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Pretending to be a Tourist

Story location: Home / Blog /
29/Jun/2007

Manchester has changed an awful lot since I lived there, back in the early 90s. It's changed a lot in the couple of years since I last visited. So many new buildings and developments have sprung up around the city centre.

The actual City Centre is much larger than when I lived there. The redevelopment around the Northern Quarter has made it part of the centre, making the area around the Cathedral more accessible and a complete change from how it was 15 years ago when most of the buildings were either offices, grotty shops or derelict.

Today was spent pretending to be a tourist in a city which used to be home but now seemed foreign to me. So much has changed that I decided to explore it as a tourist would.

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I started off at the GMEX (now renamed Manchester Central but all the signs still point to GMEX). The Manchester International Festival started yesterday, and the Festival Pavilion is there, but there seems to be nothing much happening during the day. At lunchtime they had a string quartet playing, but I didn't stay because the drinks were a bit overpriced for my liking - over £3 for a beer is just not the Manchester I want to know.

Big Wheel in Manchester
The aforementioned Northern Quarter was home to a Big Wheel. It's also home to Sinclair's Oyster Bar which is a great pub with cheap Manchester prices - roughly half those charged in the pavilion. Next door to it is The Wellington, which was famously moved a hundred yards or so after the IRA bomb.

I walked down Deansgate and noticed that the whole street now seems to be shops, bars and restaurants. 15 years ago, there was nothing worth seeing once you started to venture much further south than St Anne's Square. John Rylands Library
I visited the John Rylands Library for the first time. Despite having been a student in the city and having visited the 'new' John Rylands Library on campus many times, I had never actually been in the 'original' library. The building was designed to resemble a church, and is well worth a visit.

Roman Fort
I continued on to the Roman Fort of Mamucium. There isn't much of the original fort on show but some towers and bits of wall have been reconstructed.

While in the Castlefields area I visited the Museum of Science and Industry. The last time I was here was in 1990 and the place is completely unrecognisable. It's now split into 5 buildings, each showing a different aspect of science, with a Manchester emphasis wherever possible.
Sewer, in the Museum of Science and Industry
The Underground Manchester exhibit covers a lot of the history of the City which emphasis on sanitation or otherwise. The photo above shows a stretch of sewer.

My final bit of tourism was to visit the Art Gallery on Mosely Street. I must have walked past it hundreds of times but never gone in. It was an interesting diversion and they had a painting (The Sirens and Ulysses) which you could watch being restored.



My Coffee Farted

Story location: Home / Blog / work /
27/Jun/2007

My cup of coffee farted and everyone turned round and stared. I have one of those 'cafetiere' cups which takes filter coffee, and the rubber seal around the filter plunger is getting a bit old and sometimes makes a farty noise. I felt the need to explain to everyone that it was the cup and not me.



99p and a Time Machine

Story location: Home / Blog /
27/Jun/2007

I was reading the Metro newspaper on my way to work this morning when I noticed a voucher for a 99p Mocha 'Today at your station'. The voucher expiry date was 10th June 2007, so it looks like the offer is open to Time Lords only, which is discrimination and should be illegal.

There was a list of stations where the voucher was valid. ALL IN LONDON! Since when have any of those been 'my station', especially because I was reading the Midlands edition of the paper on the Coventry to Birmingham train. So get your Tardis over to London and get your cheap cup of coffee.



On their way home

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /
25/Jun/2007

I was on the platform at New Street station, standing next to my train waiting for the doors to open. Some people walked past with bin bags tied around their legs as makeshift waterproof leggings. All I can assume is that they were on their way home from the mudbath which was this years Glastonbury Festival.



Too Much Wii-ing

Story location: Home / Blog /
25/Jun/2007

My arms are still aching today. I'm not sure whether it was from playing the Nintendo Wii at the weekend, or whether it was from carrying the bag of gravel from the shop to the car.



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Painting the Hallway

Story location: Home / Blog / house /
24/Jun/2007

It shouldn't rain this much in June. I was going to do some gardening today - our back garden is all flagged and I was going to lift up 2 rows of flagstones and dig it over, ready to plant the flowers, herbs and vegetables which are currently in pots. As I said, it was raining so I was stuck inside. I decided to paint he hallway instead.

We stripped the wallpaper from the walls a couple of months ago but never got around to repainting. Last week I washed the walls down with sugar soap, and intended to get the walls painted before my parents visited last weekend, but we didn't have time.

