Category: Manchester


On a corner of Wibraham Road and Egerton Road North in Chorlton, not far from ODDEST Bar, is a tiny piece of land that must house the tiniest garden centre in the entire city. It is so crowded with plants that I’ve never been able to get to the back of it. When I go looking for plants, I have to confine myself to the ones that are spilling out onto the pavement. I have tried getting in but it’s really difficult. I’ve never worked out its name either and, talking to the lady who runs it last week, I discovered that they have never actually got round to naming it. Older residents of Chorlton call it The Old Creamery because they own a little shop next door to the open space that used to be a tea shop. There are so many plants on the pavement that I didn’t realise there was a shop behind them! And the plants aren’t little either. You can buy apple, pear and plum trees from this little business. Or, if you feel like something more exotic, you can have a fig, a lemon, a grapevine or even a quince. It’s one of Chorlton’s most quirky businesses.

Here are some pictures of it. Well, at least the bits I could get close enough to take pictures of…

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This picture appeared in my TWITTER feed this week. It intrigued me. It’s from somewhere in America where the march of the mega stores and malls is even more advanced than it is here and little stores and local high streets are completely abandoned while all the business goes to the local WALMART. From trips there, local businesses survive in prettier parts of the big cities like New York and San Francisco and in the affluent, middle class neighbourhoods where people have the money and time to support them. But whole areas of once thriving businesses have closed in some areas. We’re not there yet but some towns and parts of the big cities are heading that way.

This ‘A’ board points out that if every person spent $100 a year in local businesses, instead of the big chains, it would bring $3,000,000 into the local economy and create jobs. Translated into £ Sterling (reaches for calculator) than means if we each spend £60 in local, independent stores and businesses it would bring £1,875,000 into the local economy.

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I thought about how that would affect Chorlton, one of my favourite areas of the city, full of thriving, independent businesses. According to the census there are 42,247 people living in Chorlton, Chorlton Park and Walley Range. More if you count neighbouring areas like Firswood where the people use Chorlton as their local shopping area. If each of those people spent £60 extra a year (that’s £1.20 a week) in local businesses it would bring an extra £2,500,000+ into the local economy. This would be great for the local businesses already there and attract more businesses and employment into the area as a virtuous circle was created.

I already spend an amount of my disposable income in this area (far too much on wine in ODDEST to be honest) and have decided that I will try to spend an extra £60 a year here. We’ve only got a few weeks of 2014 left but I think I can manage it with ease. I’m hoping other people will join in. The trick is to identify something you actually need and see if it can be sourced from a local store rather than one of the chains. I started on Saturday and did quite well.

We needed a new hard bristled yard brush to tidy up the garden as we start to put it to bed for the winter. I had a bit of an accident the other day with ours. It’s been sitting in a damp bit of the garden and I don’t think being out agreed with it. The head snapped in half completely while I was doing a bit of vigorous leaf brushing of the first of the autumn leaves. Here it is with the Chorlton replacement.

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To get a new one I could have gone to one of the big supermarkets, B&Q or one of the big garden centres like Bent’s but I decided that it might be something I could buy local in Chorlton. I remembered there was a little hardware store just near the Four Banks crossroads in the centre of the village. It’s called the Chorlton Discount Store and sells all kinds of interesting things that you might need. I like the way it all spills out onto the pavement. And it had the perfect brush. It cost me £4. Bargain…

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Fruit appears in our house regularly. Great bowls of the stuff in the kitchen and sitting room if anyone gets the munchies. Judging by the flawless, uniform size I suspect that not all of it is bought locally. It probably comes from one of the big supermarkets. That morning I’d noticed that there weren’t any bananas and I like them. I have two every day as part of my 5 a day. Bananas are good for guys. The potassium in them is good for regulating your moods. It keeps you calm apparently and stress free. And the zinc is good for a guy’s little guys if you get my drift. Keeps them fit and healthy should they be ever needed. I got 4 bananas because I don’t like them when the go over so I buy fresh every couple of days. And I wanted some plums to make a crumble for Sunday’s lunch so I bought some of them. The oranges looked good so I got 4 of them as well. It cost £3…

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I went to Elliott’s in Chorlton Precinct. I have shopped her before but have neglected going through here recently. This is bad as I’m known here and should go more often. I liked the interesting shaped squashes…

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They also sell wellington boots if you need any…

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The books are theirs as well. Any money raised from selling these Goes to support the Mad Dogs Homeless Project that they are heavily involved in…

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Altogether I reached £7 of my £60 target by New Year’s Eve.

