Afflecks, Manchester – all things weird and wonderful

During one of my many visits to Manchester’s Northern Quarter last year I finally went to have a look round Afflecks indoor market and emporium on the corner of Church Street and Tib Street; it was something I’d been meaning to do for quite a while but somehow never got round to it.
Back in the 1860s Affleck & Brown was started as a drapery business, with the original premises being in Oldham Street. Over the years the business gained a good reputation as a credit draper and was well known for its excellent range of cloth for home dressmaking. Eventually the store grew to occupy the whole block between Oldham Street and Tib Street, finally becoming a fully fledged department store and one of Manchester’s best.
After WW2 the business went into a gradual decline as shopping trends moved away from Oldham Street. In the 1950s Debenhams, who already owned Pauldens, another city centre department store situated near Piccadilly Gardens, took over the Affleck & Brown store but the continued decline of the Oldham Street area eventually led to its closure in 1973. In 1982 the store was re-opened as Affleck’s Palace, with separate units and stalls which could be rented at reasonable rates by entrepreneurs and small businesses on a week-by-week basis, and the atmosphere and colourful maze-like layout led to the building becoming a mecca for alternative culture.
During the 1990s, when local bands such as the Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets 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. On March 31st 2008 the market and emporium ceased trading when its 25-year lease came to an end but it re-opened just one day later under new management and simply called Afflecks. With an eclectic mix of 73 small shops, independent stalls, boutiques and a cafe the emporium’s popularity continues to this day and it can attract an average of 24,000 shoppers per week.
It was quite by chance that just a few days ago I learned that this month the emporium celebrates 40 years of trading so I think now is as good a time as any to write this long-overdue post and feature some of the amazing amount of artworks which adorn the walls, doors, and staircases of the building’s four floors.
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George the Lion made his home in Afflecks after the 2016 Art Zoo exhibition of life-size zoo animal sculptures dotted around Sale, the home town of Chester Zoo’s founder George Mottershead. The exhibition not only showcased the work of local artists but also celebrated George Mottershead’s early 20th century achievements in creating a ‘zoo without bars’. Local schoolchildren were invited to contribute to the design of each sculpture and George the Lion was decorated by Dave Draws, a local artist and supporter of Afflecks.
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Up on the top floor was the cafe with its ceiling decorated in the style of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings. I’d been hoping to get a coffee and a snack but unfortunately the cafe was closed, with a barrier formed from plastic chains fastened between strategically placed chairs. It was impossible to photograph the ceiling from outside the barrier but there was no-one else up there just then so I moved a chair to gain access, got my shots then put the chair back afterwards.
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Tucked in a corner on the floor below was a Japanese style anime-themed bar selling various flavoured iced teas and not much else – not my type of thing and no chance of getting a coffee and a snack there but at least I did manage to snatch a couple of photos while the young woman behind the counter wasn’t looking, then my last two shots were of one of the stairwells hung with many colourful decorations and streamers.
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Afflecks is an absolute rabbit warren of shops, stalls, staircases and corridors and I could easily have spent a lot longer in there than I actually did. The amount of artwork in various places throughout the building is incredible, it’s everywhere, and there’s no way I could possibly put everything I photographed in one post. I could quite easily have missed a few things too so as this visit was made last summer it won’t be too long before I’m going back to see what else I can find.