I only managed to get one coat of paint up, but it looks so much better than the bare plaster. Our aim now is to get the rest of the downstairs decorated before Christmas, because eating Christmas Dinner from plates balanced on your knees isn't ideal.



Fake Panini

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /
24/Jun/2007

Cheaper than using proper Panini bread and a Panini toaster. This needs the part-baked baguettes from any supermarket, and a George Foreman grill.

If it's a long baguette (or a small George), the bread may need cutting in half to fit. Slice the bread horizontally lengthways and then add typical Panini filling, such as ham, tuna, chicken, anything suitable as long as it's topped with cheese to hold everything together.

The important thing is not to bake the baguette first - it will cook in the grill. Press the lid down so it flattens the bread slightly - this will make it look more like a proper panini.



Computer working again

Story location: Home / welcome /
22/Jun/2007

I managed to get my computer back up and running again last night. I was worried that I'd have to re-install windows, which would have been a pain since I couldn't find the setup disk. In the end I managed to download a bootable CD which enabled me to backup my data and run the disk check/repair tool.



Get a life, you sad ****ers

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
20/Jun/2007

Earlier this year, a sculpture was erected in the middle of a roundabout in Stratford-upon-Avon. It depicts an armillary, which apparently is some kind of ancient astronomical tool.

For some reason, this has sent the residents of Stratford into an apoplexy, with people shouting abuse at it and holding a protest at the site.

For Christ's sake, it's only a sculpture. It's not obscene or pornographic or anything which should warrant such vitriol. The worst it could do is liven up a dull roundabout. Get a sense of perspective. If that's the worst thing happening in Stratford at the moment, then you are a very lucky town indeed. Otherwise, you are all a sad bunch of bastards and you should get a life.



Dead Computer

Story location: Home / welcome /
18/Jun/2007

My computer died over the weekend, so I can't read my email (at least, not without being overwhelmed by spam - I've got various mail filters set up on Mozilla Thunderbird. They manage to delete most of it before it gets downloaded to my inbox). Of course this also means that any site updates will be late and/or brief.



The Bin Police

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
12/Jun/2007

I remembered reading a news story recently about how local councils plan to introduce 'Bin Police' to enforce strict recycling policies and to stop people from throwing away recyclable material. I was wondering how such a policy could be enforceable when around here, people regularly throw rubbish into our bin. It happened again this morning when someone had moved our bin a few yards down the road and filled it with cardboard.

Funnily enough, when I tried to check a reference for the 'bin police' story, the only mention I could find was the new newspaper where I originally read it, the good old Daily Mail. Now I'm not too sure about the veracity of the story. You can sum up a typical issue of the Mail as follows:

OUTRAGE FOREIGNERS OUTRAGE LABOUR GOVERNMENT OUTRAGE IMMIGRANTS OUTRAGE RESTRICTIVE LAWS OUTRAGE ERRODING CIVIL LIBERTIES OUTRAGE DESTROYING OUR WAY OF LIFE OUTRAGE

displaying a journalistic flair for working itself up in a lather with very little regard for any actual facts. So I think I'll take the story with a pinch of salt.



We're supposed to be stopping at Marston Green

Story location: Home / Blog / work /
11/Jun/2007

On the train to work this morning, it seemed to be braking quite hard between Birmingham International and Marston Green. The train came to a shuddering halt just at the end of the platform at Matston Green. It sat there for about a minute then an announcement came on the tannoy: we apologise for the delay while we try to open the doors.

Still nothing happened then the train started to reverse back into the station. It looks like the driver wasn't paying attention and either forgot we were stopping there or forgot to brake in time.



Another food moron story

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
10/Jun/2007

Good old Mail on Sunday, carrying the baton of outrage... After yesterdays story about people not knowing the origins of foodstuffs, we now get a story about the new 'Whole Foods Market' supermarket which has opened in London. I really wasn't expecting two completely different stories highlighting food ignorance and apathy in Britain.

To test out the new shop, they sent two people along:
Food writer Tom Parker Bowles, and the woman who shot to fame by shoving burgers through the school railings during the Jamie Oliver school dinners campaign. She claims to be championing freedom of choice when she really seems to mean freedom to feed unhealthy crap to their kids, freedom to fail to educate them about healthy food, freedom to encourage bad eating habits which will eventually kill them

There were some good quotes from her in the article. She seemed puzzled as to why more than one cheese existed, having only ever bought cheddar herself:

As for all those goat's cheeses, you must be kidding. Who would want to eat something that smelt of goat?

