Charitable Valentine

I don’t celebrate Valentines Day. I don’t have a problem with the commercial aspect of it – I don’t mind the big red love hearts everywhere and the fact everything is coloured red or pink. I don’t mind the soppy cards or big balloons – Not that I’ve ever bought any. I don’t mind the discounted chocolates or discounted flowers. It’s as good an excuse as any to treat myself or my loved ones, or to get them to treat me instead. The only thing I object to is the price of restaurants.


Food is well and truly the way to my heart, as my other half will testify. For our second date I insisted we went to my then favourite restaurant for a 43 course banquet. This wonderful restaurant was where my closest friends and I celebrated each and every payday, by turning ourselves temporarily into Weebles. Sadly the restaurant is no more, much to my waists relief no doubt.


The thing that irritates me about Valentine’s Day is when restaurants use it as an excuse to charge extortionate prices. Many of them will be full to capacity, with increased profits to boot, so why push the prices through the roof as well? That’s just greedy, isn’t it?

Some restaurants change their menus specifically for ‘the big day’, serving six courses or more, but there’s really only so much you can eat. I don’t think stuffing your face more than usual is truly romantic. (I could be wrong). Personally I’d rather have a normal size meal for a normal price.

(Evidently my opinion has changed since the days of wobbling out through the banquet door…)

With all that in mind you won’t be surprised that I usually stay in on Valentine’s Day. I love eating out at restaurants and do so as often as possible, just not on February 14th.

This year I’m making an exception.


You’ll remember I eagerly anticipated the reopening of The Black Lion on Chapel Street with its own upstairs cinema. Well they’ve come up with a unique fundraising idea for Valentine’s Day: The Black Lion is hosting a one-off Pop Up & Pay What You Think food night.

The deal is you book a table (£1 per person), enjoy a delicious 3 course ’Valentine’s meal with a twist’ from 7.30pm (suitable for vegetarians and meat eaters alike). Then when the bill arrives, you pay what you think for the food.


Future Artists LogoThe Black Lion reopened in September last year, after being taken over by a creative co-op called Future Artists. Over the past four months Future Artists have created an ‘arts space’ in the upstairs of the pub: developing a studio suitable for film screenings, theatre, meetings and ‘art happenings’, but the beautiful 130 year old venue isn’t accessible for everyone.

Love Food at the Black LionBy paying what we think the food is worth (don’t be stingy now!) we will be contributing towards funding a stair-lift in the venue, so disabled artists can enjoy the array of new artistic programming across cinema and theatre too.

(Future Artists at The Black Lion is NOT funded by any government, arts council or artistic grant).

Additionally, Valentine’s diners will be the first sponsors of ‘Love your art space’ – We’ll get our names on the board!

(I don’t even know what ‘Love your art space’ is, but as there’s a board I want my name on it…!)

It’s an opportunity to be romantic and altruistic at the same time, or to simply enjoy a meal with friends or family. I think it’s a good excuse to go out on Valentine’s Day. Who’s with me?!

All comments are welcome 🙂


Mini Challenge (Win a prize!)

101 in 1001 LogoSince beginning the Day Zero Project on the 7th August last year I have completed 22 challenges.

Twenty-two Challenges!

In theory I should complete a challenge every 10 days, which puts me four challenges ahead of schedule. That’s not bad seeing as I didn’t complete any for two months in the middle.

(OK, so I progressed some of the longer challenges during that time, I just didn’t complete any).


ManchestersArtisticSon has his own Project Day Zero List but he’s in a slump. In an attempt to motivate himself to complete his tasks he has posted a competition to let readers have a go at some of his challenges.

The 10 challenges are: 

  • 3. Have an art exhibition. (Even if it’s just in your own home). 
  • 9. Make and encouraging / motivational banner and anonymously put it up. 
  • 23. Interview someone and write a story / poem about their life / experiences. 
  • 25. Cook a soufflé. 
  • 26. Make some Street Art. (We’re not encouraging you to break the law!) 
  • 54. Go on a demonstration / protest and if there isn’t one make one. 
  • 66. Set off Chinese Lanterns. 
  • 70. List a hundred things that make you happy. 
  • 74. Complete a colouring book.
  • 95. Have a T-shirt printed which advertises HIS blog (ManchestersArtisticSon)

Readers who undertake the challenge should record them in an interesting way then blog about it, adding a link in the comments on his blog. Alternatively you can email the entries to him at admin @ Manchestersartisticson.

The submission which makes him laugh / smile / cry the most will win. (Be sure to read the small print!)

We have until Sunday 12th February to have a go.

None of these challenges are on my own list so I plan to attempt a couple at least, just to change the pace.

I’ve already bought a colouring book and some felt tips… Do you think it would be cheating if I completed the book then put the coloured pages on display? Hmmm, it probably is… although it didn’t mention that particular scenario in the small print. 😉

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield

Beetham Tower by Dave Schofield


  • A 6/8 print of the picture of your choice from his 365 project at
  • And “Nobody belongs here more than you” by Miranda July, which is a great collection of short stories.

