Archive for May, 2017


Manchester is a city running on high adrenaline at the moment. Everyone is on high alert as we try to carry on as normal in a time where everything is anything but. On the tram into the city on Friday I found myself checking out my fellow passsengers just in case.

To escape the tenseness of the city we decided to drive out into Cheshire for a few hours. Unless you have a focus you just end of driving randomly so we headed to Little Moreton Hall just off the A34 near Congleton to the south of the city. It’s a timber framed Tudor manor house that was built 500 years ago. It’s surrounded by a moat which tells me that at one point it needed to be defended. There was probably a Medieval building here that has disappeared. By Tudor times, the country was a lot safer and the moat became something of a water feature around the garden. It’s a National Trust property now. It wasn’t the property of some great Tudor noble but belonged to the wealthy Moreton family. You can tell how rich they were because you can see how much wood and glass were used in the building. The hall was built over a period of 100 years in three phases. It’s made entirely of oak wood and infilled with wattle and daub. Wattle is a framework of woven sticks. Daub is a mixture of clay, sand and animal dung all mixed together by people treading in it until the texture is right. Nice job!

I listened to one of the guides in the central courtyard who told us about the building. People wonder why Tudor buildings can be so twisted and warped? Well they are 500 years old for a start. They have oak beam frameworks and, as they dry, they naturally twist. Oak beams were put up while still green. They take centuries to dry out and, 500 years later, they are still drying. The Victorians thought that they would preserve these Tudor buildings by covering the wood with pitch. They also took to painting the daub white, giving the buildings the appearance we see now. This was a disaster as it trapped the moisture in and the wood began to rot. Some of the beams in Little Moreton Hall have had to be replaced recently and we are leaving them untreated to dry out naturally and turn the silver that the wood does naturally. This is how the Tudors would have seen them. We are also not replacing the decayed pitch on older wood so the wood can breathe again. A third reason for the warping is that Tudor building regulations are not up to modern standards. If you fancied building another floor on top of you existing house, you just got on with it. This happened at Little Moreton Hall and we’ve only just sorted the problem out. Also these buildings don’t have proper foundations!

Lots of pictures of the beautiful exterior of the building. The richer you were the more wood and glass you could afford. If you left your house to visit one of your other houses, you would take your windows with you so valuable was glass in those days.

The moat used to be for defence but by Tudor times it was incorporated into the garden layout. It would be filled with fish and water birds that could be used for the table but the modern ducks are quite safe.

This is the Tudor Knot Garden. There are yew trees and low hedges of box plants surrounding the gravel paths where the Moreton family and their guests would have walked on fine days. They take a lot of maintenance and I wondered if the box hedges here had succumbed to a box disease that is affecting other parts of the country. This disease kills the plants entirely and would ruin a garden like this. I couldn’t see any problem yet though. This is a simple knot garden, there are far grander ones in places like Hampton Court Palace where Henry VIII liked to hang out.

This ‘Tudor’ lady kept turning up. She’s dressed like one of the house servants. Not for her those grand silk dresses dripping with pearls and diamonds that Elizabeth I wore. The lady of the house would have had something grander but not as grand as the Queen. I have it at the back of my mind that you could only wear certain materials and colours if you were of a certain class in society. Caught wearing something you shouldn’t do and you were in trouble. It’s quite different today of course. Prince William’s wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, has a fondness for high street fashion and you can order something she wears off the internet. The high street stores like to know what she’s bought so they can order extras. I’ve never see Prince William in anything I thought I want to buy but Prince Harry does look good in his combats.

This is the great hall of the house. Here the family would eat and entertain in grand style. After the meal the servants would sleep in here.

The Moretons were wealthy enough to have their own private chapel in their house.

Some of the original wall coverings still exist. 500 years old!

A Tudor bed and a crib. The curtains were for decoration but also kept the drafts out at night. It was quite pleasant on a warm summer’s day but winter would be a completely different matter.

