Category: Manchester


On Sunday I went to have a look at St. Peter’s Square. It’s far from finished but most of the work that they have been doing has come to an end. What startles you is how big the space is. It will be the biggest open space in the city centre and it shows off the grand buildings like the Midland Hotel, Central Library and the Town Hall Extension wonderfully. Half of the square has been paved with its permanent paving stones and very fine it looks. The trees look good and I’m looking forward to seeing them flower next spring. People are delighted with this new space and it seems to be popular with everyone. The other half has been covered with asphalt which is temporary. But even when they have moved the tram station to the corner of the square near the Art Gallery, the space will still be huge. The old tram station will go, the paving will spread across the square to No. 1 St Peter’s Square and they are going to start No. 2 St. Peter’s square soon as well. The cross marking the position of St. Peter’s Church will be returned to its place on what is still consecrated ground. The crypt of the church, complete with its residents, is still there. I wonder if they will relocate them like they are doing with the residents of the Cross Street Chapel Cemetery?

Already visitors are taking advantage of the space to have photographs taken. The bit around the relocated Cenotaph is a triumph. It shows off the neglected back door to the Town Hall and you can see along Lloyd Street, between the Town Hall and its extension.,with the beautiful footbridges linking the two buildings. I was pleased to see that the brilliantly white, curved stone wall that was built to mark the sacred ground around the Cenotaph had been cleaned. Cyclists and skateboarders had moved in with in hours of it opening and were using it as a playground. The graffiti on the benches had gone as well. Talks have been had with the skateboarding community and 24 hour security is in place. It was back to being dazzlingly white on Sunday. Someone alerted the Manchester Evening News about the damage who started a campaign to get something done. I’m whistling and looking nowhere in particular. But TWITTER can start revolutions and it can also get damaged monuments cleaned.

image

image

image

image

Here are a few pictures of No. 1 St. Peter’s Square. It’s finished now and the offices are being made ready for their tenants. People are queuing to get space here. Popular Manchester restaurant and celeb haunt, San Marco, is taking space on the ground floor for a new restaurant. Sadly there’s no news that the much loved and much missed Dutch Pancake House, will be making a return. It occupied the corner of Elisabeth House where Oxford Street enters the square. It was a Manchester institution and one of the longest open restaurants in the city. People were sad when it closed before the demolition. No. 1 St. Peter’s Square is widely admired as well. I did think it was too big for the space, but the quality of the build has been so high with the shape, colour and materials echoing other buildings in the square that I have changed my mind. It will look even better when the clutter of the old tram station is moved. I hope No 2 looks as good.

image

image

image

image

The whole square wont be finished until 2017. Hopefully there will be more cafes and restaurants around it that can spill out into the square on warm days. And it would be good to see the Christmas Markets spill into the square.

Yet another building project is about start off in the city. It’s a project if 1036 apartments in four towers and will be the largest single building project largest single building project in the north west of England. It’s going up on a piece of land behind the Harbour City tram station in Salford Quays. It’s called XI Media City and is within 5 minutes walk of the BBC HQ there. Media City has been an enormous success. Besides the BBC and ITV, 800 other companies have set up shop here providing support for the big TV companies located here. It’s attracted a lot of people who have relocated to the city because of the job opportunities and they need places to live. There is a shortage of suitable places for these people to live with waiting lists for apartments in the Quays and the city centre. This project will go some way to meet the demand. Lack of properties is forcing up prices all over the city as Manchester has its own mini boom echoing London’s. Great if you are selling somewhere but making it very difficult for people who want to buy, especially young people just starting out. This project is due to break ground in Spring 2015.