Go on, have a go! It’ll be fun!

All comments are welcome 🙂

Cheery Cheap Weekend

Doing more with less challenge: Part 2

(Two ticks for the Day Zero Project)

Last week I was sent on a mission to see how far I could stretch £50 in Manchester. As predicted the answer is very far.

I had a non-stop day of activities planned for Saturday, which I estimated would cost about £45. When it came to it I barely dented the budget.

I enjoyed a full day out in Manchester for only £1.60.

OK, so I changed my plans slightly: I substituted eating out with eating at home and decided to drink coffee instead of cocktails but after a busy day that’s honestly all I wanted. Plus now I have £48.40 to stretch over February too.

Here’s how I got on…

The Manchester MuseumManchester Museum

The first place on my visit list was the Manchester Museum, the city’s very own natural history museum. Knowing it was all the way across the city centre, (walkable sure but I had a lot to fit in,) I hopped onto the free Metroshuttle (Green bus, number 2) to Chester Street and walked the remaining half mile along Oxford Road in the pouring rain.

Until recently it had been a shockingly long time since I’d been inside the Manchester Museum, 10 years at least. To be honest I felt a bit intimidated by it.

Set in the historical University buildings I half-expected it to be pretentious and inhospitable and I recalled wandering around totally alone looking through unmarked drawer after unmarked drawer. I remembered the Egyptian Mummies, a firm favourite, but as for the rest I remembered it being monotonous and gloomy. I expected it to be the same today.

I was so very wrong.

Family Friendly: Vibrant and Fun

I had read that the Manchester Museum is ‘family friendly’ but I was sceptical until I saw it for myself. I arrived to find a bright airy reception, bustling with young families and cheery commotion. For a few moments I actually thought I’d arrived just as a special children’s event was dispersing, but no, the museum remained that vibrant all morning and probably all day. There were children having fun and learning in every crevice of every room. It was delightful to see.

Manchester Museum for KidsI leisurely strolled though each exhibition, staring in awe at the animals and surreptitiously doing the challenges set out for children. I watched a girl draw the taxidermy animals and kicked myself for not having the foresight to bring a sketch pad myself.

Large Tusked ElephantEvents For All Ages

The museum has focussed heavily on children’s events in the past few years so now they are turning their attention to the adult programme. As I was planning my weekend I noted down activities I was interested in and found one that fitted in with my schedule:

Crafternoon Tea

I had hoped to take part in Crafternoon Tea, a social art and craft workshop where participants enjoy a cuppa whilst trying their hand at something new. I had earmarked £5 for the workshop but discovered I had gone to the wrong venue.

Crafternoon Tea is part of the Whitworth Art Gallery events programme, not the Manchester Museum’s. Ooops!, The Whitworth Art Gallery, which is also part of the University of Manchester, is a further 5 minutes up the road. Had I made enquiries earlier I could have dashed over there but by the time I asked I was already too late.

Fortunately the staff members I spoke with were very friendly and helpful so rather than laughing at my foolish mistake they encouraged me to try out the new adult events programme at the Manchester Museum instead.

Book Crossing

Before leaving to visit the next venue I sat opposite a dinosaur and registered a book with the Book Crossing website. People probably wondered why on earth I was juggling sticky labels, a mobile phone, a thriller and a still-sopping-wet umbrella.

Book Crossing means to leave a book in a public place so that another may pick it up, read it and do likewise.

When you register a book online you are given a unique ID number which you copy onto the bookplate (sticky label) inside the cover, along with the instruction to check out the website. You can then leave a note online for whoever finds the book and follows the bookplate instructions. Each new person who enters the unique ID onto the website is able to leave a message. Therefore, as the book is passed from reader to reader you are able to track its journey.

I discreetly left the book on the chair and made a swift exit. A week has passed and no-one has left a reply yet. I hope the book made its way into someone’s rucksack rather than into the ‘lost and found’ box. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you don’t. To learn more visit the website here.

Font Cocktail Bar

After leaving the museum I headed back down Oxford Road towards the Cornerhouse Art Gallery. On reaching the Thirsty Scholar I impulsively took a detour down the side street to Font Bar.

Being in the heart of Studentville Font prides itself on providing cocktails from as little as £2 each. Baring in mind a cocktail in the Northern Quarter, or virtually anywhere else in Manchester city centre might cost upwards of £6.50 (excluding happy hour offers) it was almost too tempting to resist.

I wandered in, wandered around and wandered out again. It seemed a good idea when I was heading towards it but I decided I should probably visit a few other venues before blowing the budget on cheap and cheerful booze.

Cornerhouse Art Gallery

The Cornerhouse ManchesterWhen I studied in Manchester I used to visit the The Cornerhouse Art Gallery during my lunch breaks. As I have neglected it since gaining full time employment I added the venue to my Day Zero List.

Although there are 3 floors only one exhibition space was open. Lost is Found is a group show of work from nine artists, all under 20 years of age, based in the North of England. The exhibited works were said to “find beauty in the redundant and discarded, explore past lives and find new stories in transformations and fleeting identities”.

