Category: Manchester


The iconic red British telephone box, starring in every movie or TV show that features the UK is in terminal decline. With just about everyone over the age of 12 owning a mobile phone, their use has fallen to such a point that it is impossible for anyone to run them profitably. Many have disappeared to turn up in people’s gardens as ‘features.’ A few have been kept on as they may be needed for emergencies. And some are kept in tourist towns and cities as photo opportunities for tourists who like to think the entire country is time locked in 1956. There are a few scattered about city centre Manchester still. With the rise and rise of instantaneous electronic communications, the iconic post box is also under threat as people on use them these days to post birthday and Christmas cards.

These three are in Piccadilly Gardens. They aren’t the iconic ones beloved of tourists and Hollywood directors who want to introduce ‘Britishness’ into a movie. But I took the picture because of the one on the left with its pineapple roof. Why?

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After a week trapped at home staring at a computer screen for so long that, at one point, my eyes refused to focus and weird lights danced in front of them, I decided I needed some time away from it all. So I took the tram into the city centre to have a bit of a mooch. 

One of the places I DID need to see was the new Betty & Butch store in the Northern Quarter. It had opened that morning. Regular readers of this blog will know about Betty & Butch, the dog lifestyle store in trendy, boho Chorlton. I found it a few years ago and at first thought I was looking into a fashionable boutique on King Street so beautifully was everything arranged and displayed. To call it a pet store would be a misnomer. They smell of stale dog biscuits. The dogs that shop in Betty & Butch shop under chandeliers in a store perfumed with lavender and patchouli. Sadly, I don’t have a dog of my own as no one is in long enough to look after one. But the dogs of friends are regularly treated to specially made, organic treats and cool dog toys from here. And I always like to go in at Christmas and see one of the best Christmas displays in the city. I hoping to make the switch on this year.

Baby Betty & Butch has taken up residence in Affleck’s Palace on the corner of Oldham Street and Church Street in the uber cool N4. It’s a bit of a Manchester institution, full of independent, little businesses selling all manner of quirky and interesting stuff. It was one of the ideas that kick-started the N4 and people travel from far and wide to visit it. It is, apparently, a favourite place of Lady Gaga when she is in town. Her dancers found it, raved about it and it was opened specially for her one evening and she spent over £8,000. The only other person I know of that businesses go to that trouble with is the Queen. I wonder if Lady Gaga keeps a dog?

25 years ago hardly anyone lived in the city centre; today they live there in the tens of thousands and the population is set to soar. A lot of the people keep little dogs and have the style and the money to indulge their pets. I think the Baby Betty & Butch store is perfectly placed to supply this market. The one in Chortlton goes from strength to strength. 

Explaining exactly where it is in Affleck’s is difficult as it’s such a warren of a place. Best thing to do is go and explore, always fun in there. I found it near the nice bead and ribbon shop, not too far from Rubber Plantation, the condom store. It’s that kind of place.

Some pictures of Baby Betty and Butch. Check out the bags. And they are  on having cotton or hessian reusable ones which will be cool.

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Wonder.land….

The Manchester International Festival is about to kick off in the city. For those not familiar with it (do you live under a stone?) it’s a biannual festival of the arts. Everything that is showcased at it has to be a world premiere. It’s become very successful; so much so that it’s having it’s own dedicated theatre space being created for it at the cost of £78,000,000 in the new St. John’s Quarter of the city centre.

Wonder.land is a new production for the festival based on the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ story. It’s a play with music created by Blur’s Damon Albarn. It’s one of a number of pieces that will be premiered in Manchester over the next couple of weeks.

This poster is on Regents Road where the motorway from the west of the city sweeps round the city centre. Behind it there’s yet another building site. On a tiny piece of land a 28 storey apartment block is being built and will be finished in 2017. More evidence of the Northern Powerhouse being created. Wonderland indeed.

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This is what they are building.

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Work is really busy at the moment which is a bad thing. The good thing is I can do a lot of it at home which certainly cuts down the commute. Bedroom to kitchen table is nothing like a hour on the M60. Bad thing is I find home far too distracting and can always see little things that need my immediate attention that can interfere with the serious business of doing paid work.

