Manchester Flower Show – 1

A bank holiday weekend in the UK and finally after a very wet month we have some decent weather. Temperatures have risen considerably and locally we have cloudless blue sky and wall-to-wall sunshine, just in time for the start of the 8-day long event billed as the Manchester Flower Show. The city’s first public event of the year signals the start of summer and dozens of shop windows, doorways, statues, fountains, pedestrianised streets and squares and even phone boxes have been given a floral makeover, although not all the displays and decorations are real flowers.
My day yesterday started off at Victoria Station and as I walked though the concourse I came across a large sectioned-off corner full of bouquets, balloons and teddy bears. Nothing to do with the flower show, it was an anniversary tribute to the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena bomb attack on May 22nd four years ago. For those who don’t know, the Arena is right next to the station and has access via a flight of stairs directly from the concourse, which explains the location of the tributes.
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A short walk from the station took me to the cathedral and the first display on my planned route. Created by community volunteers the bee-friendly display was inspired by the colours in the cathedral’s Hope window and the perennials will be planted out after the flower show ends.
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Round the corner from the cathedral was the decorated doorway of the Banyan Bar while a couple of hundred yards away New Cathedral Street had gone all flower power and hippy with planters and hand sanitizing stations painted in psychedelic designs and colours.
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Across the road in St. Ann’s Square it was impossible to miss the Royal Horticultural Society’s huge iconic floral letters while on a smaller scale a pretty purple wheelbarrow displayed some cream coloured blooms. The Richard Cobden statue was surrounded by a display inspired by Parisian parks and nearby the rusting entrance to a long-disused electricity substation had been turned into a ‘secret garden’, inspired by the well known children’s book and the walled gardens of Britain’s stately homes.
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The base of the Boer War Memorial was surrounded by blue flowers and plants, there was a very colourful display in the corner window of the HSBC bank and the central fountain had been given a theme of tranquility with bamboo screens and garlands of cherry blossom, Japan’s national flower. The entrance to the Royal Exchange arcade looked exceptionally bright and pretty, and though the flowers may not have been real they gave me one of the most Instagrammable shots I’ve taken so far.
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With the exception of a couple of plain and colourless plant displays which didn’t really interest me I’d photographed just about everything in St. Ann’s Square that had anything to do with flowers; there was a lot more to see so it was time to move on and search out some more photo-worthy displays in other streets and parts of the city.

Friday photo hunt

Not having taken part in the previous three weeks’ photo challenges I decided to put all four topics in one post for the end of this month, with each topic having two photos though there’s a common theme running throughout. I have to confess though that this time none of the photos are my own, they have all been sourced from the internet so the quality of some may not be too good.
May 7th – Space
Growing up through childhood to secondary school age, as a family we didn’t have a tv until I was 11 years old. I was brought up listening to the radio, although my parents did have quite a good and wide ranging record collection so I learned to appreciate different genres of music from a very early age. One of my favourite tunes from the early 1960s is the instrumental Telstar; featuring a clavioline, the early forerunner of today’s modern synthesizer, the tune was named after the Telstar communications satellite launched into space in July 1962.
Fast forward now to 1987 and Star Trekkin’, a space related novelty song which parodies the first tv series of Star Trek and features the catchphrases of some of the characters. I first heard it on a compilation tape of Michael’s and it greatly amused both of us at the time.
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May 14th – Mirror
Not having any particularly photo-worthy mirrors in the house I’ve resorted to using an image of a book cover for this topic. Alice Through The Looking Glass and its predecessor were both favourite books when I was young and I would read them over and over again – and even after many years I can still recite Jaberwocky in its entirety.
Mirrors was one of my favourite songs of the late 1970s. Written and sung by Sally Oldfield, sister of Tubular Bells composer Mike Oldfield, the song features a prominent bongo rhythm which was very uncharacteristic for styles of pop music at the time.
 May 21st – Rain
Back to the 1960s now and a song which features the distinctive sound of a celesta, an instrument looking like a small upright piano and which produces a sound similar to a glokenspiel but with a much softer tone. Although released in 1962 Rhythm Of The Rain didn’t become one of my favourites until much later on in the decade.
Back in the late 1980s as an adult I learned a tap dancing routine based on the title song of the 1952 film Singin’ In The Rain. Surprisingly, and I don’t know why, I’d never actually seen the film before then but I made it my business to watch it the next time it happened to be on tv and I’ve liked it ever since.