I quite like the look of these. I like tall towers. Some of them will have great views across the Quays and the city. But you will have to choose your apartment carefully. If you don’t you might end up with a view of someone else’s apartment.

image

image

image

This is what one of the penthouse apartments might be looking over. You can see Media City a few minutes away.

image

I called in to Manchester Art Gallery. I love this institution and go a lot. I’d like to say I’d gone in this time to immerse myself in great art and bathe in high culture. But I hadn’t. I’d come into Manchester in search of Zombies (more later) and had just gone into the gallery to use the bathroom facilities. They are top notch if you are caught out in this part of the city, clean, well cared for and fragrant. They come highly recommended by this blogger. As do the ones in the Royal Exchange Theatre and on the top floor of Harvey Nichols. The Arndale Centre ones are well looked after as well.  I’m speaking from a guy point of view here but I assume the facilities for women are of as high a standard. If you want to see some original Victorian facilities, you should go to the John Ryland’s Library on Deansgate. They are exactly as they were when the building was built and are worth a visit. Well the men’s are, I’m not sure about the women’s. Their’s may be a little austere for ladies today. But I get off the point…

I was about to leave when I spotted a stunning garment in a room just off the main foyer. I went to investigate and thought I’d walked into Audrey Hepburn’s wardrobe. It was full of stunning gowns (I think that’s the best word for them) designed and made in the 1050s. They were all designed and made in Manchester when cotton was still a significant industry in the city though it was no longer ‘King Cotton’ and Manchester had relinquished its pseudonym of ‘Cottonopolis’ to some nondescript city in India. They were made to shout about the quality of Manchester cotton and the quality of the designs and level of manufacture that could have been accessed if people did business in the Manchester garment industry. With the quality of design and manufacture seen in these garments, I’m at a loss to wonder how Manchester isn’t a fashion capital like London, New York, Paris and Milan. Of course the answer is obvious. We are just too close to London and that is the centre of the fashion industry in the UK. That, and the cotton industry in Manchester was about to enter its period of terminal decline.

These dresses have been brought into the city centre form the Museum of Costume in Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield. It’s housed in a Georgian mansion in the corner of the park just by  where Wilmslow Road leaves the Curry Mile behind and enters leafy, green suburbia. I’ve never been in it. I’m going to have to go and see what’s in there.

image

image

image

image

Mr. Scruff (aka Andy Carthy) is a Manchester born and bred electronic music producer and DJ. The ‘scruff’ bit relates to the state of his facial hair and his style of drawing. While a lot of people in the music business might be into strong drink and interesting substances, Mr. Scruff likes nothing better than a ‘nice cup of tea’ while he’s working. So much does he like tea that he’s opened an immensely popular tea shop on Thomas Street in the N4. Called ‘Teacup on Thomas Street’, it does what it says on the can. If you want tea and some nice cake here, be prepared to queue. It’s a very busy tea shop. He’s even gone so far as to manufacture his own brand of teabags and other tea making paraphernalia under the name ‘Make Us a Brew’. A very Manchester phrase that means ‘Would you please make me a nice cup of tea?’ If you want to try his tea you can pick it up at the teashop on Thomas Street or it is now stocked by Selfridge’s and upmarket supermarkets, Waitrose and Booth’s no less.

If you want to see him in person and enjoy his music, Mr Scruff will be ‘keeping it unreal’ at the Band on the Wall music venue in the N4 on November 1st. The poster was on Cambridge Street near Chorlton Mill and the new building site for the new apartment towers there.

image

I’ve been posting about my attempt to spend an extra £60 in independent stores before new year. Apparently, if we all spent £1.20 a week in local stores, it would put millions of pounds into the local economy, keep open and encourage independent stores and provide jobs in the local area. What you have to do is just spend £1.20 a week on something you might buy from one of the big organisations (make your own list) and find a similar item but bought from an independent store. It’s not difficult.

£1.20 a week works out as £6o a year. I started late so that’s why I’m squeezing my £60 into the last few weeks of the year. So far I’ve spent £29.20 in my favourite suburb of Chorlton. You have to consciously do it. If you don’t keep it in your mind you’ll end up spending it in the nearest convenient superstore. It might take a little longer than in a supermarket as well but it’s good to walk around the shops and you will get to meets the business owners as well. they get to know you and are always happy to see you return and not just because you will be spending some money with them.

We wanted some bits for supper. They would have been easily accessible in TESCO, ASDA or Sainsbury’s and even cheaper but I headed for Barbakan, Chorlton’s much lauded (even the London press know about it) Polish Delicatessen. I bought a big pork pie, an olive ciabatta bread and some delicious cheese. It came to £7.06. But the quality of the food here is exceptional. I also had some BBQ lunch on the terrace and got to listen to a jazz band. That wouldn’t have happened in TESCO, ASDA or Sainsbury’s.

image

image

Then I went to the greengrocer’s next door and bought some bananas, oranges, pink grapefruit and cherry tomatoes on the vine. It all looked delicious and I got to have a chat with the guy who runs the shop. It cost me £4.24. Again, it may have been cheaper with one of the big boys, but I did get to chat with the owner.

image

image

So, so far, I have managed to spend £40.50 of my intended target. Just over 2/3 of the amount. With Christmas coming up I should be able to do the remaining £19.50 with ease.

