Friday photo hunt – my own choice

My ‘behind the scenes’ tour of Morecambe’s Winter Gardens theatre last September meant that for once I had to leave Poppie at home, something I felt a bit guilty about as my days out are as much for the dogs(s) as they are for myself. However, being dog-free meant that I was able to have a wander round the indoor Festival Market where I came across Oscar’s Cushions ‘n’ Throws, a stall selling exactly those items. And that’s when I saw it – a cushion printed with the most adorable Jack Russell face.
Now this face didn’t look anything at all like any of the dogs I’ve ever had, there was too much brown on it for a start, but for some inexplicable reason it made me think of Sophie. Maybe it was the eyes, maybe it was the facial expression, I don’t know, but something about it just grabbed me and I knew I wasn’t walking away from that stall without the cushion – so I bought it.
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Needless to say, the cushion is far too precious to be used as such so it’s on my bed for decoration only, and as I got it only four days before what would have been Sophie’s birthday it will always be thought of as ‘Sophie’s cushion’. I took the photo just after I got the cushion, intending to use it in a previous blog post, and it’s been in my archives ever since so I think this week’s photo hunt topic is now a good opportunity to use it.

A winter walk through Wilton Quarry

After overnight snow on Friday and more of the same on Saturday morning it finally came nice at lunch time so with plenty of blue sky and sunshine I took myself off for a walk. Not wanting to go too far from home I decided to go to Wilton Quarry, just a mile up the road and somewhere I’ve never been in the snow, though knowing it would probably be very wet and muddy up there I left the dogs behind.
Fifteen minutes walk up the road and reaching open fields with one of my favourite views I crossed over to take a couple of snaps and it was soon after that when things went rapidly downhill. Not only did the sun disappear behind a huge bank of cloud but I got the most unexpected and unwelcome surprise when a car driver deliberately – and I mean deliberately – drove his 4 x 4 at speed through a huge puddle by the side of the road and drenched the front of me literally from head to foot in a wave of slushy snow and water; I was soaked.
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The start of the quarry up ahead

Only a mile from home I could quite easily have gone back to get changed but in view of the sky clouding over somewhat I knew if I did that I wouldn’t want to set out again so I decided to carry on; the climb up through the quarry and a brisk walk along the road from the top would stop me from getting cold.
The path into the quarry was more of a stream than a path and I was glad I had my wellies on, though as I got further into the quarry itself it did get better. That was until I got up to the next level where I had to pick my way cautiously through clumps of waterlogged muddy grass and several pools of ankle deep water, though the path from there to the top, although steep, was fairly dry and after the most strenuous part of the climb I reached the stone memorial seat known as Aileen’s Bench.
Unfortunately the drenching I’d got down at the roadside hadn’t only affected my clothes and hair. Some bits of slush had also got down into my bag and in spite of keeping the lens cover on the camera I found that somehow the lens itself had spots on it. I had nothing to wipe it with only my wet jacket sleeve so I took my photos as I went along, wiping the lens before each one, and just hoped for the best.
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The view from Aileen’s Bench with mist in the distance

Walking along the road from the top of the quarry I decided to have a look round Bryan Hey fishing lake where I should be able to get some nice snowy shots but when I got there I found that both entrances off the road had been fenced off, so I retraced my steps a couple of hundred yards and set off across the fields towards Horrocks Wood. By that time things had brightened up considerably and I got a reasonable shot of the moon in a bright blue sky.
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As I’d been walking through the fields my left foot had gradually been feeling rather damp and by the time I’d reached the pyramid stone near Horrocks Farm it felt positively wet; the snow from my drenching must have gone further down my wellie than I first thought. Someone must have lost a dog lead recently too as there was an orange one draped over the pyramid stone; with a shot of the stone and a nearby corner just off the path I made my way down through the farm yard and down the lane to the main road where I headed back for home and a much needed change of clothes.
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When I finally came to take my wellies off I realised why my foot had suddenly become so damp and it was nothing to do with the drenching I got. The wellie had split at the back near the ankle and the snow had obviously seeped through the lining and into my sock; fortunately I do have another pair of wellies but I’ll still get some new ones when I can.
As for photos, the ones on here are the best out of a total of 30, and all the shots from the start of the quarry path up to the moon shot have had to be drastically cropped and edited to get rid of the worst of the blurred bits. Strangely though, the moon shot and those following it all came out perfectly clear so maybe, even with a very damp sleeve, my continual lens wiping had eventually helped. I’m just glad though that the camera had been in my bag when I got soaked – if it had been round my neck I could have had a bigger problem than a few spots on the lens.

