Archive for October, 2003

Thursday, October 30th, 2003

Tomorrow in part 2 of BnJOL we head south. Postings may be a little sporadic for the next few days but I’m keeping notes and next week plenty of fleshing out to do…

Wednesday, October 29th, 2003

The Urbis Building

The Triangle – No not the crappy seventies soap opera

Northern Quarter near death experience.

My office block hotel

Robert Maxwell’s empire reinvented as a pub crawl mecca

Queer goings on in the park.

So much to write about and so little time to write it – more on these stories later

Tuesday, October 28th, 2003

Day 2 of BnJOL and I find myself doing a bit of aimless wandering round the city. Well not quite aimless but carefree. First stop after a serious coffee infusion is the remodelled Manchester Art Gallery. I remember this as a dark uninviting poky little den of a place, all dark rooms and dusty glass cases. Michael Hopkins and Partners have transformed it, taking in the neighbouring Athaneum building and providing a linking atrium. Now tripled in size, it is full of light and life – the Made in Manchester gallery was particularly engaging with excellent use of works in traditional and digital media too. The building is really really good with well thought out circulation – cool toilets [ always a good sign ] and above all beautiful honest design. The central glass and steel atrium is exquisitely detailed with stunning juxtaposition of the original stone facades of the buildings and the new structure. The intricately cantilevered stair and lift stucture is a joy and I spent nearly half my time just marvelling at this alone – sad I know.

Click for larger image

A bleak, harsh and unforgiving landscape, distorted metallic forms under leaden skies, reflected in black water and drained of all colour but for a single red poppy. So was my first glimpse of Daniel Liebeskind’s building for Imperial War Museum of North. I’m going to write a bit more about this in a while but suffice it to say for now it’s a building you should visit – it works on all kinds of levels – [ pun intended ]

“You’re flicking ash on him Beverley”

Yesterday it was the eighties. Tonight a revisit to the seventies with a trip to The Lowry to see Abigails Party. This reminds me a bit of The Rocky Horror Show. The TV production, starring Alison Steadman, is such a classic [ top 20 in the BFI’s all-time top 100 British television programmes ] – when Abigail, played here by Lizzie McInnery, opens the show with her sexy ‘Love to love you baby’ dance I wanted to stand and applaud such was the anticipation of delights to come. A great set – full of carefully sourced brown and orange seventies furniture and the obligatory sparkly fibre light provides the pefect backdrop for Beverley, Ange, Tony, Sue [ marooned mother of the unseen Abigail ] and ill fated Laurence [ ex Bill actor, Huw Higginson ] to play out their excruciating surburban tableau.

Monday, October 27th, 2003

Sir Dicky Branson provides the means and drD provides the cash. Whooshed northwards, [ signal problems at Macclesfield permitting ] we are transported inexorably towards sunny Manchester. A Virgin Voyager is my vehicle of choice and Stewart, my train manager, does an entertaining line in half baked public address patter – forgetting, mid announcement, what he was wanting to say and ‘pulling it round’ quickly at the end.

eg “Ladeesangennelmen, we regret to announcethat teascoffeesandliderefreshments will not be available from the shop …inexplicable pause… we will be shortly arriving in Stockport – please have your tickets ready as barrier services are available at this station” [ Cue perplexed looks from customers…for we are passengers no more on the Virgin Voyager…but customers bound for galaxies as yet unexplored ]

Today the city is illuminated softly from behind grey clouds wafted inland from the Irish Sea and massing menacingly to the north. I come prepared with acres of snap-on Goretex accessories which can be deployed at a moments notice to keep out the driving rain and constant drizzle beloved of Mancunians. Dampness was the foundation of modern Manchester with cotton fibre more pliable and abundant water power, later steam, to drive those massive mills many of which now sell as ‘Lifestyle Apartments’ for the upwardly mobile.

Stepping from the train into the seriously impressive and remodelled Piccadilly Station [ where are those cardboard ticket huts we used to love in the eighties? ] and a close encounter with actress Jean Alexander [ pictured above ], fondly remembered as Hilda Ogden and now seen often as Auntie Wainwright in Last of the Summer Wine. Jean was waiting anonymously behind a pillar as I nearly sent her flying whilst looking upwards at the soaring glass station roof. Thrilling to quite literally bump into one of my all time fave characters on my first visit to Madchester in many years.

A quick walking tour of the city centre and my memories of the place are confounded. Grimy and tired streets and most pointedly THE ARNDALE CENTRE [ famously described by Stuart Hall – madman of It’s a Knockout fame – as the ‘biggest public toilet in the Northern Hemisphere’ ] – all transformed. They are actually demolishing parts of the centre; no doubt to make way for some gleaming new edifice of which there already many that have been put up since last I was here.