A snowdrop promise

Three days ago, on Wednesday, it was the second anniversary of losing my faithful little friend Sophie, almost five weeks on from a stroke she suffered soon after New Year 2020. I’d nursed her almost 24/7 and promised her that when she was feeling better we would go to Lytham Hall to see the snowdrops but sadly it wasn’t to be. She closed her eyes to life and slipped quietly away on February 9th 2020 and I was heartbroken, sad too that she never got to see the snowdrops.
Sophie was buried in a sheltered corner of my garden and I made another promise, a silent one this time, that I would plant some snowdrops in her little patch just as soon as I could. Unfortunately most of that month was extremely wet so it was March when I finally got to Lytham Hall, but by then the snowdrops were almost over and there were none for sale in the small courtyard garden hub either.
Circumstances beyond everyone’s control meant that the Hall and its grounds were closed to the public for the early part of 2021 so I couldn’t do the snowdrop walk that year, but with things now finally getting back to some sort of normality I took myself, Snowy and Poppie to Lytham Hall on Wednesday to see if I could fulfill my silent promise.
After almost three weeks of what seemed like incessant rain and two named storms it was a lovely day – blue sky, sunshine, no wind and not too chilly, perfect for doing the snowdrop walk round the Lytham Hall grounds, however I’d not been there long when the sky clouded over and the sun disappeared. Fortunately it didn’t last too long and once the clouds cleared away again the rest of the day was glorious.
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Dotted around the grounds were several picture frames in strategic locations, placed in such a way that they could be used to frame a shot and get the best photo of a particular view. I hadn’t really bothered with them on my first visit three years ago as it was a weekend and there were too many people around but now mid week the place was quieter and I was able to utilise each frame without feeling rushed.
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Although an ‘official’ route round the grounds was marked out by discreet arrows I preferred to find my own way round and my wanderings took me to the Lily Pond, a small lake in the woodland. I’d been round there two years ago in search of a ruined boat house which could have been quite photogenic, only to find it was more ruined than I expected and seemed to be undergoing some restoration. Unfortunately the intervening two years don’t seem to have produced any work and the boat house now looks in a worse condition than before.

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Next was a walk round the fishing lake known as Curtains Pond, used and maintained by a private angling club. Thought to have been created in the 17th century when earth was excavated to build the high mound known as The Mount it was once used by the Clifton family as a water supply, and it’s reputed that John Talbot Clifton, who lived at the Hall in the late 19th and early 20th century, would often throw things in there in fits of temper. The Mount is the highest point in Lytham and once provided a viewing point to the sea and to the 3-mile gallop in the parkland where the Clifton family raced their horses.

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Separating the woodland from the formal garden and lawns is the Paradise Wall with several buttresses on the garden side. Dating back to the late 17th century it was originally known as the Monks Wall due to the fact that in the Middle Ages there was a Benedictine Priory on the site, but since the 18th century it’s been known as the Paradise Wall.

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The Dovecote was built in the mid 18th century and is now a Grade ll listed building in need of renovation. There are 850 nesting boxes built into the walls and these would have been accessible to the gamekeeper via a revolving ladder suspended from a gallows arm projecting from a central rotating post which in turn pivots on a pad stone. It’s a pity the building isn’t accessible to the public as I’d love to see this thing working.

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Just outside the rear courtyard was a display of garden ornaments and in the courtyard itself a rainbow of colourful flowering plants for sale. And in among them all I found just what I wanted – snowdrops. I didn’t think one pot would be enough so I bought three with plants which have yet to flower then went to get a coffee from the nearby cafe before setting off for home.
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With the sun still shining from a by now almost cloudless blue sky it was a very pleasant journey back and it was even nice enough to drive with the van window down. The snowdrops were planted in Sophie’s little patch of garden yesterday and when they finally come into flower I’ll know then that, even though it’s taken two years to do it, I’ve kept my silent promise to the little dog I loved so much.

