Category: Manchester


‘How do you like your eggs in the morning? 

I like mine with a kiss.’

That’s what the jazz band were playing at the Horse and Jockey on Chorlton Green yesterday. The heat may have left us for a while the blue sky days are back and, in spite of the early morning rain, Chorlton was up and about to enjoy one of the first markets of the season on the green.

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The market was busy. Lots of stalls, nice food, stuff you don’t need but want, a BBQ, cold beer and wine. And lots of a Chorlton people enjoying their Saturday afternoon in this pleasant suburb.

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And it wasn’t just the people. The Chorlton doggies were out in force, making their way along Beech Road to the Green to take part in the dog show that was happening later that afternoon. Most of them were well behaved, as you would expect of dogs in Chorlton, but one or two were a little overexcited at seeing so many other strange dogs. They had set up a dog agility course to help decide which dog was best in show. Some of the early arrivals were having a run through the course. To be honest, it didn’t look good for their chances. Oh well, it’s the taking part, not the winning.

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I did think that Betty & Butch, Chorlton’s dog lifestyle store, might be here but they weren’t. They have been in the past and their store is just a couple of hundred metres from here on the other side of Beech Park. After the loss of Duke, their dog, maybe they didn’t feel up to it. I called in on my way past. The good news is that they have decided to adopt another dog from the Manchester Dog’s Home. She’s called Molly. She will never replace Duke of course but I’m sure she will go a long way to easing the pain. When she’s settled into her new home, doubtless she will become part of the staff at Betty & Butch and I’ll go in to see her.

It’s the time of year when the pink cherry blossom takes centre stage in an English spring. I was watching the news last weekend. It’s full of the general election at the moment. One of the reporters from the BBC was doing a piece from Parliament Square in London. I noticed that the pink cherry blossom trees in London were in full bloom while the ones 180 miles north, here in Manchester, were still in tight bud. You might be able to tell I’m less that riveted by this election campaign if I’m noticing the trees more than the messages from our leaders.

Well, a week of warm sunshine has brought the cherry trees out in Manchester in all their blousy glory. They look stunning everywhere but, sadly, they are all show; no perfume and, because they are infertile, no cherries later in the year. These trees were in Beech Park in Chorlton.

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I’d heard that another building project was about to start on Salford Quays at Media City. It’s a project called TOMORROW. Slightly pretentious name but another building project is always good. This is one of those multipurpose buildings which will house offices, TV studio spaces and another hotel. After turning up at the site of the four XI towers nearby and finding the ‘start’ of building was just the cutting back a few overgrown shrubs in spite of the Sunday Times declaring construction was under way, I was prepared for disappointment. Well I was pleasantly surprised to find actual machines were on site and busy doing stuff.

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This is what TOMORROW will look like when it’s finished.

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A couple of pictures of what this part of Media City looks like. The building on the right of the top picture is called HEART, an apartment block which is shaped as a heart from above.

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While I was in the area I snapped another apartment block that is under construction on busy Trafford Road. They are up to the crane stage. I also took a rather weird pic of what the finished building will look like. The picture was on the fence outside. It’s at odd angle because NO one stands in the middle of Trafford Road to take pictures in the rush hour.

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Manchester Docks, now Salford Quays, were built at the end of the Victorian period. The warehouses that lined the docks were huge, concrete blocks of little architectural merit and didn’t lend themselves to restoration and refurbishment. We didn’t have a stock of beautiful, brick built, Georgian and early Victorian warehouses to convert into waterside apartments like older ports such as London, Liverpool and Bristol. They were swept away. One building worth hanging on to though was the Art Deco Manchester Docks Office building. It’s being converted into apartments at the moment.

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Just a picture across Trafford Road toward the towers on Media City on the Quays. The warm, blue sky, spring days are still with us as you can see from the pictures.

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Manchester has a new hotel. Well that’s not news these days except that this one is a new 5* one, the Hotel Gotham in the former Midland Bank building on King Street. The building is one of Manchester’s architectural gems, a huge Art Deco influenced ziggurat of a building occupying and entire city block in Portland stone at the top of King Street.

It was built in the 1930s at the same time as New York was building its grand skyscrapers like the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. Add a couple of hundred metres to the Manchester building and it wouldn’t look out of place on the New York skyline. With a nod to its New York influences and its 1930s roots it’s called the Hotel Gotham. The style of the rooms and public spaces is 1930s but with 21st century comfort and super-fast broadband. Pictures of the interior look stunning. The ground floor banking hall has been occupied by Janie Oliver’s Manchester restaurant, in Art Deco opulence, for a few years now. The fitting out of the hotel had to go on without disturbing the diners in the restaurant and, cleverly hiding all the building materials and the like behind the building, diners wouldn’t have noticed a thing.