So this morning I was up at 6, showered, shaved and breakfasted by 7 in time to start. I worked solidly until 1 30 pm by which time I’d accomplished everything I needed to. And that is spite of a call from a friend in deepest, rural Shropshire who’d dropped his iPod on the flagstone floor of their centuries old farmhouse (I’m not jealous) and wondered if he could send it to me to take into one of the Apple stores here. The little wheel thing is stuck apparently. All that took about 20 minutes. It’s on it’s way and I’ll have to fit a trip to the Arndale or Trafford Centres into my busy schedule.

Work finished I found a couple of hours free to water the plants for my Dig The City Garden and get to Chorlton for a glass of wine before a meeting that starts at 4. I know! Afternoon drinking! But I have earned it and I deserve it.

I even found time to start my stained glass jam jar lanterns that are going to hang in the trees in my St Ann’s Square garden. I did the ‘lead” outlines today and will paint the colours on later when they dry. I must be very wicked because, at the moment there’s no rest.

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The plants are looking really good at the moment. I hope they haven’t peaked too soon. I’ll keep watering, feeding and deadheading and, hopefully, they will still look as good when Diamuid Gavin, no less, checks them out for judging. Who’d have thought that a gardener who has designed and built extraordinary gardens for Chelsea will be passing judgement on my efforts! Scared? You bet I am!

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Just a quick one but so wise. Spotted on an ‘A’ board outside Launderette Restaurant (it was actually created in a former launderette) on trendy Beech Road in Chorlton, Manchester.

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After my escapades with the Giant Hogweed and the Thai Massage Parlour, I thought I should beat a retreat to a less risky part of Chorlton. I headed through Beech Park and along Beech Road, busy with Chorlton  residents enjoying their part of the city on a sunny, Saturday afternoon and went to Chorlton Green where the Horse & Jockey Pub was having its monthly market. I needed to find someone.

It’s not a huge market but a popular one. People come to drink and eat in the pub, listen to the jazz band and check out what the stalls are selling. All under the trees on the Green surrounded by the sought after, attractive Victorian villas. The stalls are a mixture of food and drink, crafts and vintage. I counted about twenty. Not a lot but sufficient to make it worth a person’s while to come down and check it out. They were all set out under these canopies. In Manchester you need to protect outdoor events from the rain but, for today, it was sheltering people from the sun. More stalls were in the pub itself and the beer garden outside was busy with people having lunch and enjoying a drink. You pay a lot of money to live in Chorlton to enjoy this lifestyle. But you can always visit of course.

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The calm and conviviality of suburban Manchester was dramatically shattered, briefly, when the last working Vulcan Bomber in the UK roared across Chorlton Green. It was on a tour of the north of a England. It started in Doncaster in Yorkshire, headed up to Edinburgh before flying down the west coast via Carlisle to the West Midlands and then back to Doncaster. In our area it flew over City Airport at Barton and across Chorlton Green on route to Manchester Airport. It was an astonishing site but over far too fast for me to get my camera out and in position. So here’s a picture with thanks to vulcantothesky.org to show what I saw.

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I’m not a frequenter of massage parlours. Honest! I did once have a massage when on holiday in a very respectable hotel in Budapest where they have a tradition of these things. It was done by a guy and shorts were kept on at all times. And it was a good(ish) experience but it was quite a brutal experience. He looked like a Turkish wrestler and he really went to work on me, bending this and that, pressing his hands deep into my muscles. I was exhausted at the end of it all. 

We don’t have brothels in the UK we have ‘massage parlours.’ We do have massage parlours and ‘massage parlours.’ The apostrophes make a world of difference if you catch my drift.  Some of them are perfectly respectable I’m sure but some are not. You can have a massage but ‘extras’ might cost you a lot more. More apostrophes again. I found myself in a Thai Massage Parlour in Chorlton today. It seemed of the respectable sort. It’s right in the main part of the village on Barlow Moor Road. The less reputable ones seem to be located in quiet, out of the way places. So I’m told. This isn’t one of them. 

The reason I was in the massage parlour was I’d noticed a spectacular plant growing outside. Now it could be Hogweed or it could be Giant Hogweed. If it’s the latter it’s bad. These plants were brought into the UK in Victorian times as plants to grace the gardens of the rich. They found the climate to their liking and escaped the gardens and spread across the country. They are particularly fond of the damp river valleys that the UK has in abundance.

