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By Sainsburys, Oxford Road

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To play puddle roulette, you will need:

  1. A road, ideally quite a long one, that is prone to epic puddles when it’s raining. It needs to be a pretty busy road as well.
  2. A clear goal and sense of purpose that you are Going On A Journey
  3. A whimsical sense of imagination

The number of players isn’t massively important. Two is probably the ideal number, but you can play it with more and you can play it on your own if your sense of imagination is strong enough as you will meet people on The Journey who are also playing the game, and this will help keep you in the zone.

The aim of puddle roulette is to get from the beginning of your journey to the end of your journey without getting wet. The sense of jeopardy comes from having to get past lots of epic puddles without being splashed by passing cars. For this reason, the puddles really do have to be truly epic puddles. That is, deep ones and, also, long ones.

You can spot people playing puddle roulette because they will be the ones hovering uncertainly on the pavement next to the start of an epic puddle, keeping a keen eye on the cars heading down the road towards them. Is that car turning off? Is it going to slow down or drive round the epic puddle, or will it drive through the puddle at high speed causing a veritable tsunami of water about five foot high?

Then, decision time. To walk or not to walk.

Sometimes you set off confident that there are no cars coming and suddenly one will appear from nowhere and come bearing down on you. You can speed up as you are going past the epic puddle, or run, or throw yourself off the pavement down a path or against a wall.

The jeopardy is greater if you aren’t dressed for the weather. But, even if you have a head to toe waterproof on, you can still play because if you get caught up in it enough you’ll forget that you have the waterproof on.

As I was playing puddle roulette today, I heard an indignant voice behind me proclaim, loudly, “It’s only water!”

I thought for a minute or two that he was talking to me, then I realised he had someone with them.

I think she was playing puddle roulette and he wasn’t.

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Thanks to Manchester Histories Festival for this:

Manchester Histories is pleased to be working in partnership with Stockport Council to present the Picture Stockport project.
Follow the trail of 22 images displayed across Stockport town centre and vote for your favourite artwork of the borough.
Find out more and vote from 12th Jan – 12th Feb 2017 at picturestockport.com #picturestockport

I’ve had a look and there’s some really good ones, across all sorts of artistic styles. Some are surreal, some are Lowry like, some are almost like collages… Well worth checking out and voting for your favourite.

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Item 1: A car driving down the A6 at dinnertime with about a third of a fir tree sticking out of the passenger window

Item 2: About 5 seconds later, noticing that the hairdresser opposite was cutting hair while wearing full Santa fig.

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Going past the Apollo to get the bus home from work tonight, we were greeted with the following message from their announcements screen:


A very Mancunian Christmas indeed


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On Saturday while taking a break from the annual Louder Than Words music literature festival at the Palace Hotel, I found myself standing outside 8th Day marvelling at a very smart and imposing horse drawn Victorian style funeral carriage which was parked up there.

I initially thought it was something to do with a group of gothic lolita girls and steampunks I’d seen earlier on Oxford Road, but I think that was just an odd coincidence as I worked out eventually that the carriage was attached to a gathering group of people in hi vis vests inside and spilling out of All Saints Park across the road. The banners they had seemed to be for something called The 10th Day, which google reveals is something to do with Karbala.

What made this odd occurrence even odder was that it must only have been about 20 minutes since the first of the days marches had passed down Oxford Road: The protest march against the treatment of Kurds in Turkey.

The 10th Day people must have headed off down Oxford Road at about 2pm as I could hear their drummers over John Robb interviewing Kristen Hersh upstairs at the Palace Hotel.

The third march? That was the Anti-Fracking demo and march in the city centre, which you can read about over on Frack-Free Manchester.  I did know about this one in advance actually, but as with every march on a Saturday, knew I wouldn’t be able to attend as when I’m not attending Louder Than Words I’m working.

Despite the nature of these three marches, it does feel oddly reassuring to hear the sound of people on the march again in Manchester as, increasingly, I’ve been starting to see last years TUC March as a kind of last hurrah and wondering what will happen next.

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Now, the cake maiden is not known for her interest in football, but…

Even I recognised the significance of the man stood outside the betting shop in Levenshulme this morning, holding a copy of the paper, sports page out, bearing the legend ‘Champions!’, and grinning and gesticulating wildly.

‘Ah’, I thought to myself from my seat on the bus ‘Leicester City have done it then’.

On the way home, I spotted a handmade cardboard sign by a skip, also in Levenshulme, decrying the corrupt nature of the DHSS.

A day of polarities then.

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Last Thursday I went to the student union to see Zola Jesus with two of the friends I went to see Throwing Muses with earlier this month. Part of me was thinking ‘Oh God I hope it’s not Club Academy again, Zola Jesus is only about 4” 9” if it’s a big crowd I won’t be able to see a damn thing…”  we were all expecting a lot from Nika Roza Danilova and her band, and she certainly didn’t disappoint: Soul searingly powerful vocals and equally powerful pounding, pulsating, hammering drums.

