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Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The Unforgettable Experience that is...The Didsbury Dozen

Anybody who has ever been a student in Manchester will know exactly what The Didsbury Dozen is, and will no doubt have a selection of amusing/disgusting/unrepeatable stories linked with their last attempt.

So what is it? Well, Didsbury is a suburb in South Manchester that just happens to have a number of pleasant watering holes all within staggering distance from one another, conveniently arranged along one straight road which makes getting lost an impossibility even for the very drunk (although getting run over is of course still a risk). The Didsbury Dozen is a baker's dozen: that is, 13 pubs that you must visit in the course of one evening.

Obviously, some sort of warning is in order here: the potential to binge drink and end up in some kind of trouble is huge, so in order to save face AND live to tell the tale, might I suggest the following.
  • Don't have a pint in every pub! Go for a half or even a soft drink.
  • If you are a bloke who would never live it down if seen with a half, perhaps try shandy? I know someone who did this very successfully by being in charge of the beer kitty and getting the drinks in each time - no-one ever knew his guilty secret!
  • Eat something! Lots of the pubs do really nice food (especially The Didsbury), so make sure you soak up some of that alcohol.
A suggested running order would be as follows. Most of these are located along Wilmslow Road M20.
  • The Didsbury
  • The Olde Cock
  • The Famous Crown
  • The Royal Oak
  • Fletcher Moss
  • The Parrswood
  • The Pitcher and Piano
  • Dog and Partridge
  • The Nelson
  • The Station
  • O'Neils
  • Slug and Lettuce
  • The Barleycorn
  • The Woodstock
Hopping onto a bus to nearly Rusholme for a curry afterwards is optional: you may wish to go home to bed instead.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Take That Hit Manchester!

One of the very best things to have happened over the last 18 months or so for people of a certain age is that there is no longer any shame in liking Take That. I was an undergraduate at Manchester University the last time TT were around, an awkward scenario for someone who secretly preferred the boy-band charms of TT to Nirvana and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine (no, you won't remember them unless you belong to a very specific era).

How things have changed! I can now admit my love for Mark, Jason, Howard and Gary (OK, not so much love for Gary) with pride as the boys have somehow found themselves accepted not only by us oldies but also by new fans, who are realising what we always knew: there's no shame in singing jaunty pop songs and dancing in formation. Hurrah!

  • Take That are at The Manchester Evening News Arena until Sunday 23rd December: sadly not one ticket left to be had though.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Bridgewater Hall Christmas Concerts

If you're not feeling festive yet (shame on you!) then a visit to the beautiful Bridgewater Hall to hear one of their Christmas concerts will soon get you into holiday mood. The Yuletime programme is in full swing from this weekend onwards, and the offerings range from the tasteful (Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov on Sunday) to the unashamedly twee, such as The Best Christmas Sing-along Ever on Saturday night. (Be honest, I know which one sounds more tempting.)

Highlights over the last few years have seen a selection of (deliberately?) retro guest presenters, from Nicholas Parsons to a grand old British actress who became markedly more unsteady on her feet as the night progressed, perhaps due to enthusiastic consumption of backstage refreshments.

The Halle orchestra are always worth seeing, and this is a great way to imbibe a little culture without too much effort. Full details available at

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Manchester goes 3D

Anyone who remembers Jaws 3-D from 1983 may perhaps unwittingly flinch at the thought of ever watching another 3-D film, peering through cardboard glasses as yet another rubber shark lunges from the screen.

Things have moved on since then, however: last year's Superman Returns played at the Manchester IMAX with some sections in 3-D, and proved that technology could now produce some genuinely exciting effects.

This winter's action film, Beowulf, goes one better. This film is currently doing the rounds in full 3-D, and just as well - the special effects will distract you from the frankly ridiculous plot, which bears little relation to the Old English poem I was dragged through at university. The action lends itself well to the 3-D format, and produces some incredibly grisly moments - victim's blood pouring down onto you from a chandelier, anyone?

The experience is an enjoyable one overall, particularly for anyone who finds the thought of a skimpily-clad giant-size 3-D Angelina Jolie enticing. Others may enjoy Ray Winstone's fight against the monster Grendel, which is inexplicably performed naked and therefore prompts many strategically places objects that will remind you of Bart's naked skate-boarding in The Simpsons Movie.

If this all sounds too much for you, selected Cineworld cinemas in the Manchester region are showing Tim Burton's classic Nightmare Before Christmas in full 3-D this week - see their website for full details.

Beowulf - 3D is showing now in selected cinemas including Cineworld East Didsbury and IMAX Manchester Printworks.

The Manchester Wheel

No visit to Manchester would be complete without a trip on the Manchester Wheel, located in Exchange Square. The wheel has 42 individual capsules, each holding up to 8 people, although if you would like a little more privacy you can book a VIP capsule with champagne, an option which has become popular with Manchester residents wishing to propose to their partners!

Be warned: if it is a windy day, and you are of a nervous disposition, the wheel is best avoided as the capsules do tend to sway a little when the wheel is in motion. You get three rotations per trip, lasting approximately 13 minutes, and although the wheel's location means that a large part of your view will encompass the air-conditioning units on top of nearby Selfridges, the bird's eye perspective is both interesting and good value for money.

Booking not ususually necessary unless you visit at peak times - I've never had to queue for more than a few minutes to get on.

Daily Opening and Closing Times

Sunday to Thursday 10.00am to 11.00pm
Friday 10.00am to 12:00 midnight
Saturday 09.00am to 12:00 midnight

Times and availability may change due to maintenance, weather or other operational reasons.

Ticket Prices

Adult £6
Child (4 to 12 years) £4
Child (under 4 years) FREE
Private Gondola £44
VIP Gondola £50
VIP Gondola with Champagne £65

Manchester Christmas Markets

There's still time to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Christmas Market, which runs until Thursday 20th December. The main site is the European market located in Albert Square, presided over by the Town Hall's new Father Christmas. Here you can pick up a range of unusual gifts, ranging from hand-made jewellery and clocks to vintage local prints, thereby avoiding that embarrassing Christmas Day moment when you realise that you have all bought each other the same old things! There is also a wide variety of edible goods such as dried meats, salamis, chocolates and gingerbread houses.

If the chill Manchester weather is starting to bite, take this perfect excuse to warm your hands around a cup of mulled wine or hot chocolate with brandy and whipped cream. You may also wish to take the sausage challenge - can you eat an enormous Bratwurst on the move without trailing mustard and ketchup down yourself? If not, take a moment to restore your dignity by visiting the Beer Tent and watching the giant talking reindeer (honestly!) for a few minutes.

Opening Times:

15th November to 20th December

Albert Square 10am to 9pm

St Ann's Square 10am to 8pm

15th November to 18th December

Exchange Street 10am to 8pm

New Cathedral Street 10am to 8pm

Brazennose Street 10am to 7pm