They are nasty plants. If you cut them down the sap from them can burn badly. Enough to put you in hospital and have you in pain for months. Children are attracted to them and their sensitive skin can be scarred for life. Even brushing against them with bare flesh can be disastrous. These plants are right by the street and could cause harm. I was in there warning the proprietor of the potential hazard outside his business. Honestly!

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I am really busy at work at the moment and I don’t have much time to get out and about and take pictures. I’ve got about three more weeks of this. But thanks to the guys at NPAS_Barton I can post this. It’s a glorious picture of Manchester city centre at sunset. The sun is catching the buildings are turning them brick red in places.

The street running straight through the picture from the bottom centre is Quay Street/Peter Street. At the top of it you can see No 1 St. Peter’s Square. To the left you can find circular Central Library and the Town Hall. On the right hand side you can see the Hilton Tower and the curve of the Central Convention Centre. Just to the right of the Hilton is a red block, that’s the new Innside hotel on First Street next to HOME, Manchester’s latest arts centre.

In the bottom right hand are the buildings that make up Liverpool Road Station, the world’s oldest railway station that now partially houses the Museum of Science and Industry. In the bottom left hand corner are the corporate towers of Spinningfields. The Civil Justice Centre is catching the setting sun beautifully. Between these two areas is the old Granada TV Studios campus. They have decamped to Media City leaving their city centre buildings. Allied London, who developed Spinningfields, have got the site and are going to develop it as a new quarter of the city, St. John’s. More offices and apartments, restaurants, cafes, bars, stores. At least one fabulous hotel. A £100,000,000 theatre complex to house the Manchester International Festival. And skyscrapers galore, I read seven, along the river including a massive 50 storey one. Exciting times for Manchester.

 

I do like the new look Mini cars. I actually like the classic ones as well. At some point in the future I’d like to get my hands on a old one and restore it. But, for the moment, I’ll just have to content myself with driving my new look one around the city. It’s great for urban driving, being nippy and easy to park. It’s good on petrol and quite powerful enough for motorway driving. In spite of its name, it is pretty roomy inside, at least in the front. Luggage space is at a premium though.

Mine in the one in British racing green with the contrasting white roof and mirrors. I’ve always wanted a car that colour so was delighted to have found it. It is admired when I take it places. When I visited friends in Old Trafford, just off Seymour Grove, I was pleased to find I could park it nose to nose with my friend’s Mini in bright red with the cool, electric sunroof that kind of turns it into a convertible. I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures.

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It’s been Father’s Day in the UK so it’s been out and about for lunch at The Lime Tree. On the way we stopped off at ODDEST for a pre lunch drink. In the corner near where we sat were this couple with their very new, baby son. At one point the guy’s partner went to the bar to order something leaving dad with the baby. We shouldn’t deal in stereotypes, but this big guy with his long, biker hair didn’t look like your archetypical dad but he was totally into his baby son and gently cradled him, patting his back, supporting his head and gently comforting him. I took these pictures.

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We got talking to them. People are always willing to talk about their babies. The baby is called Che, after Che Guevara; we are in Chorlton after all. I don’t know much about Che Guevara to be honest, I really need to look him up. But back to baby Che. He’s three months old and their first child. So father and son were out enjoying their first Father’s Day together. Watching them together and listening to how proud he was of his son, I think Che is going to grow up fine.

It got me thinking about dads. They are so important. They are half of the team that creates the people we are. A girl’s first relationship with a male will be with her father and this will influence how she interacts with other boys and men who come into her life. It’s that important.

If it’s important for girls it is vital for boys. Boys learn how to be men by watching the men about them, none more important than the father. If that relationship is wrong or missing, it will have an adverse effect on the son. A father son relationship goes through different stages. First men today are much more hands on with the raising of their baby sons. As the son grows, dad will be the one who being to open the world for his son, letting him grow and learn while keeping a watchful eye on his for dangers.

In his teen years , a good dad will give his son some space to develop his personality and learn how to cope with the world. It can be a difficult time as the son goes through those couple of difficult years when he thinks he knows it all. Dad may have to bite his lip occasionally and realise this phase will pass and, if the son has had a good upbringing, he will come good in the end. Mark Twain put it brilliantly about his relationship with his father in his teen years….

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Once the son has grown to full manhood, the relationship will change again. They will be friends as equals now but with dad always being someone that the son can, if he is wise, fall back on for support and encouragement. Dads are important. It’s been good to have a day to celebrate them.