I did think about adding the cost of my Americano coffee and piece of Chocky Road Cake I had at the Post Box Café. The cake was rich and moist and had cherries hidden in the depths of it. It was delicious. But the idea of the project is to spend an EXTRA £60 and I’m in here a lot so the money I spend there is regular. Of course, people who are not regulars at the Post Bob Café could spend their extra £1.20 a week in there. I can recommend the cake…

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I found this old, battered looking car parked up in the N4. It’s a Morris Oxford. The Morris company had been making their Oxford range (their factory was set up on the edge of the university city, hence the name) since 1913. Obviously the car had changed over the years. It was designed as a mid range car for the family. This one, I think, is one of the last ones to be made in the 1960s. They stopped making them in 1971. A lot were scrapped as the aged so they are quite rare now. And collectible. This one looks in poor condition but I imagine whoever owns it is going to have some fun doing it up and restoring it to mint condition. Well I hope so. I see it had all mod cons for a 1971 car with heated rear windows and the like.

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Tampopo are a Manchester based noodle bar. They were started by two guys who worked in banking and insurance in London back in the 1990s. They had lucrative jobs in London’s enormous financial sector but had an epiphany one day when they realised it wasn’t what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. They packed in their well paid jobs, got together a bit of money and travelled north to Manchester where they opened their first noodle bar. Manchester’s restaurant scene wasn’t that great in those days and it was a bit of a risk opening here. They were something of pioneers. But, it was the right time with Manchester ready to try out new styles of foods and cuisines. Today new restaurants seem to open weekly in the city. And Manchester liked Tampopo.

It calls itself a noodle bar but it’s more than that. Noodles obviously play a big part on the menu but they are flavoured with herbs and spices and flavourings from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Laos, Indonesia….

They have grown from one restaurant in Albert Square (itself a culinary desert in those days) to several across the city and one in Bristol and another in the Berkshire town of Reading. The branch that they had in the Corn Exchange has just been closed down. This is because the entire building, that faces Exchange Square, is having a makeover and is going to open as a massive food orientated destination full of new restaurants. As anyone who comes to or knows Manchester will realise that its hard to find a restaurant anywhere in this city. Me being ironic again.

So the Corn Exchange Tampopo was homeless. They have set up in this rather grand temporary field kitchen in the square itself outside the Corn Exchange and will be here until they can reopen back in the building. It’s open to the elements which is fine on a balmy, late summer, September afternoon like we have been having recently. But how would it manage in a Manchester January?  Apparently, the roof slides down like a garage door so the patrons will be toasty warm inside until the new restaurant is open. And I have it at the back of my mind that a couple of other restaurants are going to open these field kitchens in Exchange Square as well while the refurb goes on…

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Like many, I was very upset two days to hear about the fire at the Manchester Dog’s Home. The reaction of my fellow Mancunians, people across the country and around the world has been heartening and life affirming. The story was first local, then went national and then international. In my last post I wrote about the Manchester Evening News setting up a page so people could donate if they wished to. It had a target of £5000. By midmorning it was clear that that target had been exceeded and the decided to up the target. About 6 30 yesterday it broke the £1,000,000 barrier. At the moment it stands at £1,313,990 and still rising. And on top of that there is £244,463 gift aid; money that the government will chip in with out of taxes if people, when they donate, ask for it to be done. Given that the buildings will probably be insured, the organisation has a lot of money to look after the lost and unloved dogs of Manchester. I have had my faith in people reaffirmed.

A lot of the dogs that have survived had been moved to their sister site in the Cheshire countryside just south of Warrington. Some people, not content on just donating cash, have descended on the Grappenhall site with food, blankets and other doggie related paraphernalia and have brought traffic chaos to Warrington and have caused jams on the M6 (the main motorway that runs north/ south from London up to the Scottish border) and the M56 that links Manchester to Chester and North Wales.

We’re not sure what has happened to the kid who started the fire. Some other kids seem to be involved as well. Rumours say that there was a bit of a kerfuffle between the kid and the police at the station he was taken to. He wanted to leave, the police didn’t want him to. The police won. Probably a good thing for him as if he appears on any Manchester street at the moment he won’t be met with unrequited joy. His family have had to be moved to secret, secure accommodation from their home for their safety. Harpurhey can be ‘volatile’ shall we say. It isn’t Didsbury or Chorlton.

Speaking of which, I was in Chorlton this afternoon and walked past Betty & Butch, Chorlton’s dog lifestyle store. It’s a great Chorlton, independent store and does witty and entertaining window displays, the kind of which you might see in some trendy boutique or even on New Cathedral Street’s Harvey Nichols. But today the window was blacked out with just this silvered dog bowl, a single light, a rose and a simple message. I was moved…

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We love our dogs in the UK. It has been said that we prefer them to our children. And, personally, I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like while I do have a list of people I’d be quite happy if I never saw them again. The Manchester Dog’s Home, in the roughty toughty northern suburb of Harpurhey, hit the news last night. They have the home in Harpurhey and another branch in the countryside of Cheshire outside the pleasant Warrington suburb of Grappenhall.

