Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Bravery

After a sleepless night last night (not added by a bit of dodgy pizza - hmmmm must check if P&S also suffered), I'm not exactly full of energy for this evenings gig. To be honest I'm just impressed that I even remembered it had been put back to tonight and moved to a bigger venue (pah! and when I had been so pleased to get tickets for the smaller gig that sold out almost instantly!).

I decide to leave it fairly late, miss some if not all of the supports and just make it for the main act The Bravery.

Of course I should have factored in that for a one-band album the set is likely to be pretty short (under an hour including encore) and hence I arrive a not earlier than I need have.

It does mean I catch most of Mando Diao's set, which is pretty good - although rather too many songs involving screaming yeah! yeah! yeah! down the mic. After all a good dose of howling aggression is always a good sign in a rock band, but too much salt can spoil the broth.

The Bravery's set is as one would expect from the album, generally good, but coming only fully alive for a handful of songs. Fearless and Honest Mistake predictably enough get a massive upsurge in response from the audience. I guess it's always a sign that your song's a success when you can leave most of it to the audience to sing for themselves.

With their style dial firmly set on the early 80's posing and attitude rank high in the band's lexicon of tricks. Sam Endicott is a charismatic frontman. And let's face it - a bit of a sort, which is no substitute for good music, but is always a welcome addition.

The new material is encouraging, but they're going to need some more heavyweight tunes if they're going to move on from 'hotly tipped' to 'best new band'.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Urban Festival

As I make my way through St Anne's Square, I weave through the Flower Market accompanied to the sounds of a three piece rockabilly busking outfit.

As I head onwards, their sound is soon overtaken by the Samba band and dancers that regularly congregate outside Marks and Spencers. In turn as I head down between Selfridges and Harvey Nichols their throbbing beat fades to background as a lone blue's musician takes up his place in turn in my aural journey.

In exchange square people are sitting around enjoying the fantastic sunshine. Occasionally a cheer or a groan goes up from those watching the football on the Big Screen.

Finally heading up Market Street we have the violinist and more traditional busking set-up of "bloke with guitar".

I think I understand what Sally meant last week, when she said walking around Manchester was like being at a festival, always three different sorts of music to be heard in the background at any one time.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Lowest Form of Wit?

I think a small part of my brain might be slightly over developed.

See, it's not my fault.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


On the way home from work I stopped off at Stuart and Karen's to return the gazebo and 'emergency chairs'. As well as hugs from my three favourite nieces and a catch up with S&K, I had the pleasure of meeting Stuart's Mum and Dad. Given his mum has admitted to once having read this blog, can I take the opportunity to state how utterly delightful they both are ;-)

From there I head to Phil and Sarah's who got back from Namibia this morning.

Familiar patterns are quickly slipped back into and tonight we head to the local cinema to see Star Wars Episode III : Revenge of the Sith


Less said this film the better maybe...especially about the Vader "Nooooooo!!!" scene.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Animal Farm

Communication amongst the Book Group has fallen down a bit of late.

Having read the book (Animal Farm) I grab a drink in the usual bar and wait to see if anyone turns up.

Sadly I’m left like a nobby no-mates, but I don’t mind because I get the chance to speak to Sally on the mobile and celebrate the good news. After a trying two weeks I’m over the moon about the positive resolution. A huge Yay!

I head round to S&P’s via the shops to check the house one last time before they return home from Namibia early tomorrow morning.

I drop off a few items of food, so they will at least be able to pull together some simple meals when they get back. Well I say simple – it include fresh pasta and as you may remember this manages to stump me and Caroline on a bad day…

As I lock up I realise something in the front yard has changed. I swear someone has mowed the grass.


We’ve spoken and texted occasionally over the past month, but I miss having them around the corner to meet up with. It’ll be good to have them back home.

Just not sure how I’m going to explain the lawn-cutting.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The end of a great weekend

Shaun was unable to come to the party last night due to rugby commitments. He suggests pub lunch as compensation and it would seem churlish to refuse…

We meet him in Alderley Edge and catch up over Sunday lunch before Sally heads south and I return home to finish returning the house to normality. Cleaning up, packing up gazebos, sorting the recycling etc

The garden is going to be a bit of a challenge however, scenes reminiscent of a post festival walkway sadly (see above – it used to be lawn…).

An excellent weekend, which hopefully provided the needed tonic.

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.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Visitors - invite one, get one free!

The wonderful Sally is coming to Manchester for a weekend away from it all.

Predictable enough a certain DC can’t resist the idea of people having fun without him and this combined with heavy traffic on the M1 lead him to decide to call in at Manchester on his way back south from business in the north-east. A lovely surprise bonus visit albeit fleeting.

Unfortunately the traffic on the M1 north is equally horrific and Sally’s journey takes her 5 hours.

