A few festive photos

Earlier this month I visited a couple of local garden centres for a mooch around their Christmas displays. Both places usually have some nice ones and they didn’t disappoint so here are some of the photos I took while I was wandering round – I think Santa must have had too much sherry in the first one!
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And to round off this very short post, last week I found Santa in Manchester city centre, sitting happily on top of a huge present outside the Central Library in St. Peter’s Square. He does actually light up at night but the detail of his face isn’t easy to see when he’s illuminated.
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Well the shopping is all done, work has finished until January 3rd, and I just have a few presents to wrap tonight, after that I can relax and enjoy the Christmas and New Year break. So to everyone out there in blogland, Merry Christmas from the Mouse House and I’ll be back next week with some street art.

Merry Christmas from the Mouse House

Although I haven’t been feeling in a particularly festive mood up to now, yesterday I finally brought out my ‘lazy person’s pre-decorated Christmas tree’ from its hiding place in the cupboard under the stairs. I told the story of its existence last year although I did think maybe it was past its best and I should get a new one, however I decided instead just to update it this time with some gold tinsel instead of the existing silver. There’s only one thing wrong though – the gold tinsel just doesn’t look right with the silver decorations, it’s too fussy, so when I get a minute later on I’ll be putting the silver tinsel back. 
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And now for something completely silly. A couple of weeks ago I bought Snowy and Poppie a Christmas jumper each, which they hadn’t worn up to now but yesterday they had to suffer the indignity of having tinsel wrapped round their collars and their photos taken just for this blog page. Of course being the obedient little dogs they are (not) neither of them would stand still or look at me both at the same time so out of 13 shots only these six were anything like usable, with my own personal favourite being the last one in this sequence.
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Seasons greetings
to all my blog readers, both regular and recent, with very best wishes from me, Michael, Snowy & Poppie – I hope everyone can make Christmas as good as these strange times and changing circumstances will allow  x

Manchester’s Christmas light sculptures

Manchester’s Christmas light sculpture trail kicked off the approach to Christmas on November 12th, with most of the colourful light installations dotted around Piccadilly Gardens and St. Peter’s Square. They sounded like they might be worth seeing so yesterday, in the quest for some new photos, I made a late afternoon visit to the city.
Piccadilly Gardens was playing host to one of the six city centre Christmas markets and the place was absolutely heaving with people so it was difficult to get the shots I wanted without someone being in the way, but with an infinite amount of patience and a lot of wandering about and standing around I managed to get most of what I wanted.
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It was a lot less crowded round on St. Peter’s Square though I had to wait a while for other people to get out of the giant walk-through bauble before I could get my shot. The Christmas tree is 36ft tall and made from recyled materials while the giant Santa is 37ft tall and weighs in at 2.3 tonnes – he even has his own Twitter feed where people can share their selfies.
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Outside the cathedral I came across a lovely little Nativity display, not actually part of the sculpture trail but sweet enough to take a photo of, and round in Cathedral Gardens was another Christmas market, this time with a German theme. I’m not sure what the tall thing was supposed to be, it wasn’t part of the sculpture trail but I’d seen it just after it was erected. Each storey contained different figures which revolved, as did the blades on the top, though it hadn’t been fully working at the time I first saw it.DSCF1380 - Copymanchester-manchester-christmas-lights
One thing which has surprised me is that the giant walk-through bauble in the Printworks hasn’t been mentioned anywhere in connection with the light trail although I presume it’s part of it. I discovered it a month ago on my last hunt for street art and being early on a Sunday morning there was no-one to get in the way while I took my photos. I’m glad I saw it when I did as there were far too many people in the Printworks yesterday to make any decent photography possible.
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I’d started this photography quest from Piccadilly station and by the time I’d worked my way down and round to Victoria station for the train home I’d had enough. I’ve never really liked crowds anyway and this little sojourn into the city centre has just confirmed one thing – my usual early Sunday mornings are definitely the best times to go.

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.

