Proper Followers

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


People are starting to see congestion charging as inevitable. In Manchester and certainly in Greater Manchester we are nowhere near ready for congestion charging. Yes, there are great queues of traffic entering the city every morning and the same people sitting in the same traffic hell every evening, trying to leave town. And yes the roads do appear to be fairly congested at the peak times. However, I believe the trafic jams are made by bad planning. Speed bumps on ambulance routes as I've mentioned before, bus lanes and cycle routes in the wrong places and worst of all, all those traffic lights. In addition to the above named obstacles there is the added problem of the 'No Left Turn' signals.
One of the things that really annoy me are traffic lights. They always seem to change when you don't need/want them to and they stay red for much too long. The other thing about these often unneeded trafficators (should be spelt traffic haters!) is the stupid system for people wanting to turn left. In England we have to wait till the light turns to green before we can turn left, which means that lots of people behind the left turner, also have to wait and so on, causing unnecessary delays. In some other countries, you can turn left if it's safe to do so. I know that we do have a few filter lights, in some areas, but in general not enough.
Yes, of course we need bus lanes. but most of them are in the wrong places and actually cause congestion! The simple answer to bus lanes is to earmark dedicated streets as 'Buses Only' these busways can easily be made in parellel streets to the main routes, which would keep everybody happy.
YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! We need more cycle lanes. Believe me, I am a cyclist and I can tell you that the cycle lanes on many of our roads in Manchester are about as good as a chocolate fire guard. What a waste of effort, time and money. Lots of cycle lanes run out at crucial places, cars park on them, potholes appear in them. Even on major routes, where parking isn't a problem, the heavy traffic is. In general car drivers don't see bicycles until the last minute. So, the best cycle lanes are the ones that run alongside the road, for example the little stretch that runs through Whitworth Park.
Motorists are already very heavily taxed in this country. Fuel carries a high tax, then there is road tax and insurance and insurance tax. In addition there is VAT added to every purchase, including the sale of cars, servicing and parts. Then on top of that comes the stealth taxes like parking charges, clamping fees, towing away and storage fees if you park in the wrong place or for too long. These days local authorities even have the power to confiscate and crush your vehicle if you do something naughty.
So, what am I saying? Make car parking free? No, far from it. You only have to take a ride down to The Trafford Centre to see what a disaster free parking can be. And I'm not talking about the congestion caused by shoppers at the place at all. No, I think that they should pay a small fee to park, say £1.00 This money would then go to build a rail link and a tram link. How simple a solution is that? I can hear your argument right now, You think that the only people that go to these giant shopping complexes are car drivers. Wrong! The Trafford Centre has a bigger bus station than most towns and this is where the congestion originates as the cars and busses fight for roadspace.
The car parks in Manchester are way too expensive and too difficult in many cases to access. People feel cheated when they arrive in a strange town and are confronted by stupid parking rules. Manchester should be building more car parks and making the developers of all these new buildings to build extra spaces for visitors to the city. Instead we have the crazy situation where the council discourages parking. This is real short term thinking and can only end in tears. A few years back we had this crazy thing where the council didn't believe in sporting competition and sports days etc. in schools were banned or at best frowned upon, a kind of political correctness gone mad. Then, all of a sudden a change of direction. Manchester applied to host The Olympic Games, when that failed a couple of times we went for The Commonwealth Games. So what's all this nonsense got to do with cars, congestion and parking? Well! read on!
I know that global warming is the buzz word these days and anybody and everybody is jumping on the bandwagon and declaring their greenness to the world. Not least political parties and politicians. Local, national and international. In general the view is that we need to reduce harmful emmisions from vehicles. Of course we do, but there are green alternatives that all of us can take advantage of right now. Firstly, we can say. 'My next car's going to be electric!' If that is too much of a dream, you can start by offsetting, and I'm not talking about planting a few trees to improve the environment that you've probably just destroyed by driving here in the first place. No, I think that there may be a way to generate a little bit of power as a by-product of your journey. Then to use this little bit of captured power to run a couple of light bulbs in the office or home or a computer or tv, perhaps. Well, maybe I am dreaming a bit but who knows what's round the corner?