Friday photo hunt – Moon

The word for this week’s photo challenge is ‘moon’ and luckily I didn’t have to go too far back in the archives to find some suitable photos. Some readers may remember one of my posts from May last year when I’d taken several shots of the moon at different times within the space of an hour, mainly to test my camera’s capabilities on long range night time shooting, so as the photos fit the topic I’m repeating some of them here.

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The sky clouded over after 10.09 shot and stayed that way for a while so I couldn’t see the moon at all, however the clouds eventually started to disperse and I managed to get a few more shots before my self-allotted hour was up.

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Admittedly the quality of some of the shots isn’t the greatest but they were really only an experiment anyway, though they came out better than I expected at the time and they do fit this topic nicely. Next week’s photo will be one of my own choosing and I have something rather nice in mind so although I don’t want to wish the time away I’m looking forward to posting that one.

Manchester street art 2020 – Day 2

Just one week after my foray into Manchester last summer I was back again to find and photograph some more street art. Heading from Victoria Station towards the Northern Quarter it wasn’t long before I found my first mural. On a double gable end wall it was huge and although it would be visible from the nearby main road I only found it by chance as it was tucked away down a dead end side street behind the site of the old wholesale fish market.

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Commissioned for Netflix – artists, Global Street Art Agency

After forgetting the names of many of the streets I’d walked round the week before this time I’d mapped out a bit of a route for myself and as a reminder I photographed the name of each street where I found a mural, although not all the pieces of artwork included their creators’ names.

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Hare Street – artist Atelier Bebop

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Kelvin Street – artist HNRX

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John Street – artist unknown

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John Street – artist, unknown

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Carpenters Lane – artist(s) unknown

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A Snoopy close-up

The door shutter and the following four murals, variations of the same face, were on the side and back walls of Afflecks indoor market and emporium on the corner of Church Street and Tib Street. Affleck & Brown was started as a drapery business in the 1860s with the original premises in Oldham Street eventually growing to occupy the whole block between there and Tib Street and becoming one of Manchester’s principal department stores. After WW2 a gradual decline in business over the years led to the eventual closure of the store in 1973 then in 1982 it was re-opened as Affleck’s Palace, with units and stalls which could be rented at reasonable rates by entrepreneurs and small businesses on a week-by-week basis.
During the 1990s, when local bands were at the height of their popularity, Affleck’s Palace was the ‘go to’ place to get oversized flared jeans, tie-dyed t-shirts and all the latest underground dance tunes of the time. In March 2008 the market and emporium ceased trading but re-opened just one day later under new management and simply called Affleck’s, with an eclectic mix of 73 small shops, independent stalls, boutiques and cafes. The emporium’s popularity continues and under normal circumstances can attract an average of 24,000 shoppers per week.

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Door shutter – Tib Street – artist, unknown

On the corner of the dingy and narrow upper reaches of Back Piccadilly and the equally narrow Little Lever Street I came across Mother Mac’s, for decades a typical no-nonsense back street boozer popular with older locals and football fans but which underwent refurbishment in 2016, hence the decoration on the side wall. Dating from the 1870s the pub was formerly The Wellington but in 1969 was renamed Mother Mac’s after Mary Maclellan, a former landlady.
In 1976 the pub became the site of a rather macabre murder when in June that year the landlord at the time, after being given notice by the brewery to quit, murdered his wife, his 6-year old daughter, and his step-sons aged 11 and 13. Unfortunately the cleaner innocently walked into the carnage so he killed her too then set fire to the pub to destroy the evidence, but he was never brought to justice as his own life was claimed by the fire.

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Mother Mac’s pub – Back Piccadilly – artist, unknown

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China Lane – artist, unknown

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Paton Street, artist unknown

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Paton Street – artist, liz_art_berlin

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Tarriff Street – ‘Inhuman Barriers’ – artists, Nevercrew

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Port Street – artists, Nomad Clan

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Port Street – artist, Jay Sharples

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Houldsworth Street – artist, unknown

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Door shutter, Houldsworth Street – artist, unknown

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Mason Street – artist, Qubek

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Mason Street/Ring Road – door shutters by Marcus_Method

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Salford Central station – artist, Kelzo

Those four door shutters were the last photos I took on my walk round the NQ but heading for home I managed to get my final snap as the train passed through Salford Central station. Taken through the train window it’s not the best shot but hopefully the mural will be there for a while so I can get a better photo of it on a future trip to Manchester.