Last night a 15 year old lad got into the Harpurhey site. As yet we don’t know what his motives were but a building caught fire. The police have him and we’re waiting to hear. It went up like a fireball apparently and if it had stayed in that building we would have just been looking at a nasty case of arson today. But the fire spread to the nearby kennels where about 200 dogs were living. Dogs that were down on their luck, lost, owners couldn’t cope with them or had died. They were being looked after while the people who run the home were looking for a forever home for them. 49 nine of the dogs died in the fire but the other 150 were rescued. The terrified cries of the trapped dogs were easily heard in the surrounding streets and 100s of people came out to see what they could do but the fire was too fierce. The services came out and the fire is now out. The surviving dogs have been moved to the Grappenhall site and other places across the city where they will be safe.

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When you think about a kid who sets fire to a building and puts the lives of some dogs in danger you wonder what the world is coming to. Then you read that 200 people worked through the night to make sure that every surviving dog was safe and well. Other people wanted to help but were too far away to do so. The Manchester Evening News set up a donation page with a modest target of £5000. As I type it has reached, less than a day after the fire, £612,115! Sorry £613, 750! Another £1,500 contributed in the time it took me to type the first figure. It does restore your faith in people.

This is Alfie who once lived at the Harpurhey branch of the Manchester Dog’s Home would like people to donate to help. If you use your phone and text the details on his sign you will be helping his old family and friends….

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And the total is now…..£624,965…..£626,339….£627,447….

The huge new teaching building for Manchester Metropolitan University at Birley Fields in Hulme is ready to open. The internal fixtures and fittings are all in place and the professors and tutors are moving into their new offices before the new term starts at the end of the month. You can now get right up to the building so I thought I’d go and get some pictures of it close up, especially the Brise Soleil (sun breaker) which looks spectacular. I thought about this place because I’d visited the archaeological dig at NOMA and it reminded me that it didn’t seem so long ago that I’d been here to look at the archaeological dig on the old houses on this site where my grandfather had lived as a boy. It’s amazing how people used to live in the city and, though people complain today, we are all a lot better off than we were. Some pictures of the main building…

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Views into the city centre. You can see the Hilton Tower and the Student Castle building and the Hulme Arch that carries Stretford Road over Princess Parkway, the road to the airport…

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It was cool that they kept all the mature trees that had established themselves on the site before the building began. They will give the campus and established feel and a bit of character…

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The student accommodation blocks don’t look to be ready yet. If students are expecting to move in at the end of the month they are leaving it close to the line. And the landscaping still needs some work…

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In all my time blogging I don’t think I’ve ever posted about Oxford Road Station. My life rarely sends it through it. I’m either in the car, on the tram or at Piccadilly Station waiting for the train to London. But it did this week. It spite of my absence from it, it is one of the busiest stations in the city. It’s close to the universities and is a good station to arrive at if you work in the offices everywhere from Oxford Road to Spinningfields. It brings commuters from the western and southern suburbs of the city and has connections with towns and cities across the north of England from places as far apart as Liverpool and North Wales, from Windermere in the Lakes to Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast and as far as Newcastle in the north east corner of England. It’s connected directly to the airport so it’s got international connections as well. It’s a very busy station. And it’s set to get busier as it’s part of the plan to upgrade all the stations in central Manchester to take more traffic and make it a Northern Hub like London is in the south east.

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Architecturally it is unusual. There must be steel and concrete in there somewhere but the entire station is made of graceful curves clad in wood. There must have been an older Victorian station at one time but it was replaced in the 1950s by the present building. What happened to the older station, I have no idea. It could have been demolished or disappeared in WW2.

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The first look of Manchester proper as you leave the station is of the magnificent Palace Hotel rearing above the Cornerhouse Arts Centre. It makes a great first impression of the city…

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Looking down the ramp from the station into the city. The Palace Theatre is directly in front of you. It’s showing ‘Jersey Boys’ at the moment…

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The area around Oxford Road Station is one of the most crowded in the city with buildings crowding in on one another. This is the GREEN Building, an apartment block that has all kinds of features that make it environmentally neutral. I hope it includes great sound proofing as it’s right by one of the busiest stations in the city. But if you want peace, move to Cheshire, you don’t live here is a bit of noise bothers you…

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Student Castle, one of the tallest buildings in the city, was shoehorned onto a tiny site a couple of years back. It’s also just by the railway running into the station. I like the contrast between the straight verticals of the Student castle and the curves of Oxford Road Station…

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Looking back along the tracks towards Deanagate Station. You can see all the new developments along First Street approaching being finished. They include HOME, the new building that will house the Cornerhouse Cinema and Art Galleries and the Library Theatre Company…