A wet walk in the city

I must have been mad. Totally, absolutely, stark raving bonkers. Walking round Manchester in the wind and rain just to get some photos of something I thought could be interesting, but this time it wasn’t street art.
The city’s Chinese New Year celebrations started on Tuesday last week. Several streets were decorated with red lanterns, there was a funfair, food stalls and various events in Chinatown, and a huge tiger sculpture in St. Ann’s Square; if I was going to photograph anything it had to be yesterday as the celebrations ended that evening.
Unfortunately the day didn’t get off to the best of starts. The rail line between here and Manchester was closed for maintenance work, with replacement buses running between stations (which, unlike my attempt to get to Blackburn last summer, I was aware of) and though I assumed that the bus would pick up from my nearest local station at the same time as I would normally get the train that just didn’t happen. I got there ten minutes ahead of schedule and though I waited for twenty minutes there was no bus – it had either gone very early or didn’t turn up at all so all I could do was get the next local bus to the main station in town then get the next available replacement bus to Manchester from there, finally arriving nearly two hours after I would normally have got there.
Dodging the brief rain showers my first stop was St. Ann’s Square to see the tiger sculpture. Commissioned by Manchester BID and created by Decordia Events the tiger was made from wood and recycled plastic and was supposed to give the illusion of being made of paper. It was very cleverly constructed and I liked it but to me it looked just like what it was, a model made of wood.
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Unfortunately the bit of sunshine and blue sky which appeared while I was walking round the square was all too brief and within six minutes the sky had clouded over again and the rain was back – and this time it didn’t stop. Heading up to Chinatown my umbrella blew inside out more than once and I had to keep the camera well tucked into my bag to stop it getting wet.
The programme of events in Chinatown started at 11am and under normal circumstances I would have been able to get the photos I wanted well before the place started to get busy but my late arrival meant that things were well under way when I got there. The place was absolutely packed and the only way I could get any reasonable shots of the ornate Chinese arch across the street was to stand on a bench at the edge of the car park.
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A constant drum beat was coming from the stage at the far side of the car park and people were holding up phones and photographing something I hadn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of seeing so I managed to weave my way through the crowd to get near the side of the stage. I still couldn’t really see anything as a bank of large speakers was obstructing the view but every so often a couple of dragons would appear above the heads of the crowd in front so with the camera in continuous shooting mode and standing on the bottom of a barrier I was able to get a couple of reasonable shots.
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Fortunately for the camera the rain had stopped briefly but it soon started again and with too many people around for me to use my umbrella I decided to cut my losses and head back to Victoria Station for the next available replacement bus. I had fifty minutes to wait though so to keep out of the wind and rain I found a nearby cafe and whiled away some time over a mug of coffee.
With no reason to stop at the two intermediate stations between Manchester and here the bus journey was actually quite pleasant and didn’t take much longer than the normal train journey would have done. Just a couple of minutes wait for the local bus from town and I was back home seven-and-a-half hours after I first set out, and vowing that the next time it’s raining when I want to go to Manchester I’m staying in bed instead!

Oklahoma – a kaleidoscope of colour

My frequent photography wanderings round Manchester’s Northern Quarter over the last couple of years have often taken me past a shop with a very colourful window display but being early on Sunday mornings it’s always been closed, however on my last visit to the city centre the penguin on the pavement caught my attention and I realised the shop was open so I went to take a look. As soon as I walked through the door I felt as though I should be wearing sunglasses – the whole place was predominantly yellow and orange and it was the most colourful shop I’ve ever been in.
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Established in 1997 Oklahoma  is Manchester’s biggest independent gift shop, packed with colourful and often unusual items from around the world, sourced from both individual designers and makers and more established producers, with an emphasis on handmade/decorated, fair trade and ethical goods. From greetings cards and stationery, quirky novelties and handmade jewellery, kitchenware and homeware through to lighting, furniture and things hanging everywhere, the shop was an absolute Aladdin’s cave of colour and creativity.
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Browsing round the attractive and well set out displays I began to wish I had an endless bank account and a half empty house in need of brightening up – had that been the case I think I would have bought half the things in the shop. I especially liked the brightly decorated items of truck art and thought the floral designs looked very similar to the traditional folk art found on narrowboats and their associated canalware.
Truck art is a popular form of regional decoration in South Asia, with many Pakistani trucks and buses being highly customized and decorated by their owners. The art is a mode of expression for truck drivers and individual decoration will include elaborate floral patterns and calligraphy. Poetic verses and depictions of historical scenes are common, also features which remind drivers of home as they may be away for months at a time. External truck decoration can cost the equivalent of thousands of pounds and outfitting is often completed at a coach workshop.
Truck art has gradually extended beyond the decoration of trucks and buses and though in South Asia cars aren’t traditionally decorated there are some examples of vehicles embellished in a truck art style, while in the Indian city of Mumbai some drivers decorate their taxis. The bright colours of Pakistani trucks have also inspired some fashion designers, with the Italian company Dolce & Gabbana using truck art-based displays in a 2015 campaign, and though used more often in women’s fashion some men’s clothing has also been inspired by South Asian truck art. The pots, jugs, storage trunks and other items on display were right up my street and if I’d had a truck or a narrowboat I would most certainly have been raiding the shop.
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The quirky and colourful items and displays provided many opportunities for photos and I could have spent a lot longer in this unique shop than I actually did but I had a train to catch, however now I’ve discovered the place I’ll probably make more than one return visit during my future wanderings round the Northern Quarter.