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May 28th – Music
Another group whose songs I liked back in the late 1960s was The Beach Boys. I Can Hear Music was originally recorded by The Ronettes in 1966 then The Beach Boys released their cover version in 1969. Although I like both versions I prefer the Beach Boys one as it has a more upbeat tempo.
And finally, I’ve managed to find a photo of the exact model of 1950s Ferguson radiogram which started my love of music all those years ago. The radio had three wavebands – long wave, medium wave and VHF (Very High Frequency) and behind the drop down front was a 3-speed turntable on the left and space for records on the right.
The launch of Radio 1 in the late 1960s gave me an increasing liking for pop music, much of which my parents weren’t particularly fond of, so my dad rigged up a speaker system running from the back of the radiogram in the main living room. One speaker was in the front room while the other was in my bedroom, and an isolator switch on the radiogram itself meant that I could listen to pop music in either room without my parents being able to hear it.
Well that’s just about it from me for this month, I hope everyone likes my choices for each topic. Time to put the kettle on now then I’ll pop over to Astrid’s blog to see what interesting things others have come up with for this week’s topic.

Postcards and pictures

The constantly cloudy and rainy weather which has blighted most of this month has ensured that since my last post I haven’t really been anywhere to walk the dogs or take any photos. Yesterday’s plan was a visit to Manchester as I have a theme in mind for a couple of blog posts but to get the best shots I need at least some  blue sky and sunshine and that just wasn’t happening, it rained on and off all day.
Being forced by the weather to stay close to home I’ve spent some of my spare time over the last few days concentrating on my Postcrossing hobby and via the internet I’ve bought several bundles of unused postcards. On Friday I received a bundle of 100 cards featuring pictures of commemorative stamps issued by the Post Office over the years, they are all mint condition/new/unused and include several sets with a common theme. They are all really lovely cards so in the absence of a Monday walk I’ve scanned a few of my favourites to put on here.
The first set of five wildlife cards were reproduced from stamps issued by the Post Office in October 1977, while the second set of five rose cards are from stamps issued by the Royal Mail in July 1991.
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The set of four Food and Farming cards were individually titled ‘Fruit and Vegetables’ ‘Meat’ ‘Dairy Produce’ and ‘Cereals’ and were reproduced from stamps issued by the Royal Mail in March 1989, while the individual card was reproduced from a stamp issued in October 1983 which commemorated the early trade and produce fair British Fairs.
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The next card is my favourite from a set of four, reproduced from the Studio Pottery series of stamps issued in October 1987, while the zebra is a particularly striking card from a bundle of 100 random mint condition/new modern contemporary cards.
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And finally, a painted picture rather than a postcard. A while ago I was en route to somewhere a few miles away when I passed a large warehouse selling both new and refurbished furniture, appliances, household items, bric-a-brac and just about anything else you can think of. It’s one of those places that’s good for a mooch round even if you don’t want anything, and as I’ve been looking for a new treadmill I popped in on the off-chance they might have something. Unfortunately I didn’t find a treadmill but I did find a lovely little painting so bright and colourful I just had to have it, especially as there are some cute little cats in it.
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Obviously I don’t know where the painting originally came from or if the artist is local, and I doubt the guy in the store would know, but it’s exceptionally well done and it looked to be new so I was glad I found it. I haven’t put it up on a wall yet as I haven’t found quite the right place for it but I’ll find a home for it eventually; meanwhile it’s propped up on the unit near my pc so at least I can see it while I’m typing.

