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The middle of June to the end of July (and tying up odds and ends into August) is always a crazy, busy time at work for me. I got called into the boss’s office today and was told it’s going to be even worse than usual and I’ve been asked to take on more. They have promised to cross my palm with more silver. I said I wanted enough silver to have a suit made at a tailors of my choice and some handmade shoes that have taken my fancy. Neither of these will come cheap. As people know me can testify, I’m practically walking around in rags and tatters. They said yes.Β 

All that extra work means my team will have to rearrange stuff we need to do, reschedule some, put some off until later, do what we can before the 19th. We went for a walk to clear heads, have a coffee and see what could be done. Most will be OK but I’m going to have to go back in, I think, and negotiate some temporary help. We spent the afternoon putting everything on the new calendar and made a list of stuff that can’t go on. We put that on a separate calendar and, hopefully, the extra person can do that. If you go in prepared with lots of flow charts you can generally get what you want I find. Especially if you threaten to take them through all your flow charts dull detail by dull detail.

We walked over to the Fountain Pool. I’m amazed how the camera on my iPhone catches the falling water. I’m told it’s not a great camera but really what more could you ask? I should upgrade my phone (9 year olds laugh at it) and am told that the phones on more advanced iPhones are head and shoulders better than this one. We will see.

The early summer flowers are coming out. These are Astilbes…

These purple flowers are a form of wild Geraniums. The bright red ones we see in pots and call Geraniums are actually Pelargoniums fyi…

These are Day Lilies. We grow them for their beautiful flowers but I was listening to James Wong on Gardener’s Question Time (when did I get so old?) and he said that where his family hail from in Malaysia they are grown for food as a salad crop. In my defence James Wong is a pretty cool guy…

I thought the Azalea season was over but I found this late one in a bed near the Fountain Pool. I’ll have to get one for our garden, I do like these beautiful, low growing, easy to look after bushes…

It wasn’t really a day for a wander in a garden. It should have been. It’s June and the summer flowers are coming in. But there were unseasonable high winds and heavy rain. Some parts of the country had all of June’s rain in one day. We did, at one point, wander into the woodland part of the garden but when branches started coming off the trees and we were pelted with pine cones, we beat a retreat to the safer part of the garden. Driving back to the city whole trees blocked the roads in places.

I’d like a garden that you have to go into through a gate in an ancient brick wall….

And leave by another gate in an ancient brick wall…

Peonies are in blousey bloom in all our gardens but these weren’t enjoying the wind…

They need a bit of a trim, but look carefully at these topiary trees and you can see two squirrels…

Rufford has a impressive, herbaceous border. It will be in full bloom later in the summer, lots of green today…

The tall purple/pink foxgloves and blue delphiniums should have been the stars of the show but, with their height, they were suffering in the wind…

A couple of cherubs (or are they putti?) having a rumble over a bunch of grapes…

I’d like a garden with a wildflower meadow with an orchard…

This rose is an ancient one that would have been in all Tudor gardens. Highly perfumed, it’s the red rose of Lancashire, appropriate for a garden in this part of the world. Put together with the white rose of Yorkshire and you get the Tudor Rose seen in paintings and buildings of that age…

Will have to try this. We have a big slug problem this year and I hate using chemicals in the garden…

Oversized deck chairs seem to be a thing this year. I only seem to see them on wet, miserable days though…

I’m about to go into my annual really, really, really busy time of the year. From the middle of June to early August I’ve barely got time to breathe. It’s hard work but I kind of enjoy it and I really enjoy the August pay check as, as everyone who knows me, I’m practically living in poverty. November is another time I get really busy but it does mean I’m in funds for Christmas. I’m also hoping for some kind of advancement in my job in September with a raise. Money isn’t everything but it does help. And people who say ‘money isn’t everything’ have usually got plenty in my experience. The weather today has been more like Autumn. A storm blew in with heavy rain which will be good for the crops and the gardens but, with the trees in full leaf, some have come down in the wind. We passed one on the way back to the city.