Angel of the Meadow – a Manchester mystery

I first found out about the Angel of the Meadow when I was researching the history of Manchester’s old Angel Meadow area and though at the time I only read the story briefly I was intrigued enough to want to find out more about this modern-day mystery.
On January 25th 2010, while clearing the site of a former car park prior to the construction of the Co-operative Group’s new headquarters close to Angel Meadow park, excavation workers discovered the skeletal remains of a female wrapped in sections of blue carpet and squeezed into a gap between a fence and a wall. The police were called to the scene and the site was immediately cordoned off while they conducted their initial investigations and removed the remains.

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Photo – Manchester Evening News

A postmortem concluded that the woman would probably have been Caucasian, 18-35 years old, between 5ft 1ins and 5ft 7ins tall and a size 12. She had a number of dental fillings and a missing upper right tooth which would have been obvious in life when she smiled. She had also suffered a fractured neck, collarbone, nose and jaw, pointing to having been beaten to death, with the date of her death being identified as sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s.
Found near the body were a pair of tights, a black stiletto court shoe, an empty handbag and a torn green pinafore dress with a distinctive 1970s pattern. She had been wearing a blue bra and a blue skinny-rib jumper, a style popular in the 1970s, but naked from the waist down she had probably been sexually assaulted; the absence of the other shoe and her underwear led investigators to conclude that her killer could have taken them as ‘trophies’. One of the carpet pieces which had covered the body featured a hole cut for a gear stick and was thought by police to have been taken from a Ford Cortina car.

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Photo – Greater Manchester Police press office

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Photo – Greater Manchester Police press office

A search of missing persons records and an initial appeal to the public in the hope that someone would recognise the items recovered with the body came to nothing, then in May 2011 a team of experts from Dundee University used facial mapping techniques to reconstruct the woman’s probable features, with the reconstruction featuring on an episode of BBC 1’s Crimewatch on the 24th of that month. She was given the name ‘Angel of the Meadow’ as it was in a part of the old Angel Meadow area where she was found. DNA analysis done that same year to try to establish whether the woman was a victim of either of two killers who were known to be active at the time showed that there was no connection.

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Forensic facial reconstruction developed by a Dundee University team led by Dr. Caroline Wilkinson

In November 2012, following input from the public, the police announced they had compiled a list of 22 potential identities for the victim. Leads were investigated from Ireland and as far afield as the Netherlands, Texas and Africa but none of them produced any positive results though detectives did rule out over 400 missing women as being her. In March 2015 police confirmed that they had a DNA profile of the victim and were undertaking a familial DNA search as part of the investigation, now being conducted by the cold case unit. That same month, five years after her remains were discovered, she was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in Manchester’s Southern Cemetery, in a state-paid service attended only by two detectives who had spent four years working on the still unsolved murder case.

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Photo – Manchester Evening News

Twelve years on from when she was first found this young woman’s identity remains a mystery which asks more questions than it answers, questions which detectives working on the case have no doubt asked themselves numerous times, and though her murder may still be unsolved her death hasn’t been in vain – through their investigations detectives managed to trace six women listed in the missing persons records and all were reunited with their families.
The original case hasn’t been closed though, nor has ‘Angel’ been forgotten. Othram, an American corporation specializing in forensic genealogy to resolve unsolved murders and cold cases, recently helped to fund a proper headstone to be installed on the grave in her memory.

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The 2021 headstone – Photo credit, David Mittelman, CEO Othram Inc.

Somewhere out there, even after so many years, there may still be a family member or a friend who will know who this young lady was so it’s hoped that one day the headstone can be updated with her real name. Until then she will forever remain the Angel of the Meadow.

