Sunday, 30 September 2018

Toybox was a Letdown

Dropped into new club Toybox on Deansgate last night, the latest competitor in the 'upmarket' Manchester nightlife scene. Manchester Cool Bars met in Australasia, over the road from the club, and headed to the door before midnight.

The club lets people in 2 at a time, presumably to keep a queue outside, making it look popular. I'd got guestlist for my group, but they still charged me £15 on the door. 2 of my female friends were charged £10, though. Whether those are the official prices for men and women respectively or whether the people on the door just didn't know what they were doing wasn't clear. It's a lot considering what their competitors charge: Panacea is free in on guestlist and LIV is £10 regardless of gender. The girl on the door was making a big deal of the ratio of guys to girls in my group. It all felt a bit pretentious and unnecessary.

Inside, the club wasn't particularly smart, especially seeing as the club only opened a few weeks ago. None of the staff knew the WiFi password, there was no-one manning the cloakroom meaning we had to get the doorman (twice) to find someone to take our coats, which cost £2 each, and the service on the bar was slow as shit.

It's touted as the new celeb club, but the only person I recognised was Adam J from Love Island Season 2.

Also, I apparently gave my number to someone called Lily (this rings no bells at all) who just called me from a withheld number saying I'd met her in Toy Box and I told her I'd take her to Nandos (I would never say this).

A lot of us in the group are turning our backs on the clubs in Manchester, in favour of smaller bars in the Northern Quarter, Spinningfields and First Street.Join the group if this sounds more your thing.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Psychology Month is Complete

I've spent the last month working on psychology- looking into confidence building, combatting memory difficulties, and challenging myself to difficult processes.

During the month I've bought a new car, cooked a few recipes and rolled into a few social events on my own, pushing myself to talk to strangers. I've spent time in NHS therapy looking at ways of relaxing in social situations, learning to stop worrying about what other people think, and making better decisions. The therapist says there's not much more she can do, I've overcome that much. I have one more session to attend.

I've made the decision to switch meds- Sertraline wasn't doing much for me, so I started on Citalopram this week. It's too early to say how it's affecting me.

I've spent a long time at the gym but have beaten no personal bests. My weight has stayed largely the same, too.

That said, I have made suggestions in some social groups for confidence-building challenges, and at least one organiser is planning to put together an event for this. I might be writing about it next Saturday. Plus I have one other #psychologysaturday blog post to upload.

I would have liked to have achieved a lot more in this month, perhaps talking to people with psychology backgrounds and performing a few group experiments maybe. But the ideas are being thrown around between Andy's Man Club, Manchester Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Group,  and Talk About it Mate.

I'm hoping that these Saturday posts will help others in some way- either with depression, memory or confidence issues. With certain plans in place, there'll be content to offer, so hopefully they will over the coming weeks.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

1940's RAF Coffee Smuggling Racket Exposed

 The next installment of my Uncle Dick's memoirs.

The 4 Squadrons out on the line were routing to Germany, Malta, Egypt and the Near East until the Berlin Airlift started in July 1948. Obviously, First Line personnel went immediately with their Squadrons to RAF Lubeck and because it was thought that the 'Blockade' would be over within a few weeks it resulted in 2 Flight Sargent's wives, after 3 weeks of their husbands being away, marching into the Station Commander's office demanding to know when their husbands were coming home. A Corporal Policeman escorted them back to their married quarters promptly.

Finally, in February '49, though in 2nd Line, it was my turn to go. Arriving at RAF Lubeck I was posted into Technical Control. 3 8-hour shifts, 3 SNCOs a shift, 8-5pm, 5-midnight, Midnight-8, day in, day out. In front of us was the Serviceability Board covering the whole wall with all the data of 52 Dakotas. Each week 3 or 4 aircraft returned to the UK for inspections with replacements coming out with another batch of 'hours to go.'

They also brought back dozens of completely made-up wheels at reduced pressure, a source of smuggling coffee which was so lucrative to those working the black market, between the inner tubes and the outer cover.

