• I have just spent a very pleasant weekend visiting friends in London. The trains were delayed, the snow fell continuously and the pavements were treacherous but it was a lovely weekend.

    I rarely visit London; the last time was about 6 years ago and I can’t remember the previous visit!

    A two hour walk around the sights of the Southbank felt like we’d been hiking for hours but it was well worth it. The streets were fairly quiet and, although we had to concentrate on walking in the snow, we were able to get in a pretty good walk. From the Shard to Lambeth Palace we went along the river and I took some photos. They have a very different quality to pictures taken on a clear day with a blue sky but I think they are lovely and atmospheric. Take a look and see if you agree.

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  • Men and women seem to have very different ideas about bonfires. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bonfire as much as anyone, especially on Bonfire Night, but I like it to be contained, to be safe, and to be a reasonable size. This is where men appear to think differently. Put a man in charge of a bonfire and you turn him into a pyromaniac. The pile of wood to burn gets larger and larger. The barbecue lighter fuel appears and gets liberally sprinkled on the pile and then matches get struck and the towering fire hazard is lit. A long stick is needed to prod and poke the fire into life, stirring up the wood and allowing oxygen into the pile to get those flames going. Higher and higher the flames climb, possibly setting alight a neighbour’s tree or sending clouds of smoke over the hedge to blind innocent passing drivers. Then small children are encouraged to throw more combustibles onto the fire with scant regard for the sparks and burning ashes raining down on them.

    Everyone else gets cold or bored eventually and retreats indoors for hot soup, a cup of tea or a beer. But the man of the house is out there ensuring everything is burnt. Nothing must remain but a smouldering, glowing pile of ash. Only then is his job done, only then does he resume his normal personality, only then does he become human again. He watches, admires, swells with pride and can finally go home, safe in the knowledge that his bonfire was the biggest, the best, and the most impressive in the neighbourhood.

    The following morning the smell of smoke lingers in the damp air, it is slightly foggy and the men are outside again, the clearing up has begun. The singed plants and trees are trimmed, the ashes dug into the ground and the spent fireworks removed from the lawn. Life returns to normal, men return to normal. Until next year.

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  • I was born in Manchester and I went to school there, although I lived in Stockport; as a teenager I went shopping in Manchester most Saturdays with my friend. In my late teens and early twenties Manchester was the place I went for a night out or to the theatre. Manchester is also the home of my beloved Manchester City. I live in Cheshire now but I still love Manchester.

    This weekend as the sun shone on Manchester, I took my son to some workshops at The Royal Exchange and found myself with a few hours to spend in the city centre. It was only two days since I had last been there and I kept to the area around the Royal Exchange and Corn Exchange.

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    On such a lovely day lots of people were around, enjoying the sunshine at cafes and bars. There were plenty of people about in Exchange Square too just taking a rest and soaking up the sunshine in our all too brief summer.

    We had a lovely walk around the cathedral, an area I haven’t been to for many years, and a quick visit to The National Football Museum. I will certainly be going back for a longer visit as I didn’t have time to explore thoroughly, but what I did see was really interesting and well displayed. I found myself wondering if my Grandad went to matches in a suit and flat cap, very unlike the replica kit and team colours worn to matches today.

    The new Co-Operative building is looking pretty good now too.

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    Manchester is a really beautiful city, especially if you take the trouble to look at all the amazing buildings. Of course, we don’t always get the sunshine which improves the look of almost any town, but next time you go to Manchester just lift your head from the shops and take a look around, even on a dull or rainy day you’ll see something to lift your spirits.

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