Looking back – 2021

Another year has drawn to a close and it’s time for me to look back on some of the things which have featured in my life and on this blog over the last twelve months, though in some ways 2021 has been rather an uneventful year so this time I’m concentrating more on the places I’ve been to.
The beginning of January brought just enough snow to make things look pretty and my first walk of the year gave me the sighting of a heron at the hidden lake in the grounds of Smithills Hall and the llamas at the nearby open farm. More snow fell later in the month and during a walk through a local quarry and fields not far from home I was drenched from head to foot in a wave of slushy snow and water when a 4 x 4 driver deliberately drove at speed through a huge puddle at the side of the road. Only a mile from home I could quite easily have gone back to get changed but I decided to carry on and the climb up through the quarry and brisk walk through the fields stopped me from getting cold.
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Early February brought a couple more light overnight snow falls and the 9th was the first anniversary of losing sweet little Sophie so in her memory I took the dogs for a snowy walk round the Belmont area, a walk which Sophie had done with me several times over the years. In one of the fields I met a sheep with extremely curly horns and found that the Blue Lake was almost completely frozen over with ice and snow. The following day I took a walk round the Jumbles Reservoir and got some more lovely snowy photos.
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Early March saw me making two visits to a reservoir which, although fairly local, is in the middle of nowhere and too far to walk from home. The first visit failed however as the traffic and parking situation was a nightmare and after an hour and twenty minutes without ever getting out of the van I ended up right back where I’d started from, at my own front gate. The second visit was much more successful though and I had a lovely walk round the reservoir where I found much of the south side looking more open after the felling of quite a lot of trees. Also that month I made three visits to Manchester and on each occasion came back with a whole host of street art photos.
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Early April saw me seemingly being inundated with chocolate. On the spur of the moment Michael bought me two bars of white chocolate from the corner shop, his girlfriend sent me a lovely bunch of flowers and some chocolates and I won a pack of Cadbury’s creme eggs in an online Easter competition. Later that month I had a ridiculous conversation with Michael when he couldn’t think whether that particular day was Wednesday or Thursday and only a week later I had almost the same conversation with the boss’s son at work when he couldn’t remember if the day was Wednesday or Thursday. As well as local walks with the dogs I also made another two trips to Manchester and made a spring revisit to Corporation Park in Blackburn.
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Early May was blighted by a fair amount of cloud and rain so there were no trips out and local walks were kept to a minimum. Another couple of photography trips to Manchester were made and when the weather came nice later in the month I got some lovely colorful shots of different shrubs and trees in various gardens which I passed on one of my walks with Snowy and Poppie.

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The Manchester Flower Show was held in lovely weather during the first week of June and I made two trips to find and photograph the many floral displays and installations situated in various locations around the city centre. Also that month I discovered the delightful area of the Castlefield Basin where the Rochdale Canal and Bridgewater Canal meet and I was lucky enough to see the Castlefield Goslings who commute between the canal basin and the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed but traffic does seem to stop for them. 

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The highlight of July was my 10-day holiday in the Lake District, and though it started with a sore foot, a fault with the tent, a leaky loo and a swollen arm all four problems were soon resolved and with mainly good weather I went on to have a lovely time away. During the ten days I went to the delightful little village of Caldbeck, met up with blogging friend Jayne who took me on a lovely walk round Ravenglass, visited the Lake District wildlife Park and discovered several new-to-me places including Harrington harbour.

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August was the month when Michael and I twice went for a curry meal at a local pub/restaurant and each time there was something missing from our order. The first time the mango chutney was missing so was substituted with mint yogurt, then the second time there was no mango chutney, no mint yogurt and no rice so we ended up with chips instead. Luckily we both saw the funny side of it and assumed that the lack of some foods was caused by various disruptions in the supply chain at the time. During the bank holiday weekend I had a nice walk along a section of the Lancaster Canal at Hest Bank, a place I’d never been to before, and also visited Arnside and Jenny Brown’s Point near Silverdale, then the following day went to Morecambe.