I just read that the Madchester band James are reforming and are set to play the Manchester MEN Arena this year. I remember going to see them at G-Mex a few years ago. Sit down next to me!
Also today, they announced that Manchester is to build the first Super or Las Vegas style casino in Britain. That is of course, subject to the politicians having the final say. The slot machine area alone will be the size of a football pitch. That's a lot of pennies!
While I'm having a moan about transport, I might as well have a dig at the Metrolink trams. Who was it that said: 'What Manchester does today, the world follows!' Well, in England it seems to be true as far as the modern tram goes anyway. Since Manchester started her tram system, many other towns have coppied. The problem for Manchester is that we still only have three lines and a bit of a link across the city centre, when what we really need is a proper, affordable and frequent system that goes to the places where people live and work. what we've got and also for the most part, what is planned for the future, is a system that duplicates or replaces the existing railways. That's no good! Look at the Altrincham and Bury lines, they are overcrowded and expensive and they are running on the old British Railways routes. The Altrincham line is actually worse than when it was a railway track, the trains (now trams) still go to Piccadilly Station but Via G-Mex and a shed full of streets, how mad is that?
There are no simple solutions as far as transport and transportation go. The government says that cities like Manchester will have to accept congestion charging if they want to get funding for public transport. The problem in Manchester is that we already have loads of dismantled railway routes, many of them are overgrown with wild trees and junk. Why can't we re-open these lines as tramways? Well, the cost would be prohibitive, they tell me. So, why can't we just tarmac these routes over and run busses on them? Well, that would be too easy I guess, and we would no longer qualify for government funding. And we wouldn't have to pay the congestion charge, would we?
Some of you may remember me going on about our central heating. Well, guess what? Magic, it's fixed! It took just three minutes to change a faulty valve and bingo! we have a silent heating system that actually works. That's three minutes to fix it and three months waiting time for the boiler man to come.
We're still waiting for the man to come to fix the switch on the lift, we've only had to wait since July so far and I've heard that Electricians are pretty busy these days.
You can check out Nicola Batty's Newsletter (AT)
She's writing a work-in-progress-novel at the moment called The Space Between. I think that she's actually going to make it into a trilogy. Anyway, you can clink the link above and have a butchers hook yourself.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I was watching City on the box the other night. It was the Match of The Day programme on BBC. I waited up to watch the highlights of the game, hoping that no-one would tell me the score. They do this really sad thing on the BBC, they put the news on just before the football and they give the scores at the end of the news. How mad is that? It means that anybody wanting to catch their game has their evening spoilt by hearing the result before they view the action. Anyway, well wised up to the antics of British Broadcasting I managed to sit through the entire show, till the City match came on right at the end. Was it worth waiting for? Not really, it was embarrassing if anything, not just the scoreline, which I won't repeat. But all the empty seats in the stadium. Why don't they reduce the admission prices so the missing generation can return to the game? Better still, why not let us old boys in for free?
I have not been as active as I would like lately, canal walking being one of the things to suffer. However, I have been managing to get out on my bike a few times this past week and one little outing took in a short stretch of canal. I turned off Whitworth street near the Ritz in Manchester onto the towpath of the Rochdale canal. I headed towards Castlefield past the new Hacienda building (which has some of the historical events of the old Hacienda written on its walls) under the road bridge and into the path of a dozen dog walkers. I skirted around the yapping hounds and continued past Deansgate Locks and The Comedy Store, I cycled through the Gaythorn Tunnel and on to Lock 92. I turned right on the cobbles then left over the Bridgewater Canal footbridge and out into the gated community of restored mill buildings and no parking signs.