 

Work was difficult this morning. People not turning in and the new regime of manager’s hasn’t really got bedded in yet. Personally, I think there were far too many changes at once, the new managers aren’t sure how things should be and some people are taking advantage. Stuff that should have ben done yesterday didn’t happen until I spotted it today which slowed us down. To get all the work done, instead of leaving at 10, I was there until 11 30. That was a pain. And it became an actual physical pain when I piece of wood I was moving fought back and hit my shin bone. I have a bruise the size of an egg on it. I don’t think it’s broken but it’s painful. I will keep it up tonight while I lie of the sofa and watch Strictly Come Dancing.

I went into Chorlton after work to pick up a few things for supper tonight and have a walk. In spite of the lump on my leg I got round. For mid autumn it was quite warm (if you wear a sweater) and it’s been dry. There was music to entertain the shoppers. Outside B&M Bargains these six young lads were playing their assortment of guitars while the guy sitting down beat out the rhythms on his tea chest. They were good and people appreciated them. Their box was filling up nicely with £1 coins. Apart form a little chant, they didn’t sing. They all look of an age where their voices aren’t that reliable. I remember that period well. The embarrassment of having your voice slip from one register to another and then back again and you have no control over when and how it happens.

image

Outside Barbakan, on Manchester Road, there guys were entertaining the diners on the terrace where people were enjoying what might be the last BBQ of the year. They are all of an age where they don’t have to worry about what register their voices are going too come out in. They were raising some money for cancer research. Great strides have been made in the treatment of different kinds of cancers. But, as other diseases and conditions that used to see us off have been defeated, cancer seems to be the one that eventually gets us.

image

Having done my errands I wanted some coffee and cake. So I called into the Post Box Café, which was busy, for some. I had an Americano. And for the cake I had one of Chris’s new creations. It’s a Strawberry Chocolate Fudge Cake. Beautifully moist cake, sandwiched together by rich chocolate fudge icing. The top is decorated with buttercream icing into which crushed strawberries has been whisked in. Then dusted with strawberry pink crystals. It was delicious. Have some if you are passing by.

image

Debra led Cake Club this week. It was Halloween treats. We made Witch’s Fingers which are a kind of cheese straw. They were surprisingly easy to make. Here’s the recipe…

image

First weigh out 200g of plain flour, 100g of butter, add a pinch of salt…

image
Work the ingredients together with your fingers to make fine breadcrumbs. It’s a pastry so it’s important not to work it too much as you don’t want gluten to develop. It’s not a bread…

image

image
Add the 75g of mature cheddar and 25g of parmesan cheeses…

image
Mix 1 egg yoke, a pinch of English mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper…

image
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg yolk mixture and gently bring it all together. Don’t work it too much because of the gluten thing…

image
Roll it out into a rectangle. Cut the pastry into fingers. A pizza cutting wheel is good for this…

image
Mould the rectangles of pastry into spooky ‘finger’ shapes. Press 1/3 of an olive to one end to make the finger nail. Bake in the oven (190C/375F/Gas 5) for 10-15 minutes. Keep your eye on them. Let them cool and enjoy. These were delicious. Sometimes cheese straws taste of nothing much but these were deliciously cheesy. I’m going to make a batch to serve with the Roasted Tomato and Pumpkin Soup for Halloween supper…

image
We also made Parkin. This is a northern English ginger cake that is made at this time of year. Sadly I loathe ginger in all its forms so I passed on these little Parkin Cupcakes with spider’s web icing. I tried a little of Debra’s recipe for Parkin to see if I liked it any better than other’s I’d tried. But ginger really isn’t for me. Along with peanut butter and coconut as well. To make the spider’s web you cover the cupcake with orange icing. Then you pipe a spiral of black glace icing onto the cake. You use a cocktail stick to pull the icing into the web shape from the centre to the edge…

image
Here’s my attempt. I think I need practice. Mary Berry makes it look so easy. So did Debra…

image

 

