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Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Best Real Fire Pubs in Manchester, But NO SNOW - Gah

While I write this post, the whole of the UK is enjoying the earliest proper snow for, ooh, donkey's years. Children are rushing, rosy cheeked, to the tops of nearby hills in order that they might sled down the other side; bescarfed adults are cupping their frost-bitten hands around convenient glasses of warming mulled wine; cats are stretching lazily in front of the fire while outside a muffled carpet of white perfection wipes away the harsh modernity of everyday living. And throughout all pervades the calmness that only the knowledge that your school/college/workplace will be shut on Monday can bring.

Oh, wait. All except Manchester. We have no snow. At all. I have spent a fretful day keeping one eye on the sky, which has remained a stubborn shade of bright blue, and one eye on Twitter, where friends in other parts of the country have been merrily posting pictures of themselves larking about in attractive knitwear. This is most unfair, for I would like nothing more than to wrap up warm, trudge through the snow, and take refuge in a welcoming hostelry where I will be plied with warming hot toddies. So to that end, I am going to PRETEND there is a winter wonderland outside rather than a row of wheelie bins, and post my favourite real fire pubs anyway.

1. The Didsbury, Didsbury. Obviously this is a great pub at any time of year, but becomes a particularly attractive prospect when the weather is cold - be prepared to push, shove and generally play dirty in order to bag the seats by the fire.

2. The Metropolitan, West Didsbury. A couple of provisos with this one: drinks are dear, and although the fire IS glorious, it is quite phenomenally, ridiculously hot - hapless young women have been known to singe their eyebrows by venturing too close to its flamy charms.

3. Horse and Jockey, Chorlton. A local favourite that has survived a recent overhaul to retain its traditional charms: open fires and the kind of low beams that anyone over four feet tall has trouble avoiding *rubs head*

4. The Crown Inn, Stockport. I'm not always in a hurry to recommend a night out in Stockers, but if you have boys in tow this is an excellent choice - CAMRA Greater Manchester Regional Pub of the Year 2008, no less.

5. The Britons Protection, Manchester. On a balmy summer evening you may find yourself queueing up amongst an impatient crowd of impeccably shod stick creatures to pay a tenner for a cocktail at Cloud 23; in the winter you'd be far better cosying up in this charming boozer just across the road.

So surely a light dusting isn't too much to ask? Frankly, if it doesn't snow tonight I'm simply going to don my mittens and my overpriced sheepskin boots and go and sit by a fire somewhere anyway. Woe betide ANYONE who gets in my way...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Things to do in Manchester this Christmas

It was actually one of my students who alerted me to the fact. Do you realise, they said, that after this week there are only three more weeks in college before Christmas? Don't be silly, I admonished, making a mental note to correct said student at every future opportunity. But it turns out they were right - Christmas is indeed a-coming. If you too have yet to acquire the festive spirit, here are a few things you could do to get you in the mood:

You can't beat a Christmas lights switch-on for instilling a twinkly, sparkly feeling in the soul. The lights are going on in Didsbury next Wednesday 1st December, at 7.00pm outside Didsbury Library. Angelic, rosy-faced children from the Beaver Road School Choir will sing Christmas Carols (not sure if they're taking requests or not), prompting feelings of warmth and happiness as we stamp our feet and watch our breath swirl out in dragon-smoke clouds.

And if that isn't enough jollity, then pop along to The Flower Lounge on Barlow Moor Road afterwards to enjoy its Christmas Open Evening. The lovely Sian promises to teach us how to create gorgeous arrangements whilst we drink wine and eat cake between 6 and 9pm (I'll be the one still wiping away a surreptitious tear from the small warbling children.)

You could also do worse than visit the Christmas Markets in central Manchester. I have written about these every single year, and frankly they don't change very much so we can all save some time here by simply reading a post from a previous year and pretending it's fresh, modern and up-to-the-minute. Suffice to say that if you would like to drink mulled wine and eat a jolly big sausage under the watchful eye of a giant Santa who looks a bit like Zippy from Rainbow, then this is for you.

Finally, there's plenty going on at The Triangle Shopping Centre. Father Christmas certainly seems to be getting about a bit this year, and will be at The Triangle every Saturday (I fear that my days of sitting on his knee are LONG gone); hopefully he won't mind sharing the limelight with the rather lovely-sounding Winter Vintage Fair that is taking place next weekend on the 4th and 5th of December (perhaps he could pick up a few gifts - save the elves some work.)

