It was with some trepidation that I accepted Chris’ invite to the Manchester Jazz festival. We both love music – all sorts of music, but for some reason this does not include jazz – at all. I imagine jazz (as described by a close friend!) to be ‘stuffy’ and jazz festivals to be full of people in cardigans debating very important things (unlike our nights out which usually involve debating a million different solutions to the current Avengers problems!).
What we do both strongly believe though is in supporting local events and trying new things.
The Manchester Jazz Festival takes place annually and this year (in their own words!) had ‘over 500 musicians in 80 events spread over 7 venues, free gigs, music day and night indoors and out, regional jazz artists, new talent, innovation and contemporary jazz trying to break down musical boundaries’…phew. Exhausting just to write it all down!
How exciting you might think, but to me the most tempting reason to go to one of their concerts was the temporary venue they had on Albert Square – the ‘Salon Perdu’ - a 1920’s touring music venue (Spiegeltent), it is a structure of great beauty and one I was desperate to get inside! Added to very reasonable ticket prices it was time for one of us to do some ‘male research’ (is that a real thing? Its always quoted in our home!).
So, after studying the programme, it was decided that we would go to the final concert and watch ‘The Hackney Colliery Band’. ‘They’re great fun’ I was told – ‘you’ll love it!’. (I would insert here the emoji with its eyes raised – it is my favourite – but unfortunately not sure how to do it, so please just picture it in your head!)
Imagine my delight (insert eye raising emoji again!) when we arrived at the venue (which is truly the most wonderful place I have ever been to listen to music) to find there were not one but two jazz bands that night and all for just £18.50. Bargain!
First up - Zambian artist Namvula – at this point I was trying to work out how long this performance was going to last? Did I need another drink? Where were the toilets? Were these shoes going to hurt all night? Does anyone go for comfortable shoes when they go out? How many photos should I take of the lovely building? Shall we try a couple of selfies? Distracted? Yes, just slightly, but it didn’t last long. The music coming from the stage surprised me – unusual African beats with a great singing voice and so easy to listen and sway along to. I was even more surprised to find I was enjoying it despite my immediate neighbour debating whether this was indeed jazz or some unusual fusion. He wasn’t sure - I wasn’t bothered.
Why are people like this? Music is music it doesn’t need to be a genre. People can either sing, play and make good music or they can’t. You either love it or you don’t. It would be a boring world if we were all identical.
So - an hour soon passed, swaying in time with the audience to the music onstage and I had now begun to look forward to what was coming next and forgotten all about my shoes (still hurting).
Cue the arrival of the ten-piece Hackney Colliery Band – drums, trombones, trumpets, saxophones and a very large sousaphone which looked like it was being played via a shower attachment (the old ones which excitingly used to turn your bath taps into a shower!)
They were loud, lively and looked like they were having a blast. I loved them from the minute they came on stage and played a mixture of their own compositions and unusual arrangements of some great rock songs! Three of my favourite songs from Nirvana, the Prodigy and Blackstreet (No Diggity was my ringtone for many years until it got me into trouble at a conference – long story!!) Once again, my neighbour expressed his displeasure that they hadn’t just stuck to covers as they were much better when they did! I strongly disagree their original music was fun and exciting and most importantly tuneful and great to dance to!
After weeks of complaining to anyone that would listen that I was having to go a jazz festival (insert emoji again – you know which one by now!) life once again proved that sometimes the things you aren’t keen on doing turn out to be the best experiences in your life. I’m not sure I’m now a jazz convert, but both acts we saw were excellent that night – proving that true talent always shines through.
So now I find myself stalking the internet to find where I can next see the Hackney Colliery Band, sending the videos to all my friends and family and generally taking a keen interest in seeing them again! I'd even go so far to say I am looking forward to next year’s Jazz festival (insert a whole row of laughing emojis!).
Halfway through a recent repeat of a 1980’s Top of the Pops I was hit by a bolt of reality. What a decade the 80’s had been for us – both still at high school as it started and newly married as it finished – ten years which saw us finish the education system, start jobs (not careers for either of us!) meet, fall in love and marry – booking our wedding reception after a lively night out with friends must have come as quite a shock for both our parents! Ten years which probably had the most lifestyle changes for the both of us against the backdrop of a very interesting decade of music!
