Category: Manchester


Rhododendrons were brought from the Himalayas by Victorian plant collectors. They were planted in the aristocratic gardens of the rich. They liked the climate and escaped from the gardens into the surrounding countryside where they colonised vast areas of land. They have especially liked the mountains of North Wales where they are now regarded as an invasive weed and efforts are being made to eradicate them.

They grow quickly and are very good at setting seed. Their thick branches covered with thick dark leaves shade the soil and create virtual green deserts. No other plant can survive under them and they don’t provide a habitat for any creatures.

But for about two weeks in May they look stunning with flowers ranging from white, through pink, red to purple. This one in St. John’s Gardens and won’t be spreading far at all. It looks good with the Hilton Tower behind it.

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The guy who has been helping me with sourcing the plants for my garden has planted up the troughs on the terrace of the Post Box Cafe in Chorlton. They are looking rather fine.

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The old vinyl records attached to the tree are there because last week, as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival, there was a ‘Madchester’ music meal/event called Happy Bundays. An homage to the Madchester supergroup, the Happy Mondays. For those not in the loop, Madchester was the name given to a genre of music that developed in the city in the 1990s and then went international. Of the Happy Mondays, I’ve met Bez and actually been out drinking with Shaun Ryder.

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These pictures are from Saturday. ODDEST Bar were having a two day music festival as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival with local bands. It was sunny and warm, the terrace was busy and the beer and wine were chilled. What wasn’t to like? Check out the girl singer’s funky pink skirt.

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There was lots of art going on in Beech Park as part of the Chortlton Arts Festival.

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People were being encouraged to make chalk drawing on the park’s paths. These temporary art works will disappear once we have some rain. Never far away in Manchester.

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Some people were making things out of knitting yarn…

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While others were making clay pots…

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Having been up early to work in my real job and having potted on a lot of my plants, I had a soak in the bath (t.m.i. but it’s the best way of cleaning the hands after gardening) then decided it was time for some Tom Time. I headed off into Chorlton to have a bit of a mooch. It’s warm and sunny today and is a holiday weekend in the UK. Chorlton is in the middle of its annual arts festival. There have been about 100 events at various venues across Chorlton, some have to be  paid for while others are free to attend.

The Sue Ryder shop, next to the Post Box Cafe, had a theatrical performance with two actors and a mannequin. A large audience gathered on the pavement outside. Fortunately the sun had decided to join the party. I  saw Chris who runs the Post Box Cafe, he had come into work to oversee an event at the cafe.

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I was listening to the coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show this week. It’s regarded as the world’s greatest flower and garden festival. The garden designers are at the top of their profession and come, as well as from the UK, from afar afield as Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean and Japan. It was interesting to hear how they organise the building of the gardens. They seem to have an army of people to help them. They visit the top plant nurseries across the UK who grow their plants for them and fly off to Tuscany to choose olive trees to show, or Cape Town to look at new species of this and that.

Poor little me is having to grow all the plants for my little garden in St. Ann’s Square by myself. Everything has to be in tip top condition and in peak flowering mode by the end of July! It’s quite a task, especially as real work is about to get as busy as it can get in June and early July.

I’m rushing about trying to sort everything out before the second week in June and get the plants in a position where all they need is a bit of deadheading and watering by the same time. This morning I was busy potting stuff on into bigger pots so the plants can bulk up. I’ve moved them all back into the green house as some nasty, heavy rain took its toll on them last week. But they should be OK. My pots of wildflower seeds are coming on as well.

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I went past the building site of the apartment towers at the top of Cambridge Street. They’ve just about finished the service cores and the superstructure of the first tower is beginning to rise. Someone with some wit working on the project likes to commemorate dates. A heart appeared on one core on Valentine’s Day, Easter eggs appeared for Easter and a cross of St. George appeared for St. George’s Day.

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I did think they might have done something for the arrival of Princess Charlotte but they don’t seem to be royalists. However, a careful look at floor 15 of the second tower will tell you that it was reached on 4th May. Two Darth Vader masks and the words, in yellow, STAR WARS, mark international Star Wars day.

May the fourth be with you…. 