As we are going to be so busy soon, we’ve been awarding ourselves little treats. Today was one such when we had a drive out to look at a new place that could be used as an interesting venue for meetings and entertaining clients. It’s a National Trust property called Rufford Old Hall in the lush, flat countryside of Lancashire to the west of the city. We had a look around the house and gardens and then had to try the food offerings. We liked this place. It’s small and quite a long way out of the city at the end of winding lanes but I imagine that foreign clients might like the ride out and all the very Englishness of it all.

The building is a beautiful, but a bit of a ‘dog’s dinner’, building. There is a Tudor great hall (in the style of Little Moreton Hall). It’s all that remains of a much larger Tudor hall, most of which has disappeared. No one knows what happened to it. Maybe it was demolished or, possibly, burnt to the ground as it’s mostly made of wood. In 1662, a brick built wing was built in the Jacobean style and in the 1820s a Regency building was added to the back of that. Three very different styles but they hang together very well.

You can’t photograph in most of the house. I don’t think they like their treasures being photographed, it could encourage people to come and help themselves but I did manage to get a picture of the dining room before we learned that.

We could take pictures in the Tudor great hall which would have been the centre of life in the Tudor mansion.

There was an exhibition of Medieval armour as worn by the officer class of the day. Ordinary soldiers would have had to go into battle with a lot less protection.

I asked about the family who used to live here. They gave the house to The National Trust in 1938. Sometimes the family would be struggling with the upkeep of such a building so passing it on was a good option. They were the Hesketh family, an ancient, rich and powerful Lancashire family. As well as this house they also owned Rufford Hall, a much larger Victorian mansion just a mile or so away. That was sold and it’s now very upmarket apartments. The family are now based at ANOTHER country pile surrounded by 100s of acres of prime, Northamptonshire agricultural land. They have a house in Mayfair, London and a very nice villa overlooking the Mediterranean in Monte Carlo. They’re doing fine. Please don’t worry about them.Β 

The hall is reputedly haunted by a grey lady, a man in Elizabethan clothing and Queen Elizabeth I no less! The figure of a man floating above the canal at the rear of the building has also been reported. On 20 February 2010, the crew of the paranormal television series Most Haunted filmed at the hall. Recently there have been cakes mysteriously vanishing from the tea rooms, many think this is down to the grey lady. Or maybe small children helping themselves to delicious National Trust cake. Or maybe the Little Moreton Hall ducks have paid this place a visit. No self respecting English mansion is without a ghost or six.Β 

About a week ago I said I was posting my last post on the Manchester Arena attack but I can’t leave it alone. The city is still profoundly affected by what happened. There are reminders everywhere and it’s going to take a long time to feel normal again. We were just beginning to get some sense of normality back and there was the attack in London on London Bridge and Borough Market. We are not down and defeated but we are still experiencing a deep sense of shock. And last night we had the One Love Concert at the Lancashire Cricket Stadium at Old Trafford.

Two weeks ago I hadn’t even heard of Ariana Grande. Her fanbase seems to be mostly girls from about 8 to 18. She’s obviously popular with them as she sold out the 21,000 Manchester Arena with ease. Of course the rest is history. After the attack the first picture I saw of her was of a stunned, fragile looking, young woman leaving the city after cancelling the rest of her European tour. She looked little better when she arrived home in Florida. But Ms. Grande is obviously made of sterner stuff than she looks. She was determined to do something to help her fans who had been damaged and traumatised by the events. She announced a desire to put on a concert. She started pulling some strings and calling in favours. When Ariana Grande pulls strings the likes of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Coldplay etc… are at the end of them. Within a few days a star studded concert of epic proportions was put together.

While people at the original concert were given free tickets, the rest sold out in 6 minutes. People gave their time, talent and resources for free and, possibly, the best concert the city has seen was put together and was broadcast to the world. Even the weather played along with a dry, sunny evening with dramatic clouds drifting across the skies. The concert raised Β£2,000,000 last night alone taking the total raised for the victims so far to over Β£10,000,000. Ariana Grande is my new best person.