Top of the Pops, just in case you don’t remember it, was the music programme on television from the mid sixties to the mid 90’s. In a time of just three television channels (yes, that’s right, just three tv channels and no Netflix, YouTube or amazon!) it regularly attracted audiences of over 15 million people and was essential viewing on a Thursday night for lots of the population – teenagers for the music, dads for Pans People (go YouTube them you’ll see why!). Cancelled due to dwindling audiences the legend of Top of the Pops has never really died - you can still find repeats and compilations on several satellite channels. BBC4 show complete episodes each Friday night and twitter goes nuts with user after user tweeting along with the acts resulting in #totp being the top trending hashtag every week.
Living in Wigan, music is a big part of the life of the town from George Formby and his ukele to Kajagoogoo and Richard Ashcroft’s Verve (hardly compares to Manchester does it?). What the town is and always has been famous for is its nightlife. Even if you never visited I bet you have heard of Wigan Casino – home of Northern Soul with all nighters every week and its very own dance style - still remembered and celebrated to this day with regular events. King Street in the 80’s was rumoured to have the most number of nightclubs on one street which people travelled far and wide to visit. Home of the legendary Maximes – rock night Friday – and the one and only Wigan Pier where I spent most of my weekends making sure we arrived in time for happy hour then dancing the night away with friends and finishing the night in the chippy.
Sadly although King Street does still exist and there is still a nightlife, most of the clubs and pubs we spent the 80's in have fallen into disrepair or disappeared forever. Wigan Pier is long gone; the Turnkey Cellars, Officers Club, Chaplins and Maximes long forgotten by everyone but those of us who loved them.
Friday nights may no longer be dancing nights (certainly for us), but the power of a piece of music puts you right back there. Strange how I can’t remember what happened last week but still remember every word to every song from the gloriously fun Wham, to tragic Billy MacKenzie and the Associates, Madonna’s first appearance, Morrissey with his gladioli, new romantics, Adam and the Ants, punk, ska and of course the ever present dance group be that Pans People or Legs and Co!
Thank you #totp !
A slight change in the air this week as the World Cup excitement came to an abrupt stop followed by something currently very unfamiliar falling from the sky! Was this the end of this glorious summer? Thankfully, well I think thankfully (I would really, really like a good night’s sleep) the rain passed over rapidly (and heavily) and normal service was quickly resumed – blue skies, high temperatures and everyone out in their shorts!
We’ve been photographically blessed this year with spectacular sunsets every night and have spent many a recent evening sat on tops of hills or overlooking fields watching the sun go down behind purple, yellow and red clouds. Social media loves a sunset. Visit Twitter and you will find thousands of users who post nothing but sunset pictures. In fact, our most successful Tweets have all involved different elements of a setting sun across the country and if we were just focused on ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ we could probably post a different sunset every night and feel we were becoming ‘successful’.
For us though it is not all about the ‘likes’. We post the pictures we have taken, which we personally love. Not everyone else will love them all, but we want our accounts to have variety, accounts which reflect the way we live our lives and the things we like to do together. You will find the occasional sunset – after all they make truly beautiful photographs, but you’ll also find photos of pink feathers and barrels of whiskey, bison’s eyes and fairground horses, buildings, coastlines and lots of trees.
We try to keep our content recent and relevant so, as we felt we were slipping into sunset territory, it was time to take a trip to the city for some urban relief!
No matter how many times we visit Manchester there is always something new to photograph. Street art constantly changing in the Northern Quarter, routes you haven’t taken yet, festivals to visit and surprises around every corner. Its hard to believe in the past 50 years (Oh how old does that make me feel!) neither of us have ever been to the giant Vimto bottle, visited the roman ruins or found the Space Invaders painted on walls around the city.
