Pub Crawl No 3

Bit late with this one, but here it is anyway – Our third pub crawl round Manchester. Just like the first crawl, I was joined by my old friends Mark Hillyard, and for half the crawl, Andy Morrison.

The rules this time were, all the pubs had to be new to us, we each took it in turns to pick the next one and we each had a veto we could use if we walked into somewhere and instantly hated the place – luckily, this rule was not needed, actually I don’t think we told Andy about that rule, now I come to think about it.

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Mark and I met in Piccadilly Gardens at three o’clock and proceeded to ‘Slice’ Pizzeria in the Northern Quarter to lay a foundation of food down in preparation for the beer to come. Great little pizza place this where you could select lots of different quarters, which suited us fine. It was also beer number one, a pint of lager to warm up the liver.

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Leaving ‘Slice’ we met up with Andy and walked to Mark’s choice, ‘The Tib Street Tavern’. This pub was nice but busy as it had big screens with the football on. We managed to find a table and did our best to ignore the distraction of the game. This pub had a nice atmosphere, even with though it was busy, it was probably one of the more trendy pubs on our lists and the beer was good (pint number two) but it was still good to get away from the crowds and the football and move onto pub number three – my choice, ‘The Angel’.

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‘The Angel’ is on the way to ‘The Marble Arch’ (see crawl No 1) and was recommended to me last year by a Catholic Priest we met at Angel Meadow. With such high praise, it was time to check it out.

Not the smartest pub, but good atmosphere, friendly staff and an open fire. Andy ordered a burger and chips and was pleasantly surprised at how good they were, and the price. I liked this pub, it seemed very genuine – if that makes sense?

Pub (and pint) number four was across Manchester to Deansgate and the ‘Knott Inn’.

It was starting to get dark when we got there and the pub was busy. Great selection of beers here so we took our pick and found a couple of square feet out of the way to stand in. Again, nice atmosphere, but this pub felt like the kind of place you meet up with your friends before going somewhere else. I told a story about travelling through Russia and a lady nearby became very interested – it turns out she was Russian, what are the chances of that happening eh?

It was at this point that we had to say farewell to Andy who had a previous engagement, so, dodging the traffic, we crossed Deansgate and made our way to pub number five, ‘The Cask’ in Castlefield.

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We approached the bar and Mark asked if they served food, “no mate, but there’s a chip shop next door. You can bring ’em in but take the fish away with you”. I got the drinks in while Mark went next door to get two fish and chips. Other customers eyed us enviously as we picked our way through the fresh cod and chips with our bare fingers (Mark forgot to get any forks). And soon we noticed more people disappearing before returning with white parcels just like ours.

Pub number six, ‘The Britons Protection’, just near the Bridgewater Hall. Beautiful Pub this, good atmosphere and friendly staff. Slightly strange layout here as you have to leave the bar and go outside momentarily, to get to the rooms at the rear. We managed though, and found a table to enjoy pint number six and contemplate our final destination.

Pub number seven, ‘The Temple’.

‘The Temple’ has had several incarnations. I remember it as a record shop in the eighties, but it was originally built as an underground public convenience, which is ironic because the loos here are the worst we’d seen all day. This is more a bar than a pub, but we were curious so we gave it a go and checked it off the list. Met some nice people, but it’s small, cramped and a little grungy, so we only had a half each and finally climbed the stairs out to catch our bus/train home and recover.

Overall, it was an interesting day exploring, I’m starting to feel now that I’m getting a bit of an overview of the most interesting pubs, and Manchester in general, though I’m sure there’s much more to find. Who knows, maybe I’ll come up with the ideal pub crawl, with all the favourites, etc.

Watch this space.

Chris

Siberia, Dim Sum and Beer

Winter is in full swing with reports of snow, ice, blocked roads, gales, and the end of the world as we know it. Luckily, where I live we are generally last to get the really bad stuff with our arctic experience usually confined to wet, grey and windy. Easier to get to work, not quite as magical or motivating when it comes to the weekends.

With that in mind I looked out of the window at the damp, grey, claggy sky and decided to ditch the proposed hike in the mountains for something a bit more local – I know, wimp.

Looking online I found an interesting exhibition about Siberia at the Manchester Museum.

The exhibition was fascinating, though not very big, I didn’t know that Lake Baikal held 20% of the world’s fresh water – did you?

Manchester Museum has had a bit of a facelift recently and it is better, but you can see how difficult it is to make the old glass cases, full of stuffed animals, interesting to modern audiences. We probably needed more time to take the new museum in properly, but I was hungry and in the mood for Chinese so off we went.

Round the corner from the museum is the Taipan Restaurant, which we’d never actually been to. I fancied some dim sum and this place looked perfect.

Clare and myself weren’t sure how much we would get, so we ordered three each. This proved to wildly ambitious and we should have realised when the we asked for soup as a starter and the waitress looked at us as though we were crazy, “you want soup, as well?”

The food was excellent but after a bucketful of soup we would have settled for one each – learning point for next time. Doggy bag to take home and we staggered back to the car.

Sunday.

Similar weather to Saturday so back online for something to do, and what do we find but Robinson’s Brewery Tour in Stockport. I work close to this and I’d always fancied doing it so this was the day.

Our guide, Graham, was friendly and knowledgeable and the tour was interesting. There is a real mix of the old ‘art’ of brewing and the modern reality of the industrial process involved in brewing beer at this scale, and this tour covered both.

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At the end of the tour you are lead to a bar and invited to try some samples for free, at this point we were sold, so we assumed the roles of beer connoisseurs and got stuck in.