This was the height of bathroom sophistication in 1550….an inside toilet. I think the poor wandered off into the woods somewhere and in the cities, like London, it all got very unpleasant. The second picture didn’t come out as well as I hoped. Once you had finished using the facilities everything fell down the side of the house and into the moat below. You could see the water.

This is the Long Gallery. Long Galleries were very fashionable in Tudor England. They were places where the family and guests could exercise and play on wet, cold days. Bigger houses had larger and grander ones. The Moreton family wanted to show off their wealth and importance by having one. They decided to have theirs built on top of the existing, two storey south wing. They rested the entire weight of this massive room, along with the stone roof, onto the ceiling beams of the second floor. It almost immediately began to cause the entire building to warp. Over the centuries attempts were made to solve the problem but none were really good enough. By the 1990s things had got so bad that people weren’t allowed to walk across the long gallery for fear of collapse. They closed the entire hall for 18 months, virtually took the south wing apart, put in proper foundations and a steel framework which is hidden by the old building. For the first time in its history, Little Moreton Hall is safe to live in! The Long Gallery is said to be haunted with the figure of a grey lady crossing it sometimes. And while on the subject of ghosts, a sobbing child can be heard in the chapel. Neither of whom were evident on our visit on Saturday.

This is the well. It was the water source for the entire house and wider estate. But the water wasn’t the best quality. They used it to make beer, the alcohol in which dealt with any bugs that might be lurking. A special beer, a little weakened, called Small Beer was made. It was safer to drink than the water. Even children were given it. Each person on the estate was given a daily quota of 8 pints of beer! That’s where we get the phrase for a drunken person as ‘having had one over the eight.’ They’re Β on main stream water these days.

A trip to a National Trust property, a mainstay of middle class life in the UK, isn’t complete without a pot of tea and a piece of cake. The National Trust are famous for their cakes which are homemade on the premises mostly. And, as these people found out, the ducks from the moat and local sparrows are very partial to a piece of National Trust Victoria Sponge as well.

 

It’s the weekend of the Manchester Street Games. Olympic athletes come to the city and perform in a temporary arena in Albert Square. A special track is built along Deansgate for them to run along. One year Usain Bolt took part. It’s quite an event. Today there is the Greater Manchester 10km run and a half marathon. There is an elite race and then thousands of ordinary people run the route to raise money for their favourite causes. The BBC cover the event, it’s a big deal. But this time they have an added poignancy.Β 

Of course, after the events of the last week, there was a big question mark over it all. But, if we cancel anything we planned to do, the terrorists will have won. Last night The Courteeners played to 50,000 people at Lancashire Cricket Club’s stadium at Old Trafford, the first big music event in the city since the ill fated Ariana Grande concert. It all went well with everyone showing their defiance of terrorists and their works. So the Manchester Street Games have gone ahead as planned. Defiance and a desire not to give into fear or hate and do exactly as we planned have been themes in Manchester this week.Β 

Of course we are overrun with security. Police vans lined up outside the Town Hall Extension in St Peter’s Square while people enjoy the hot sunshine and some alfresco lunch. One of the simple pleasures that these terrorists would rob us of.

A police van from North Wales parked on the site of my Dig The City garden. They were keeping an eye on the people leaving tributes in St. Ann’s Square.

In Albert Square I saw my first policeman with a pretty impressive gun. British policemen, famously, go unarmed as a rule. But, if necessary, like last week, they can get access to them pretty fast. I got talking to him, he was friendly and polite but, while chatting to me, his eyes were flicking across the crowds arriving in the square, looking for any possible trouble. There were some more of his mates, with more impressive hardware, along Deansgate watching the crowds gathering along the race track.

We were off to HOME for dinner and to meet friends, drink cold beer on a hot afternoon, socialise with people of the opposite sex that we weren’t related to and other things that they would stop us doing. We watched some of the women athletes warming up for the pole vault. It was an astonishingly hot afternoon, I didn’t envy them. Some pictures of them setting up the arena and the practice.