Walking almost 10k around the city with three cameras and a very large battery pack for our mobiles (we really need a smaller one) in blistering hot temperatures was much more enjoyable than it sounds. It is a hobby we both love. It is very apparent how popular a hobby photography is becoming – cameras on every corner jostling for the best spot and the whole thing almost feeling like a ‘twitch’ (bird watching term – google it!). In a much-photographed place it is increasingly hard to find the shot that no one else has taken and watch out for your fellow photographers coming to see what you are taking!
Three hours together discussing all the things we never have time to say during busy working weeks, spending time outdoors in glorious weather and learning new things about a city we love, memory cards full of photos to stock our social media accounts and to finish off a visit to the Festa Italiana and our first try of Pizza Fritters! What a delight they were – freshly baked as you watch and delicious, San Pellegrino Limonata to drink and a traditional cannoli to finish all for under £18!
Can we get through a week without posting another sunset photograph? Let’s see…
You can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @mwgu50 and @imageshop1803 if you want to have a look!
I’m not sure what has happened over the past 6 weeks but we actually seem to be in the midst of a “real” Summer! Every year (or so it seems) weather forecasters (who I believe just guess!) promise us a long hot summer – the best Summer since 1976 – and every year we seem to have a couple of nice days and then just return to our usual and mostly expected Summer of cloud and drizzle with occasional sunshine. Are we disappointed? Maybe not as it is something we have to come to expect. In fact the weather all year rarely changes and sometimes it is hard now to distinguish between seasons.
1976 has become this fabled long hot Summer when reservoirs ran dry, beaches were packed, the sun shone every day and people were genuinely more happy. It is hard not to notice the difference in everyone’s mood when the sun shines on us. We both lived through 1976 – aged 10 and much less mature than 10 years olds in 2018. 1976 for me was a long family holiday on the Isle of Wight basking in the sunshine and coming home with a “healthy” tan. There was no need for sun protection in those days we had no idea what damage we might have been doing. In fact the most popular sun products of the time offered no protection and instead worked as tan accelerators! If your purse didn’t stretch to that my friend Pamela knew the recipe to make your own! (which actually used to sizzle on your skin due to the high oil content!). Picnics with home made ‘butties’ and “corporation pop” (cant tell you the disappointment when I found out this was tap water), playing out with your friends ‘til at least 9 o’clock, fun in the blow up paddling pool and lots and lots of ice creams! I have no real recollection of drought conditions, hose pipe bans or uncomfortable sleeping conditions and, in Chris’ words, wasn’t every childhood Summer just like that?
The following 40+ years (that makes me feel so old) have had nice Summers with intermittent sunshine and even short bursts of extreme heat. Our daughter’s graduation in 2013 was a boiling hot day and how they managed to get everyone through it without a fainting incident was remarkable. We left shortly after for a family holiday to Paris where the temperature hit 42 degrees and leaving your air conditioned hotel each morning was like walking into an oven. In an altogether familiar pattern this was soon replaced by cooler, rainy weather but at least you could sleep each night and your grass stayed green!
It's hard to pinpoint when this year’s glorious Summer began. The Winter was cold and seemed to stretch for an eternity. We were lucky and avoided any snowfall, but the rest of the country suffered. Spring started with a record cold for early March, the Summer clothes remained firmly at the back of everyone’s wardrobes while we all remained in thick jumpers, boots and woolly socks (I have to say at this point I love my boots and would happily wear them all year). Shortly into April we began to have forecasters promising the hottest weather we had had in April for many, many years. Time to put the boots away? Maybe not, they do get forecasts wrong (a lot!) but right on cue along came temperatures almost in the 30’s and our first spell of unseasonably hot weather began.
Although it didn’t remain at that level of heat, that appears to have been the start of this long hot Summer. A trip to London (which we'll write about soon) that required some adult clothes (tights and suits – although not together) one of us sweated while the other perspired all the way there and all the way back – we even had to buy some more sunglasses as we were completely unprepared.
The May school holidays bought record temperatures again. We were staying in the highlands of Scotland so had sensibly packed our jumpers and waterproofs and couldn’t quite believe the weather we had. Long hot Summer days (all week!) with glorious sunsets – I even had to buy some shorts (might have been the first pair since 1976!).
