Tag Archives: manchester

Reasons To Be Cheerful #65: When Friends Come To Stay

8 Apr

Now that I am at least 65% real grown-up (ie: co-habiting and cleaning the house regularly) I take a different sort of pride in having people come to stay. No longer will they arrive to a dirty flat and half of my rumpled bed. These days, guests get a hoovered landing and a blow-up bed*. And while I wouldn’t – strictly speaking – compare myself to Tony Blair, Middle East peace envoy – it is clear that I’m playing my part in bridging the north-south gap.

*Those of you looking for hosting tips, please feel free to read this post in the educational manner of one reading Pippa Middleton’s party planning guide.

1. Being a Proper Person

Not that long ago, I thought that house pride was something reserved only for clean freaks and desperate housewives of telly fiction. But now, having reached the grand old age of 27, I see the error of my ways. I now know that the only acceptable way to treat a house guest is to leave a chocolate mint under their pillow. Well, that or to provide them with a clean towel and an inflatable mattress to blow up.

Call me Susan

Just call me Susan

2. Showing Off The Sights

If you read my Salford blog, you’ll know that I live in a place of wonder. A city cleverly disguised as a Manchester offshoot with a dubious cathedral and a ‘vibrant’ community. Showing off the Mocha shopping parade (home to a KwikSave) and the beautiful old cinema (now a church for Christian fanatics) are activities that are bound up with great pride. And that’s before you’ve even reached Manchester proper. London might have its fair share of crazies, but the wannabe Bez dancer with the plasticine face and killer dance moves belongs to the north.

3. Facing Domestic Challenges

The main reason that we are all so fat these days (apart from the saturated fat, kebabs and increased portion sizes) is that convenience and technology have replaced good old fashioned elbow grease. No more scrubbing wet clothes on the drying rack or burning off those kcals in the pantry. Modern kitchens will kill us all. The point is, that that amazing blow-up bed that I so proudly offered to my friends, well it was impossible to bring down. A good hour of rolling and folding and putting a teaspoon in the valve/nozzle/thingy were what it took. But I took it all in my stride.

A battle of valves

A battle of valves

4. Acting the Tourist

Even though I’m already a demi-tourist in Manchester, it’s much more fun being a ‘visitor’ when you’re with real bonafide visitors. It suddenly becomes acceptable to buy a keyring with your photo on it, from a gay club. For £3. It also provides you with a debating team for reasoned kebab shop disputes on the economic disparities between North and South.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: You can’t keep your friends in a Hole. They tend to go home)



Reasons to be Cheerful #64: Salford

11 Mar

city of salford sign(2)

Today the universe sent me a sign. Rainy Manchester – which I swapped for reliably smoggy London – is warm and sunny, while the south? The south is COLD. Aha! Somewhere in the midsts of my – let’s be honest – short-lived smugness, I realised that I hadn’t done any kind of northern blog since I moved up here. It’s time to pay homage to my new home, Salford. Or – in my favourite pun of the year so far – Costa del Salford. So, reasons to be cheerful…

1. A Different Kind of Gentrification

Last time I was in Hackney central, the gentrification process was ramping up along Lower Clapton Road, where every other shopspace is now a trendy bar/cafe/beardy grooming salon. In grittier Salford, the introduction of BBC and the rest of the glitzy MediaCity development signalled new beginnings of a sort. But the pace is somewhat… slower. For example, I live in a place which has added the suffix ‘village’ in a fairly transparent attempt to belie the surrounding council estates and their Jeremy Kyle residents (I genuinely heard someone outside my window calling his girlfriend a ‘fat slag’). The naturally-occurring upscaling that comes with this new class of resident is self-evident in Broughton Village. We’ve got Matchsticks, a bar  decorated like a Groupon-featured salon; and a present shop selling bunches of sweets poorly disguised as flowers.