TV crews from across the world have descended on the city to cover the events. Their vans of equipment are everywhere. I’m almost disappointed not to be ask to appear.Β 

The temporary track on Deansgate.

This may be my last post on the terrible events of last week. I may mention it if anything occurs that needs recording. It has been a deeply upsetting time for the city and those, like me, who love it and love living here. But nothing I feel comes anywhere near what the families and friends of the victims must be feeling. I can’t think of anything to say that will begin to make them feel better. But, hopefully, they will be able, once time has made the loss less raw, take some solace from the millions of acts of kindness and concern that Β have occurred since those terrible events. Maybe, if one of them happen onto this blog, my posts and words will give them some comfort. A handful of people will have planned, and put into action, this terrible series of events. But millions upon millions of people around the world have been touched by what has happened in Manchester this week and care about the people who have been hurt and died.

Love and Peace.

Tom xxx 🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝

In the centre of Stevenson Square there are three concrete and brick monoliths. At first glance it isn’t apparent what they are about. It seems that, at some point in the past, it was deemed appropriate that a public convenience was a suitable focal point for one of the city’s squares. To give them their due, Stevenson Square, now in the trendy N4, was being used as an outdoor bus terminal and wasn’t surrounded by cool cafΓ©s and bars in those days. The conveniences were closed decades ago because of, what was euphemistically called, antisocial behaviour. I’m not a fan of these outdoor ‘restrooms’ and they have all but disappeared from the city. I do have a list of places in the city centre that I am prepare to use that are clean, well maintained and have soap, usually in nice shops, cool bars, theatres and the like. The nearest we have to an outdoor one is in the Town Hall Extension, right next to the police station. It’s well maintained and, given its position next to the police station, there is zero chance of coming across any antisocial behaviour. Maybe I should do a post about my 5* public facilities in the city for this blog? But taking the pictures could be construed as antisocial behaviour I suppose.

TheΒ monoliths in Stevenson Square have found a new use as canvases for local artists to do some street art. It’s frequently very good. One of them was recently used for an artwork of sadly missed David Bowie.

He’d been there for a year and a couple of weeks ago there was controversy when he was painted over by Sloth from The Goonies. The artist added the Aladdin Sane slash to Sloth afterwards.

But Sloth/Aladdin Sane has gone. All three monoliths have been reworked as a tributeΒ to the victims of the Arena attack and the resilience of Manchester to adversity. Bees are all over it. They are there because they are a symbol of Manchester. They represent the industry and hard work that made the city great. They appear on the city’s coat of arms, on buildings and are all over street furniture in the city. Real bees live in hives on the tops of buildings and bee friendly plants are grown in squares and quiet corners of the city like here, on the central monolith, in Stevenson Square, with its green roof. And, in the wake of the attack, they are being tattooed on people, the money from the tattooing going to the victim support fund.Β 

There have been more raids across the city today as the police follow leads. It was pretty obvious that the terrorist who did this wasn’t working alone and it’s all been about rounding up his mates. He was known to the police but they had no intelligence on him that said that he was about to do this. Apparently there are 23,000 of his persuasion in the UK alone and 24/7 surveillance of them all isn’t feasible. As someone said ‘we need to be lucky all the time, while they need to get lucky only once.’