Friday photo hunt – New

As far as shoes are concerned, and unlike many women, I don’t have dozens of pairs stashed in my wardrobe. My footwear needs are simple and casual – trainers or sandals in summer, trainers or wellies in winter, with a couple of pairs of ‘going out’ shoes with heels for if I ever do go anywhere which needs me to be ‘dressed up’. As far as work goes it’s trainers all the way and as I recently bought a couple of new pairs I thought they would do nicely for this week’s photo hunt topic. 
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Just over twelve months ago Michael’s girlfriend came over from Ireland to stay with us for three weeks and just before she went back home she bought a pair of boots from our local Asda store. Unable to try them on before purchase she found when she got back here that although they were supposedly her size they were a bit too small, so not having time to take them back she passed them on to me. 
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Although the boots are actually two sizes too big for me they are such a small slim fit that with a pair of insoles they do fit very well although I haven’t been anywhere in them yet. I suppose theoretically they are really second hand as I didn’t buy them myself but as they have never been worn since purchase then I’m classing them as ‘new’.
Well there you have it, a simple post to end the week, and I’ll be hopping over to Kate’s blog later to see who else is taking part in the challenge and what photos they have chosen for the topic.

Manchester street art 2020 – Day 1

Although I can neither draw nor paint to save my life I’ve become really interested in street art over the last couple of years. It all began after I came across, quite by accident, a huge tiger mural on a double gable end wall during a visit to Manchester’s Cat Cafe in 2019. I was so impressed that back at home I did some Googling, made a ‘street art’ list and returned to the city the following day to track down as many street art examples as I could and since then I’ve photographed artwork in Blackburn, Dublin, Limerick, Morecambe and my home town.
Knowing that after a while many murals get painted over and replaced with something else, last summer, once circumstances allowed, I made two more visits to Manchester. Some of the murals I’d already previously seen but thanks to some ‘inside knowledge’ from my blogging friend Paul, who lives in the city centre, I was able to photograph many I hadn’t seen so my Monday walk this week takes in some of the main roads and side streets of the Northern Quarter although I can’t remember all the street names, nor have I been able to find out who all the artists are.
The first two shots are of plaques on the front wall of the City Pub on Oldham Street; not exactly street art and definitely worse for wear but I liked them enough to include them, especially the one with the lion and unicorn. The following four images, taken on the corner of Spear Street and Hilton Street, were all by Kelzo and the next four on the corner of Spear Street and Stevenson Square were by Tankpetrol, a Polish stencil artist based in Manchester.
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Window shutter – Stevenson Square

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‘Vinyl Revival’ shop – Hilton Street

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Artist – Marcus_Method

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Artist – Trik09

The next mural, on the wall of a redundant substation,  is quite significant. Painted by Akse it’s a portrait of Manchester-born Nicola Mendelsohn, vice president of Facebook for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Diagnosed with the rare blood cancer Follicular Lymphoma in November 2016 she underwent chemotherapy and immunotherapy then in November 2019 she established the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation to raise funds to find an effective treatment and give support to other people diagnosed with the condition. The mural was painted to help raise awareness of the Foundation and a video of Akse completing the artwork went viral, being viewed millions of times. Also on the walls of the same building are two artworks by Ketones6000.

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Portrait of Nicola Mendelsohn – Tib Street/Thomas Street – artist, Akse

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The Wheatsheaf pub, Oak Street – artist unknown

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Artist unknown

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Commissioned by Dr Martens – Artists, Nomad Clan

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Tusk restaurant and bar, High Street

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Window shutter – artist, HNRX

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Window shutter – artist unknown

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‘Eleven’ from Stranger Things – artist Akse

The next mural, at the corner of Thomas Street and High Street, replaced the tiger one I saw in 2019. Painted by the same artist, Jim Vision, it’s my favourite one so far.
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Commissioned by Fred Aldous art and craft supplies – artist unknown

Across the main road from the Northern Quarter into Ancoats I came across the Waterside Coffee Bar facing a section of the Rochdale Canal on Redhill Street, and though the window decoration wasn’t exactly street art it was pretty and I liked it enough to take a photo of it.

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Waterside Coffee Bar, Redhill Street

That was to be my last photo of the day though I knew I had many more streets and back alleys to explore so it wouldn’t be long before I was back in Manchester to see what other artworks I could find.