The IRA bombing of 1996 and the Commonwealth Games have served Manchester well and there are many fine new buildings I’m looking forward to seeing before I leave. The city has a confident feel about it; trams whizz past, there are swanky shops, there is a lively arts scene and my alma mater is gearing up for world domination. Tonight I’m off to relive the eighties with some post-Thatcherite reconstituted shoulderpads. It’s then back to my office block accommodation for a night of unbridled sleep.

This post should have appeared Monday…I always find it helps if you untick the ‘draft’ box before publishing…duh…anyway more from Madchester v.soon

Off for a bit soon

Sunday, October 26th, 2003

I’ve been busy packing today as tomorrow is the first day of

Come back then for a report from higher lattitudes:

Find out how I fare on Dicky’s chariot.

What’s it like to stay in a city centre office block?

What time does it get dark oop north?

All this and more from tomorrow – bet you can’t wait.

I know I can’t.

Starry starry night

Saturday, October 25th, 2003

You sometimes forget to look up when you’re caught up in the the preoccupations of everyday life. I often make a point of looking up as I’m walking around – trying not to bump into people and passing lamposts. You see all sorts of interesting things. I’m especially partial to looking at the buildings which hover above the brash and uniform shop fronts in most British town centres – like looking through someones drawers you get an insight to the true character of a place. Is it a grand old Victorian pile masquerding as an ulta modern Boots the Chemist? Or an ultra modern pile masquerading as a grand old Victorian pub? Tonight after a particularly stressful end to the day I landed back on my doorstep with a mixed set of emotions – not all of them happy. Glancing upwards an arresting sight captivated me and all I could do was stand, stare and drink in the view. A beautiful clear night sky with many constellations clearly visible against the inky blue heavens. I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of the more beautiful psalms.

“When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?” (Ps 8: 2.4-5)

Nothing like a bit of intergalactic perspective to put things in their proper proportion. Who needs stress eh?

National Ride

Friday, October 24th, 2003


Er – not wishing to alarm you or owt but I’ve just heard that 10 billion tonnes of superhot gas are speeding towards Earth. Do you think I’d better not go to the pub tonight? Can probably leave the heating off too – save a few bob.


Thursday, October 23rd, 2003

Of all the colours available we British have an undoubted fondness for Beige.

Courtesy of Lawrence we know that the natural light in the UK is subdued by all that cloud cover [ oh joy ]. Colours that in other countries look spectacular vibrant and life enhancing are rendered dishwatertastic by our lowly share of sunshine. So we are left with Beige – the colour of fresh baby sick and non branded computers everywhere. Beige is the Aled Jones of colours; safe, predictable, clean looking and neutral. Yes neutral – how I loathe that word. If you want to sell your house it must be neutral. Forget the leather wallpaper and maroon flocked kitchen units – they’ll never sell. You have to appeal to your target market and the best way to do that is to go Beige. Beige’s first cousin is magnolia – don’t get me started on magnolia – you wouldn’t like me when I’m neutral.


Thanks to Harriet for doing her bit = now why don’t you have a go? – yes you Mr Lurker – I know you’re out there!

Cheese please

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

I was a right lazy blogger yesterday. Somehow the change in the weather has sent me into some kind of hibernation sequence. All I want to do is keep warm, drink red wine and eat high calorie foods. Bugger Blogger. All I need is a bushy tail and you can call me ‘squirrel nutkin with a drink problem’. So today has been a day of travel arrangements in anticipation of ‘Big n Juicy on location’ next week. I’m very much looking forward to a proper break after the last few months. Having a postgraduate diploma in guilt I have to make a conscious decision to enjoy myself – weird I know. It’s as though I feel I have to earn it – well I can honestly say I have – so there! Bless me father for I have travel plans – it’s been far too long since my last adventure. I love the process of planning trips – the sense of possibility – breaking free from routine – being at liberty to do what you want, when you want – as slow or a fast as you choose – with side orders of gratuitous pleasure thrown in at will – oh yes. Next week a number of things will come full circle if my plans work out. Small ambitions I’ve held for a long time will be realised. Personal growth will occur. From little acorns…

Time for some cabernet sauvignon and cheese


Mark is the lastest to submit his deepest blog thoughts to the Big n Juicy quest – don’t hold back – if you are lurking: the time has come – reveal yourself! If only pseudonymically at least.

A light dusting of posts

Monday, October 20th, 2003

You’re back

How glad we are.

Very excited – I’m planning a north n south experience next week – a week of indulgence – yes Big n Juicy is going on location. Yay.

Last week I posed 5 questions to which 7 of my readers were gracious enough to reply. Thanks to:

La P, Zed, BW, Simon, Alan, Birdman, Ron

[ If you didn’t reply please consider doing so as I’m very interested to know what you think! ]

I am currently analysing the results with a view to publishing some sort of mish mash cod psychobabbleistic guff as though it were serious research – all of which might feed into my forthcoming phD. I will be back with more when this important phase has been completed.

Stage fright

Be very afraid