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It was a busy Saturday morning. A few hours in work, home for a shower and then out to do some tutoring. All the kids are back at school and their parents want to make sure that they haven’t gone stupid over the summer. It was nice to see the kids again. Today’s were two young ladies who are doing well and they hadn’t forgotten everything over the break. I was also pleased to see that their little brother, just coming up to his 1st birthday, had remembered me as well and gave me one of his best smiles when he saw me. Later in the afternoon I got a call from another set of parents who want me to do something with their son. He’s 15 apparently and not keen on the idea of having a tutor. He knows it all apparently but you do when you are 15 don’t you? If the student doesn’t want to do it I don’t think the idea of a tutor works that well. But I’ll go and meet him and see what I think. But I’m not taking on a difficult kid. We will see.

After my session of tutoring, an hour each with each young lady (9 and 10) which flashes by as it’s so pleasant, I headed into nearby Chorlton for a bit of lunch. The weather was cool and wet and, as I parked up in Silverdale Road, I noticed the first of the autumn leaves collecting in the gutters at the side of the road. Looking around at the trees, you could just see a bit of autumn colour in places.

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I went to my favourite bar, ODDEST. I knew they were having a bit of an event. It was a Sausage and Real Ale Festival. For people outside the UK, ‘real’ ale is the name we give to any artisan beer that has been made in a small brewery to traditional methods. Not the kind of beers made by the big corporations that taste the same in any bar from Manchester to Melbourne and back again. These handmade artisan beers are often delicious and people savour them like they do a good wine.

They’d set up some temporary stands for the kegs of beer…

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There was live music to enjoy along with the sausages and the ale…

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The newly refurbished terrace was busy in spite of the cool, wet weather. We’re tough in Chorlton…

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Here’s my sausage and pint of Der Kaiser Ale from Rooster’s Brewery from Yorkshire…

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The festival is on all weekend.

I’ve lost count of the number of building projects across the city at the moment. It’s almost up to the level of 2007 before the banking crisis kicked in. And there are more in the pipeline. The latest one to be announced is called Jackson’s Row and will be, if it’s built, on the site of the Greater Manchester Police HQ, between Bootle Street and Jackson’s Row just off Albert Square. Manchester United aces turned property developers , Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, are behind it. It will be a mixed development with a hotel (they have a company lined up), apartments, offices, restaurants and bars. The police are gradually moving out of this large island site in a prominent position in the city centre to their new HQ in the northern suburbs (where they are needed apparently). They are not abandoning the city centre entirely and have opened a smaller police station in the Town Hall Extension. In Victorian times there was a police station in the Town Hall so they’re  going back to their roots.

This is what they intend to build. It looks like a more congested Spinningfields.

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I like to see new buildings and really like how Manchester juxtapositions them next to the older ones. But there are some things about this development that I think need rethinking. The vast majority of the scheme will be on the back part of the brick built police station which is imposing but not the best architecture. Plus it would be difficult to find a new use for it in its present form with its tiny offices and cells surrounding the courtyard. I’m not too worried about this bit.

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But on Southmill Street  there is a rather grand block made of white Portland stone. It’s 1930s classical revival, the same style as the nearby Central Library. It provides a imposing façade for people arriving at the station on business. If you are a miscreant you arrive round the corner under an imposing arch from where you can be put, if need be, in a cell. This block is a great addition to this part of the city and it adds greatly to the street scene along Southmill Street. I know it’s redundant at the moment but it would be a shame to lose it. It would make a very grand entrance to the proposed hotel or could be converted into an apartment block. I hope they reconsider demolishing it.

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There’s also a synagogue that is due for demolition. It’s not a thing of beauty. It looks like a cold war bunker and it was built in 1952 as the Cold War was ramping up. I wouldn’t miss it but it would be cool to incorporate a synagogue into the new plan. I seem to remember there was a plan to demolish this synagogue (pre banking crisis) and rebuild it inside an office block rather like they have done with the Cross Street Chapel on nearby, not surprisingly, Cross Street. It would be good to retain the presence of the synagogue in this part of the city. I haven’t heard any thoughts on this building’s fate  from the large Jewish community of the city.

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The foundation stone is interesting as it has the date it was built as 1952 (Christian calendar) and the year 5712 (Jewish calendar).

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Another building of interest under threat is the Sir Ralph Abercrombie pub. It’s one of the few Victorian ‘boozers’ left in the city centre. It’s been there a long time. The local paper has it closed down but that would have come as a surprise to the people enjoying a drink in it the other day when I took these pictures. It’s in a busy part of the city and add a bit of good food this place could be a goldmine. It’s a nice little building that greatly adds to the street scene here and it would be missed. I hope they can find a place for it in the scheme.

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