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I’m not sure how far the phenomenon of love locks has got. For those unaware of them, a couple who are in love write their names on a lock and attach it to some public structure as an expression of their committment. Bridges are a favourite. It sounds like a cute idea but some favoured bridges like the Pont D’Arts over the River Seine in Paris and the Ha’penny Bridge across the River Liffey in Dublin became so weighed down with them that the integrity of both bridges was compromised and they had to remove the locks.

This little bridge over the Rochdale Canal on Oxford Street across from the Palace Theatre isn’t at that stage yet but it’s getting there.

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I didn’t really get much time to look around Ashton while on my three day course there this week. I only saw the bit between the tram station and the venue for the course and that route wasn’t that inspiring to be honest.

But across the street from the venue was this wonderful, fully restored Victorian cotton mill. Ashton was a mill town and in the industry’s heyday the townscape would have been punctuated with the chimneys of these massive buildings. Manchester has moved on and the cotton industry has all but disappeared and many of the buildings associated with it have been torn down. Some remain and have been converted into offices and expensive, trendy apartments, especially close to the city centre. I wonder what the people who toiled for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, would make of that; well off people living in a place that caused them so much pain? Incomprehensible to them I imagine.

Cavendish Mill seems to have been converted to offices I think. Loft living hasn’t reached Ashton it seems. If it did, I’d like an apartment in those rooms that wrap themselves round the chimney.

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Manchester, like any large city, has it’s share of idiots and violence isn’t unknown. But, compared to a lot of cities in the world, it is safe and peaceful. There are some parts of the city that you might want to be carful in but, as a visitor, you are unlikely to find yourself in any of them. The touristy bits are safe and well policed and the rest is relatively benign.

I rarely feel unsafe and can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve personally witnessed violence in the city and I wouldn’t be using all the fingers on that hand either. But yesterday was one of them and the fact that it was on the tram two minutes from affluent, right on Chorlton at 5 in the afternoon in the rush hour came as a complete surprise. I took a picture but it doesn’t really do the situation justice. I was part appalled, part amused by what I witnessed. here’s the picture….

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I was returning to Chorlton after the first day of my first aid course in Chorlton. The tram took me as far as Cornbrook where I was pleased to see an empty Manchester Airport tram coming in. It would have me in Chorlton in 6 minutes or so. We all got on. I was aware of some noisy people further down the tram. At first I thought they were just a bit boisterous for 5 in the afternoon. The tram moved out. Two minutes later, as we approached Trafford Bar it became apparent that the shouting was far from friendly. There was a bit of pushing and shoving going on. At some point between Trafford Bar and Firswood someone threw a punch and all hell broke out.

It’s seems that two black guys were on the tram. One, or both, had said something homophobic about a lesbian woman on the tram. The lesbian woman’s girlfriend took offence at that and told the black guys exactly what she thought of them. As the tram stopped at Firswood all four were in a full on fists flying, hair ripping fight. The doors opened and the fight fell out onto the platform. All our side of the tram gasped as one of the black guys slipped and one of the lesbians did a lesbian ninja flaying kick at the black guy and kicked his head. It must have hurt. He fell like a sack of potatoes. People on the tram were trying to stop the fight while others were urging the poor driver, who was trying to mediate, to get the tram moving while he still could. The fight fell back onto the tram. One white guy was running up and down the tram trying to get people to join in a defend the lesbians. I actually thought the lesbians were doing OK and it was the black guys who needed the help. When I’m next in a street brawl I want the ninja lesbian on my side! As a white guy was I going to get involved in a fight between a couple of lesbians and black guys? That wouldn’t have ended well. At least I had my refreshed first aid skills good and ready. Someone must have phoned the police as they came. With out tram stuck at Firswood, trams were grinding to a halt behind us as far as the city centre. In the rush hour!

It was interesting to watch the fight and even more interesting to see the reactions of the other passengers. Some were doing that British thing of totally ignoring what is going on as we are a very private nation and what people do in their own lives is nothing to do with us. It would be rude to even look, let alone pass comment. While others were taking selfies and posting them to Twitter and Facebook with a background of scrapping black guys and lesbians, like a scene from ‘Shameless.’

Iv’e taken the middle course. Took a picture and posted it 24 hours later. Not a good one at that. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to do a video. Next time….