Doesn’t it feel like that has now become our weather? Sunshine every day, temperatures in the high 20’s and even the low 30’s. Wimbledon without any cancelled matches, people barbecuing every night, strange white tan lines where watches and bracelets sit plus the age old question of should you wear your socks with your sandals! It even feels a bit odd when you see clouds.
The sunshine is beautiful, clear blue skies, long hot days and glorious sunsets - but oh how I wish it would cool down at night. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can't sleep uncovered (does this echo back to childhood days when you felt safest under a blanket?). My first attempt at growing my own sweet peas seems to be doomed to failure – ‘What does it mean Mum if they’ve gone all crispy?’ A 10k walk, which we frequently do at the weekend, leaves you drained and exhausted and where does your appetite for anything other than ice cream go?
We’re days away from a hosepipe ban, local moorland fires are still causing problems for our hard working fire service and we are all exhausted from a lack of good sleep, but the whole country, sick of Brexit and politics, austerity and disruption (rail firms I mean you) have had their mood lifted by the sight of a big yellow ball in the sky sending down its warmth. Coupled with the completely unexpected progress of England in the World Cup, drinks outside with friends and families, no need to wear your coat (or boots!) and the general feeling of wellbeing - Summer 2018 is turning into one we will all remember and hopefully for all the right reasons! And maybe just maybe 2018 will become the "new" 1976?
We’ve never considered that we live in a high risk area for any natural disasters - big or small. There have on occasions been earthquakes – very, very small earthquakes reaching the dizzy heights of 2 or 3 on the Richter scale. I think I remember once that somewhere local had a tiny little tornado which knocked a few bins over, but on the whole we live in a relatively sheltered (by the Pennines) area which probably doesn’t feature highly on any emergency planning list. How strange it has been this week to find one of our local areas propelled to national stardom for what has been declared a ‘major’ incident.
Winter Hill, visible to most people around our end of Lancashire/Greater Manchester and instantly recognisable from the television mast which sits atop it. Popular with walkers, runners and cyclists – families out for day trips, horse riders, dog walkers and if it snows it’s the first place most people go with their sledge! Visit Rivington on any Sunday or bank holiday and you’ll find the car parks of the local barn full of motorbikes old and new. The view from the pike stretches for miles and on a clear day you will not only see the towns of Wigan, Bolton and Chorley but in the distance you will make out familiar landmarks of Manchester city centre, Liverpool, Blackpool and even the hills of Wales. Walk further up to the transmitters and the view is breathtaking, literally, as even on our clear day, it is almost always breezy! Indeed it’s only a couple of months since we ventured up to the masts for one of our Sunday strolls (see below).
2018 has already produced the longest heatwave most of us can remember. Glorious blue skies every day since late May, wall to wall sunshine, high temperatures (stuffy nights…) and as a result parched, dry grass and moorlands posing an ever increasing risk of fire.
During the last week of a June a moorland fire broke out on Saddleworth Moors – about 25 miles East of where we live - visible across most of Manchester and beyond creating a plume of smoke NASA could photograph from space. Before this was under control the already stretched fire services then had to contend with a second fire breaking out on Winter Hill just west of Bolton and which dominates the view from our bedroom window – about 8 miles away. Without any let up in the weather both fires soon grew out of control and both were declared major incidents with hundreds of firefighters and dozens of engines and helicopters involved.
The plumes of smoke from the fires have filled our skies morning and evening for almost a week now. Thankfully for us the wind has never blown the smoke towards us although at times the smell of burning has been overpowering and we have awoken most mornings coughing. And it has been a bit surreal to be able to watch a national news story live from the comfort of your bedroom!
We are at least 8 miles away from Winter Hill and can only imagine the impact the fires are having on the affected areas and particularly on the fire service supported by colleagues from across the country and members of our armed forces. They are working tirelessly to get the situation under control in appalling conditions.