I cannot adequately describe the exhibition so instead you should read this review and visit it for yourself!

Manchester Town Hall

I didn’t plan to visit the town hall but as I was passing it would have been rude not to!Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian Gothic masterpiece, designed by Alfred Waterhouse who also designed the Natural History Museum in London.

Often people don’t realise that behind those hefty doors is a relaxed and reasonably priced café where you can admire the décor over a variety of snacks or go all out on a three-tier afternoon tea.

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On weekdays you are allowed to explore the building by yourself (email me for a self-tour guide) or for a small fee you can book a guided tour of the clock tower. I couldn’t resist taking lots of photos.

As tempted as I was to sit in the town hall café I had promised myself I would visit Nexus Art Café as recommended by Manchester’s Artistic Son.

Nexus Art Cafe Statement of IntentNexus Art Café

I had heard there was a night café somewhere in the city centre but despite passing it almost daily it didn’t click that Nexus was that place.

Nexus Art Café is a community based charity, which hosts various creative events and remains open until 6 am at weekends to provide a safe venue for people making their way home after a night out. They’ll even phone for a taxi if you need one and feed you bacon butties whilst you wait.

Set in a basement on Dale Street, Nexus has a distinctive student vibe, similar to that in Common but without the alcohol. I took advantage of the free wifi by registering another book to the bookcrossing website, whilst sipping a coffee (£1.60) and curling up in a wicker chair.

Nexus Needs Our HelpSupport Nexus!

I regret that it’s taken me so long to visit this little gem, especially now I know it is struggling to stay afloat! One Night Café session costs £200 in overheads and they desperately need more support to keep on going. Click on the image left for more information or to make a donation contact

Feeling refreshed I left the bookcrossing book on the coffee table and handed our cups in at the counter. I had one last place to visit before going to home to raid the fridge.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre

As I made my way to Paramount Books on Shudehill I made a final detour through the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Set in the Victorian market building the Craft and Design Centre is the place to go to buy something handmade, unusual and bespoke. The two floors of contemporary studios sell paintings, jewellery, ceramics, interior accessories, furniture, bags, baby wear and more, or you can simply drop in to visit the café.

Whenever I visit I always linger the longest over Linzi Ramsden Ceramics. I find her designs simply stunning and struggle to find a favourite to purchase. If I could I would buy her designs in threes.

Paramount BooksParamount Book Exchange

After I allowed myself to be dragged from Linzi’s window I finished the day in Paramount Book Exchange near Shudehill station.

The moment I entered my ears were blasted with piano music. I mooched between stuffed shelves and crammed boxes looking vaguely at the titles but mainly marvelling at the jam-packed chaos. A few books caught my eye but I was repeatedly distracted by the random dolls and other paraphernalia squished between the spines.

I was tempted by a box of Sandman Dustcovers by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean until a fusty smell overwhelmed me. I thought the stench was coming from the girl next to me but in hindsight I realise it was probably the sofa.

In addition to old books Paramount Book Exchange sells vintage comic books, (and vintage porn!), LPs, CDs, DVDs, rare books and first editions. If you have the time to scrutinise the shelves and can live with the smell you’re sure to find a hidden treasure or two!

So that was last weekend. How are you stretching your post Christmas budget?

All comments are welcome 🙂

Something for the Weekend?

Do more with less challenge: Part 1

I need your help!

I’m usually quite good with money. I normally begin Christmas shopping around about the 1st of July. In all honesty I have occasionally started before then… around May time, sometimes even earlier. The January sales have intermittently provided a bargain or two but I’ve been banned from talking about Christmas shopping until the beginning of July.

The main benefit of starting early is that I can usually spread the cost. This time last year I checked my account and was delighted to discover a healthy bank balance. I had somehow managed to pay off Christmas before the New Year had even begun.

Not so this year. I foolishly left shopping until November and my credit card is still crying as a result.

Do more with less

I need to find ways to do more with less this January. I can swap the expensive options for something cheaper and stretch what little I have as far as possible, whilst still getting out and about and having a great time in Manchester.

There are so many free (or low cost) events and activities in and around the city centre, including numerous free museums, galleries and parks. All it takes is a little research.

£50 Challenge

I have been set the challenge of seeing how far I can stretch £50 in the city I love. I have a plan and if all goes well I have an activity packed, food and fun fuelled weekend ahead of me. I know what I can do with £50 but what would you do?

What would you do with £50?

I plan to tackle this challenge over a weekend but there are plenty of ways to save during the week too. In fact, there are more offers available on week nights than there are for the weekend. For example, if you visit you’ll see a list of restaurants with money off offers which are valid from Sunday to Friday. One voucher I’ve downloaded for Sunday is 40% off at YoSushi in the Arndale Centre. Oh, how I love sushi!

Below are a few ideas of how to stretch your entertainment budget. I would love to hear your ideas and tips too. Please comment below if you have anything to add!