The reaction of the city, the country and the wider world has been nothing short of wonderful. There haveΒ been thousands of acts of kindness and offers of help. The collection to raise money to support the families of the victims stood at over Β£5,000,000 this morning. Manchester City and Manchester United together contributed Β£1,000,000. Wayne Rooney of Manchester United personally contributed Β£100,000 with Yaya TourΓ© of Manchester City gave a similar sum. Liam Gallagher is doing a benefit concert for the fund. Guy Garvey and Elbow will do another concert with the HallΓ© Orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall. Would love to go to that one but tickets, for which you could donate any amount you wanted, went in minutes. And Ariana Grande has announced that she will return to the city to do a benefit concert as well. Quite brave of her I think considering. It will be an emotional gig I imagine.Β 

It’s the weekend of the Great Manchester Street Games and the Manchetser 10km run. The latter is a big event in the country’s sporting calendar and is always covered by TV. Cancelling it would have been an indication that terrorism had won. So it’s going ahead. The organisers of the 10km have been overwhelmed with requests to take part in the already full event.Β 

These We ❀️ MCR banners and signs have appeared all over the city on buildings, lamp posts and in windows. Flags are flying at half mast like on the tower of the cathedral. If you look to the left of the cathedral you can just see part of the Manchester Arena where the atrocity happened. It, along with Victoria Station, is still closed. We hear that the families of the victims are being offered a time to visit the site where their loved ones died. At some point I’ll have to cross the spot myself on some trip to the arena and will find it difficult enough. I can’t begin to think how difficult that will be for their families.Β 

Pretty St. Ann’s Square, tree shaded and surrounded by beautiful architecture, is a favourite spot in the city. We like to visit the markets there when they appear or just sit on a normal day and have lunch. With the temperatures in the high 80s yesterday, normally it would have been full of people having some alfresco lunch. But it’s not been a normal week.

It has become the place where people can come and lay tributes to the people who lost their lives in Monday’s atrocity. Once you have got past the TV crews and vans you can see the tributes. What started as a few bunches of flowers against the church wall on Tuesday has developed into a carpet of flowers, balloons and candles that grew as I stood there watching people arrive to add their’s. Apart from the voice of the girl busker singing thoughtful, appropriate songs (I heard John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ while I was there) and, later on, the guy who plays his African Kora with its mournful sound, the people looking were quiet and respectful, taking a few moments out of their day to think about what happened on Monday and think of the victims.

Someone had left out of a box of chalk. People were using them to leave messages on the paving stones further down the square.

We still haven’t got all of Manchester back yet. The streets around the arena are moving again but the arena itself and Victoria Station are still closed. There continue to be raids on addresses across the city and, now, in the Midlands’ town of Nuneaton. Arrests have been made. There are lots of rumours still flying about, especially about the raid on the apartment block in Granby Row, but I’m not posting anything here until it’s a known fact. We don’t deal in fake news on here. The Queen came up today to visit the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to see some of the young people who were hurt in the attack. In situations like this she likes to give it a couple of days before coming. Manchester has had a lot to deal with without having to cope with a high profile royal visit.Β 

And we’ve had a national one minute’s silence at 11am when we all stopped what we were doing and gave some thought to what happened. In Manchester the centre of the moment was St. Ann’s Square. People brought flowers to lay as soon as Tuesday morning. With the area around the arena and the cathedral in lockdown, the wall of St. Ann’s Church became the place to lay them. The numbers of bouquets became so huge that they spread across the pavement and into the road. So they moved them into the square proper and arranged them around the statue of Victorian cotton baron and politician, Richard Cobden. The Victorian Mancunian grandee is providing a focus for the floral tributes. This morning, the square and surrounding streets were packed with people there to pay their respects.

We have had support from around the world, from the great, the good and the famous. And cities have been showing support by lighting their famous buildings. We have done this in the past for other cities touched by terrorism, now it’s our turn.

Dubai…

Geneva…

Berlin…

Orlando…

Wembley Stadium, London…

Hong Kong…

Toronto…

Brisbane…

Tel Aviv…

Amsterdam…

Some cities decided to darken their iconic buildings.

Paris…

New York…

After yesterday’s post about some of the victims of the attack I hadn’t intended to do another like it. There have been 22 people who have lost their lives and other people have recorded their stories on social media. But I was touched by this picture. So one last one.