Friday festive photo hunt – my own choice

The last post in December’s weekly photo hunt  although it’s only Thursday, and as I’ve already written quite a long ‘looking back’ post this week I’m keeping this one fairly short and light-hearted.
Several times over the weeks prior to Christmas I’d asked Michael what he wanted and was met with the usual reply of “I don’t know, just get me anything” which really didn’t help. However, a couple of weeks ago and not long after I’d asked him the same question yet again I got an email newsletter from the animal sanctuary I support, with pictures of various long-term residents who can be sponsored rather than actually adopted. One of these is a donkey called Sean and as Michael’s first name is Sean I had the mad idea of sponsoring the donkey in his name.
Three days after I took out the sponsorship an envelope arrived with a photo of the donkey, a fact sheet with the donkey’s history, a certificate in Michael’s name (Sean) and a lapel badge. The photo was in a brown cardboard surround but I found a couple of nice frames in a local shop and framed both the photo and the certificate before wrapping them for Christmas.
Now you can’t have a donkey without giving it a carrot and it just so happened that as I was coming out of Tesco the following day my quirky sense of humour got the better of me when I spotted a round cardboard display stand in the entrance with ‘Free carrots for Rudolph’ written across the top – so I took one and wrapped it separately in Christmas paper when I got home.
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Michael’s face was a picture of total puzzlement on Christmas Day when he unwrapped the carrot, which I’d given to him first, though he was quite surprised and pleased when he unwrapped the photo and certificate. The donkey may not be an actual present as such but the sponsorship will help the animal sanctuary if only in a small way and once the place opens to the public again we’ll be able to visit Sean and see him properly. Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, yes I did get Michael a couple of proper presents which have been put away in his unit, though I’m not sure what he did with carrot.
So there you have it, my final post for this year, and thanks go to Kate for continuing to host the photo challenges – I often wonder how she manages to think of all the different topics. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting and commenting on my various posts – I hope 2021 is a much happier and healthier year for everyone.

Some festive bits and pieces

With the lack of a Monday walk this week I thought I would post a few festive photos I’ve taken just recently, the first few while I’ve been walking round the local avenues with the dogs and the others on a visit to a couple of garden centres.
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There’s a bit of a story to the next photo which was taken round the corner from home. A couple of years ago the local housing association fenced off the end of an alleyway between two houses and created a small pink-flagged area with a tiny diamond-shaped patch of grass in the centre; it all looked very pleasant but was totally useless for anything, however earlier this year the young man from the house on the left got permission to make a small garden at the end and plant a young sapling on the patch of grass.
With its bright bedding plants the little garden looked really pretty and I got chatting to the guy one day early in summer when he was out with the watering can. Apparently his wife was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer and with no proper garden of their own he had created this one so she had somewhere nice to sit and enjoy the sunshine; the sapling had been planted in memory of the guy who had lived in the house on the right and who had passed away in March from a long-term illness.
With the onset of autumn, and winter approaching, the bedding plants were eventually removed but at the beginning of this month they were replaced by various Christmas lights and decorations to brighten up the little garden. Unfortunately I had to use flash to take the photo so the lights don’t really show up but it really is a very pretty corner.

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The next photo is the display in the local florist’s shop window, the following six are from one garden centre and the other five from the second garden centre I visited. I didn’t look at the price of the winged horse but given the size of it I can imagine it wasn’t exactly cheap.
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The next photo was actually a mistake but I liked it so much I decided not to delete it. Last year the second garden centre had a large working miniature Christmas village on display but this time the models are all displayed individually. Unfortunately I forgot to change the camera setting when I took the shot of the carousel and though it was only going round very slowly it was enough to blur part of the image, however I think it has a bit of a psychedelic abstract look to it and I really like it.
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I’m not sure if the last display was actually a Christmas one or something more permanent. It was in the foyer of the second garden centre and didn’t seem to be very Christmassy but with everything draped in lights it looked very pretty and was worth a last shot before I headed home.
Finally, all that remains is for me to send
Seasons greetings
to all my blog readers, both regular and recent, with very best wishes from me, Michael, Snowy & Poppie – I hope everyone can make Christmas as good as these very strange times will allow  x

Friday festive photo hunt – tree

This week’s festive photo hunt  topic is ‘tree’ and for something a bit different my first photo isn’t actually a tree and it’s not even mine. While taking the dogs on their bedtime walk one evening I came across a lovely tree-shaped window decoration in a house round the corner; I’m not quite sure what it is as it seems to be stuck to the window but it’s very pretty and was worth a quick photo.
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My own little tree has quite a story behind it. Back in the 1990s I worked for a local joiner/builder who also made and installed double-glazed windows and every December I would decorate the tree for the showroom at the front of the workshop, until one year when he decided the tree was past its best and with a broken stand it had to be thrown out.
The tree actually split into three sections and though nothing could be done with the bottom section the centre and smaller top sections were okay so I brought them home, put each one firmly in a planter full of sand, and decorated the two of them, giving the larger one to my partner for his flat and keeping the smaller one for myself. However, once I’d decorated them they looked so pretty I thought it would have been a shame to undecorate them so come the New Year I just put a bin bag over the top of each of them and stored them away in our respective cupboards under the stairs until the following year.
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Those two trees were brought out of hiding every Christmas until the time we went our separate ways though once I started living alone I didn’t bother with mine. It’s different now though, since Michael came back to live at home my little tree has been resurrected although I think it probably is past its best now. Maybe next year I’ll get a new one – or maybe I’ll just redecorate this one so it can stay around a while longer.