Frog And BucketFree Comedy

Subscribers to the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club newsletter can often pick up free tickets for Thursday and Sunday nights. All you need to do is respond to the email as and when it arrives – First come first served. If you’re quick enough your Thursday night can be spent laughing raucously at five comics; whereas Sunday’s audience will titter and groan as Comedians test out new material prior to going on tour.

I frequently attend and can recommend both nights. I don’t think I’ve ever actually paid to go there and I’ve seen several big name acts. Throw in a cheap pitcher of beer and you’ll wonder why you’ve never been to the Frog and Bucket before.  

Cinema Combo

I mentioned my £50 weekend challenge to a colleague and he suggested I combine my Spinningfields Yellow Card with Orange Wednesday at The Great Northern Cinema (AMC). The last time I checked Wednesday didn’t fall on a weekend but it’s a great weekday deal if it works!

My friend couldn’t remember exactly how much he paid when he combined the 2-4-1 offer with the discount card but he swears they only paid about £3 each. At that price I might start going every week.

Live Cinema – aka Theatre

I do love the cinema and I might be tempted to catch a film at The Cornerhouse or upstairs at the Black Lion but this week I’ve been curious to know what’s on at the Contact Theatretheatre:

I had hoped my £50 would stretch to a matinee at the Palace Theatre or at the Opera House, or even at the Contact Theatre (left) which in my experience is home to some extraordinary and mind-blowing performances.

However, my tip for this weekend is to check out the Library Theatre’s re:play festival at The Lowry in Salford Quays. If you missed the Manchester Fringe Festival in 2011 then you’re in luck as the re:play festival is giving you another chance to catch some of the best shows from as little as £8 per person

Amateur Theatre

Dracula PosterAs tempted as I am to revisit the performances from the 24:7 Festival I’m even more tempted to visit a panto. Yes I know people usually watch pantomimes on the run up to Christmas but reading about this one made me laugh out loud:

The Manchester Road Players are performing ‘Dracula – the Pantomine’ at The Edge Theatre & Arts Centre in Chorlton this weekend. For only £5 each it promises the ‘usual array of batty antics and bloodcurdling jokes’. Go on, admit it: You’re curious to know how they’ve turned Dracula into a panto! 

I could go on for hours telling you about offers and events I’ve found but I’m interested to hear what you have found too.

How do you plan to save money this January? How far could you stretch £50? Let me know your money saving hints and tips. 

If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them.

All comments are welcome 🙂

63 Degrees

LubyLou usually reviews books, (which you can read on her blog I Hug My Books), however she was so blown away by a recent visit to a new French Restaurant in Manchester City Centre that she couldn’t stop herself from writing about it.

As LubyLou’s own blog is dedicated to books, whereas Manchester Meanders is dedicated to all things Mancunian, here is Lou’s guest blog which I’ll admit made me salivate when I first read it!

What do you think of when you think of the Northern Quarter? Kitsch café’s like Cup? Grubby but cool bars like The Castle? Yes!

Elegant and sophisticated fine French dining? Probably not.

Yet thanks to the opening of a brand new French restaurant by the name of 63 degrees, Manchester’s Northern Quarter is taking a giant leap into the realm of fine dining and the result is delicious.

I recently became aware of this gem through friends. Situated on Church Street just next to Tesco and opposite Low Rider you could be forgiven for failing to notice it. But once discovered 63 Degree’s is hard to ignore. Decadent but graceful décor blends with simple but impressive style, all topped off with a menu that will literally have you drooling outside the door, desperate to go inside.

Pea Cream - 63 Degrees ManchesterI immediately did just that, booking a table for a Saturday. I wasn’t disappointed. The owners have managed to do a terrific job with what is realistically a very small space. The menu isn’t too overcrowded so choosing food was simple. Impressively the food came very quickly and we were soon tucking into our delectable starters. I had the Chesnut ‘cappuccino’ beech-smoked duck (£7.80) whilst my boyfriend tried the pea cream with mint, giant prawn with saffron (£7).

The pea cream came in an impressive martini glass with a giant saffron glazed prawn on the side. The vibrant green of the soup gave impressive colour to the dish whilst the addition of chunks of seafood in the soup gave texture and an extra dimension of flavour.

The duck was in fact a soup, which did give me slight reservations at first. I’m not a huge soup fan. However something about the daring menu told me I wouldn’t be disappointed and thankfully I went with my instincts. This was one of the best starters I’ve had in a restaurant in a long, long time.

The strips of beef Carpaccio on top were packed with more flavour than you could dare anticipate from such small pieces of meat and the sweetness of the chestnut soup contrasted them well.

63° chicken breast - 63 Degrees ManchesterFor his main my boyfriend tried the 63° chicken breast, morel mushroom sauce and gratin dauphinois (£14.80). It’s their signature dish. The chicken is cooked at 63 degrees on a low heat with the aim of giving unique flavour. Of course it also gives the restaurants name.

