink, blousy blossom. Though it looks wonderful this blossom is all looks. There’s no perfume to it and it can’t be fertilised so there won’t be any cherries later in the year. But it does look great especially if we have a blue sky day like we did on Good Friday. The baby pink of the blossom contrasts with the baby boy blue colour of the sky.

These trees were in Sackville Gardens just over from Canal Street where the trees work well against the background of the Victorian gardens. It was warm and sunny when I was there and Canal Street was busy from one end to the other with thousands of people sitting out enjoying a drink in the sunshine for the first time this year.