Hmmm. When even chavs-choice supermarket Asda manages to sell goat's cheese, how can someone who shops at Morrison's be so sceptical of it. I don't think Goat's cheese smells of goat - that's like saying ordinary cheese smells of cow. I don't know if she's been mis-quoted by the paper but when I read that I thought: 'what a moron'.

Further down the article she expressed incredulity that anyone would buy bread with fruit or vegetables in. Has she never heard of a fruit loaf? or bread with onions in? (I was going to mention olive bread but that's obviously foreign muck and she wouldn't be interested in that)

I won't say much about Tom Parker Bowles experience in the shop, suffice to say he seemed to drool over most of the specialist foods and liked the place.



What's on TV

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /
10/Jun/2007

Summer's here and there's crap on the telly. Our video recorder died last night while I was trying to find a tape to record The Butterfly Effect. In the end we stayed up to watch it - odd film. I gave it 7/10 on IMDB.

Last night's episode of Dr Who was a good one, but a little bit scary. I'm going to be a bit wary of statues from now on.

Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty have both finished so there's nothing to watch on a wednesday night and not much on a friday. Thursday is looking like the best night for tv - the second series of My Name is Earl and House are both on.

I'm so glad we've got a decent collection of TV Series on DVD to watch. Otherwise we'd have go to the pub or read a book or something like that.



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Oh my God, I'm surrounded by stupid people

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
09/Jun/2007

There is a story in today's Daily Mail which reports how most adults have no idea where food comes from. According to the article, adults were asked if they knew whether the ingredients used to produce certain foods could be produced in Britain.

22% of adults didn't realise that sausages and bacon could be made from 'ingredients' produced in Britain.
One third didn't know that the same was true for omelettes. The article didn't elaborate whether they knew that omelettes were made from eggs or not. According to a similar study of children, which was also mentioned in the article, bacon comes from sheep and cows lay eggs.

OK, this was in the Daily Mail which is famous for it's We're going to Hell in a hand cart school of journalism but it's frightening to think that there are so many stupid adults in the country. Actually, a quick stroll around the streets near here would let you know that there are a lot of stupid people around, but even stupid people should know where bacon comes from.



Pirates of the Caribbean 3

Story location: Home / Blog / films /
06/Jun/2007

I don't really have time for a full review but it was a good film despite its 3 hour running time. I had to nip out at the start because we forgot to validate our parking on the way in and we didn't know if there would be anyone at the desk on our way out.

The film was a good balance of comedy, surreal and serious (well as serious as a supernatural pirate caper can be). The visual style was more impressive than the previous ones with some impressively shot sequences, such as when the Black Pearl was in the middle of the salt flats. The sequence which followed was like a bizarre version of Fitzcarraldo.

I don't usually review trailers but the film was preceded by the trailer for the Transformers film. It was like a psychotic version of the Citroen advert where the car turns into an ice skater. I know the advert borrowed from the original Transformers idea but seeing a sequence from the film where a car/robot skates along, it was just too similar to the advert. We were also treated to the proud boast that it was a Michael Bay film. That's not a phrase to make me rush eagerly to the cinema.



The Train Paradox

Story location: Home / Blog /
04/Jun/2007

I was about 10 minutes early getting to work this morning, ironically because the trains were running late. I managed to get onto the train which normally runs about 15 minutes before mine, which turned up at the station just as I was crossing the bridge to the platform.



Two National Trust Houses

Story location: Home / Blog /
02/Jun/2007

After a week of terrible weather and almost constant rain, we decided that if it was decent at the weekend we would go out somewhere. We chose two more National Trust houses.

First, Upton House. The house itself was a bit disappointing, being more like an art gallery than a residence. You didn't really get a feel for what it would have been like to live there. The grounds were better, the gardens were quite extensive and well landscaped with terraces and lakes.

The second house was Farnbrough Hall. The house was smaller but is still lived in so it's only open for a few days each week. The grounds were quite hilly so there was plenty of good exercise to be found walking to the end to view the Obilisk, along with various other buildings and follies along the way. We also saw a deer in the woodland walk - it bounded off as soon as it spotted us.  

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