I only tried a little of the chicken. If I’m being totally honest I couldn’t taste a huge difference. It was beautifully cooked though and the skin was nice and crispy which may well have being helped by the special circumstances in which it was cooked. The dauphinois potatoes were however the star of the show, packed with so much mouth watering taste. Cheesy, creamy and perfectly crisp, it was all I could do not to lean across the plate and quite literally steal them from him.

Salmon dish - 63 Degrees ManchesterI’ll admit to some food envy on my behalf but I had more than enough on my own plate to contend with. I had salmon cooked on one side, black risotto and parsley foam. (£16). The salmon was cooked perfectly and the black risotto was plentiful, but it was the parsley foam that really made the dish what it was. Who would have thought a tiny little bit of foam could hold such stunning flavours? And it’s exactly that kind of daring and imaginative cooking that marks 63° above other restaurants in Manchester that are in this price range. To think such culinary delights can be found in this less than glamorous pocket of the Northern Quarter!

Pistachio Macaroon and Raspberry Pulp - 63 Degrees ManchesterThe dinner was wrapped up with a shared desert, by this point it was all I could handle. We had pistachio macaroon and raspberry pulp which was heavenly. Soft and fluffy on the inside, hard and crispy on the outside and laced throughout with big chunky raspberries. This desert was the perfect ending to the perfect meal. All of this plus water for the table and a bottle of rose came to a light £84 which I more than happily parted with.

Next time a special occasion crops up I’ll reconsider my usual haunts like Grill On The Alley or San Carlo. This intimately run family restaurant packs much more personality and magic than most of them put together. Well worth a visit.

So what do you think? Reckon you’ll give it a go? Check out the menu which I’m sure you will agree is imaginative and inspiring. Thanks to the staff whose politeness and attentiveness made this a perfect meal.

All comments are welcome 🙂

Stockport Air Raid Shelters


Those of you who have been following my Day Zero Project progress have probably been wondering what’s been going on these past few months. I haven’t posted an update in so long you probably thought I’d abandoned the challenge.

Well I haven’t.

Progress has slowed considerably due to other commitments but I’m still hacking away at it as and when I can. I’m about 150 days into the challenge and so far I have completed 18 challenges. Thank goodness I have until May 2014 to complete them all.

One of my challenges was to visit Stockport’s Air Raid Shelter on Chestergate. Ever since the air raid shelter opened to the public as a museum in 1996 I’ve wanted to go inside – Something I’ve told anyone who’d listen repeatedly over the years. One Saturday morning it finally happened.

16 seater toiletsAIR RAID SHELTER

When the shelters first opened in 1939, they were the largest purpose built civilian air raid shelters in the country. Four sets of underground tunnels, almost one mile in length, were carved into the natural sandstone cliffs of Stockport centre and provided shelter for 6,500 civilians during the Second World War.

The shelters were fitted with basic amenities: electric lights, benches and bunk beds, flushing 16-seater toilets, first aid post and sick bay, plus separate facilities for nursing mothers. Thanks to the “luxurious” standard of accommodation the shelters were ironically nicknamed the Chestergate Hotel. You can imagine it was fairly cosy down there.


After years of procrastination it was almost on impulse that three of us ventured inside. We couldn’t believe our luck when we discovered we had the underground labyrinth to ourselves. (It pays to go early, apparently).

After listening to an introduction in the tiny audio-visual room our guide answered our questions then disappeared leaving us alone to explore the tunnels. Of course, only the bits with the electric lighting re-installed were open. (Everything of use was stolen from the tunnels after the War – including the lights). It is possible to explore the remaining tunnels by torch-light, subject to booking, but when we were there those tunnels were temptingly locked behind big metal gates.


Artefacts from the time, such as benches, three tier bunk beds and gas masks, have been reinstated so visitors can get a feel for what life was like during the War. My Dad remembered seeing similar artefacts growing up and appreciated seeing them in context. (“Oh, so that’s what that’s for!”)

I think our guide expected us to wander through the tunnels and be out the other side within 15 minutes or so. It’s not as though we had to queue for anything after all. We actually spent a good 90 minutes down there, soaking up the atmosphere and playing spot the motion / light sensor. Our guide was beginning to get worried.


It’s too late now of course, but Stockport Air Raid Shelter had special events over the Christmas period, such as Carol singing in the tunnels, with a festive feast of wartime favourites, followed by free wine and mince pies. On other days children were invited to ‘follow the good fairy’ through the tunnels in search of Santa and were treated with 1940s wartime gifts, provided they brought a sock or stocking to put them in. I don’t know about you but I’m disappointed I didn’t go!


I’ve written about Manchester’s underground tunnel tours before and I still think they’re worth a look, however if you only want to visit one set of underground tunnels in the area make Stockport’s Air Raid Shelter your priority. Believe me, it was £4 well spent.  

Click on the photographs to see larger (clearer) versions.

My photographs from the day are all dark and gloomy. If you’d like to see some colourful photos of Stockport’s Air Raid Shelters (Brinksway deep level shelter and Dodge Hill deep level shelter) take a look at 28dayslater – The UK UE Urbex Urban Exploration Forum.