Friday festive photo hunt – baking

The topic for this week’s festive photo hunt  is Baking and this one did initially present a challenge as baking is one thing I don’t normally do, however a friend of mine just recently moved house and for some reason, during sorting out and packing away various kitchen stuff, she gave me a jar of mincemeat. Now I love mincemeat and could quite happily eat it by the spoonful straight out of the jar but with this challenge in mind I decided to get my brain into gear and make a small batch of mince pies.
Not having made anything like that for many years I wasn’t sure how they would turn out. They aren’t very big and they are certainly not perfect but as Michael doesn’t like mince pies anyway they are only for myself so it doesn’t matter what they look like.
I’ve sampled a couple and they are nicer than I expected them to be so I thought I’d better set up a suitably festive photo of some of them before I eat them all – in fact as I write this I’m just about to make a mug of tea and have a couple more.

Friday festive photo hunt – decorations

For something a bit different for December Kate’s monthly photo challenge  has gained a Christmas theme and gone weekly with a photo, or photos, posted each Friday except Christmas Day. The topic for this week is Decorations and I could think of nothing better than the highly decorated house front just a few doors up from the family home in Roscrea.
The couple who live there originally put a few decorations in the front garden just for their kids but after compliments from a few neighbours they decided to continue each year but adding at least one different thing each time; they also have a ‘post box’ on the gate post for people to post donations if they wish and these all go to a local charity.

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I only started going over to Ireland in 2016 but unfortunately the photos I took of the decorations that year didn’t come out too well. I should actually be over there now for a short break but circumstances being as they are I’ve been unable to go, however I’m keeping my fingers crossed that in twelve months time I’ll be able to see what’s been added to the decorations and take some more photos.

Some Christmassy bits and pieces

In late November, a week before my holiday in Ireland, I went to a large garden centre just a few miles from home. It had been a couple of years since I’d been there during the run up to Christmas and remembering that they’d previously had some really good Christmas displays I thought I’d be able to get some nice photos. I was a bit disappointed however as the displays weren’t nearly as good as in previous years and with boxes of decorations and other stuff stacked around most of them it wasn’t really worth taking many photos. I did call in at a smaller garden centre on my way back home though and found they had a lovely working miniature village on display so my journey wasn’t entirely wasted.
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The day after I got back from Ireland earlier this month I took myself off to the Trafford Centre on the outskirts of Manchester to see the Coca-Cola truck ; I’d missed it when it came to my home town last year as I’d been over in Ireland at the time so I was determined I wouldn’t miss it this time. Leaving the van at home I went to the Trafford Centre by bus ; the express service was an easy 20-minute ride along the motorway straight to the centre and I didn’t have to drive round and round the car park looking for a space.
The truck certainly seemed to be very popular as there was a continuous queue of people of all ages taking photos of themselves and others in front or at the side of it and I had to exercise a lot of patience to get my own photos without someone getting in the way. I’d only ever been to the Trafford Centre once before, about twelve years ago, on a brief visit with someone else and I didn’t really see much of it, so once I’d got the shots I wanted I went to have a look round inside. I wasn’t particularly interested in the shops, just the place in general, and with it all being decorated for Christmas I was able to get some good photos.

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At the Alpine Village outside the Great Hall

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And finally, a couple of attractive window displays at the florist’s shop on the main road close to home. I like the winged ponies – I can’t call them unicorns as they don’t have horns – but I thought the seal looked cute enough to have his own picture.
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I really meant to post these photos before Christmas but somehow writing about my Ireland holiday got in the way. I’ve just had two relatively pc-free days so hopefully if I don’t get sidetracked over the following few days my next post should be a round-up of the last twelve months – actually my computer tends to be a bit on the slow side these days so maybe I should start now  🙂