Uncomfortably, the smoke has proven irresistible to photograph. Beautiful and hypnotising- stretching for miles and miles around our local area and when the sun begins to set behind the smoke clouds the colours of the sky are once again breathtaking – purples, reds, yellows and a bright pink sun. We have kept our distance and photographed with a long lens but in this world of people feeling it is their right to get the best shot it has not been surprising that the police have had to issue warnings to drone pilots hampering the helicopters and even had to rescue a member of the public who managed to get close to the fires (after ignoring the Police and Fire Service cordon) then collapsed with smoke inhalation problems!
As this is being written the smoke in our area has disappeared or at least decreased, so maybe the work of the fire crews is beginning to have an impact, but it will need a really good downpour to do the job properly as peat can stay burning under ground for a long time. So whilst we’ve got a proper summer this year I’m sure a lot of people won’t be too sorry to have some rain soon but until then lets be thankful we have dedicated professionals trying to contain the situation and leave them to do what needs to be done.
There are some things in life that make you feel very ‘English’ – fish and chips, cream teas, supporting the underdog, losing penalty shoot outs, apologising and of course queuing!
We are known across the world for our truly amazing queuing skills on all occasions (mostly in cars on the roads into Manchester city centre!) and how many times do you say ‘sorry’ in a day. No one says sorry as much as the English do – why is that? Sorry you’ve just stood on my toe! Sorry you closed the door on my hand!
So, it should really have been no surprise on a June Saturday night, as we made our way to Old Trafford stadium to watch the fantastic Billy Joel (69 and still rocking despite a double hip replacement!) to see these English traits in action!
We politely walked from the city centre in a nice orderly moving queue and then turned onto one of the side streets approaching the ground to be met by a sea of people – mostly standing in a huge queue. What were they queuing for? Did anybody know? We asked a few people who answered that they ‘had just joined it’. What should we do? Amongst the sea of people stood a smallish member of the stadium team with a loudspeaker barking instructions that no one could hear whilst thousands of people politely stood and queued!
Feeling a bit rebellious we made our way down the middle of the very congested street (I can’t lie the number of ‘queue jumper’ looks aimed towards us was very unsettling!) We reached the front and had no idea what to do or where to go! Cue much-needed police take over (is that really their job?) and at last some order appeared as they began to direct people into more queues! We went as one giant snake back out of the stadium grounds, round the outskirts and then back in.
Join the queue to pass through the turnstiles, queue to find your seats and I am not even going to comment on the length of the queue for the lady’s toilets. Make new friends in the queue, find people from your hometown who (on the advice of the stadium) have parked in the worst place and will be queueing again in a few hours (don’t mention that though.)! And all the time stand politely, smile often, talk to strangers and don’t forget to apologise at every opportunity!
Are we sorry we went? Definitely not! Two and a half hours of favourite songs, band led jamming, Nessun Dorma(?!) and even some Glory, Glory Man Utd! The promised rain and thunderstorms never showed up and as the sun set the stadium was every photographers dream. Thank goodness for the trusty Huawei P20.
Standing ovation, encore, rousing finish, then off we go to stand politely and queue again!
Trees, forests, woodland we both love them. Wonderful places to walk and photograph. Settings for many of our favourite horror films – we probably watch too many of those - we were all completely freaked out recently by a long grey jacket hanging on a tree in the middle of a forest! Wildlife everywhere you look – well at least until you get your camera out! And don’t forget to look up the view through the tops of the trees is breathtaking.
I suppose by the time you reach our age thoughts turn to where you want to live in retirement. We both have major split personalities and can never decide whether we want bright lights, big city or lakes, mountains and trees, lots of trees. In an ideal world when my Nan’s ‘ship’ eventually comes in (its been a long time coming…) how wonderful would it be to have both? That’s not going to happen for us unless we’re in a shepherds hut and a tent!
I read last year that Manchester city centre housebuilders are trying to attract the more mature house buyers into city centre apartments – what a wonderful idea. But hang on this article was talking about the over 35’s! Guess that makes us geriatrics, but even when we have our zimmer frames and struggle to remember the way home we would still love city life. How could you not? Museums, art galleries, restaurants, events happening all the time, walk to work and restaurants – did I say restaurants? New ones every week to try – make sure you’re quick as some don’t last too long!