A Day in Books

I began the day with Serial.

On my way to work I saw Annabel and walked by The Wasp Factory to avoid Demon Girl but I made sure to stop at The Secret Garden.

In the office, my boss said, We Need to Talk About Kevin and sent me to research The Haunting of Hill House.

At lunch with Madame Bovary I noticed A Friend Like Henry under Salem’s Lot then went back to my desk Forever Odd.

Later, on the journey home, I bought Blood, Sweat and Tea because I have Clones then settling down for the evening, I picked up The Diary of a Nobody and studied Tooth and Nail before saying goodnight to The Peppermint Pig.

Thank you to Lou from I Hug My Books for posting this meme on her blog after spotting it on Cornflower Books.

The idea is to complete the story using the titles of books you’ve read this year.

Unfortunately I can only remember as far back as Halloween and most of the titles I read at that time were creepy / weird / ghoulish – Not particularly appropriate three days before Christmas.

New Year resolution: Record the titles of books I’m reading 

I think I’ve just about managed to rein it in. Not too creepy? It was difficult not to duplicate what Lou wrote seeing as I’m in Lou’s book club and we’ve read several of the same books this year.

Please try the meme for yourself. If you don’t have your own blog feel free to publish your ‘Day in Books’ in the comments here.

All comments are welcome 🙂


Christmas is nearly upon us, followed by the New Year a week later. Where did December go? With only 4 days left until Christmas you might be a little too busy thinking about last minute shopping, buying a turkey or wrapping presents to think about getting published…

…If however, seeing your own words in print sounds like the ideal Christmas present to yourself this should interest you:

Cutaway is an exciting Manchester based magazine which is looking for people to submit their own poetry and prose in the New Year to be published in the summer. (OK, so make that a belated Christmas present to yourself).

Here is Dave Schofield’s guest blog about Cutaway Magazine:

Ernest Hemmingway wrote:

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

I have a similar relationship to my writing as I have with food. Sometimes I can have a perfect meal and be content, sometimes I sit with a chocolate smeared face shouting ‘I HATE YOU!’ at the bathroom scales. Either way I need it.

And there just can’t be too many places to publish these days, since everyone says how hard it is to get in print. Electronic publishing / on demand / pdfs etc all make it harder on those who want to see their poem or story as an actual thing they can keep on a shelf – not just an email address they submit to and just get a link in return. It’s not quite the same. Hence Cutaway.


Cutaway is a new Manchester based literary fiction / genre magazine, looking for poetry and prose from around the world. We are open for submissions on January 1st, and will close to them on March 1st and publish around the beginning of May.

We expect a lot of submissions from the local area based on the vibrant literary scene – what with an abundance of local blogs, Bad Language spoken word nights, growing publishers like Comma Press and Nightjar Press, literature festivals galore and all the other events which evidence a glut of avid writers tucked around the conurbation – not to mention the recent flurry of activity with the poetically named NANOWRIMO.

You can check the website out for more information and our contact details, but take this as advanced warning – forget Christmas and New Year – get some paper and a pen and start scribbling.

To get an idea of what we’re looking for check out the blog posts on the cutaway website. Cutaway will be available for purchase on demand via Amazon and through selected retailers in Greater Manchester.

If plenty of Mancunian writers are inspired to join in there might be a get together at the launch in May next year in the Northern Quarter, with reading, drinking and lots of cheering and clapping.

Neglected. Eroded. Derelict. (Manchester: Post Apocalypse)

Manchester Meanders has been much neglected these past few weeks. ‘Tis the season to be jolly but I’m rushed off my feet both at work and at home.

I should be writing about the Christmas Markets, the lights, the charity Santa Runs, Santa’s Steam Train, the 2 for 1 cocktails at my beloved ‘The North Pole’, the ice skating rink at Spinningfields, reviewing the much anticipated opening of the Oast House, Christmas shopping / bargain hunting and the humorous and unusual ways window designers are trying to tempt us into their stores.

There are so many wonderful cheery things I could, should and want to write about…

…but the thing that stopped me in my tracks and evoked such emotion that I HAD to write today, even though I don’t really have the time right now, is James Chadderton’s exhibition at Incognito Gallery, Northern Quarter.


This morning, before my first brew of the day, I browsed the BBC News website and clicked on a link called Manchester After An Apocalypse. The images that flashed on my screen were a stark and disturbing contrast to the backdrop of tinsel, trees-lights and Secret Santa parcels. I was staggered and speechless.


James Chadderton's photo from Mmanchester Apocalypse - Palace Theatre

The first digitally altered image to confront me was of the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street. It was so unexpected and alien it took a moment for me to register what I was looking at.


James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_hacienda

Most of us have seen post-apocalyptic images before, either in films or in computer games. In fact, Chadderton cited films, books and games as his inspiration to show Manchester as a “human devoid wasteland where the buildings have been left to decay”.