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The middle Sunday of September was the start of my second 10-day Lake District holiday and though the first couple of days were grey and cloudy the weather came good and I was able to revisit some places I’d previously been to and explore others which I hadn’t, including Workington harbour, Bowness-on-Solway and Port Carlisle. I also walked by Bassenthwaite Lake and climbed Latrigg Fell the hard way (almost vertically) when the path ran out due to a large area of trees being felled, but it was worth the effort as the views from the top were fabulous. The highlight of the holiday though was without a doubt my visit to Ennerdale Water which offered fabulous views and gave me lots of great photos. The 25th of the month was Snowy’s first anniversary, a full year since she came to live in my little family at the age of 8 months.

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October was very wet for most of the month but a break in the weather late on saw me going down to North Wales for a 2-night mini camping break and to make a long overdue visit to Eileen, a special blogging friend. During the weekend I met Eileen’s new little dog Tilly, and visited Flint Castle, Rhuddlan Castle and the oddly-named Horton’s Nose nature reserve at the mouth of the River Clwyd.

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November for the most part was another rainy month when dog walking was kept to the local avenues or just the back garden if it was really bad but a couple of days of nice weather in the middle of the month gave me the opportunity to have a walk round Rivington Gardens to catch the remains of any autumn colours. Also that month I took the 25-minute train journey to Blackburn to see the Knife Angel, a 27ft tall sculpture made up of over 100,000 knives.
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Early December was cold but dry and a lovely sunny day saw me taking the dogs on a local walk round Smithills Hall and through nearby woodlands and fields, then the week before Christmas I made my last visit of the year to Manchester, a late afternoon/early evening one to photograph the light sculptures in the city centre. To round off the year, just four days ago I made an impromptu spur-of-the-moment short trip to North Wales, staying at a new-to-me camp site and also visiting Eileen again. I only got back home late afternoon yesterday so it will be a while before details and photos appear on here. 

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So there you have it, some of the highlights of my year. All that remains now is to welcome any recent new readers to my blog and thank everyone for visiting and leaving comments; if it wasn’t for my readers there wouldn’t be a blog, so I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – have a good one!

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

The Knife Angel story

The National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, known as The Knife Angel, is a collaboration between artist Alfie Bradley and the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire. Created to raise awareness of knife crime it also stands as a memorial to those whose lives have been affected by it.
When the idea of a sculpture made entirely of knives was first discussed the Home Office was contacted for permission to collect knives from police forces across the country in the hope that this co-operation would bring about the introduction of new knife amnesties, with the Ironworks offering to supply each force with knife banks completely free of charge. Permission was granted by the Home Office and the ”Save A Life, Surrender Your Knife” campaign was born.
The Ironworks created a total of 200 knife banks and during nationwide amnesties in 2015/16 over 100,000 knives were both confiscated by, or handed in to, every main constabulary across the UK. The collection of knives included machetes, meat cleavers, swords and ordinary household kitchen knives, with some even arriving at the Shropshire workshop in police evidence tubes and still with traces of blood on their surfaces.
To create the 27ft tall sculpture Alfie Bradley constructed a steel supporting frame and formed the basic angel shape using steel sheeting which the knives could be welded onto. Every knife was disinfected and blunted before being welded onto the sculpture; the wings were created using only the blades which produced a feather-like appearance, while the facial features were a mix of Alfie’s great grandad, grandad, dad and two younger brothers.
During the angel’s creation families who had lost loved ones due to knife crime and violence were invited to send a personal message of love and remembrance which Alfie would engrave onto one of the blades to be fixed on the angel’s wings. Messages were also sent from ex-offenders who had since seen the error of their ways and gone on to support the fight against knife crime and violence in a bid to stop it happening on the UK’s streets.
It took just over two years to create the sculpture and in December 2018 the Knife Angel began its official National Youth Anti-Violence Educational Programme across the UK, beginning its journey outside Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral then moving on to Hull in February 2019. Since then it’s moved on to a different town or city each month – until the end of this month it’s in Blackburn, Lancashire, which is where I saw it just a couple of days ago.
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To say that the photos don’t do this angel justice is an understatement. It’s a brilliantly designed and expertly crafted sculpture which I found very sobering and thought provoking, but regardless of what it stands for it’s a truly beautiful piece of art in its own right and I’m glad I got to see it before it moves on.