There were aspects of NIN and Siouxsie, but not in a conscious, deliberate way. Danilova has an extremely powerful, as one of my friends said, pitch perfect voice which is just staggering. Because of the otherwordly character of the music, and lyrical themes, coupled with the frenetic lighting flashes, it was very easy to feel as though you were being transported to another world.

The bands image is interesting as well, because they are older looking blokes with leather jackets and other industrial type staples, but Danilova appears to have made a conscious decision to transcend the inevitable goth tag by bleaching her hair peroxide blonde and wearing pale colours. Her videos for the singles from her new album, ‘Conatus’, feature her in white a lot, and on Thursday she had on a pale green satiny vintage dress with a furry gillet in pale brown. She shares with Siouxsie a commanding stage presence and expressive arm movements, plus occasional flailing, dropping towards the floor, and letting her long hair fly amok whilst hunched over intoning darkly. She has beautifully expressive large dark eyes, something we sighed over collectively as we were leaving…

EMA, aka Erika M. Anderson, who was on prior to Zola Jesus was also good. We concluded she had probably heard a lot of Sonic Youth and taken a lot from Kim Gordon, but that this was no bad thing. Not derivative, but cool.

Prior to the gig, we had tea at 8th Day then drinks at the union bar. There had been a cock up with my two friends tickets so we had to queue with the long line of Hanson fans to get to the Reception desk in the union to pick up replacements, which was a tad humiliating.

Then we stood outside a while with the smokers, talking about the strike. Lots of peoples HR departments have sent out emails trying to put pressure on people to tell their line managers before the strike if they intend to strike, or to guilt trip people into not striking at all. I don’t think the letters will have had that much effect though because they neglect a crucial point, namely that the average public sector worker is royally pissed off most days, most of the time at the moment. The day at work I’d had before the gig was absolutely atrocious, and yesterday was even worse. Neither left me with much desire to do anyone any favours… I felt a bit guilty today though because things weren’t as mad, but still ultimately unrepentent.

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In the hot and humid early evening of yesterday, I trundled down Oxford Road in pursuit of food after work. 8th Day doesn’t seem to be doing evenings now that a substantional chunk of the students have gone home for the summer, so it was the Cornerhouse for me.

From the Cornerhouse I meandered towards Saint Peter’s Square, which is currently under seige because of the metrolink extensions (not started yet, so far as I could tell) and the radical overhaul of the entire area by Manchester City Council. The library and the library theatre have already fled the carnage, the war memorial and Peace Gardens are to be moved. In a few years time the place will be as unrecognisable to the average manc as it would be to a survivor of Peterloo today.

Matt Smith (no, not that one) local historian, political upstart, and – apparently – deputy manager at a branch of Asda, chose this day to mark the occasion of the Peterloo Massacre, a tragedy which occurred on the 16th August 1819, a hot day much like the 5th July apparently.

As with many of the various re-tellings and analysis of Peterloo (a dark satirical reference to the much celebrated victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, which occurred close enough to Peterloo to be in the minds of many at the time), Matt’s piece was an overview coupled with an exploration of the parallels between life for the average person in 1819 and now. There are parallels: a struggling economy, high food prices, and a overwhelming sense that things are going in the wrong direction and the wrong people are being made to suffer… But I always think it risks devaluing the importance of what happened in Saint Peter’s Fields (as they were then) on that day in August 1819 if we overconcentrate on the parallels with today, interesting though they are.

Having said that, Smith did an admirable job when it came to explaining the flaws of capitalism as a model (he likened it to a bus being driven over a cliff, with the surviving passengers having to pay the driver to buy a new bus, which  then gets driven over the cliff again, and the process is repeated ad neauseum) and the Rotton Boroughs style political arrangements of 1819 (Manchester had a population of approximately 1 million, only 145 people could vote, and only 1 person could stand as an MP).

You certainly couldn’t fault Smith on enthusiasm and energy, particularly during his agit prop moment as a smug Tory M.P complete with Lib Dem sock puppet, and I did enjoy his description of being filled with hope for the future of political protest upon coming across two men, who had previously been scrapping on the pavement, united by a common hatred, pissing up against a giant billboard of David Cameron just prior to the 2010 elections.

Matt Smith is not The Doctor, but you don’t need a sonic screwdriver to talk about history and politics. If it was 1981 I can’t help but think he would have joined The Gang Of Four instead…

The event is part of the Not Part Of Festival, a fringe festival in Manchester which runs parallel to Manchester International Festival. The name is an abbreviated way of saying ‘Not part of Manchester International Festival’, sort of ‘Off, off Broadway’ or perhaps ‘Off, off Saint Anne’s Square’ in this case.

I picked up a leaflet about the campaign for a proper memorial to the massacre, in which 18 people were killed and over 600 people were injured by sabre cuts and trampling. The previous memorial has always been deemed euphemistic and inadequate, and many, many people, including Mark Thomas, have  joined the campaign many years ago to have it removed and a proper memorial put up instead. With the re-development of the square, the council have promised a new memorial, but doubt is being expressed as to whether it will be any better than the previous one.  If you would like to read more about the history of Peterloo, and about the campaign for a decent memorial to the events, please click here.

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