They are Chloe Rutherford (17) and Liam Curry (19) from the seaside suburb of South Shields in Newcastle. They had travelled down to see the Ariana Grande concert. They were posted as ‘missing’ on social media but by Tuesday morning it was apparent they really weren’t. Posting people as ‘missing’ gave the impression that there was chaos and people didn’t know where to look for them. In fact, by Tuesday morning most of the 21,000 in the arena had made it home, the injured had been quickly ferried to hospitals in the city and people stranded in the city were in various hotels that had opened their doors. The city has practiced for such an event and it all went like clockwork. By Tuesday if there had been a couple of dazed, confused teenagers wandering around Manchester someone would have found them and sorted them out. We used the word ‘missing’ but we knew that meant that they had been unfortunate to have been in the foyer of the arena at the wrong time and hadn’t made it out.Β 

They are a cute couple and have been going out for a while. They had come to Manchester on a mini adventure and should have made it back to South Shields. Liam has had a tough year. His father died of cancer a few weeks ago. He had been fighting it for the last few years. When he was 15 Liam rode his bike from South Shields to London to raise money for cancer research. A guy who ‘walks the walk as well as talks the talk’ as we say. After having gone through that, coming to Manchester might have been seen as being a step back to some normality. I can’t even begin to think what his mother and two brothers must be going through at the moment. Β 

It’s difficult to get back to normal at the moment. The radio and TV are still fullΒ of news about the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena. The general election is on hold as Prime Minister May oversees what’s going on. The terrorist risk to the country has been raised to ‘critical’ which means that another attack is very likely. Getting about the city is difficult still with the area around the arena still in lockdown and Victoria Station still closed causing problems for trains arriving in the city and cutting the tram system in half. There are all kinds of rumours going about so I won’t report anything here that I don’t know to be true. I do know that there have been three raids on houses in South Manchester this morning and a rather spectacular one on an apartment block in the city centre that involved armed police and the special forces. They closed the railway line between Piccadilly and Oxford Road Stations while it went on. I’ve not seen any myself but we are having to get used to the idea of armed police and soldiers about the city.

We are beginning to learn more about the victims of the attack. This young lady was the first to be named. She is Georgina Callander from a little place called Whittle-Le-Woods in Leyland, north of the city. She was a Ariana Grande super fan and there are pictures of her meeting the singer a couple of years ago. Ariana Grande left the city visibly upset Β having cancelled the rest of her tour. Arriving home in Florida she was still traumatised. Maybe she feels some guilt that if she hadn’t been there singing, there wouldn’t have been the opportunity for the attack to take place. It’s not her fault, if it hadn’t been her concert it would have been someone else’s. We, in Manchester, have been touch by her offer to pay all the funeral costs of the victims.

This is Saffie Rose Rossus. She, at 8, is the youngest victim of the attack. She is from the village of Tarelton in the Lancashire countryside to the north west of the city. She came to the concert with her mother and older sister. Her sister and mother are still in hospital with her mother in a coma. This morning the entire village turned out to support the family. It was a moving sight.

Angelika and Marcin Kris are from York but came from Poland originally. They brought their teenaged daughters to the concert and left them there. They went off for dinner in the city and it looks like they took this selfie in Exchange Square outside Selfridges. They were waiting in the foyer, for their daughters, between Victoria Station and the arena. They were probably going to jump onto the train back to York. They must have been right by the suicide bomber when he exploded his bomb. The daughters are alive but must be so traumatised.

We are a big city of about 3,000,000 and we obviously don’t know everyone. Yesterday was all about finding if family and friends were OK. Mine were, though we are all upset and angry of course. This is Martyn Hett. He was due to fly to America today. A friend I met through TWITTER (he has a blog as well) knew him as a friend.Β 

There are 18 other people who lost their lives and we are told that some of the injured are still in a critical condition. Some are from Manchester, some from other cities and towns and two girls from the remote Scottish island of Barra who had come to see the concert and enjoy the novelty of being in a big city. We hope that they all pull through, though we are told that some have ‘life changing’ injuries.Β 

A beautiful, sunny, warm, late Spring evening in Manchester with the city looking lovely. We should be filling the city’s terraces and gardens enjoying a drink and some food. Instead we are gathering in Albert Square to show solidarity with the people who died or lost their lives yesterday. The youngest was an 8 year old going to a concert with her big sister and mother. I just don’t have words.