Wandering round Wigton

A day where I go looking for a new tv and find a lovely church….
After the sunshine of the previous day the second morning arrived cloudy and grey though still very warm. Activities around the farm started just after 8am and when I took Snowy and Poppie for their morning walk I found a large agricultural wood chipper making short work of a gigantic pile of tree trunks, with a couple of tractors and trailers running in relay taking the chippings up to the big barn at the top of the farm track.
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The grey sky and low cloud seemed to be fairly widespread with no sign of clearing so I decided to stay on site, read a few chapters of my book and maybe indulge in a bit of daytime tv, something which I rarely do at home, however the tv itself had other ideas. As I moved it round to avoid the light reflection from the tent window the aerial connector came out of the back of the set and when I looked the connection port itself had broken off inside the set and there was no way of fixing it myself.
Later information from the site owner told me that there was a tv repair shop in Wigton, about 12 miles away; I’d been intending to visit the town at some point during the holiday anyway as I wanted to check out the heritage trail so it seemed like this day was as good as any even if the weather was still dull. I found the tv repair shop with no problem and while the tv could probably have been fixed it couldn’t be done for a week or so and the cost of the repair could possibly be more than the small 24″ set was worth. It looked like I would have to search out a new one from somewhere but not before I’d had a walk round the heritage trail.
Starting from where I left the van the first building I came to was St. Mary’s Church. It dates from the late 1700s and was modelled on St. Michael’s in Workington, though I’m saving any other details for another time as it really deserves a post of its own. In front of the church, between the building and the road, was the old cobbled Corn Market, while on the south side was a row of traditional Georgian cottages built in the 1700s. On the north side was a row of cottages known as the Widows’ Hospital, built in 1723 following a bequest from the Rev John Thomlinson, Rector of Rothbury, for the widows of six Protestant clergymen from across the county of Cumberland.
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Along the road and across on the other side was Wigton Methodist Church, built in 1883 and modernised inside in 2005, then back past St. Mary’s I came to Market Place and the George Moore Memorial. Built in 1872 and dedicated to Moore’s first wife Eliza Ray each of the four sides features a sculpture by the pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner, showing scenes of the Acts of Mercy with Eliza’s face above each one.
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Across from the memorial was the former Kings Arms Hotel, originally a coaching inn where authors Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins stayed while on their Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices during the wet winter of 1857. Apparently they didn’t enjoy the town very much as Collins had previously fallen on Carrock Fell and twisted his ankle. The hotel was renovated in 1987 and when the wallpaper was stripped off it was found that Dickens had put his autograph on one of the walls.
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Along the road to the left of Market Place was the Hare & Hounds, a pub and former shop which is now just one property. Built in the late 17th/early 18th century it’s one of the oldest pubs in Wigton and has been Grade ll listed since November 1984.
Back past the George Moore Memorial and down Station Road I came to the John Peel Theatre, built in 1884/85 as a barracks for the town’s Salvation Army corps. Wigton Theatre Club was formed in September 1952 by the head of Wigton Secondary School and the members spent the first ten years putting on plays, usually four each year, in the school hall, then in the Parish Rooms. In 1964 Redmayne’s Bespoke Tailors bought the barracks from the Salvation Army and rented the building to the theatre club, giving them substantial help in converting it into a theatre which was named after the John Peel of the well known song, then when the land around it was to be redeveloped in 1988 the club purchased the building in order to ensure its continued use as a theatre.
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Round the corner from the theatre and on the way to the next building on the trail I came to a short alley leading to a couple of houses with unexpectedly pretty gardens. They weren’t connected in any way to the Heritage Trail but they looked so bright on such a dull day that I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos.
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The next building on the trail was the premises of Wilkinson Joinery on the site of the Old Corn Mill. Part of a 1775 rebuild of a much older building the current building served as a water-powered mill until the late 1920s; on the side wall are three original mill stones and a bronze plaque detailing the building’s history.
Across from the joinery place was a cottage with a large mural painted along its gable end wall. Steps at the side of its boundary wall led up to an open alleyway where part of the wall had been replaced by glass panels giving a view of the mural. It obviously depicts life in the past but so far I’ve been unable to find out what it signifies and why it’s there; it isn’t even mentioned in the heritage trail brochure. 
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At the end of the alleyway, which was quaintly named Birdcage Walk, I came to two more buildings with murals on their walls. Now home to the Free 4 All environmental charity they had once been part of the Old Cotton Mill, buildings which originally housed workers from the town’s thriving cotton industry in the 18th century.
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At one corner of the car park where I’d left the van I came across The Pump and The Lamp. Originally situated in Market Place they had replaced a cross with a bell which was rung on each market day but which had burned down during a bonfire to celebrate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805. The Pump and Lamp stayed in Market Place until 1872 when they were taken down to make way for the George Moore Memorial; after being stored for many years they were re-erected in their current spot in 1998. Heading back to the van my final shot, which had nothing to do with the heritage trail, was of a brightly coloured mural in an alleyway between the car park and one of the main streets.
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There were actually 22 points of interest on the heritage trail but I didn’t photograph all of them as many of them now bear no resemblance to what they once were – while they may each have a bit of interesting information attached to them I don’t think shop fronts and takeaway places look particularly exciting.
Having spent quite some time walking round the heritage trail, and with no sign of the cloudy grey sky giving way to any sunshine, I decided to abandon my quest to find a new tv and return to the camp site. I could still watch a dvd if I wanted to and I had a couple of books to read so my tv search would continue another day. 