2. It Breeds Genius 

Salford is to culture like Wales is to just music. I didn’t even realise it was a city in its own right until about three weeks ago and now I find that it also gave us The Ting Tings. Here are some more famous Salfordians:

painter, L S Lowry;

wreckhead, Shaun Ryder;

wreckheads, Joy Division;

Keith Richards lookalike, John Cooper Clarke;

intense thespian, Christopher Eccleston  and

Gandhi impersonator, Ben Kingsley

Yes, even Gandhi came from Salford

Yes, even Gandhi came from Salford

3. The Culture

Seeing how Salford produced so many cultural behemoths, it’s only right that it should boast awe-inspiring museums and galleries. The Lowry gallery on Salford Quays is pretty impressive and stuffed full of Lowrys, but a brief visit to what you’d expect to be the city’s main cultural hub – Salford Museum and Art Gallery – makes it abundantly clear that the Lowry’s success is based on thievery. The poor old museum – right next to the university at which Lowry studied, has a handful of Lowry paintings and a lot of what artists call ‘negative space’ (bare walls). It is a bit depressing. But then, so was the music of Joy Division. So maybe it’s all on purpose..

4. The Scenery

L. S Lowry’s paintings are famous for their depictions of grim Manchester and Salford life. And there’s no getting around it. The setting is a gritty one. But at night it looks just marvellous, especially down on Salford Quays.

Rose-tinted nightvision

Night vision



(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: The weird canvas at Matchsticks that merges the faces of Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill)



Reasons To Be Cheerful #22: Cultural Outings

29 Apr

These days it’s fashionable to be cultural whichever ebb of society you’ve swum in from. And why the hell not? There’s a lot to see out there. This weekend, I went culture-hopping in Manchester’s Cornerhouse and University Museum, rediscovering along the way, a few reasons to be cheerful:

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum

1. Meeting Diverse People

If you’re going to meet a rampant socialist anywhere, I suppose that a high falutin exhibition on post-revolutionary art is probably the place. And who doesn’t want to hear a possibly drunken man’s views on the petite bourgeois on a Sunday afternoon?

2. Re-Connecting With The Kids

At the Manchester Museum there were cute children on all sides. Actual alright ones who weren’t screaming or being asked to please stop kicking the nice lady Atticus. I beamed at them. They smiled back. I felt like a bestower of good will and an example to the younger generation. I couldn’t help noticing, though, that we were asking the same questions.

3. Giving Something Back

We know that we get something out of culture (a growing awareness, opportunity to pontificate, a blog). But what about the people and organisations making the culture happen? This was my thinking when I agreed to a ’10-minute survey’ after the revolutionary exhibition. Twenty 10-part multiple choice questions later, I felt I’d done my bit. And that I should go to the pub.

4. You Could Get to See a Fight 


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating violence. But if it happens in nature then it is different, right? My experience in Manchester Museum this weekend took quite a David Attenborough turn after I found myself bearing witness to a vicious brawl between two green lizards. You don’t get that in the pub! (well, not with lizards. You catch my drift).

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: I’m not and am unlikely ever to meet David Attenborough. Or Richard)

Attenborough Lolz

Attenborough Lolz



Reasons To Be Cheerful #5: The North South Divide

2 Apr

north south divide

Based on a life spent in the south and a fair few trips to Manchester (plus several singular trips to Edinburgh, Newcastle, Glasgow, Yorkshire), I have formed an entirely qualitative understanding of what is generally termed the north-south divide. And I like it. Here is why:

1. Both sides get to win

While we southern fairies are smug about our better job prospects and less abrasive accents, those hailing from up north are content in the knowledge that southerners don’t even know the meaning of hardship, not to mention the fact that you can actually get a cheap pint.

2. We can all learn something from each other

Who knew that less than three hours on the train could be tantamount to a social awakening!? Yes southerners, you can talk to strangers without being a rapist/paedophile. And northerners, if you’re in a bad mood and not feeling inclined to respond to the smiles of strangers, simply do as Londoners do and put your head down, moody face on and walk like you’re the only one on the pavement.

3. It helps us to feel like a bigger country

We are all feeling the strain of post-Empire blues, though most of us don’t know it. Why else do we like to lord it over ‘young’ America so much? (but it is true, they have NO HISTORY). The north-south divide means we can show the geographically larger nations that size is not all. There are plenty of cultural and regional divisions here, thankyou very much!

4. It shows us two ways to do glamour

Now I’m not saying that everyone north of Birmingham is a WAG, but there is no denying that the make-up gets denser as you move up the the compass. When in Manchester I often feel like my barely painted face is looked upon with pity by girls adept in the Kardashian school of cosmetics. It’s not better, just… different.

(REASONS TO BE PISSED OFF: Everyone loses on weather. Despite oft-heard protestations that the south is sunnier, let’s just be honest and acknowledge that all of the weather in Britain is shit).