What a great thing this cycling is, not only does it help with fitness, it is also a great means of getting around. Of course cycle shops know this and charge you an arm and a leg for any spares or repairs you might need. Although there are a number of little bike shops around there are not as many as there used to be. I can think of three that have closed recently, one in Didsbury, one in Sale and one on Princess Road in Moss Side. On the plus side, there is a belting little second hand Proper Joe's place in Sale Moor at the Legh Arms end of Conway Road. The only trouble is he's only open on saturday mornings. I have also heard rumours that a new cycle superstore is to open on Wilmslow road near The Curry Mile in a new building on the site of the old Jaguar garage opposite Whitworth Park.
One of the nasty things about cycling is the lack of places to tie your bike to outside shops. In the old days shopkeepers used to have a cycle rack outside their shops and you could park up and lock your bike to it. Some places still have them of course, mainly cycle shops, but surprisingly some supermarkets although I was told by the greeter at my local Asda, that they didn't encourage cyclists for reasons best left alone on this blog. Anyway, there's a dead good shop on Great Western Street, Moss Side called Henson's Hardware, they sell all sorts of ironmongery and diy things and the odd tyre, innertube, brake cable and puncture repair outfit. I go there all the time for any bits and pieces I need. It is also known as The Mop Shop as it does a nice line in mops and buckets. How much better it would be though if they had a cycle rack outside with a sign that read: Cyclists Welcome, Punctures repaired!
You can check out my really bad poetry blog StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet it has a poem called Salford Madness which deals with the cycle parking theme, sort of!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I've been looking at a few different blogs recently to see how the other half live. Or more importantly, how other people blog! My conclusion of course, is that there is no set way to blog, but you already knew that, didn't you.
I checked out loads of poetry sites around the blogisphere and I even managed to link to one of them. I submitted my details to a couple more but haven't heard anything yet. The one I did link to is called Poets For Dinner and you can check them at my own really bad poetry blog StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet..
The concept of Poets For Dinner is that you can ask a poet round to entertain you, give him some dinner a couple of glasses of wine and a few quid for his time and trouble and everybody's happy. Don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself!
I was sorry to hear that Mike Dilger has died suddenly. He was only forty seven. Mike was the Landlord at the White Lion pub in Manchester's Castlefield. I didn't know him very well but in his early days in the pub game I had a few drinks with him. I remember one night we went to Matt and Phredds Jazz Club together in Oldham Street.
Another blog I recently came across was The Manchizzle. This is a blog based in Manchester that has allsorts of great links to other Manchester blogs. A few of them I was already aware of, but lots of new ones to me as well. The long and the short of it is, I have linked to them with both Proper Joe's and my really bad poetry blog StStS.. Also, Nicola's Newsletter Raw Meat
is linked there too.
I was out cycling this morning, looking for postcards of all things. Not the shiny glossy type that promote the city or the bar advertising ones. No, I was simply after the common or garden blank, plain white business postcard. A High street stationary chain, three National supermarkets, three local newsagents and three pound shops later and I still hadn't managed to locate a single bog standard post card. Eventually, I did find some small packs in a newsagents on Oxford Street across the road from the old Manchester Odeon.
I know that I've mentioned this building before, but I have spent some significant moments within its walls. I remember going to the late night movies there, I think they were on a friday and/or saturday night. In those days the cinema was just one screen with hundreds of seats. Another time I recall was the day I was drafted in as an extra in a movie that was being filmed in the building. I was an audience member and if I remember rightly, you could just see the back of my head in a left to right shot. I know the film script was written by Phil Caveney. Phil Davenport and Shaun Wilson I think, were the film makers. I remember going to see it a couple of years later at The Cornerhouse.