Its great to see this wonderful building back fully in use and so classily done. The address is King Street but, as Jamie got the main doors of the old bank building for his restaurant, the entrance to the hotel is round the corner in Spring Gardens. The staff uniforms are cool as well.

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It’s been a while since I posted about Cake Club. It has been on but life has been getting in the way as it does. But I was there last Wednesday when we made Cowboy Cookies. I’ve eaten a lot of cookies in my time but have never actually made any. Deb lead the session. They are called Cowboy Cookies because you can choose what ever you like from your store cupboard to flavour the basic cookie mix. Here’s the recipe…

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First you have to cream the butter. Lots of beating will get some air in and lighten the cooked cookies. This bit was tough with cold butter and a metal spoon. Electric whisks are SO much easier…

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Next beat in the sugar. More vigorous beating to get in some more air. Add an egg and some vanilla flavouring…

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In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and Bicarbonate of Soda. Fold it gently into the butter/sugar mix. Not too vigorously as you don’t want to knock all that air out of the mix that you took so much time and trouble to beat in. That was hard work. Next, gently mix in the oats…

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Now the fun bit. Fill about 2/3 of a teacup with what ever you’d like to flavour your cookies. I chose dried fruit with some candied peel, some chocolate chips and some smarties…

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Fold your ingredients into the mixture carefully…

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Split the mixture into twelve equally sized balls. Flatten them out a little onto a lined baking tray. Not too close together as they do spread in the oven. I got six on each tray,lined with baking paper, and it worked perfectly…

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Bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 8 to 10 minutes. Keep your eye on them so that they don’t catch at the edges. Let them cool. They will be crusty on the outside and deliciously chewy in the middle. Well mine were anyway…

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A few years ago we had a trip to Venice. It was around Easter so it must have been April. When we got to the city it was interesting to see how people were dressed. We’d checked the weather for the city and it was similar to what we had in Manchester on Saturday. Mid teens temperatures and dry and sunny. In La Serenissima the visiting Scandanavians were dressed in shorts and T-shirts. The British, like us, were in summer trousers and open necked shirts, they carried a light sweater and, somewhere about their person, there would be a little umbrella ‘just in case.’ We are used to the weather changing quickly. The native Venetians looked fabulous, wrapped in their furs and leather and cashmere. As far as they were concerned it was still winter.

I was reminded of this on my trip through Manchester’s N4 on Saturday. It was a bright, sunny day and if you kept to the sunny side of the streets it was warm. People were out and about enjoying the city. The north side of Stevenson Square was in bright sunshine and the cafes and restaurants there had spilled out on to the pavements and people were taking advantage enjoying lunch and a drink with friends. Businesses on the south side, with terraces in the shade were considerably less popular.

I like the N4 a lot. Across the city centre we have  Spinningfields, all glass towers, brash modernity, expensively kitted out restaurants and bars. I love going there and hanging out with the bankers spending their bonuses. It’s there because Manchester is doing well as a city, a place where people want to come and do business. The N4 is the opposite of Spinningfields but just as successful. Filled with successful, creative businesses and it’s streets lined with independent, one off bars, cafes and restaurants. It’s always busy and popular with people who come from all over the city to enjoy the vibe. And it’s now firmly on the tourist map being a must visit place if you’re here on a trip.

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This lady was working on a new mural in the centre of the square while her partner worked on his APPLE.

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On Thomas Street there was this pop up market selling old books, CDs and those black plastic things that play music if you have the right technology.

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The daffodils are reaching the end of their flowering season in the city which is sad but their place is being taken by the tulips. These were in a little garden on Thomas Street where they are doing their best to disguise the ugliness of a multi-storey car park that was stuck here at some point when no one cared about the area. I hear that there are plans to replace it with something more conducive to the N4 ethos. A home for retired hipsters possibly? You can just see a part of the delicious BonBon Chocolate Boutique, a business selling hot chocolate and chocolate themed treats. They make their own chocolate on the premises. It’s run by Mr. Scruff who runs Teacup around the corner on Thomas Street.

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Every little space on the pavement along Thomas Street they can squeeze a table onto, they did.

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And the wider pavements of sun lit High Street along the side of the old Fish Market building, were packed with people enjoying their Saturday afternoon.