The people who planned and carried out the attack have a problem with the way we live in the UK and other countries like ours. They hate that we have freedoms, that we are educated, that we question the status quo that has been so for 100s of years. They don’t like the freedoms that women enjoy in the UK. They prefer their women to be subservient, to restrict their roles to maintaining the home and producing babies. They are threatened by anyone who’s lifestyle conflicts with their narrow view of how the world should be. They hate pleasures we have like music, getting together with friends to eat and drink. That was why they attacked Ariana Grande’s concert at the arena. The attack was supposed to make us cower and be afraid, give up and adopt their way of life. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Two weeks after the attack, Ariana Grande was back in the city performing before 50,000 in the stadium and millions worldwide. And this is why they won’t win. We love our way of life and we will defend it. The London attack showed that. People didn’t run, the stood their ground and flung bottles, glasses, furniture, anything that came to hand and defended themselves and others.

Some pictures from the concert. Not mine. I found them on TWITTER and a lot will be from the BBC. I thank them for them. Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus having a quiet moment…

The magical moment when Ariana Grande sang with the choir from Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury…

A fabulous picture of Katy Perry in a coat made of all the feathers in Manchester against a glorious Manchester sky…

The clouds stuck around for the end of Justin Bieber’s set…

Chris Martin, with Coldplay, did a stirring set that included the emotive ‘Fix You’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’…

Rumours about Liam Gallagher, of OASIS, appearing turned out to be true. He sang with Chris Martin while everyone was expecting a reunion with bro, Noel. It didn’t happen. They have a tense relationship that not even this could bring them to be together on the same stage. If you fancy having Liam’s orange coat, you’re too late. It sold out while the was singing on stage it seems. I loved the tweet I found, surprisingly, on TWITTER…. ‘Nothing says ‘fuck you, ISIS’ quite like a snarling Manc with an orange cagoule and maracas.’

This picture went viral. A Manchester policeman circle dancing with a bunch of children…

Here’s a link to the BBC coverage of the concert if you haven’t seen it. If you watch maybe you can make a donation to some worthy cause near you and spread the love…

The performers at tonight’s ‘One Love Manchester’ concert to raise money for the victims of the arena atrocity are all in the city. Probably doing sound checks as I post. Last night was busy in the city. Someone in Moss Side got their door kicked in and there was an ‘event’ at a petrol station on Cheetham Hill Road, near the arena, as the police continue to round up suspected terrorists. Then we had the big news of the evening. Another attack, this time on London Bridge and in the area of Borough Market in the shadow of The Shard in London. It was similar to the attack on Westminster Bridge a few weeks ago. A van driven at speed into people crossing the bridge and then people going berserk with knives in the market and in restaurants and bars in the area. Another attack on people having a night out on a Saturday evening. They hate us doing this it seems. How you stop it I can’t think. Most of us have access to vehicles and all of us have access to sharp knives. Most of us don’t think of damaging other people of course.Β 

The concert in Manchester will go on regardless. To cancel would be giving the terrorists a victory. There will be more security. People have been asked not to bring bags, don’t drive in and leave extra time for the security measures. The football match this afternoon has had the same level of security and it’s gone off without a hitch.Β 

This weekend has been the King Street Festival. Given what’s gone on in the city it might have been cancelled but, as I said, that would give the terrorists a victory. King Street is one of the most attractive and famous streets in the city. In the past it was the street where they well to do went to shop. It was lined with exclusive shops. But it fell on hard times when the high end shops migrated to new streets like New Cathedral Street and the recession after the crash of 2008 hit the street hard. The west end of the street, between Kendal’s on Deansgate and Cross Street, is where the shops are. They operate in pretty buildings and the street is narrow and pedestrianised. The east end of King Street is far grander, lined with huge Victorian and Edwardian commercial buildings where the cotton barons banked their fortunes.Β 

The King Street Festival was designed to bring the street back into the city’s consciousness and revive its fortunes. It has done so and the street, with added restaurants, has got back some of its cachet.

These rabbits were put out by one of the commercial art galleries on the street.Β 

Kendal’s decorated one of its windows as it might have been, 100 years ago, in 1917.

Rapha is a cafΓ©/cyclist shop on King Street. They had this cool cafΓ© van on the street.