James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_urbis














To be honest, I’m usually desensitised to such things. Perhaps these images stunned me more because it’s MY beloved city that has been depicted in this way.

“James Chadderton has smashed Manchester up. The Town Hall is a blasted husk, the Palace Theatre is wrecked. Urbis, the best of the sequence, is a shattered shell. There are no people, they are killed or gone, the streets are empty. Manchester is dead.” Jonathan Schofield, Manchester Confidential


James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_printworks

Perhaps it wasn’t just the contrast with the winter festivities that disturbed me: Two nights ago I read ‘When God Was a Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman for my book club. We each took something different away from the book – But to me it was a story of hope and despair, childhood enchantment and innocence lost, against a backdrop of real life events – Events which many readers, like myself, gravely remember.

I won’t review the book here,* I’ll just tell you that my recent recollections of the real life heart wrenching events mentioned within those pages are probably what caused my mind to jump to memories of the aftermath of the Manchester IRA bombing and the lawlessness of the rioting and looting earlier this year, rather than simply admiring Chadderton’s semi-fictional cityscapes with curiosity and awe from the outset.


James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_wheel

Jonathan Schofield, writing for Manchester Confidential wrote: “[James Chadderton’s] digitally delivered images are fun to view and allow Mancunians to contemplate the fall of their own city. They could be the perfect Christmas present for the twisted mind.”

‘Fun to view’ – FUN? It’s not a sentiment that I share. I absolutely WILL go to this exhibition: I will admire the inventiveness and imagination of the artist and I absolutely WILL be buying the postcards to remember it by, but as for ‘fun’ or a ‘perfect Christmas present’ (albeit for the twisted mind) – I think not.

So much for Christmas cheer.


Don’t get me wrong – I think these images are fantastic – I just don’t be hanging them on my living room wall.

If like me you prefer your photographs of Manchester to be a little less morose check out Andrew Brooks’ website, (the photographer who very kindly gave permission for the use of his Manchester at Night piece as the Manchester Meanders header image) and Aidan O’Rourke  – Both of whom are celebrated Mancunian photographers whose work I absolutely adore and wouldn’t hesitate to cover my walls with!

What were your thoughts when you first saw James Chadderton’s images? Do you plan to visit the exhibition?

All comments are welcome. 🙂

  • *Read Lou’s book club review of When God was a Rabbit here 
  • Manchester: Post Apocalypse is showing at Incognito Gallery, 5 Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, M1 1DN. Phone: 0161 228 7999.
  • The gallery is open Monday-Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday noon-4pm.
  • Large framed and signed prints – £350; Smaller prints – £135; Postcards – £2.

Frantic Fantastic Festival Season

Manchester is bursting with festivals and activities this October. Why do the organisers insist on squeezing so many great things into just one month? There’s so much to do and so much to see – There really isn’t any time for our day jobs.


The 14th Manchester Food and Drink Festival has commenced with an overwhelming selection of treats in store. The Festival Hub is once again in Albert Square with a range of activities taking place daily.

It kicked off at the weekend with Oktoberfest and the Real Ale Festival, plus a chocolate
festival and a chilli eating contest. There are deals and offers all over the city so check out their website and my events page for details.

Manchester PrintworksAround the World with The Printworks: (14th and 15th) Aside from the numerous events in the Festival hub I’m looking forward to the Printworks International Food Market, which brings together food from across the globe courtesy of their 12 restaurants. There will be free tasters throughout each day (Yippee!) along with free entertainment and performances.

Floating Feast / A Taste of Modern History: I am also tempted to try the feast on the
to celebrate the launch of “A Taste of Modern History”, a historical recipe book journey through North West cuisine.

You get to travel on a specially chartered boat along the Irwell towards the Manchester Ship Canal, whilst enjoying a welcome drink and three-course meal based on the recipe book, which features 22 dishes inspired by the history of the region. At £48 per person it’s a bit steep but I like the idea of it.

MANCHESTER FEAST MARKET – 5th to 16th October

Running alongside the MFDF is the Feast Market in Saint Anne’s Square; a new annual market designed to bring together Manchester’s many food heroes under one roof.
Whilst MFDF brings together international cuisine this event capitalises on the huge resurgence in interest in traditional British food and ingredients, showcasing some of the region’s best farmers and producers.

Squirrel Food

Eek! Could you bring yourself to eat a cute little squirrel?

Amongst the appetising treats on offer there are local cheeses from Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, pork pies with unique fillings, scotch eggs, pasties and chutneys from The Crusty Pie Company, and wild venison and boar, ostrich, goat, and squirrel from Natural Game.

For those with a sweeter tooth, Duerden’s Confectionery is selling fudge made in Burnley from the same secret recipe for three generations. Meanwhile, the English Rose Bakery is producing French macaroons and Airyfairycupcakes will be selling a wide selection of traditional baked goods.

For the more exotic pallet, Mango Rays will be cooking fresh chicken and mango kormas, whilst the Lion Rock Company will be dishing up classic Sri Lankan food, including kotthu and vegetable roti.