We have got used to TV programmes and movies being made in the city. And since media City has opened attracting a lot of the support talent needed to make the movies and TV happen to the city, it’s quite an industry. Another movie is being made here. It’s called ‘Genius’ and stars Colin Firth, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Messer’s Firth and Law have been in the city for the last few days filming but Ms. Kidman has yet to put in an appearance. The film is set in New York and Manchester is starring as New York in 1900. For some reason, parts of Manchester seem to evoke early 20th century New York City. They are using the N4 and the streets around Canal Street for the rougher side of New York. While the grand commercial buildings of King Street have been used to stand in for smart New York. The Old bank of England building was bedecked with stars and stripes (I wondered if they counted the stars properly, there weren’t 50 in those days) and the street was filled with old American cars.

Many thanks to Andy Duggan and Theme Park Investigator for these pictures…

image

image

image

image

image

 

 

I didn’t recognise the flag, I thought it was Iraq. But it’s actually Kurdistan. You won’t find Kurdistan on a map. There are about 40,000,000 Kurds and they live in part of the Middle East that covers parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria, not the calmest part of the world at the moment. Stronger, neighbouring countries have never allowed them to have their own country which has led to resentment and sometimes toppled over into violence. They are the second largest stateless nation in the world. The troubles over the last decade in Iraq have allowed the Kurds in the north of that country to establish some autonomy for the first time in a long time, but neighbouring countries like Turkey and Iran with large Kurdish minorities aren’t thrilled about that as it might encourage their own Kurdish people to break away. The Kurds in Syria are at the mercy of IS. And the autonomy of the Iraqi Kurds is under threat as IS make gains near them.

They seem to be a decent people who are moderate in their views and open to ideas from outside. But they are under threat and need help from outside or they might be overwhelmed in their lands. These Manchester based British Kurds were stood in front of Queen Victoria in Piccadilly Gardens trying to get their plight across to the city generally. I hope they can prevail in their native country and not be overrun by IS, one of the nastiest bands of ******** anywhere in the world at the moment.

Here they are proudly showing off their national flag but also parading their British credentials.

DSCN5447

DSCN5446

DSCN5445

In case you are wondering which nation is the largest stateless nation in the world, it is, surprisingly, England with a population of 52,000,000. We do have a government in London that we share with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and a scattering of little islands about the coast. But Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own governments as well. England does not have this luxury, something that the unsuccessful independence vote in Scotland has brought to the forefront of our thoughts. It is causing a great deal of resentment among us English so watch this space.

For the benefit of those people who don’t know what these are, they are books. Before iPads and Kindles came along, people used to seek them out when they wanted to find something out or be entertained by a story. You could go to book stores to buy them or go to libraries to borrow one. They were useful and good fun. OK, I exaggerate. They are still pretty mainstream and I still prefer to curl up in bed with a chapter or two of a real paper book than I do with an electronic device (stop giggling at the back there!). And I do like to look at books on, say, art, because it’s a much pleasanter experience. If I’m off to sit on a beach for two weeks (not likely to happen, I’d be bored witless after 30 minutes) I might load a few airport novels onto my iPad I suppose. Having said that when I do do some writing, like at JUST WRITE or on here, I do it straight to the iPad or laptop rather than on paper. I like the idea of writing my thoughts down rapidly as they come to me. And then I can cut and paste and rewrite and refine my writing without having to write the entire thing out again.

But I still love books so it was nice to see the piece of land by the painted electrical substation on the corner of Thomas Street and Tib Street in the N4 was being used for a second hand book market. I love these as you can often find a gem or two at a bargain price and give an old book a new life. This little market is just round the corner from Affleck’s Palace, Manchester’s centre of independent shopping all under one roof. It’s a great Manchester institution and one of the first things to have been set up in what became the N4. Yesterday Lady GaGa was in there doing a bit of independent shopping. She’s in town today to do concerts at the Manchester Arena. She likes coming here and the N4 is right up her street.

DSCN5444

DSCN5443

DSCN5442

DSCN5441

DSCN5440

DSCN5439