Wednesday walk – keeping it local

I hadn’t originally intended to post this walk as there’s nothing special about it and it’s also one I featured in 2018, however with the recent constantly cloudy and rainy weather keeping me close to home I haven’t really taken the dogs anywhere worth photographing or writing about.
I walked this route for the first time this year on a lovely sunny day during the Easter weekend then did the same walk again yesterday to get some contrasting photos now the trees have fully come to life, although this time the sky was also contrasting. Clear blue in one direction but grey and cloudy in another it certainly gave me some different shots, though several times I had to contend with the sun disappearing just at the wrong moment.
Ten minutes walk through the avenues close to home brought me to the playing fields at the secondary school where I once worked as a supervisor, and close to one corner was a tree which, for some unknown reason, I’ve had a particular liking for over the years. Another few minutes brought me to the garden at the side of the Grade ll listed pavilion, once the home of a local tennis club established in 1923 but now owned by a local micro brewery since 1995, then round the corner was the top of Yew Tree Lane and an enclosed area of spare land housing what I can only describe as a large Hobbit house. Shed, garage, workshop? – whatever its purpose it was almost completely covered in trees, with only the door being visible.
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At the bottom of the lane was Yew Tree Cottage, now hardly visible through the leafy tree branches, and a footpath leading past the cottage’s extensive garden to a bridge over Eagley Brook. At the far side of the bridge I went down to the riverside yesterday, the first time I’ve ever been down there, although I couldn’t go very far before I had to go back to the path.
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Back above the river the path took me steeply uphill to the cobbled lane leading past the side of Hall i’th Wood museum, and fastening the dog leads to the museum gates at Easter I was able to get a shot of Snowy and Poppie together, although it took several attempts as Snowy wouldn’t stand still. Going round to what was once the front of the museum I took a few shots in the parkland, though in a huge contrast to Easter the sky yesterday looked ominously dark over the distant Winter Hill.
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Back on the cobbled lane I followed it down past the boundary wall of a local business premises partially hidden by the trees then along a short path above the river to another bridge and a second cobbled lane leading up to the main road. At the top of the lane and set back off the road was a small triangle of land which displayed some lovely daffodils at Easter, then just beyond it was Watermillock, once a gentleman’s country mansion house set in extensive grounds.
Constructed between 1882 and 1886 for Thomas Thwaites, one half of Eden and Thwaites bleachworks owners, it was subsequently inhabited by local mill owner T M Hesketh and his family, then after ending its days as a private residence it became a military hospital in WW1, run by the Red Cross for pilots with horrific burns and other serious injuries. In 1937 the house was used as a hostel for refugee children evacuated from Bilbao during the Spanish Civil War, though they only stayed for about a year before going back home to Spain.
In subsequent years Watermillock became an old people’s home and also acted as a subsidiary to the local hospitals’ laundry; it stayed as an old people’s home into the 1990s when it was finally closed, and eventually it was converted by Banks’s Brewery into a restaurant with function rooms, though for the last few years it’s been a Toby Carvery.
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From Watermillock it was all road walking to get back home though zig-zagging though various avenues on both days gave me the opportunity to photograph several colourful shrubs and trees in different gardens along the way.
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So there you have it, the same walk on two different days, it’s just a shame that yesterday’s blue sky was interrupted by varying degrees of cloud though the dogs enjoyed the walk anyway. Fingers crossed there will soon be lots of blue sky and sunshine to come and we will be able to explore other places not quite so close to home.

Manchester street art – Ancoats and other bits

With the weather not being good enough for me to do what I had planned over the weekend my Monday walk this time catches up with some street art photographed three weeks ago when my wanderings round Manchester took me away from the Northern Quarter for a while. On someone else’s blog I’d recently seen a photo of a ‘green lady’ artwork located in the vicinity of the Great Northern shopping/entertainment complex and though it was a fair walk from the NQ it seemed to be worth looking for.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the green lady anywhere in spite of walking round the area more than once so I came to the conclusion that the photo I’d seen had been taken some time ago and the artwork had since vanished. I did however find a leafy mural at the entrance to a currently closed restaurant and some street art under a railway bridge, then as I made my way back to the NQ I found Spiderman on the windows of a corner building.
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Back in the NQ I was passing though Stevenson Square on the way to Ancoats when I saw something on the side of a bus shelter. As an advert it wasn’t really street art but it was amusing enough to take a photo – although having found out what it actually is I certainly don’t fancy drinking the stuff – then tucked in a corner down a narrow side street I found a colourful hotch-potch of all sorts which had obviously been there for quite a while.
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Ancoats isn’t really known for its street art as it has very little compared to the NQ but one thing I did want to find was a big colourful bird known as the Guardian of Ancoats. Featured on several blogs and websites as a ‘must see’ it was supposed to be situated just one street behind the main road separating Ancoats from the NQ but it proved to be just as elusive as the earlier green lady so presumably it had been painted over some time ago.
Encouraged by finding a couple of Qubek’s bees on the wall of the Manchester Creative Studio and some colourful shutters nearby I decided to explore a few more streets in the vicinity and was quite surprised when I found far more street art than I expected.
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Sherratt Street

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Oldham Road

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Oldham Road

In Bengal Street a new multi-storey building was being constructed on a large corner plot and two sides at ground level were surrounded by hoardings covered in brightly painted street art. They were certainly a good way of brightening up a construction site and well worth getting a few shots.

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Construction site, Bengal Street

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Across the main road in Addington Street I found a lovely paste-up on the side of an old disused building then back in the NQ I discovered a shutter and another piece of artwork down a narrow alleyway which I’d somehow missed on my previous wanderings.

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Addington Street

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Cavell Street

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Cavell Street – Artist, David Speed

Back on Thomas Street I took the final four photos of the day (featured in a previous post) then made my way back to the station. Four hours of constant walking round the city’s streets were enough for one day, it was time to go home, make a brew and a late lunch, then relax for an hour or so.

