Chester by Train

After two days of typical Mancunian rain the weather broke and we had the prospect of a sunny Bank Holiday Monday to look forward to.

With a spring in our hair and the wind in our step we climbed aboard the little Northern Rail diesel train and set off for Chester.

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This train went direct from Stockport to Chester through the beautiful Cheshire countryside, stopping at great sounding places like, Cuddington, Lostock Gralam and Mouldsworth. We watched buzzards soaring above the Cheshire plain from the comfort of our seats and were grateful that we weren’t stuck in Bank Holiday traffic on the M56.

The only annoyance to our journey was the family who parked themselves next to us and proceeded to let their children scream and shout and play their iPads loudly. I decided to zone them out as best as I could and fight the urge to squeeze their little darlings through the narrow ventilation windows.

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Chester is a gorgeous place with a stunning cathedral and a medieval wall running all around the old town, and on a bright sunny day like this it was wonderful.

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The centre of the City is mainly shops like the centre of most cities but these are, what looks like, Elizabethan wattle and daub overhanging buildings. Imagine a Shakespearean shopping mall, or Ye Olde Disney Store, and you’re not far off. As it was hot and crowded we dodged the shops and headed for the Cathedral for sanctuary.

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As I get older and more anti-social I find I’m growing to enjoy old churches and temples. For one they’re quiet and most of the people there are quiet, dead quiet, in fact many are dead. I’ve got nothing against dead people. In my experience, people, like wine, usually get more interesting with age, especially when that age runs into the several hundreds of years.

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Cathedrals are designed to impress you with God’s majesty and power, and even though I’m not particularly religious, I was still impressed.

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After the cathedral we decided to walk the city walls and see the sights from thirty feet up. We passed Chester Racecourse – the oldest in the world apparently and found ourselves down by the River Dee in what looked like a Parisian film set.

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A jazz band entertained, while couples listened hand-in-hand. Artists sold artistic representations of Women’s arses by the pavement and there was even an accordion player in a beret. There was also, what looked like a Hell’s Angels gang parked up, but they were all probably accountants by the look of them and the bikes were more for show than terrorising the locals.

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Seduced by the balmy weather and dodgy ragtime band, Clare and I succumbed and sat for a while, eating our 99’s and watching the pleasure boats go by – it was lovely.

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I’m trying to live more in the moment and enjoy things without worrying about what’s next, or just around the corner and this was a perfect example of when that philosophy pays off. Sitting with someone you love, enjoying a moment together and relaxing – isn’t that what life’s all about in the end? I’m starting to sound a bit French now, perhaps that’s the accordion player is having an affect?

Needless to say, it was a lovely moment.

Eventually, we left little Paris and moved on, finishing the last bit of the wall and heading home.

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Until next time,

Chris

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Dodging Doggers at Chorlton Ees

The sun is out, the sky is blue, just got to decide now, what to do.

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The idea was to visit Chorlton Ees, a nature reserve not far from where I live, just next to the River Mersey, for a spot of photography. I was especially hoping to get some dramatic woodland shots. Rays of sunlight streaming through the green canopy, serene, timeless, natural beauty, etc.

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I parked at a nearby pub, Jackson’s Boat, crossed the river and then considered which way to go. My first impression was how busy it was. With it being a sunny weekend, I was almost run over by all the cyclists, joggers and pushchairs racing across the bridge and along the riverside paths.

First objective – get away from the crowds.

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I headed into the reserve and looked for the faintest track into the trees, working on the theory that most people would stick to the main paths.

With all the rain we’ve been having and the recent sunshine the undergrowth had experienced something of a growth spurt and now resembled more of a jungle than a Mancunian woodland park. I quite enjoyed the challenge of hacking my way through the nettles and generally getting as lost as I possibly could.

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This was when I noticed something strange.

No matter where I went, however remote or difficult it was to get to, within a minute or two a middle-aged man in shorts would appear, say hello, and then disappear off into the undergrowth again.

At first I thought this was just a coincidence, but it kept on happening. I would push through stinging nettles and wade through deep mud to find a quiet spot to take a picture and without fail, some bloke would stroll up, look at the camera slung round my neck and then walk off.

They were never threatening in the classic sense, but were slightly unnerving as they never seemed to look surprised to find me there as well. Can there be so many people in South Manchester all wanting to get lost in the woods?

I then remembered that there had been some reports of unsavoury activities carrying on at Sale Water Park, just across the river, with lonely men looking for ‘companionship’ in the woods (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean squire?).

This realisation suddenly made feel like I’d wandered into the wrong part of town. I also felt a bit angry to be honest as well.

Chorlton Ees is a nature reserve, not a singles bar. There are not many places you can go to in a city like Manchester and find real solitude in a natural environment, so somewhere like this is valuable to many people, as an escape from their claustrophobic urban lives. Somewhere you can go, just be alone, breathe and relax.

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You shouldn’t have to worry that some sad, middle-aged  Romeo is going to turn up, wanting you to brighten up his day.

Anyway, I survived the lonely woodland zombies and still managed to take a few pictures. I didn’t get the beautiful woodland scene I was after but here’s a few of my better ones.

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Oh, one small correction. Doggers are people who meet in car parks and watch each other have sex, which isn’t technically what I meant, but it works better in the title than ‘lonely men possibly engaged in lewd behaviour’I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.

Chris

Sarah Millican and Eurovision

I’ve been busy this week building my camera jib (see my Shining Tor blog), so no time till now to update my blog.

Last week’s adventure was seeing Sarah Millican at the Manchester Apollo. These were tickets generously given to my sister Beverley and myself from my Dad. In fact these were our Christmas presents from 2012. Yes, 2012!

Apparently, the 2013 tour was sold out, so ever-resourceful, my Dad got the tickets for the following year. I don’t know how long Sarah Millican books her shows in advance, perhaps you can already get a good seat for her retirement show?

The show was excellent, Sarah was hysterical but not many of the jokes can be repeated. Apologies for the terrible photo, but it’s hard to take a selfie in dark theatre.

Yesterday we held a Eurovision party for a few friends. Clare loves Eurovision and this was her idea. We printed off scorecards and settled down with a few beers and nibbles to enjoy the show.

Our friend Heather raised the question ‘what constitutes nibbles?

Not a meal obviously, but does it include hot food? Should nibbles always be cold and eaten with your hands? Heather suggested that nibbles was just a posh term for crisps – these are the high level conversations we often have, aren’t you jealous?

There was some debate on our scoring system but we were soon organised and ready to go.

Highlights included trampolining boy bands, dancers in hamster wheels, singers up ladders, trapeze artists, twins on a seesaw and Poland’s attempt to gain votes by  having two busty girls churn butter, or something, to distract from the song – my favourite!

Actually, amidst all the madness there was some good songs, Sweden and Netherlands were especially good.

Forget about the voting, it’s always a bit annoying, the winner was an Austrian drag act with a beard, singing a knock-off bond theme.

We had a great time, lots of laughs  and for once, I actually enjoyed Eurovision.

Until next time,

Chris