As we wait for her to arrive, I get the chance to inspect the MMM (Male Menopause Motor) in daylight. I can now properly appreciate the red leather interior. Nice…

This feature seems to divide opinion roughly along gender lines:
Typical Male Response = “ooh sex on wheels”
Typical Female Response = “ooh wipe clean perviness”

Still I shouldn’t be so disparaging – Sally and I still scabbed a lift to That Café in the MMM before we waved him on his way.

With DC safely dispatched, Sally and I set to the main activity of the evening, namely the investigation of what happens when you set against each other two contrary culinary certainties.

Rule 1: I’ve never had a less than stunning meal in That Café
Rule 2: Sally always gets a dodgy meal

Haapily the powers of Chef Alison Eastman outweigh the Sally cuisine jinx and we both enjoy fantastic meals and are the last to leave.

Back home we sit up, putting the world to rights until the wee small hours – bliss!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Green and Blacks

Apparently Cadburys have stated that their buy out of the fabulous Green and Blacks will not adversely impact the brand or its values.

Time will tell I guess. Sadly in my experience large corporations seem to almost invariably follow the pattern of buying up a smaller concern because of their unique nature, but then find themselves unable to refrain from dominating the smaller entity until whatever uniqueness there was is smothered out of existence.

Still it could have been worse…I suppose Nestles could have been the buyer and then where do you go ethically?

Discussion on this acquisition has been bubbling on the Ship of Fools discussion boards and in reading the views of the north american posters, I realise just how far the fair trade/ethical consumerism movement has come in the last decade or so. Remember when you struggled to find even Fair Trade coffee?

Still it’s a quagmire of ethics trying to balance all the various issues of eco, social and ethical responsibility. But as one astute poster observes it’s important to try given that even if we can’t bring ourselves to be motivated to attempt to be part of ‘the solution’, our unthinking consumerism is not neutral and will indeed all too often make us part of ‘the problem’.

Of course in balance to this one can become insufferably overbearing and self-righteous about such stuff – the phrase “salvation through correct shopping” did raise a wry smile…

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

One swallow doesn't make a summer

The warm night suckered us into sitting outside Sinclair’s for a quick pint (or mineral water in my case due to driving) tonight.

No sooner had I take one sip, then the distinctive specks of rain were felt. We decamped inside

Not quite summer yet then…

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Tampopo and new arrival

Well after the gardening, diying and gutter-clearing I felt I deserved a night out. So after a very long shower I headed into town to join up with J’s birthday celebrations.

The gutter clearing left me running late so I miss the pre-meal drinks and meet them at Tampopo for a fine meal and plenty of wine.

Probably a bit too much wine…and too much rice…followed by too much ‘sensible water drinking’ when I got home. Net result not good and a fall gratefully into bed feeling decidedly the worse for wear.

Thankfully this morning I felt fine and finish off some of the gardening, pop to the shops and then head round to see M and R and the new arrival baby C. She’s cute enough as babies go (I don’t really do babies) and very entertaining when mid nappy change she emits an intense jet of runny yellow shite all over dad’s hand (thankfully I was in charge of the ‘safe’ end!)

Of course given her father is know in certain festival circles by his working title of M Noise, I suppose it’s reasonable to little C “Baby Noise”. Which as the afternoon turns into evening becomes an increasingly appropriate moniker.

Whilst M and I take her for a walk to settle her down, R knocks up a fab roast dinner. Suddenly I ook at my watch at it’s gone 9. I get home to rush off some Greenbelt emails and then head (still aching) to bed.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Let there be light...

Just over a year ago I spent a fairly miserably Saturday trying to replace the lights on the side of my house that illuminate the garden. Things didn’t go well when I just couldn’t get the wiring right, which combined with the old fashioned fuse board that blows with a bang as you put the fuse back in, did nothing for my mood.

In the end I gave up, made it safe and watertight and abandoned the project as twilight kicked in.

Since then a kindly Elec Eng gave me a circuit diagram that confirmed what should be going on between the various lights and switches. So all I needed was a free dry Saturday with good light.

Well that and the motivation.

So today I figured that I ought to make the most of what could well be the last free weekend for some time (festival season and all) and get back up the ladder.

Well to cut a very long story short – I eventually tracked down the problem to a faulty switch and eventually triumphed.

I now have two fully functioning shiny new wall lights.

What I really want however is a certificate…or a parade in my honour…or something.

Still at least my neighbour was impressed as she asked if she could borrow the ladder to clean out her gutters. Despite having 3 sons (one has pins in his leg so fair play, the other one is a bit of a waster and the third is too posh nowadays to want to get dirty) she was planning to get up the ladder herself. Somehow letting a 70 year old climb ladders to clear gutters, didn’t seem on and seeing as I was already covered in dirt…

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Catching up

It was a quiet weekend – not intentionally – the mother of all migraines hit.