We liaised with Operations next door in the number of beacon times available every hour and informed the Line flights of their aircraft, already declared serviceable, that were on the next wave. We never had more than 5 aircraft and always at the end of the hour. The big aircraft were obviously being used first with their greater load-carrying capacity. Still, we did our bit.

We also had our own small telephone exchange which had direct access to the four flights A, B, C and D, Bowsers, Deicer Trolleys, Tyre Bay, Stores, Movements etc., (for priority such as acid). There was also a Daily Engineering Officer who had a sleeping duty at night in the room next door.

Whilst I was there an Operation order was issued to change the resident Berlin Garrison. The replacement unit was the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

During the morning, prior to my commencing my shift at midday, I wandered over to the Flights to watch the Welsh Guards emplane for Gatow. 4 aircraft were ready, starboard engines running, entrance doors open awaiting the passengers.

Crew coaches arrived and the passengers lined up: troops, families and the Regimental Mascot, the Goat. The Air Movements Officer read out the passenger manifest.

Regimental Sergeant Major and Mrs Taff? Get aboard Quickly please.”

The Sergeant Major responded with “Come on dear, quickly does it.”

She moved towards the small Dakota steps and stopped with one foot on the bottom step. The fuselage was vibrating with the starboard engine running so close to her, and she was obviously scared. Exhaust all around. “I can't, I can't.”

“Come on dear, quickly.”

“I can't, I can't.”

“Corporal, Corporal, put her in.”

2 big corporals with hands on her broad backside pushed her with some force up the steps into the aircraft. They had to overcome her strong arms braced against the fuselage, either side of the aircraft door. And she was certainly a big strong woman. Finally, she was in, together with the goat and the embarrassed Sergeant Major plus others.

The 4 aircraft taxied away. The whole operation covered quite a number of days moving the Regiment and families.

Another day I enquired of the loaders what they had on board.


The whole aircraft was filled with condoms. What a state some of the aircraft were in underneath the actual floor, though carrying coal.

One night shift, about 2 in the morning, suddenly our small telephone exchange direct to the flights went 'dead.' Rushing into Ops next door I found that they were also 'out.' Main phones too. I quickly awoke the Eng. Officer next door and we both jumped into one of the very first VW and charged off through the trees to the telephone exchange a few hundred yards away. It was not far from the Russian border, and partly semi-underground. We walked quickly and quietly around the building which was in darkness except for the room which contained the switchboard. Through the window we saw the young operator asleep in front of the board, which now looked like Blackpool illuminations. He was asleep in a lovely big armchair. Traversing the building we found a window open in another room and the Eng. Off. Pushed it open and jumped down into the darkness. He landed on the stomach of the Duty German Technician who jumped up out of bed shouting, “Kamarad Kamarad” hands in the air. (Could mean 'friend' or 'comrade' in Czech and 'fellow combatant' in German.) He was signalled to be quiet and we crept quietly around the corridor to enter the exchange. The Eng. Officer picked up a broom handle and smashed it down on the table top 4 or 5 times in the same number of seconds. What a din!

The lad woke up in a fright.

“You are asleep, you're asleep.”

No I'm not, sir, no I'm not!” said the airman, his hands moving like lightning across the board, pulling plugs, pushing plugs, until things were back to normal.

He was charged, but from then on I understand the exchange was manned by 2 operators an the big armchair removed. This sort of incident could have resulted in a very serious incident. Even Air Traffic was temporarily out.

Whilst at Lubeck a young WAAF was awoken one night by someone trying to get into her bed. A young German chap. She screamed and he was arrested. When the whole story was known it turned out that the WAAF, who previously owned the bed and was having an affair with the young German, on reporting sick she was found to be pregnant and within a day or so was on her way home. She hadn't got time to tell her lover. He turned up, the usual way, through the roof and ceiling trap door, but had a shock to find a different girl.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Nadia Essex, Striptease and Toybox

Last week: Nadia Essex liked my tweet correcting her grammar. 

I finished reading Striptease by Carl Hiaasen last week. I picked it up in Oxfam years ago, and dived into it recently mainly because it was the smallest book in my to-read pile. I remember the movie being terrible, but the studios must have had some faith in it originally, so I gave it a shot.