Friday photo hunt – Gift/s

After the success of Kate’s weekly scavenger photo hunt during December she has decided to continue it through this month with a different topic posted each Friday. This week’s word is ‘gift/s’ and I have to admit it didn’t take much thinking power to decide on what I would use for this post – the Christmas gifts given to me by Michael.
The only thing I’d actually asked for was the Mrs Brown’s Boys dvd so everything else was a lucky bag of surprises. I saw ‘Christopher Robin’ (not to be confused with the earlier ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’) advertised on tv when the film came out a couple of years ago but as I find cinema sound too noisy I never went to see it. I have to be in the mood to see a film all the way through anyway but I think I’ll like this one when I get round to watching it.
Although I can be quite creative in certain circumstances I’m not really into handicrafts so I’ll have to be in the mood for tackling the crystal craft kit. The box says I can ‘spend a relaxing afternoon’ creating this picture but the pieces are tiny and look frustratingly fiddly so it could quite easily take me hours/days/weeks to complete it, though hopefully it’ll be more fun than frustration and will look nice when it’s finished.
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The shiny pink small ‘bag’ is a phone purse by Baylis & Harding and included the tubes of hand cream and lip gloss, definitely very useful, and the purse will come in handy when I can eventually go out for an evening meal with Michael. Coronation Street is the only soap I ever watch, and though this book is set just after WW2 and many years before the actual tv programme was born it features some of the characters who were in the soap so I’m looking forward to reading it. There was one other thing Michael gave me – a Terry’s Chocolate Orange but I couldn’t show it as I ate it at Christmas!
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Having just read Jayne’s post and re-reading this I wish I hadn’t been so materialistic, however there’s one invisible gift which definitely deserves including – the gift of unconditional love and loyalty given to me by all my dogs past and present, regardless of the time of year or the occasion, and it’s a gift I will always treasure.
Well that’s it for this week, I hope everyone likes my choices. I don’t know if I can do all four weeks this month but with something already in mind for Week 3 I’ll certainly give it a good try.

First walk of the year

Thanks to the vagaries of the UK weather my first walk of this year was actually done in two parts. A damp grey Christmas was followed just before New Year with leaden skies and just enough snow to make things look pretty but in spite of some cloud on Saturday morning the sun and blue sky put in appearance later on so I decided to take myself off for my first walk of the year, from home to Moss Bank Park and back, passing Smithills Hall en route. 
Across the far side of the nearby park I took a shot looking back then followed the path into Smithills forest and from there into the grounds of Smithills Hall, though I got quite a surprise when I got there – although the Hall itself is closed the grounds were full of people. Families, dog walkers, a bride and groom on a professional photo shoot (she must have been freezing in her flimsy sleeveless dress) people with maps and walking poles – there were more people there than I’ve ever seen on a warm summer’s day. 
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Taking any photos of my own was out of the question as there were just too many people to get in my way, and I’ve taken more than enough shots round the grounds in previous years anyway so I had a look through the windows into a couple of downstairs rooms in the Hall then wandered over to the grave of Little Bess, where I was surprised and pleased to see that someone has recently left a new and very pretty decoration there. 
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Unfortunately the bank of cloud which had been hovering over the park earlier on had finally chased the sun away and by the time I reached the hidden lake the day had gone quite dull. I had to negotiate an unofficial path through the shrubbery to get to there and as I emerged through the rhododendrons a slight movement caught my eye and I spotted a heron standing at the far side of the lake. It took flight after a couple of minutes but didn’t go far so I was able to get it in close up further down the lake.
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With the afternoon getting greyer by the minute I decided to cut my walk short and head for home. I hadn’t gone far before it started sleeting and by the time I was walking back across the park it was snowing quite heavily so it seemed I’d made the right decision, although the snow did stop after an hour or so.
Yesterday morning turned out to be nice again and by lunch time there was full-on blue sky so I decided to risk doing the walk again but with a change of route. This time I went across the top end of the park and through the open farm where I was lucky enough to see the llamas in their paddock near the lane, then when I reached the main gates to Smithills Hall I took the path on the right across the lane instead of carrying on to Moss Bank Park.
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Past the high perimeter wall bordering the land where the old garden centre once was the trees started to thin out and eventually I came to the gate and the track leading across open farm land. At the top of the track a couple of Shetland ponies picked at the grass in the field on one side while on the other side another pony, well rugged up against the cold, stood near the fence. 
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Just like the previous day at Smithills Hall it seemed as if the world and his wife and kids were out for a walk and I had to exercise a lot of patience to get the shots I wanted without other people getting in the way. Just past the ponies the track took me through a small wooded area and up a slope to more open land where several paths converged so in an effort to get the peace and quiet I know that area can provide I took the less popular path.
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Taking that path proved to be a good decision as the only sound was the birds in the trees and I saw no-one until I got to the point where the far end of the path met two other paths close to the nearby farm where I saw the small herd of deer last Easter. Through the farm yard, down a short lane and I was on the main road where I got my final two shots before heading for home, just ten minutes away down the hill.
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After abandoning my walk the previous day I’d been half expecting to do the same again if the weather changed but it hadn’t, it had stayed sunny and I’d got some decent photos. It had been a good start to the new year so fingers crossed I’ll be taking many more walks and photos over the next twelve months.