The weather was hit and miss while waiting for the entertainment at the pop up bandstand.

An old Morris Traveller that has been converted into a cocktail/Prosecco bar on wheels.

The ladies from Wythenshawe, who had a garden at Dig The City back in 2015, had turned one of the parking bays on the commercial part of King Street into a pop up garden. I got talking to Nelson who did a lot of running about and facilitating things at Dig The City and he told me that liked this idea and there is a possibility that the other bays along the street might be gardens next year. I’m quite interested in that idea.Β 

You could have a seaside selfie.

Flourish, who run the flower concession by the church in St Ann’s Square had set up a stall on King Street. Always good to see some green in the city.Β 

 

 

I had a very ‘English’ moment travelling on the tram into the city centre today. We got to Deansgate/Castlefield and the guy next to me, who I didn’t know, excused himself and asked if I could stand up while he got off. As I got up I stepped back onto the foot of the man sat behind me. In some countries (mentioning no names, I’m looking at you Italy, France…) this might have resulted in an altercation. I once witnessed a rehearsal for WWIII on a train in Switzerland when an Italian woman dropped a bag onto a French woman’s head when lifting it down from the rack. No such drama on the Manchester tram. HE apologised to ME for having his foot in the way as I stepped backwards. I did apologise for doing it and we had a laugh at the Englishness of it.

The police are still everywhere in Manchester but the ones with the big guns seem to have taken a lower profile. We’re not used to armed police and while they have been with us for valid reasons, we’re not sure just how reassuring they are. I’m happy to have them watching us from the tops of buildings. Coming across one leaving Selfridges is unnerving. With the big concert tomorrow at Lancashire County Cricket’s Old Trafford Stadium and the football match at Old Trafford football stadium, the unarmed police are everywhere. Not all of them are Greater Manchester’s finest. Many have been brought in from forces across the country to help. You can tell the difference as the out of town police spend a lot of time staring up at the buildings and doing a bit of site seeing and chatting to us locals. I met three, including a hipster one, from Hertfordshire this morning staring in awe at Central Library. And why wouldn’t they?

Bees are popping up everywhere. They are, as I’ve written before, a symbol of our city and have been used everywhere as a symbol of Manchester resilience. It makes you feel some pride and then you remember why they are getting such a high profile and you remember the 22 victims and their families and friends and it brings home the sadness of the situation. This one I found on Mason Street off Great Ancoats Street where the N4 stops being the N4 and becomes trendy Ancoats.

These next bees are in the N4 proper. Koffee Pot, on Oldham Street, is a Manchester institution and does the best English breakfasts in the city. If you come you have to go and have at least one. More and you’d be risking the health of your heart. This street art has a honeyed heart and will have 22 bees when it’s finished.

Near the Koffee Pot mural I spotted this little art work that made me smile. The lady is National Living Treasure, Mary Berry aka Queen of Cakes. She is a talented cook with many years of TV programmes to her credit including being the nice judge of Great British Bake Off. Mr Kipling are a well know company that produces cakes by the million of uniform size and taste.

Rather nice N4 burger restaurant, Solita, has had this neon lit bee made.

This has appeared on the roof terrace of one of the cafΓ© bars on Stevenson Square.

Just a random picture of the CIS Tower, covered in solar panels, producing solar power like crazy on a sunny Manchester morning. Please take note Mr Trump. The building on the right has the Cat CafΓ© on the ground floor. It was busy this morning but the cats were all having a post breakfast, pre elevenses nap. One was looking bored while being filmed. Love cats! They just don’t care.

I found this new, to me, piece of street art in the N4.

Someone from Canada has done this beautifully executed tribute on the pavement in front of the Queen Victoria statue in Piccadilly Gardens. In this busy spot, people we taking care to skirt it as they walked through. Β 

Tony Walsh’s inspirational poem about Manchester, that was read out at the vigil, was on Β an ‘A’ board outside Waterstone’s book store on Deansgate.