Erin Grant, fired from her legal secretarial job, is working as a stripper to make ends meet, all the while locked in a bitter custody battle with her daughter's wheelchair-stealing hick father (her connection to him the reason for her firing). During a particularly violent night at her workplace (charmingly called The Eager Beaver), local congressman and drunken liability David Dilbeck rolls in and makes an embarrassment out of himself. Infatuated with Erin, he seeks her out, but as he knows the judge in her case, she strings him along.

It's a well written book with convincing characters, although the cliché of the antagonist being a drug addict and the implausibility of the judge granting him custody didn't sit right with me. A lot of what kept my attention was the author's observations of the characters, their little nuances and backstories that made characters likeable and three-dimensional- pretty much of which couldn't be transferred to the screen.

I bought the 1996 Demi Moore adaptation while I was in 5th form (garnering somewhat of a reputation having spent 15 bastard quid on it, which was a lot back then). I returned to it having finished the book, to see what went wrong- every cliché was slapped over the screen, every joke fell flat, and the clunkiness of the source story stood out like a bikini-clad mother in a courtroom. What a waste of fine actors like Ving Rhames, Armand Assante and the late Burt Reynolds.

This coming weekend has two events.

Manchester Depression and Bipolar Group meet for drinks and talking on Friday night in Albert Square Chop House. This is looking like being a weekly event for the group, where we can meet like-minded people, swap advice and get something to eat.

Saturday night is a treat that I've organised. Manchester Cool Bars are heading to Toybox, one of the newest clubs in the city centre. Made to rival the likes of Panacea and LIV,  Toybox is already popular with the Love Island crowd and the like. We're starting in Australasia.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Soigne Launch in Neighbourhood

Wednesday night saw the launch of Soigne Cosmetics, a range of 'vegan makeup and cruelty-free brushes designed to help each individual release their inner artist.' Held in Neighbourhood and organised by Go: PR and Events, the afternoon bash was attended by Tina O'Brien (Sarah Platt in Coronation Street; Bex Fisher in Waterloo Road) Lucy Fallon (Bethany Platt in Coronation Street) Dan Westwood (Ralph in Coronation Street) and Nikki Sanderson (Candice Stowe in Coronation Street, Dawn Bellamy in Heartbeat and Maxine Minniver in Hollyoaks.)

I was somewhat outnumbered by the ladies, as you could imagine given the product, but I wasn't complaining... and they were a friendly crowd. I met some really nice people.

See the M.E.N writeup here.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Sticky Kicking Chicken

I've finally made myself cook a recipe, something I usually put off due to hassle. On 3rd September, though, I decided to act on this.

Memory difficulties make recipe cooking a bit of a challenge. First, I read through the instructions to check I had all the necessary utensils. Then I compiled a list on Omninotes of everything I'd need to buy. The small Asda near me only had half the ingredients I needed, so this took another trip to the big Tesco later on. For recipe cooking, you're best off doing the whole shop in one trip by going to as large a supermarket as possible.

I find no matter how organised I try to be, I'll still make mistakes. A store worker helped me find sesame seeds in Tesco, but when I started cooking I for some reason believed I hadn't been able to find them, so I didn't include them at all. I'm currently looking at an unopened pack of sesame seeds.

I tend to use dried spices from the small pots rather than fresh, as I'll never use all the fresh produce before the sell-by date. This might have affected the taste. And by that, I mean the chicken didn't particularly taste of anything.

I particularly like watermelon, so when I saw it was included in the salad I had something to look forward to. The dressing included in the salad, though, was so gross that even the watermelon tasted shit. A recipe HAS to be bad to achieve that.

Side issue here but I really need to brush up on shorthand. I made these notes yesterday and already I have no idea what I was trying to say. I use it because there are always more notes to be written than time allows- I'm trying to watch boiling pans and cut several foods at the same time, whilst making notes.

Not particularly sticky, not particularly kicking. Took about an hour to cook. I might try one of the other books next.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

What happens if you leave the brakes off a military transport jet?

My Grand-uncle Dick found out...