So we watch the new city centre housing developments with interest not sure whether to take the leap and move to the city and then we go on holiday…
Now as all our holidays seem to end up being in the highlands of Scotland (we do look elsewhere!) every time we find ourselves back in the middle of a forest with walks to a loch and mountains to climb all thoughts of citylife disappear and we start house hunting there!
Maybe I’m a product of Little House on the Prairie (could you watch any episode without crying?). A log cabin in the forest with its own loch and mountains behind how wonderful would that be. Log cabins must surely be easy to build – I remember 7 Brides for 7 Brothers - they built theirs between dances in about 10 minutes!
Who wouldn’t love life in the forest? Peace and quiet, wildlife at your doorstep, long walks taking you to magical places, picnics by the lochs and amazing sunsets from the top of mountains. So we look in the estate agent’s windows, weigh up house prices and jobs and then we go home and go back into the city…
How do you make your dream home become a reality when you don’t even know what your dream home or more particularly the location is! I suppose - we could always sell up and travel the world in a camper van….
You might be thinking here that I am completely uncultured but how wrong you would be! Art to me is big. I love a big installation the quirkier the better. Maybe I’m a product of watching too much Art Attack when the kids were younger – do you remember the amazing massive designs Neil Buchanan used to create – visible only from the air! Go check YouTube if you haven’t!
As a family (always drag everyone else along with you!) we were fascinated by Cornelia Parker’s amazing exploding shed ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, gazed in awe at the intricate paper cut sculptures in the First Cut exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and still can’t quite believe that we spent such a long time looking at a giant crack in the floor ‘Shibboleth’ at the Tate in London (it really was just a completely fascinating crack in the floor!).
The growth in giant art outdoor installations across the country has led us to extend our journeys many a time calling at random towns and roads just to see one! The Angel of the North standing proudly near Gateshead, the Kelpies close to Falkirk in Scotland and their sister sculpture "Arria”, Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ 100 cast iron figures (allegedly all of him and very naked!) spread out across Crosby Beach - these should all be on your must see list. We even manage to have our own slightly smaller sculpture in Wigan Town Centre - The Face of Wigan, representing all the inhabitants of Wigan.
Art should be whatever gives you pleasure to look at whether that’s an ageing oil painting, an unmade bed (?!) or giant metal horse heads. Photos hanging in a gallery, children’s paintings on your wall and yes, I definitely think Instagram. An art gallery you can view from anywhere in the world at any time - at times inspirational and emotive - check out our account @mwgu50 and have a look at some of our amazing followers.
Holidays - maybe they are not the most important thing in your life but for us the need to escape and recharge is something we cannot manage without. Equally at home in the big cities or out in the wilderness. We don’t really do exotic and despite extensively researching different countries, towns and cities every year we seem to have developed a tendency to just drift back to Scotland – well specifically the highlands of Scotland.
It’s hard to see my childhood holidays as anything other than a vintage postcard (not the saucy ones!) caravans, seasides, you and your sister in matching clothes, picnics in the car after a ‘drive’ (who does that anymore!), Grandad leaving his false teeth everywhere, Nanny and her crochet bag who despite the heat always produced a new blanket for someone! We holidayed across the country finding special places on the Isle of Wight and Lake District, Wales, Devon and Norfolk – once we even ventured as far as Dumfries! Almost every holiday was self-catered which (unless my memory is beginning to fail) was a cheap and cheerful way to get away and have some fun. Caravans and chalets (not as exciting as they sound and definitely nothing remotely like a swiss one!) and eventually progressing to country cottages!
Somewhere during the past ten years self-catering holidays changed. Hot tubs began to appear, luxurious accommodation, chefs to cook in your cottage and a gradual climb in the cost. Like a large amount of the country we are tied to school holidays (job not children) so any potential break we decide to do always involves the most expensive prices of the whole year. 6 people (and the dog) appears to give you an average price of £2000 for a week in the summer and whilst researching Cornwall last year we were quoted £7500 for one property! Prices for a summer break on the Isle of Scilly would definitely make your bank manager (probably a robot now) faint! Needless to say, we didn’t take up any of those options but for those prices to be quoted presumably someone is paying them.