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Not the most adventurous weekend ever but it’s only January, so we’re warming up. I promise to be much more death-defying soon.

Chris

Guinness and Blood

Early Saturday morning, Lady Hughes, my son Elliott and myself, found ourselves in Manchester Airport boarding the eight o’clock Ryanair cattle truck to Dublin.

To be precise, the eight o’clock flight was now technically the eight fifteen, as it was late due to an aborted landing because of strong cross-winds. The previous night we’d been hit by strong gales and though the wind had died down a lot I noticed the windsock on the far side of the runway was solidly horizontal.

So, it was windy and I was anticipating a bumpy flight.

As it turned out the flight over wasn’t too bad actually. It only takes about half an hour to get there and it was all relatively smooth until we were on our final approach. I watched through the window as the wingtips wavered and the engines changed in pitch as the plane adjusted to accommodate the gusts.

Looking back from the window I remember thinking we were still some way off landing and then there was a bang as the plane slammed down onto the runway. I think the pilot must have thought ‘I’m not messing about here’ and dropped the thing as soon as we were over concrete. I fully expected a handbrake turn as we got to the terminal, but hey, any landing you can walk away from is a good one right?

We were over in Ireland to meet up with my family. My sister Rachel was over from Australia and we’d booked the flights before Christmas, in the hope we could catch up with her, but it turned out she was away on the other side of Ireland so it didn’t work out that way unfortunately. Shame, but still we met up with my brother Peter, his family and my sister Claire, which is always good.

We were only over for the one night and we really just wanted to catch up and relax so this was the perfect trip. Elliott hasn’t been over to Ireland for over a year now, so it was great for him to see his cousin Layna, who is now running around with bags of character, whereas last time he saw her she was still a baby.

From the airport it was straight to Claire’s for breakfast and then went back to Peter’s. Later in the afternoon, we jumped the bus into Dublin, to the Science Gallery to see a special exhibition about blood.

This was more art than science and definitely kept everyone guessing. At one point Clare shouted over to me, “hey Chris, you’ll like this, it’s all about the Nazis!”. People turned to look at me, I think expecting me to be standing in full SS uniform. I muttered that I wasn’t THAT interested in the Nazis and had a look – it was actually an exhibit about the Nazis interest in blood as a way of telling whether you were from the ‘right’ racial background – so it was a bit interesting.

Another exhibit gave you the chance to have your blood tested and tell you what blood group you are. I didn’t know my blood group, so Clare sat me down while a young woman explained all about blood proteins and hereditary traits while stabbing me with a pin and squeezing droplets of blood out of my middle finger – turns out I’m B+ and Clare, Peter and Claire are all O+ – I take that as a sign of rarity and therefore added value.

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After the trauma of our collective blood loss we all felt it was only wise to find a pub and replace some essential fluids. Here’s Claire, Elliott and Peter, still in shock from the blood exhibition.

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Several pints of Guinness later we caught a taxi back to Peter’s and continued our treatment round the table until midnight.

The next day was suitably lazy with lots of tea and chat until it came time for our flight back home.

It was a shame we didn’t get to see Rachel, but she’s announced that her and Neil (her partner) are getting married, so there’s a wedding to look forward to, probably in Thailand – so there’s another adventure to look forward to.

Great to catch up with everyone over the weekend, a lot’s happened since we last saw them and we can’t wait to see them all again in April, this time over here – keep tuned for further updates.

Chris

Looking Back, Moving Forward

I started this blog twelve months ago to try to record my various adventures and motivate myself to do more. Now at the start of 2015 it seems a good time to evaluate how it went and set some goals for the coming year.

2014 was an interesting year for me. There were plenty of small events and mini-adventures throughout the year but the big things that stand out for me were, the passing of my Grandmother, my trip to Berlin, production of my films and a selection of smaller highlights including the Ice Bucket Challenge, TEDx Salford, DIY camera gear, trips to London and of course a pub crawl or two.

Christmas has come and gone and I’ve deliberately stayed offline as much as possible, so there hasn’t been any blogs for a while. Needless to say Christmas was good. We had a bit of an open day on Christmas Eve, for my family, which proved to be a bit boozy but fun, Clare and myself managed to get up Shutlingsloe (a pointy hill in Cheshire) on Boxing Day, and for New Year’s Eve we had some friend’s round. So all in all a good Christmas.

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With snow dusting the hills Clare and myself managed to get up Rushup Edge to Lord’s Seat. Overall though, we relaxed and recharged our batteries, which was my primary aim.

We went to the cinema three times over the break, first to see ‘The Hobbt’ (very good but cartoony), ‘Birdman’ (excellent and thought-provoking) and ‘Exodus’ (beautiful but flawed). For ‘Exodus’ I splashed out on D-Box seats which move with the action. Fun but a bit distracting, not sure I’d bother again – at times it just felt like someone sat behind you was kicking your chair.

Looking forward to 2015 I have several goals:

  1. Learn French – I set this one every year, but now I mean it.
  2. Produce 4 poetry films
  3. Produce 4 narrative short films
  4. Produce 3 comedy sketches
  5. Complete ‘Saviour’ script
  6. Complete ‘William Marshal’ script
  7. Develop rowing to 1km three times a week and maintain it for the year
  8. Dive with seals – the aquatic mammals, not the American soldiers!
  9. Print portfolio of favourite photos
  10. Print portfolio of portraits (30 pictures)- I’ll be pestering people to model for me soon.

So there it is, goodbye 2014 and hello 2015, let’s hope it’s a good one. Thank you for reading this blog, I hope you have a great new year – let me know how you get on.

Chris