In September 1947, on returning from 3 years in Egypt, I found myself posted to RAF Manston in Kent, a home posting for me as I lived in Deal about 15 miles away. My joy was soon dashed to find that within a few months of serving Echelon No. 4077, to which I was posted and catered for the 2nd Line Servicings of 4 Dakota Squadrons, one of which was 30 Squadron, was soon to move to RAF Waterbeach.

My stay at Waterbeach was reasonably uneventful, working every other weekend in 2nd line, right through, desnagging the Base Inspections being passed out from the hangar and delivering them to the Squadrons during the weekend.

One unusual occurrence happened on a Saturday morning when the Warrant Officer Gobbels, I/c the hangar, said, “Your hockey is cancelled this afternoon, Buck. Get your lunch quickly. You are flying to RAF Aldregrove to change an elevator. Be back by 12 o'clock. I'll put an elevator in the back of the aircraft you are going in.”

Later, climbing into the Dakota, I saw the dirtiest elevator I'd ever seen. It looked as if it had come off the dump. Half a dozen tears in the fabric, but the Warrant had catered for my needs by supplying red dope, fabric, brushes, needles and thread. Instead of enjoying the trip over I sat on the floor, stitching the damage for 2 and a half hours or so to save time. What happened at Aldergrove was that the damaged Dakota was there to bring back food, hooch and goodies, still in short supply in England, for a big Officers' Mess Party. It was loaded up and somebody had left the brakes off, on the grass, and it had run backwards into the air traffic control wagon positioned at the end of the runway and smashed into the port elevator trailing edge.

We taxied up to the Dakota, transferred the load and off it went. The damaged aircraft was towed into dirty old black hangar across the other side of the aerodrome. I was given a young airframe mechanic to help and starting at 6 o'clock, we worked all night fitting the elevator and carrying out fabric repairs. About 10 o'clock in the morning after a short test flight we flew back to RAF Waterbeach. The only things we saw in that hangar were about 500 crows sitting on the girders of the roof, bombarding us all night. What a din, too!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Going Off The Rails in Ramsbottom

Thursday night saw the launch of Off The Rails, a new ladies' fashion boutique in the heart of Ramsbottom, Bury. Organised by Go:PR, the evening saw a range of celebs drop in to celebrate. The small but cosy Bolton St shop is the brainchild of Sally Lee.

On the night her store filled quickly with invitees, including Hollyoaks' Jazz Franks (Esther Bloom) and Magali Gorre from Real Housewives of Cheshire.

Also in attendance:

Hollyoaks' Kieran Richardson (Ste Hay)

Nikki Sanderson, Candice Stowe in Corrie, Dawn Bellamy in Heartbeat and Maxine Minniver in Hollyoaks.

Jess Cunningham, The Apprentice and Celebrity Big Brother contestant.

A fun night. Hope the store does well!


Monday, 17 September 2018

Joshua v Povetkin This Saturday- Come Watch

On the blog: a celebrity-endorsed launch of a clothing shop. In the city: 2 very different meetups, but for those it appeals to they'd be both hugely worth your while.

Friday Night: Manchester Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Meetup drop into The Albert Square Chop House in Manchester for drinks, talking, maybe food and sharing advice. Just a chilled out evening getting to know others facing the same problems. 6.15pm onwards.

Saturday Night: UK's Anthony Joshua – current WBA 'super', IBF and WBO champion- takes on mandatory challenger, the Russian Alexander Povetkin. He's a former champ himself with a face like a wall, so he won't be a pushover for Joshua. Manchester Cool Bars will be watching this in Manchester's Genting Casino, the best place for fight fans. Huge screens and an enthusiastic crowd. ID essential!

Subject change: When in London I dropped into around 10 charity shops but only made one purchase: the rather original presentation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, in graphic novel form. It's my favourite of the Shakspeare plays, full of violence, backstabbing and insomnia- at least one of which I've endured a lot of myself.

There's a lot within Shakespeare that, without an academic explaining it, would go over your head. But having the story in comic layout allows you to picture what unfolds, and even if the double meanings and archaic terms have no glossary, you follow enough to take in the narrative. Good work from Oval Projects Ltd.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

London September '18

Last weekend I saw lots of famous dead people.