Prince Willam has been in town. I know I said that I’d done my last post about the Manchester Arena atrocity but it’s hard to ignore. As I post, while enjoying a glass of wine and some excellent pizza in HOME, the police and the bomb squad are doing something on The Curry Mile in Rusholme about three miles from where I’m sat having seen Noel Cowards ‘Blithe Spirit’ at the theatre here. Wilmslow Road is closed, there is traffic chaos in the rush hour while they deal with something there. Prince William has been meeting some of the people who helped with the victims, police, ambulance personnel and so on. Then he went on to the Cathedral and from there to the hospital to meet some of the people recovering. We’re pleased that none of the people, some having horrific injuries, in the hospital have died. Hopefully, having survived almost two weeks after the attack they will recover more. Some have ‘life changing injuries’ though so it’s going to be a long haul for them.

We have Victoria Station back now and today was the first time I had the opportunity or need to use it. It’s back to its busy self but the scaffolding marks the entrance beyond which is the foyer where the attack took place. At some point it will have to be opened again as it’s the main thoroughfare between the Arena and Victoria and life will have to go on. It will be difficult for everyone who passes through it though.

When Victoria reopened the Mayor of Greater Manchester, the government Minister of Transport and other people connected to the station laid these tributes by the Soldier’s Gate Memorial. This gate was the gate through which soldiers left Manchester for the battlefields of France and Belgium in WWI, many never to return. Other people have left their own tributes as well.

All over the city these ‘I ❀️ MCR’ and ‘We ❀️ MCR’ banners are up. These were outside Victoria Station on the building site of the new Hotel Indigo.

To get to where I needed to be I cut through St. Ann’s Square. It was full of silent people just looking at the memorials brough by other people. I’ve felt sadness and, this last year have felt it deeply on a personal level, but never this sense of communal sadness that has overtaken the city. The flower carpet starts near the church, has now spread down around the Cotton Bud fountain, around the Boer War Memorial and towards the steps of the Royal Exchange Theatre. It covers the space where I built my garden two years ago. It will stay in place until people stop coming and the families of the victims want it to be removed.

There is talk of a permanent memorial to the people who died in the city. No one is sure what it will be or where but the space between the Cathedral and the river, close to the arena seems a good spot as the plans are to landscape it and turn it into gardens. Β At some point all the flower tributes will be collected and composted to use in the gardens.

The Ariana Grande concert at Lancashire Cricket Club went on sale this morning. It sold out in 6 minutes! 50,000 people will be there. It starts at 7pm, UK time, this Sunday and the BBC will be transmitting it for the rest of us to watch. Apparently it will be shown around the world so check locally if you want to watch. Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Take That, Pharrell Williams, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Usher, Robbie Williams, Little Mix and others, along with Ariana Grande, are booked to play. We’re still waiting to hear if Oasis will play to sing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, the song that has become an anthem for Manchester in the last few days. Rumours are flying about that Madonna will play as well. It’s going to be a big and emotional event.

But, life goes on for the rest of us, in spite of the unreal atmosphere in the city. My team went out for one of our outdoor, walking meetings to discuss stuff. The weather was fine so it was nice to get out of the office. It’s not just an excuse to get out of the office and have a coffee, we do actually sort things out. Honest!

They’ve taken down some dull, 1960s buildings near our offices. Something more impressive and suitable for 21st century business will be built we are told. In the meantime nature has taken over. There were great splashes of yellow on the site. On closer inspection they turned out to be Bird’s Foot Trefoil, the food source of the (not so) Β Common Blue Butterfly. I hope that when the buildings go up they find some space for a little wildness so these plants are their rare butterflies can thrive. No butterflies today but the bees were enjoying it.

We headed over to the lake (coffee shop is nearby). The Yellow Flag Irises are in full bloom now along the edge.

There were a few purple irises as well.

I spotted some purple/pink Field Orchids among the irises. They are quite happy in England, orchids aren’t restricted to the tropical rain forests.

These apricot coloured Rhododendrons are just coming into flower. They look great here but this plant can swamp a suburban garden.