What’s so special about Facebook??

That’s a rhetorical question to which I don’t need or want an answer but it seems to me that many people these days act as if it’s the holy bible of the internet and the be-all and end-all of social media, to the point where a person is excluded from certain things unless they are a Facebook member.
For a few years now a friend and her daughter have been trying to persuade me to join Facebook but I’ve always steadfastly refused, being of the opinion that a lot of people on there are brainless morons and troublemakers, and I speak from experience. I’m not going into detail but several years ago, when I worked in a senior school, I was the target of a lot of unwarranted personal and malicious name calling, sniggering and verbal backchat which stemmed from something a certain pupil had posted about me on Facebook and shared among her friends. It was deeply upsetting at the time but fortunately it didn’t last too long before the pupil in question was dealt with, though I vowed there and then that I would never ever  join Facebook.
Fast forward to one day a couple of weeks ago and through the local community group which I’m a member of – which has nothing to do with Facebook – I learned that a deceased cat had been found at the side of the main road not far from me and someone was asking who it might belong to. From the description I thought it might belong to one of my bosses so I offered to go and collect it – if it wasn’t my boss’s cat I would take it to the local vet to be scanned for a microchip – however when I got there I found it had been picked up by someone else.
It turned out that this guy was a member of a nationwide group where members collect cats killed on the roads and attempt to reunite them with their owners before they are picked up by local council operatives and dumped in the trash to be disposed of, leaving their owners wondering what happened to them when they didn’t come home. The group was started a couple of years ago in conjunction with a campaign to get the government to pass a law requiring all cats killed on the roads to be classed the same as dogs and the accidents reported.
Having had a couple of my own cats go missing in previous years and not knowing what had happened to them I was very interested in becoming an active member of this group – if I could reunite just one deceased pet with its owner it would be worth it – so the guy gave me the details and the phone number of the local woman who started it and runs it. I phoned her later that day but guess what? – to join the group I have to be on Facebook as that’s how they operate and get in touch with individual members. So I guess I won’t be becoming a member after all – it’s a shame but I absolutely refuse to go against my own principles and join Facebook just to join that group.
Another example of this Facebook thing occurred only yesterday. Through my Postcossing hobby I was made aware of Postcards of Kindness, an initiative run by age uk where people write and send postcards to residents of care homes to brighten up their days. Again this was something I would be interested in doing but yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s a Facebook group so unless I become a Facebook member I can’t take part.
I really can’t understand what’s so special about Facebook – it’s as if most people, whether individuals or businesses, can’t function without it and everyone expects everyone else to be on it. Well I may be considered to be something of a dinosaur in the world of technology and social media – I’m not on Twitter either – but though it’s a tad annoying that some things are denied to me my life so far has jogged along nicely and it will no doubt continue to do so without the need for Facebook.