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Chorlton Central Church is on Barlow Moor Road at the southern end of the main part of Chorlton village. It’s just across the road from Betty and Butch, Chorlton’s dog lifestyle store. It’s an interesting set up in a rather anonymous building. It’s not one of those pretty Victorian Gothic churches with a steeple surrounded by a churchyard that punctuate the Manchester skyline, popular with weddings because they make a great background for the pictures. The ethos of this church is inclusive. They don’t discriminate against groups of people in society that other churches disapprove of. In fact they actively encourage these groups to come and worship there. I think this attitude is much more in line with the teachings of Jesus than some of the mainstream church organisations who have problems with even women being treated equally, let alone any other, less well represented groups. Having said that the a Church of England now has TWO women bishops but the Roman Catholic Church in the UK is still firmly stuck in the Middle Ages with no women leading the worship at all. As for other religious institutions in the city, they seem to be locked in the Dark Ages.

Chorlton Central Church is looking a bit less anonymous these days. It’s had a bit of a makeover including a stunning stained glass wall that faces south along Barlow Moor Road. Good luck to this progressive, inclusive church.

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After coffee and cake I took the tram into the city centre to continue the mooch. I got off at Piccadilly Station. I like getting off here. The Met feels a bit like the Tube in London here as it goes under the station. And you get to come up in one of the biggest and busiest railway stations in the country. Trains from here radiate out across the country and the line that links Manchester to London, two and a half  hours away, is one of the busiest in the world.

I went into the N4 and my mooch took me down Tariff Street. With most of the spaces around Thomas Street now full of hipster bars, cafes and restaurants and Stevenson Square getting filled as well; cool coffee shops and bars are now springing up along Tariff Street. I like TAKK and Kosmonaut.

The street itself looks a little austere which the hipsters kind of like. It’s mostly been left alone by developers until now as it used to be a backwater in a run down part of the city. The buildings are Victorian but aren’t the grand warehouses that line the likes of Princess, Oxford and Whitworth Streets. They are just work-a-day buildings, not built to impress but, nonetheless, decent.

I love hanging about in Manchester city centre. But while the suburbs are green and pleasant there is a distinct lack of green space in the centre. The Victorian cotton barons dedicated every square centimetre to making money. And by the time they had realised they wanted a beautiful, cultured city that impressed there was no room for a park or the like. They could do something about the buildings and the culture and they did. But there was little chance that they would tear down acres of prime money making property to plant a few trees.

What the present city fathers and mothers are trying to do is plant street trees. Tariff Street is the latest street to get the treatment. Cherry trees, the ones that grow straight up, have been planted and the sun has brought them out into flower. They look good.

Look carefully in the windows of TAKK , two hipsters in a row on Apple laptops and a third on his phone, probably an iPhone, so N4…

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I had a quick Saturday meeting. On such a nice day, neither of us wanted it to last too long. After that I headed into Chorlton for a bit of a mooch. It was busy with people doing their Saturday errands and those who had finished were enjoying the sunshine walking their dogs in Beech Park or settling down for lunch on one of the terraces of the cafes and bars. I settled on the terrace in front of the Post Box Cafe. Regular readers will know this place is one of my favourite haunts. There was a guy selling plants that was doing brisk business and the Paella Fella had set up his field kitchen on the edge of the terrace. I got chatting with some of the other people on other tables. It was that kind of day in that kind of place. The guy with the blond hair was from New York City but now lives in Chorlton.

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I didn’t do lunch but I did treat myself to an Americano coffee and a piece of Strawberry Fudge Cake.

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We’re getting giddy with yet more building projects. Another crane has appeared on a piece of land on the edge of the city centre called the Wilburn Street Basin. It’s sandwiched between the River Irwell, the inner ring road and the huge Sainsbury’s at the top of Regent Road. The land has been abandoned for years. In the middle of it is a little dock that was built off the river and this is going to be at the centre of the development as people like to live near water. It’s close to Spinningfields and the museums on Liverpool Street so it will be popular.

This is what it will look like when finished. There will be four apartment blocks on the site and the tallest will be 21 stories.

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This is how far they had got yesterday. The crane went up last week. We were having a crystal clear, blue sky, spring day that made everything look great. Even the River Irwell, once of the the most polluted rivers in the world (it used to spontaneously combust and anyone who was unlucky enough to fall in and survive had to be rushed it hospital to have their stomach pumped) looked good under the blue sky.

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