I dropped into London to see my sister and do some sightseeing, which included a tour of Highgate Cemetery, resting place of the rich and famous.

But first, I had a wander around Borough Market, eating a great steak at Black & Blue.

Later, as the sun went down behind The Shard, we stopped at The George Inn Courtyard,  to watch a unique take on William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Described as a 'musical take on Shakespeare, told by five actors and all manner of instruments,' The Three Inch Fools provided a take on Shakespeare to top The Reduced Shakespeare Society. During the performance the quintet swiftly whipped on jackets and hats, which were hung on hooks at the back of the set, to indicate a character change. The roles were carefully divided up so that, as far as I could tell, you never saw the same actor play two parts who talked to each other.

Me new hat

Or maybe you did. I dunno. Shakespeare is confusing enough, but A Midsummer Night's Dream is a particularly bizarre one, and when actors are chopping and changing roles every few minutes, your best bet is just to go along for the ride. In all fairness, they stayed in character, changing at the appropriate moments, pretty well.

You might also find them performing Hamlet. Well worth a look.

The next day we got the underground to Highgate, and booked onto a tour of the East Cemetary. A retired history teacher, head bursting with memorised knowledge, took us around the most notable of graves, including wealthy family plots, the first burial, and the resting place of Robert F Goldhammer, the founder of Dunkin' Donuts


The tour guide described how a population explosion, and the subsequent smell of Victorian dead bodies, meant that it was necessary to set aside land for burial of all the dead. Highgate, some miles from the city centre, was just the right distance for people to visit. The wealthier of locals started to buy up land, choosing plots and building family mausoleums for their dead.

This large Egyptian-style monument was used for a Hammer horror movie set.

The grave of murdered spy Alexander Litvinenko. The half tombstone indicates a life cut short.

His widow specifically asked for his resting place to be included in the tour so he would be remembered. The tour, packed with fascinating tales of London's history and tragic stories of bereavement, contained way more than I can recall. I strongly recommend booking on and letting the guide enlighten you.

After the tour we used the official map to track down a few other well-known graves, this time in the West Cemetery, which we were free to roam around.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams

Founder of Communism Karl Marx

TV Presenter Jeremy Beadle

Highgate may not be central, but after you've seen the main attractions right next to the Thames, it's well worth jumping on the underground and making your way out there.

Next up we dropped into nearby Portobello Road, on the way into Notting Hill, home of many charity shops and, coincidentally, 1984 author George Orwell. (Well, it was.)

The famous door from the Notting Hill movie. I refrained from stripping to my underwear and posing, ala Rhys Ifan's character. A bit disappointed that I saw exactly no famous people, but in all fairness I had been to Highgate Cemetery so I couldn't complain.

Moving on we find the Tower Bridge area, and the tower of London. Tower Bridge has a recently-installed glass floor, allowing you to look straight down onto the surface of The Thames underneath. Tickets for the tour get you into the entrance where videos will show you the history of the building- its construction and renovation- and who helped to build it, before taking you up a lift to the walkway area. Prepare to go weak at the knees as you look down into the water and up at the mirrored ceiling.


The ceiling


Authentic dodo skeleton, one presumes

Tower of London

The tide is high and I'm holding on

For panoramic views of the city it's a must.

Further along, we find the financial district with The Cheese Grater, this thing I'm going to call The Computer Speaker, a few projects under construction and The Walkie Talkie Building, atop which you'll find the Sky Garden Bar. We booked free online in advance, went through security fairly quickly and rode up in a high speed elevator to the huge observatory on the top floor.



Like Manchester's Cloud 23, serving time was a little long, but it's worth it for the views and decor- looking almost like the Australian Outback with it's array of plants and full-blown trees. The view may be one-sided, but it's still broad and hugely impressive.

That pretty much marked the closing of the trip to London. We ended on a high (if you'll excuse the pun). I still have a handful of other ideas for future trips.

Cheese Grater and Scalpel

'City Wing'

Intergalactic can of cold beer
Bank of England