Thursday, August 26, 2010

A new arrival

Big news! Just to let y'all know, my daughter Bella arrived this weekend, so I'll be taking a break from blogging for a while. So if you're wondering why I haven't responded to your fabulously interesting email/invite/request this is probably why.

Also, before I forget, I've splashed out on one of those custom urls in honour of my blog's 5th birthday. Check it out: I'm a dot com, me. Next year I want to get some of those neon undercar lights, or maybe some zebra skin upholstery. Anyway, please adjust your feed readers accordingly. See you later.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Happy 5th Birthday Manchizzle

Hard as it is for me to believe, this blog marks its 5th birthday this week. How the hell did that happen? Five is OLD for a blog. Serious greying temples n' gravitas time.

Makes me think about how much this city has changed in that time - the pound store from my first post isn't there anymore - and how my relationship to it has evolved. Back then I was still a fresh-faced relatively new arrival to Manchester (even though I actually lived on the far end of Chorley.) Now I live in Greater Manchester and know it much better, but knowing the city better has, somehow, deepened my curiosity about it. I'm still fascinated by Manchester and I still love blogging and meeting other people around here who do too, people I have found to be disproportionately funny, friendly and interesting to talk to.

So, basically, thanks for reading. Here's to the next five years...

Friday, August 06, 2010

New books: short shorts, werewolves and babies

The three new Manchester books this go-round have very little in common. If they were people, you'd definitely never catch them at the same party. But they're all good in their own very different ways.

First up is Nik Perring's book of short stories. Not So Perfect (Roast), is a little thing, a pint-sized but reassuringly thick book. The stories are also on the more diminutive side of short, but pack a lot of punch into their smaller word counts. One of them, The Angel in the Car Park, first appeared in Rainy City Stories, the Manchester creative writing website I edit, so I was already a fan of Nik's writing. And, as expected, I really enjoyed the book, full of offbeat characters and stripped-down, almost anecdotal narratives that are like short stories boiled down to their most concentrated essence.

And now for something completely different:

Tom Fletcher's book The Leaping (Quercus). It starts out among a gang of friends who share a house in Manchester and work at a mind-numbing call centre, living out their post-uni lives in scenes that'll be very familiar to many of the readers of this blog. Then the action moves up to The Lakes, and that's when things get very weird indeed. Yes, this is a werewolf novel, and a very good one too. It scared the bejeezus out of me, probably because Fletcher never resorts to schlocky horror gimmicks but approaches the material in a new way. It's hard to explain, but if my experience is anything to go by the book unravels into your head like some kind of psychedelic trip. It gets under your skin and creates an altered reality, a real sense of otherness and a way of life that is utterly alien and completely convincing.

Sheesh, I'm getting scared just remembering reading that book. So let's move swiftly from freaky psychedelic werewolves to babies. Yes, babies. Manchester babies, to be more specific, as the third book I want to recommend is the new edition of Babies in the City, Manchester's own where-to-go-and-what-to-do guide for Mancunian childwranglers. Their first book has been indispensable since my daughter's arrival a couple of years ago, and the revised edition has thoughtfully added in more options that will appeal to older kids.

It's all here: obscure-but-cool museums on the fringes of Greater Manchester, parks and walks, indoor play areas, classes, kid-friendly eats in the city centre, baby-friendly movie screenings... the list goes on. Only occasionally do I disagree with the reviews of the writers, and mainly because I think I'm a lot more picky about food than they are (yes, Heaton Park cafe, I'm looking at you.) But that's really my only small gripe. If you know someone with a new baby, this is an ideal present.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

New blogs: The Mangle Street edition

Hey, it's new Manchester blog time. First off, I have whole heap of new writing blogs to add. Seriously, a lot. Check this out: Write in for Writing's Sake is an interesting use of the tumblr format to host an online writing group. And Figs Might Leaf is a short story blog. And Manchester-based Fantasy and SF author Andy Remic has a blog here. And Khmer Rouge Strippergram is a joint Mancunian-Irish humor blog. Other Manchester writing blogs: The Paper Face Girl and Something Every Day. Oh, and Potwatch: Observations of a Kitchen Porter. In verse. You don't see that every day, eh?

Onto the city and neighbourhood section, where Manculiar is a new blog about the city's past, present and future, and has turned up some very interesting stuff. mightaswell is exploring the city and poking her nose into all sorts of odd corners. There's plenty more fascinating reading over at Manchester's Radical History. And Hulme seems to have some new hyperlocal action with Best of Hulme.

Mediawatchers will be interested to hear about the MediaCityUK Blog, which "delivers the latest news, views and rumours about the MediaCityUK development in Salford Quays, Manchester - entirely independently and unofficially."

On the arts and culture tip, Andy Brydon writes Curated Place,"A blog trying to capture, critique, explain and explore the meeting points of culture, tech, art, places and people in a world that has gone beyond the museum." A couple more new arts and culture blogs: fellow Rammy-ites Fishink and Pinnikity, who both make stuff. And there's a new fashion blog: Pastime Bliss.

Music-wise, Richard H-J's blog an appropriate response to reality is mainly video-based (music and other stuff.) Bad Cover Versions, on the other hand, is pretty self-explanatory.

The photo above is from this week's new photoblog. Being a former New Yorker in Mancunian exile, you know I love photoblog Manchester is Not New York. Those fire escapes are something you don't notice at all when you live in NYC, so I was almost surprised how taken with them visiting Brits are (someone I know returned from a trip to NYC with hundreds of fire escape photos.) And who knew the Northern Quarter had so many of them? This particularly ornate example is from the corner of Dale Street and the delightfully-named Mangle Street.

And if anyone wanted to get to but missed our Manchester blogmeet last week, I'm sorry for you. It was really great. Seriously enjoyable. The inimitable Fat Roland has an exhaustive (and slightly spooky) round up on his blog here. Many thanks again to the folks from The Lowry for coming and telling us all about their Spencer Tunick exhibition and buying us beer. And also thanks to the fine people at Common, who have a way with the taps and whose halloumi and felafel kebab is a thing of awesome beauty.

Stay tuned for news of another blogmeet in the Autumn.