So wrap up warm, don your boots and mittens, and launch yourself into the festivities taking place all around you. Oh, although obviously wait until I'm a Celebrity has finished - wouldn't want to miss more revelations about the contents of Gillian's knickers...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Jameson Cult Film Brings (not actual) Aliens to Manchester

Now, by and large I am not very good with films. I have an extremely short attention span, meaning that most films that are longer than 89 minutes (so pretty much anything other than Finding Nemo and productions of similar ilk) tend to lose me part-way through; I am also very lazy and like to be spoon-fed the plot in the most obvious of terms - any kind of subtlety and I'm the annoying one going "so who's that? why is he going there? what did she mean by that? and get off my Maltesers!"

This means that I very rarely commit to see films at the cinema; instead, I watch them at home on Sky so that I can "multitask" while they're on, or I rely on watching a handful of old favourites over and over again. During one summer holiday in my childhood, I watched the video of Bugsy Malone EVERY DAY; I am still word perfect, particularly with regard to the coveted part of Tallulah (you see? Ideas above my station, even then.)

Thus for me, the idea of showing cult films that I already know and understand, has got to be the way forward. I am very fond of the first two Alien films - despite the fact that I still jump at the same bits in each of them, no matter how many times I've seen them - so I welcome the news that Jameson Cult Film is bringing Aliens (the second Alien film *puts serious and knowledgeable film face on*) to Manchester on Thursday night. My husband is also extremely excited, as 1. Aliens is one of his favourite films, and 2. Jameson make whiskey.

All you have to do is register at their website - - tickets are free. The screening is at the Great Northern - doors open at seven, with the film starting between 8 and half past. They recommend you get there early, and frankly, as you get two free drinks tokens on entry, why wouldn't you? (*explains patiently to champing-at-bit husband that no, it's not time to go YET*)

My only reservation? The website promises that The Great Northern "will be transformed from a disused warehouse into the alien planet LV-426 – there will be no way of knowing what’s hiding in the dark, or waiting around the corner." Being a jittery girl at the best of times, please accept my apologies in advance if you're standing near me when it happens - I'll bring a cloth for wiping up all the spilled whiskey.

- full details at

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Bop Local at The Albert Club: The Verdict

So, last night Bop Local came to Didsbury. The tense pre-match build-up has already been documented in Friday's post; now, sitting here quiet and sober the next day, I can offer the following observations:

1. It is indeed possible to watch all of Strictly, whilst drinking a bottle of Prosecco and eating a range of party nibbles, before attending. This is a far cry from my student days, when we would sit in a flat populated by both mice and an array of luxuriant mould colonies, and watch Gladiators. Our drink of choice back then was something that called itself Chardonnay and cost £1.25 from Cellar Five (or, la cave cinq, as we so wittily referred to it), and was so revolting we somethimes had to hold our noses to swallow the last little bit.

2. After much deliberation, I chose to wear a little black jersey dress, mostly because this particular item reminds me of my favourite dress at university. The dress in question was a Miss Selfridge number owned by both myself and my best friend, necessitating constant planning over whose turn it was to wear it next. I feel its successor honoured its memory most fittingly last night, particularly in the classy detail of accessorising itself with sequined shoes.

3. The Albert Club is a lovely place for a bop, a little like having a disco in your living room (albeit a very big living room). When we weren't dancing, we sat in leather armchairs that had thoughtfully been positioned on the edge of the dance floor; more clubs should adopt this, I feel, for people who enjoy dancing but also appreciate a nice sit down.

4. Just like the old days, we were the first on the dance floor. The song was The Cure's In Between Days, in case you're interested.

5. Some, but not all, of our song requests were played. The ones that were played: True Faith by New Order, and Panic by The Smiths. The ones that were rejected: I prefer not to say, in a lame attempt to preserve some modicum of credibility.

6. We left just before twelve because the music had gone a bit rubbish. Address this in future please: some 90s dance records were appalling at the time, and sound no better for being played at ear-splitting volume in 2010 to a bunch of people in their thirties and forties.

7. I am tired today, and have been somewhat slovenly; I believe this to be the fault of Bop Local.

8. And finally, despite the fact that I honestly truly have bathed today, I see I still have a stamp on the back of my hand. Some things never change; if I scrunch my eyes up and squint at it slightly it could almost be 1995.

- The next Bop Local is at Chorlton Irish Club on Sat 27th November, with guest legend Clint Boon. Full details at

Friday, 19 November 2010

Bop Local Comes to Didsbury, Posing Problems for Local Girl

Once upon a time, many years ago, when the unicorns still roamed the forests and David Cameron's face was even smoother and pinker than it is now, I was a hip young person. And as a hip young person, I went out dancing almost every night.