Cycling along, I was trying to think of a clever way to tell the world of my new found discovery, cycling. It's not new to me really, as I've always had a bike of some description. It's just that I'm using it as a bit of a lifeline at the moment - in an attempt to regain some fitness. I came up with Urban Transport and I was trying to make it into UTOPIA but the best I got, before I gave up was Urban Transport Or Pedal It Andy. Which wasn't what I was really looking for.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Some things just make me mad! How many stupid things can happen in one day? Well if you rely on funding from different bodies for different things, like we do, you wouldn't believe just how many unfinished issues surface in any given space of time. Take Nicola's lift for example, she had the thru-floor lift replaced last summer and because it cost thousands of pounds, we had to get funding. The funding itself took about two years to find from start to finish of project and at the end of the day we/she don't/dosen't own the lift. That's ok, we don't need to own it, just to be able to use it is a godsend and we sincerley thank the powers that be for their generosity!
However, there is one little teeny-weeny nagging problem with the new machinery and that is that it makes a buzzing noise at night. In fact it makes the noise all day too but it sounds worse at night when you're trying to get to sleep. The noise apparently is coming from the transformer and sounds like a tape player that's been left on for some time.
The solution is very simple. Simply switch it off before you go to bed! Easier said than done, you see the on/off switch is located in the front room downstairs. So, just go down and turn it off! I hear you scream. Not so simple I'm afraid, you see the switch is a couple of inches from the ceiling and my walls are nine feet high. So, why don't you move the switch upstairs? Well, that's what I've been trying to organise since day one! Which brings us full circle back to the problem with/of funding. You see, because the lift wasn't paid for by us and we are not the owners of it anyway, we only have to live with it under our roof making a right racket all day and night. No-one seems to care.
An electrician finally came out to do the job in October, which wasn't too bad as we had only been waiting since July. He hummed and harred and scratched his head and lifted the carpet and looked at the floorboards. He went for a little walk and made three phone calls and scratched his head again and put the carpet back and packed up his tools. Finally, he spoke to me, 'You need to get a joiner to lift the floorboards, I'd do it meself, only if anything went wrong it's more than me job's worth!' After making his speech he headed for the front door and I/we haven't seen him since.
Last year must have been a good year as far as funding goes as we finally managed to have our twenty-five year old gas boiler replaced. Well, if you think that I think that the lift is noisey, then you really don't want to know about the new boiler. It works fine, as far as it goes... The only trouble is that it makes a proverbial 'right racket' from the moment you turn it on. Again, we've been patiently waiting for an engineer to come and take a butchers. After a couple of months an inspector arrived on the scene and informed us that the noise was unacceptable. Well, believe it or not, we had already figured that one out. Fine, I said to the nice man (he was a nice man) so what needs doing. 'You need an electrician.' The nice man replied.
The above conversation also took place last October, what is it about October? Well, suffice to say, it is now early January and we still haven't seen an electrician in this house. The noise increases by the day as do the number of telephone calls we make to the suppliers and installers. But, guess what? they have a little book of excuses and it must be about twenty pages long, if that's the case they should be very close to the end by now. Anyway, we or should I say Nicola, only qualifies for this level of funding because she needs it to live independently. And if different bodies can make these things possible, then surely they can also provide the back-up to make sure that these things are suitable for her needs! Or am I barking up the wrong drainpipe again?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year...

We've just returned from a few days in London, where we celebrated the new year with old friends. It was good to get away for a little break and I'm now looking forward to new projects starting tomorrow.
Nic and I drove up to north London to visit an old friend and have some lunch at his local pub. Jack meanwhile, went to the Science Museum with another of Nic's friends and her two kids. After a long lunch we drove down to Kensington to collect Jack for the journey home. On the way back, we drove past the end of a street where many years ago I had worked on a building site. Which reminded me of this little story. We used to travel down to Kensington from Manchester on a monday morning, then work through to thursday afternoon and travel back home. We would spend the three nights away in cheap lodgings in Earls Court and the evenings after work in the local pubs. I remember there used to be a lot of Australians about in those days, and in one of the bars across from Earls Court tube station the signing on the toilet doors read Bruce + Sheila.