Accordingly plans were cancelled, Saturday just didn’t happen at all and I managed to only squeeze a few pain free hours out of Sunday.

Monday seemed to follow directly on from Friday night and did nothing to help me re-orientate myself in the week. Having taken a half-day’s leave, mid-afternoon Monday finds me on a train to London, something that would normally signify the start of a weekend.

A few hours later I’m back on a train back to Manchester, this new monthly pattern is going to take some getting used to.

In between the two journeys, I attend my first Management Group meeting.

I was somewhat nervous, but fortunately everyone was really lovely and welcoming…and hopefully fairly forgiving of the fact that the ‘small’ matter I got asked to table, turned out to be the one item of the evening that was slightly contentious.

The journey home is as efficient and on-schedule as the one down, but is somewhat overshadowed, by a phone call (well actually several calls thanks to the horrendously patchy mobile signal on the London-Manchester route) from a friend. Bad news. I feel sick for her. There is nothing I can say to make it any better. Oh crap…

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Despite my complete disdain for virtually all politicians and my cynical view of how much of a democracy we really enjoy, I always get a buzz from voting.

Maybe it’s because I feel like an adult doing it, maybe it’s because I’m mindful of all those that don’t have this right and those who went before, fighting for people like me to get the franchise.

Whatever it is, I did my duty this morning and marked my X.

Those of you who know how good I am with mornings may rightly worry as to whether I was with it enough to put my X in the intended box.

I would normally wait until evening (and full consciousness) before committing this important act, but tonight I’ve been invited round to the lovely Radcliffe’s for tea so I just had to do the dawn thing and hope for the best.

My perfect result? Labour to regain power, but with a reduced mandate due to increased support for Lib Dem and Green etc thus encouraging them in positive directions over the next term. Tories to be trounced and sent home to rethink their politics of fear. UKIP and Veritarse (sic) to lose all their deposits and Kills Raw Milk to fuck off to a tanning booth for ever more. BNP to not get a single vote and all member to contract slow painful chronic illnesses through which they are forced to either suffer without relief or accept the assistance of non-white medical and care professionals.

Chances of me waking up tomorrow morning to all that – slim to zero…

Chances of me waking up to news of threatened appeals and lawsuits regarding postal voting irregularities - worryingly high (do we have UN observers?).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Wyre Way

Being out and about in beautiful sunshine is always a bonus.

I spent part of today following part of the Wyre Way – I don’t know how Pab deals with estuaries – after all when does a coastline become a river bank? Maybe he’s a stickler for completeness and insist on walking up river until he can cross on foot and then back down to rejoin the coast. I’ve never asked – I never get beyond the “why?” in regard to his lifetime project

Still I do get the fascination with being near water and the bizarre and changeable sights you stumble upon along the way.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bank Holiday

Another day of emails and catching up, interspersed with regular rings on the doorbell and requests of “Can we get our ball back please Auntie?”. They are forever hitting them into my garden or up onto the garage roof (and into the garage if they find one of the many holes in said roof).

My neighbour Khalid calls around late afternoon, back from burying his grandfather in Pakistan. He’s visibly upset and tells me what a good man his grandfather was and how good he always was to them.

His day hasn’t got any better from having to take his youngest lad to A&E after he fell through his rotten garage roof. Our garages are semidetached as it were, and we’ve been waiting and waiting for the builders to come and do a major repair job. I promise to ring and chase them up again.

Luckily young B has no serious injuries, just a bit shaken up. I agree with K that we need to reinforce the message to all the kids that they aren’t to climb up on the roof – even once it’s fixed.

Boys will be boys I guess, but I’m just thankful he’s ok – it could have been really nasty.

As I get the car out to drive to Rusholme I find a further two basketballs in the garage. I’m getting pretty nifty at putting them back up through the holes in the roof and back into next doors garden…

At the Punjab (well where else did you think I was going in Rusholme) I meet up with Rachel and Mark. It’s their debut visit and as with all first-timers they’re mystified by the dosas.

The fact that Ahmed vocally and occasionally even physically assaults me as he passes, gives the game away that I am perhaps a regular… Still until I get to the Stuart level of familiarity I reckon I’m ok.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


I’m kind of vaguely awake as George leaves around 9.30am, but am just nodding off again when my mobile rings. As I blearily reach for the phone I’m surprised to see it’s George ringing.

“Errrr hello….”
“Hi L1z…sorry…I’ve locked myself in your porch…”

And they say there’s no such thing as karma…

Having returned to bed and slept off the Baileys (so glad I just do tired, not proper hangovers), I spend the afternoon ploughing through Greenbelt emails.

Sarah and Phil come around at 7pm to share a pizza and catch up on taped Dr Who episodes (I’m like a public service facility for geeks without TVs).