 

It’s always sad to see an old building go. This time it’s the Odeon Cinema on Oxford Street, a very attractive Art Deco building put up in the 1930s when going to the movies was the new thing. It was a veritable palace of a cinema when Oxford Street was lined with grand movie theatres. They have all gone, one by one and, finally, it’s the Odeon’s turn. It did well until the 1950s when TV took off which caused cinema going to go into decline. It was originally one huge screen but in the 70s they redesigned the interior to allow lots of small screen. A lot of the beautiful interior Art Deco features disappeared at that time. Movie going is now back in vogue as people enjoy watching movies, especially the mega action movies like Star Wars, on big screens. We also like to drive to the cinema and park up outside so multiplex cinemas in the suburbs or the Trafford Centre are favoured. The Odeon closed a decade ago and has been left to rot as no one could come up with a viable option of what to do with it. I took these pictures a week or so ago before Manchester was overtaken by events. The Art Deco Oxford Street faΓ§ade is all that’s left of the building. It’s sad to see this building go.

Behind the façade you can make our the giant, steel beams that supported the circle and gallery levels of the 1930s cinema.

I think this, following, picture encapsulates what Manchester is about at the moment. A massive amount of change and building as the old makes way for the new city. No cities stand still. They are either expanding and redeveloping or they are declining. Manchester is very much into expansion but we must be careful to preserve what is good of the past in the rush to build a modern city.

This is what will replace the Odeon. Another, admittedly needed, white stone and glass office block to complement No1 and No2 St. Peter’s Square next door. I’m not sure what it will be called. I have it at the back of my mind that the name is Landmark. A bit presumptuous for an office building within sight of the likes of the Town Hall, Central Library and the Midland Hotel. Then again there are many things washing about at the back of my mind so I could be wrong.

This rather dull, grey, 1960s block, behind the Odeon, will be the next to go. It’s going to be another Motel One hotel. One has already been built on London Road by Piccadilly Station, a second is nearing completion on Cross Street by the Royal Exchange Theatre and this will be the third. There has been a spike in hotel building in the city recently as chains line up to get into Manchester and get a part of the action. Another testament to the city’s growing economy. I was told that this building, also empty for a long while (companies want a better standard of office space these days) was partially owned by the estate of Jimmy Savile. Jimmy Savile, once a fixture on British TV as a family entertainer, had a dramatic fall from grace after his death. I will leave it at that. But it could explain why people were reluctant to move into this building and why the city wants it gone.Β 

I wasn’t going to post anything else on the Manchester Arena terrorist attack. It has been a painful time for the city and I can’t even begin to understand how the family and friends of the victims must be feeling. But one act of terrorism has given birth to countless acts of kindness and concern, in the city, and from around the world.

Manchester has a large Muslim community. I have friends and workmates who are Muslim. They work hard and want the same from life as we do. We get on well, acknowledge each other’s festivals and traditions and generally get on well. Many of the Muslim population are 3rd and 4th generation Mancunians and this is their home. I, for comparison, am an immigrant also, a 4th generation Irish immmigrant, and no one would dream of doubting my loyalty to this city and country.

Of course we do have a problem with radicalised youths who, for whatever reason, don’t share our love of our communal home and have, dramatically, proved that last week. We don’t yet know the full story of what happened last week. But we share that problem with London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Nice, Stockholm, New York, Sydney, Los Angeles, Jakarta, Baghdad, Cairo…

There are no figures about the percentage of radicalised people in the Muslim community but I suspect it’s very, very small and we must not demonise an entire community for the doings of the few. But there has been some random insulting of Muslim people or people to be perceived as Muslim. This is wrong. Back in 1996, the Irish community in the city (of which I’m a 4th generation member) didn’t suffer that after the IRA bombing of the city.

This Manchester based YouTube vlogger made this video. He’s stood outside the Royal Exchange Theatre on St. Ann’s Square. It’s an uplifting watch….

On a positive note we have Victoria Station back so the tram system is whole again and the trains can arrive there. And it looks as if Ariana Grande is coming back to the city this weekend and will be doing a benefit concert at Lancashire Cricket Club’s stadium at Old Trafford. I’ve been told Miley Cyrus is coming as well. I suppose they must have left the temporary stage used by The Courteeners this Sunday in place. So it’s possible that she’ll be playing in front of 50,000 people.