Saturday, May 21, 2005

Dukes, Shopping, BBQ, Cocktails and Eurovision

Sally spent her student years in Manchester and so it seems fitting to spend the day in the city centre, seeing how things have changed.

We start with lunch at Dukes. When I first moved to Manchester, Dukes was a tiny pub nestled amongst derelict warehouses. Now it has been extended and extended, the warehouse regenerated into flash offices, loft apartment and bars, the canal and tow path tarted up.

Despite all the changes, the Castlefield basin is still dominated by the imposing industrial architecture of the steel and brick via-ducts and bridges and the enlarged Dukes has managed to retain much of its old charm.

The cheese counter is still stocked with 30+ varieties of cheese and pate and generous portions get served up with huge hunks of granary bread and a choice of various pickled veggies.

Leaving Dukes behind we head into the city centre and the shops. Ahhh the shops!

Tearing ourselves away from Kendal’s perfume department, we head home via Asda, where we fill a trolley with food and drink for the evening and, given the dry sunny afternoon promised by last night’s weather forecast has failed to materialise, a cheapie gazebo.

As the heavens open, Sally and I get soaked through as we piece together the new purchase (slightly hampered by the missing instruction diagrams). Stuart (unlike us in full waterproof gear) arrives with a second, much needed, gazebo. His opening comment through the side gate is “L1z – and there was me thinking you were intelligent…beaten by a gazebo…you can tell you don’t camp!”.

A little undeserved we feel as we get the gazebo erected fairly easily, despite lack of useful instructions.

Then again, they who laugh last, laughs longest.

“Gives us a hand with yours then” we ask. Hah! Who’s struggling now? As we complete one part of the frame, the other side falls apart. Chaos. It’s a wonder the poor lamb manages to get a tent up every August!

Eventually we are successful and Stuart heads home to collect the wonderful Karen and my favourite “nieces who I love lots and lots”. I get the barbeque lit and make final preparations, whilst Sally gets dried out and ready for the evening. Then we swap roles as people start to arrive.

The wonderful Martin takes on responsibility for the Barbie (he declines offers to relieve him of this duty, due to it keeping him away from the Eurovision Hell that is unfolding in the lounge.

Cocktails and, sweepstakes (the latter courtesy of Rob and Min) are helping the evening along as 18 friends and neighbours attempt to squish into my tiny lounge and watch the annual televisual treat. Norway’s answer to The Darkness are fabulous, but my absolute favourites are the Moldovans. Eurovision meets Red Hot Chili Peppers, plus an 80 year old Granny in a rocking chair banging a drum. Special.

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