New street art in the city…

And a few quirky bits thrown in for good measure.
Just recently it seems that Manchester’s street artists have been painting things faster than I can photograph them. Less than a week ago I found out about two new artworks in progress and soon to be finished so early yesterday I went out to the city to photograph them, however I actually found more than I expected.
Although it’s nothing to do with street art I’d read recently that the exterior of the Printworks is classed by some as being very Instagrammable so I took a slightly different route from Victoria Station to find the suggested spots for photo taking, then never having been in the place I crossed the road and went to take a look.
Originally the home of several newspaper and printing businesses dating from the late 19th century the building was bought in 1986 by publishing magnate Robert Maxwell who immediately closed it down. It was left unused and derelict for over ten years then as part of Manchester’s redevelopment following the 1996 IRA bombing it was bought in 1998 by Shudehill Developments and converted into an entertainment and leisure venue which includes a cinema, fitness club, nightclub and several eateries.
During the redevelopment the original frontage was retained and part of an internal railway from the newspaper business was incorporated into the new ground floor walk-through from the main road to the street behind. It was actually quite dark in there and it felt a bit odd with everywhere closed and no-one around so I didn’t linger too long.
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Coming out of the back of the Printworks I followed my previous well trodden route to find the new street art I wanted to see but before I got to it I unexpectedly came across a new work in the process of being painted. Liam Bononi is a self-taught Brazilian street artist based in Liverpool and his artwork can be seen in many cities in other countries; expressive eyes and hands are apparently distinctive features of his work so it’ll be interesting to see this one when it’s finished.
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Caught in the act – artist Liam Bononi at work in Hare Street
The next artwork, which is one of the two I especially wanted to see, is on the side of the Manchester Craft & Design Centre and has quite a sweet little story attached to it. The Design Centre was once a Victorian fish market where, over many years, the fishmongers would always welcome the local cats as a way of deterring any pests, for which they were rewarded with treats of fish. The market finally closed down in 1973 but the cats kept returning although there was nothing there for them, however one dedicated fishmonger, Jimmy Kelly, would also go back regularly to make sure they got their dinner.
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Copperas Street – Artist, Hammo
It was just a short walk from there to Tib Street and the next artwork I wanted to see, and though it had been completed I was surprised to see another artist at work on the wall next to it. The two walls form part of the boundary of the Northern Quarter Car Park and though I’ve been past there many times I didn’t realise until recently that one is a memorial wall. To brighten up what has long been a bit of a redundant corner all the artwork had been commissioned by the Northern Soul Grilled Cheese place across the street, though unfortunately Qubek’s work was partially obscured by a couple of notices and stacks of tables and chairs ready to be laid out.
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Tib Street memorial wall – artist, Qubek
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Caught in the act – artist Krek at work in Tib Street
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From Tib Street I made my up to Stevenson Square as I wanted to photograph something for a future post, and though I wasn’t expecting to find anything new since my previous visit two weeks ago I actually did. A series of shutters on a corner building had undergone a very bright makeover, and while they weren’t advertising any particular product they seemed to signify mobile phone usage.  
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Oldham Street
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Stevenson Square/Spear Street – Artist, Reasm
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Having recently found out about a place which was considered to be highly Instagrammable, and thinking of shots for a future post, I headed away from the NQ. Via various streets and pedestrianised squares I finally found what I was looking for and though I couldn’t go in it was certainly worth several shots from the outside.
On the floor in the window of a vacant shop nearby, which appropriately had been a tailoring and alteration business, I spotted an old and very decorative Jones sewing machine though light reflection on the glass meant the shot wasn’t too clear. Enlarging it later on I made out the words “As supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra” on the shoulder of the machine and research tells of a reliable account that she did indeed use a Jones machine during her days at college.
Along the street was a tall narrow 4-storey building with a very flowery front facade and though the direct sunshine made photographing the whole thing difficult I did manage to get a shot of part of it. Round the corner was Crazy Pedro’s bar and pizza restaurant and as well as one of Qubek’s well known bees there was some really bright art work round the side. 
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Crazy Pedro’s – Artist, Qubek
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With the sky clouding over again I made those my last shots and headed off on my long walk back to the station – not a moment too soon either as just as I got there it started to rain. Although I hadn’t spent as much time in the city as on previous occasions I’d got most of my planned shots and more and it had been nice to chat briefly to the two artists I’d seen working, but now it was time to head back home for a good brew and a late lunch.