Elsewhere in the city houses have been raided in Fallowfield and Walley Range and someone was arrested outside Morrison’s supermarket in Chorlton next to the tram station, 100m from my favourite watering hole, ODDEST. And, as we suspected, the suicide bomber was born and bred in Manchester but had connections to Libya.Β 

Pictures were from Twitter. Thanks to the people who took them.

Not the post I had planned for today. Manchester has found itself at the top of the world’s headlines this morning but all for the wrong reasons. I went to bed early last night as I needed to get up early today so I missed the news late last night. I woke up this morning and turned on the radio and heard the chilling words ‘there’s only one story today’. Never a good way to start a broadcast and then to hear that my city was at the centre of it and the news was devastatingly bad.

Ariana Grande was playing to a packed Manchester Arena last night. I’m not familiar with her music as she’s very popular with teen aged girls and, indeed, younger. Which made the news, if possible, even more terrible as a large number of the audience of 20,000 people in there would be very young indeed. As the concert ended and the audience began to leave the arena, a suicide bomber walked into the public area between the arena and Victoria Station where people were buying Ariana Grande merchandise. It all should have been a happy evening. I suppose the younger children will have had their parents with them but many of the older ones would have come in with their friends or had been dropped off by parents who’d have gone off for dinner before picking up their children after the concert. As I post 22 people have died, including children, and 59 have been injured.Β 

We, in Manchester, are all stunned and shocked by the event. I’m shocked and tearful. If I’m honest, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Terrorists have been targeting cities outside capital cities in Europe for a while. Manchester has many high profile, well attended, possible targets. Security is tight getting into stadiums and big concert venues but it’s all but impossible to police every event that happens. Wherever people gather is a target now and every bar, cafΓ©, restaurant, small music venue, store etc. can’t be policed. We just have to go about our business and hope we’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Within minutes of the attack, Manchester was fighting back. The police, fire service and medical services arrived within minutes. Taxi drivers switched off their meters to ferry bewildered and scared people home. City centre hotels opened their doors and took people in for the night. Locals, living in the city centre, offered spare rooms and sofas. Children who were found scared and alone in the city, separated from parents and friends, were kept safe by kindly strangers until someone was able to pick them up.Β 

As far as I know, no one I know has been directly affected. But everyone in the city has been affected to some extent. We are lucky enough to live in one of the most exciting, vibrant cities in Europe. There is always something going on. We love living here. Today we are in shock. The security services are on overdrive today and the people behind this will be found. Over the next few days we will mourn the dead, comfort the damaged and then we will get back to normal. We did it back in 1996, after the IRA attack and we will do it again now.Β 

The pictures are not mine but found on Twitter. Many thanks to the people who made them.Β 

Some pictures of St. Peter’s Cross that marks the site of the demolished St. Peter’s Church in the eponymous square. The square is almost finished. There is just one corner where they are still working on the paving and, I hear, restaurants are going to open soon. I’m looking forward to that. In the summer we’ll be able to sit outside and watch the trams and the world go by and enjoy the beautiful architecture. People are really enjoying the square, it’s been well received. The trams animate the area. It’s easy to forget that we are on consecrated church land and that below the square, the trams and the cross are crypts full of dead Mancunians. There was a sponsored walk making its way through the square on Saturday, raising funds for Crohn’s Disease, also known as irritable bowel syndrome. Some dogs were also doing their bit to raise cash and enjoying an extra long and interesting walk.Β