Two fantastic food festivals are taking place on my doorstep: Oh how I love

LITERATURE FESTIVAL – 10th to 23rd October

Manchester SermonThe 6th Manchester Literature Festival commenced on Monday, providing unique and
imaginative opportunities for audiences to experience high quality live literature.

Events are taking place in a range of prestigious and atmospheric venues, including this year’s festival hub, the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. (I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t realise that Burgess, author of the infamous A Clockwork Orange, was Mancunian!)

Other events are taking place at 22 locations around Manchester, including Chetham’s
School of Music
, Contact, The Deaf Institute, Imperial War Museum North and MadLab See the full venue list here.

My personal highlights for the Literature Festival are:

Poems of the City: 20th October – A Guided Walk with Anne Beswick.

Blurb: “Discover the people and places of Manchester in poetry. Green Badge tour guide Anne Beswick takes us on a journey of some of the city’s most significant buildings and streets and introduces us to the work of essential poets such as Allan Ahlberg, John Cooper Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy, John Ormond, Lemn Sissay and Mike Harding. Forget daffodils and plashy brooks and think rain, football, cathedral building and revolution!”

For me this is just an excuse to find out more about the city.

Poetry Take Away: 22nd October at Whitworth Art Gallery.

Blurb: “The World’s First Purpose-Built Mobile Poetry Emporium comes to Manchester. Staffed by a rotating cast of the UK’s best poetry chefs, The Poetry Takeaway specialises in the production of free made-to-order poems. All delivered and performed to you, the hungry yet discerning literary consumer, within ten minutes or less. So be sure to take time to indulge your poetical taste buds at this truly unique experience!”

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? I’m dying to hear what they come up with!

Manchester Blog Awards: 19th October at The Deaf Institute.

Having been nominated and shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards this one had to be on my radar.

Blurb: “The Manchester Blog Awards celebrates the city’s best online writing with author and blogger Socrates Adams reading from his new novel, Everything’s Fine (Transmission Print), plus readings from the finest Mancunian bloggers, the announcement of the winners of our new life writing competition, The Real Story, and of course, the star-studded awards themselves.”

Good luck to everyone involved!

THE MANCHESTER WEEKENDER – 14th to 16th October

Lip ServiceThe Manchester Weekender is forty-eight hours of art, culture, music, film, food, festivals, literature, walks, politics, poetry, photography, theatre and spectacle all wrapped up into a single weekend.

Hurry and you can still get a place at An Exhibition in a Day, a photography masterclass with renowned photographer Len Grant or The Hysterical Historical Tour, a promenade
theatre piece celebrating Manchester’s famous women from theatre duo Lip Service.

COMEDY FESTIVAL – 17th to 30th  October

In this years Comedy Festival there are over 240 shows in 30 venues across Greater Manchester. Comedians taking part include Rob Brydon, Jimeoin, Peter Kay, Paddy McGuinness, Stephen Merchant, Andy Parsons and Tommy Tiernan.

Check out their website for tickets and keep and eye on my Events and Deals & Bargains pages for freebies!


I love the Manchester Science Festival; I’m a big kid (and big geek) at heart!

Walking on CustardCustard Walking: I actually emailed the organisers of the Science Festival to ask if they would let me walk on custard for them. It’s a non-newtonian fluid (a substance that
can act as both a liquid and a solid) so you really can walk on a pool of custard as long as you don’t stop moving.

Unfortunately they replied that it was very messy when they tried it previously and so they’re not going to do it this year (“science is meant to be about progress, hey?”)

So they’re not doing it this year, however, the lovely scientist did send me a recipe for
making my own ‘Oobleck’ at home. Does anyone have a paddling pool I can borrow?

Zombie Science 1Z: With that disappointment aside, I’m delighted they are having a spoof lecture on the real science behind the undead: Featuring live demonstrations and an online exam certified by the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies (ZITS)Theoretical Zombiologist, Doctor Austin will teach how zombie outbreaks might occur, their effect on humans and most importantly, how to stop them.

Science is cool! (Geek!)


IN THE CITY – 13th to 15th October

For £20 you can buy a wristband for the In The City Live strand to enjoy 200 bands (the best in underground and emerging talent) at 20 venues across the city. You’re almost
guaranteed to see stars of the future.


In their 4th year, the GNCC Fair provides cutting edge contemporary craft to buy from over 140 selected designer-makers in ceramics, glass, jewellery, interior and fashion textiles, wood, silver and more. Chat to the makers, buy their goods or commission pieces directly at the fair.

Castle Armouries ProjectionBURY LIGHT NIGHT – 14th October

Bury town centre promises you’ll witness the strange to the spectacular on Bury Night Light when venues across the town invite you to enjoy a mix of arts, music, performance, workshops, tours and more. Amongst other festivities expect giant wandering birds, illuminating projections and charming lantern displays.

Phew, October is one exhausting month!

If all that wasn’t enough we also have Halloween to look forward to, in all of its commercial grandeur!

All comments are welcome. 🙂