Now, unfortunately for me, I was a hip young person in the 1990s, which means that whilst I may have thought I was sultry, enigmatic and alluring (I'm fairly sure I DID think I was all of these), I was actually just a misguided soul wearing one or more of the following items:

1. Leggings. The widespread popularity of these items in the 1990s is still something of a mystery to me. Yes, they were comfy, but I am very tall and was a size 8 for much of the 90s, and they STILL looked bad. Admittedly, I would not have helped myself by choosing to accessorise green leggings with ox-blood Doc Martens and an over-sized shirt, but really someone should have taken me in hand. I have seen photographic evidence that suggests I spent most of my youth looking like a frog with big shoes on.

2. Bodies. These were basically skin-tight leotards that did up at the bottom with poppers; poppers which, I might add, were hard enough to do up in the comfort of one's own room whilst completely sober. Transfer the item and the person, now full of beer purchased at 99p a pint, to one of the toilets in Squirrels nightclub anytime after 10pm and an age-old question can finally be answered: girls go to the toilet together so that one may help the other with her fastenings.

3. Slogan t-shirts. I still find it hard to picture a particular friend in anything other than his "Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine" t-shirt; I believe there came a point when we suspected it was surgically attached to his body. Likewise, a dear female friend will forever be linked with her Suede t-shirt; my favourite, for some reason, had a large yellow duck uttering "quack" on it - perhaps I thought it looked nice with the green leggings. (It didn't.)

So anyway, the point of all this is that whilst I am beyond excitement that tomorrow night is Bop Local at The Albert Club in West Didsbury, I am at a loss what to wear. It appears fashion may have moved on a little since I last hogged a podium and waved my arms wildly to the Urban Cookie Collective, and frankly these days I am too fond of cake to qualify as a person who looks good in leggings. As the DJ at the Bop is Mike Joyce of The Smiths, I did briefly consider sporting an old "Meat is Murder" t-shirt as a tribute, but then I remembered that it's not 1989 anymore and that it's many moons since I fell off the vegetarian wagon, lured back by the salty charms of a bacon butty.

Any help on this sartorial conundrum will be gratefully received. Last time I went to a Bop it was at Jabez Clegg and quite possibly in the last millenium; I won't even speak of the fashion disasters I would have innocently exhibited at the weekly Owen's Park Bop (do they still have those?), but it's clear that I can't be trusted to make my own choices on this matter. Although, to be fair, last time I went to a Bop I'm fairly sure that I wouldn't have said anything along the lines of, "brilliant - looking at the start time I'm fairly sure we'll get to see all of Strictly before we go." Maybe I'm just too old to go at all...

- Bop Local will be at The Albert Club in West Didsbury tomorrow night; I think all tickets are now gone, so you might just have to make do with laughing at the thought of my outfit rather than actually seeing it.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Manchester Mondays Looking Up

OK, so hands up if you like Mondays.

*VERY brief pause for counting show of hands*

Thought as much. Unless you work silly shifts and somehow get Monday off, there is surely no worse feeling than knowing you now have to get up early for the next five days in a row, AND when you get to work the detritus left over from when you couldn't be bothered to do anything because it was Friday will still be all over your desk. Sigh.

And yet...if you can actually get through Monday itself, a number of options for celebrating this fact are now available. I have spoken many times before about Love2Eat Deli and its Monday Night Supper Club, and will continue to extol its virtues despite the recent £3 price hike: you now get main course, dessert and a glass of wine for a still reasonable £10 a head. We went last Monday, when I had the most delicious meatballs I have ever tasted, and my husband had a steak and peppercorn pie that caused him not to utter a single word during the time he took to eat it. One criticism - the dinky casserole dishes that the meatballs and stews are served in? Can't get the last bit of dinner out of them - impossible using either cutlery or direct application of face (have tried both).

And now, for November only, another possibility unfolds for the hitherto redundant Monday night. Esteemed Didsbury curryhouse Khandoker is celebrating its 27th birthday this month (same as me, ahem), and although this does seem a massively random birthday to make a fuss of - I've never seen a card congratulating anyone on the big two seven - it would be churlish not to support what they are doing for it. For they are inviting us to step back in time to 1983 and enjoy a meal with them on any Monday or Tuesday in November at 1983 prices (I'll have to take their word for this - I only really deigned to eat butterscotch flavoured Angel Delight back in the early eighties), and this means starters at £1.95, mains at £4.95 and sundries such as chapattis for 15 pence.

There is no mention of whether Mr Khandoker would like his guests to dress up in appropriately 1980s garb, but I like to think that people will make an effort and at least backcomb their hair a little before venturing out to eat. The offer is running at both the Didsbury and the Bramhall restaurants; come on good folk of Didsbury, dig out those batwing jumpers and lets show the Cheshire lot how it's done...

- Love2Eat is at 190a Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester M20 1LH; you should book for Supper Club on 0161 434 7077 (but not until after I've reserved my table, please)

- Khandoker is at 812 Kingsway, Manchester M20 5WY; tel. 0161 434 3596.