It’s almost become cheaper to stay in a hotel now with food, but for us (and probably many others) we like the relaxation of a self-catered holiday. Free to eat when and where we want and (boringly) even be able to wash and iron during your stay. There is nothing nicer than a suitcase of clean clothes ready to hang when you reach home! We look (after price) for somewhere to sleep all 6 of us and the dog (we never know who is coming!), at least two bathrooms, somewhere we can eat outside (providing it doesn’t rain all week!) comfy beds and most importantly – location.
Thankfully, if you look hard enough you can get all of these things without breaking the bank. Our most recent choice proved to be one of the most perfect self-catering accommodations we had ever stayed in and for a very reasonable school holiday price.
Handpicked Lodges' ‘Riverside Lodge’ should really have given us a clue as to what we could expect, and we fell in love with the house and its location the minute we walked through the door. Patio doors on every bedroom and a living area looking out over a fast-flowing river. Comfy beds, red squirrels running around outside, a firepit next to the river, Netflix (bring your own log in!), birds to photograph, leather couches, a forest on your doorstep and so many little extras (loved the local beers and famous Scottish delicacy the Tunnock Wafer!) and it even had a washing/drying/ironing room!
Thanks to a week of sunshine and heat, meals on the patio every night and wildlife by the bucket load it was a memorable holiday and thankfully midge-free. Time to start thinking of our next trip – where shall we go? Scotland again? Why not….
As we've previously mentioned we are both 'larks', awake and ready to go very early in the morning. This has its advantages - watching the sun rise, catching early morning mist, getting to work on time!
Imagine our excitement when we found out a steam train was due to pass through Manchester Victoria generating (hopefully!) lots of contrasting ancient (well maybe not ancient!) and modern transport pics! Imagine our horror when we found out it was due to pass through at 6.30am. we're about 45 minutes away from the city centre on a good day (rare and infrequent - the days when no one else is on the road!)- mentally adding on breakfast, getting ready (have to put my lipstick on!), parking, walking etc meant a very, very early start and after a busy week it was not something either of us relished.
It was an opportunity we didn't want to miss, so time to book a last minute hotel deal in Manchester for the night (this is how seriously we take our photography now!) and there was even time for a Friday night family meet up with the 'grown ups'.
Even without the travelling, Saturday still brought a very early start and when the alarm rang at 5.30am we almost had to drag each other out of bed. Thankfully Chris had done a pre-visit 'recce' on his work lunch break earlier in the week, so we knew exactly where to stand (or thought we did!). The sun was out, the city was quiet and, unlike earlier in the week, it was warmish (no frost!).
We positioned ourselves at the side of the track, just before the train would disappear inside the station - at the side of the embankment building and not on the actual track!
I didn't realise we had become train spotters too ( I will shortly be buying my very own anorak!), but there was considerable excitement as we saw the steam appear and the familiar chug chug noises. It wasn't the prettiest of steam trains, but it was a delightful sight making its way through the building works and the new flats in and around the station. Happy travellers waved from every window (they must have been up so early as the train had departed Liverpool at least 40 minutes previous) and the train looked really inviting particularly the First Class section (until we reached home and priced it up!).
As it entered Victoria Station, we casually set off to the other side of the bridge to see it come out the other side. Even managing to look at each others videos and photos! At this point our plans went slightly (well massively!) array - neither of us had read the actual timings! We waited until 7am and then checked to find the train had just gone straight through Victoria and we had completely missed its departure! Still, no time for disappointment as we saw lots of early morning trains and trams and the trainlines looked particularly impressive in the early morning sunshine!
So, there we were 7am - all done for the day and a bit lost for ideas. The lighting was spectacular, so we wandered around for 8km passing through the Northern Quarter and back into the city with a stop for cinnamon swirls on the steps of the Bridgewater Hall. We still had time to kill before we were expected at our next appointment, so called in at Salford Quays (again the lighting was really, really good!) and were met by rowers, wild water swimmers and more spectacular sunshine.
All done for the day and back home in time to watch the Royal Wedding (might have been a slight afternoon nap though!) we were pretty pleased with our mornings work!
Life and other