Saturday, 20 October 2007

Local Litter

I'm returning to one of my favourite soap-box issues: our national tendency to sully our land with piles of litter. And I have three pictures to illustrate my theme.

1. Picture One is taken on Green Lane close to my home. I have lobbied my councillors, my council officers, and sent letters to the local press but still the single litter bin on this much used road - not least by kids en route to school - remains unemptied for days at a time. In front of it you see the three bags of litter collected by myself and my partner along a mere 150 metres of the road. Yet our local council has the temerity to publish self congratulatory articles in the Civic Review about how it has achieved such high rating assessments and how much extra cash they have received for cleaning up the town. (Some evidence would make a nice change). It remains the most disgracefully dirty town I have ever seen.

2. Picture Two is of a recycling unit in Bavaria, Germany, where people can leave most material free of charge but have to pay to leave certain hard to dispose of items. Householders choose to have large, medium or small rubbish bins according to how much rubbish they produce and how much they recycle. It works (see below) Why don't we adopt a similar system over here?

3. Picture Three is of the square in Kaufbeuren, an hour south-west of Munich. It offers no sign of any litter, even the occasional sweet wrapper, though I did find a few dog ends lurking between the cobblestones. If the Germans can keep their towns so pristine and sparkling, why can't we for God's sake?

I'm fairly sure my Victor Meldrew rantings are echoed in towns and cities all over the nation. One opinion poll in Southall recently revealed litter as the number one source of complaint. Once an area becomes knee deep in detritus, people stop treating it with respect and subtle deterioration is set in train. It makes me feel weak with frustration and irritation that nothing is done about it, either locally or nationally.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

You are now entering Badlands!

A high speed police car chase resulted in a very bad accident at 23.45 on Monday night 1 October 2007 at the junction of Mauldeth Road and Clifton Road in Heaton Moor (location postcode SK4 4BU). The car being pursued crashed into the perimeter wall and iron railings of the property at Westleigh, causing considerable damage and blocking the pavement. The police informed the Council, but so far nothing has been done to either protect or isolate the area. Two or three plastic objects have been placed amongst the rubble, but these have no effect whatsoever.

Accidents of this kind (many caused for the same reasons) are quite frequent at this location. Requests have been made to the Council for some form of protective barriers - but have so far been ignored or refused.

Amazingly enough, although the car was a write-off, the driver survived - and managed to escape, despite the police helicopter, which kept the rest of us awake.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Polish Deli?

Anyone catching sight of the Pokusevski's Delicatessen on Shaw Rd in Heaton Moor might assume that it is a Polish Deli. However, upon entering they might be slightly disappointed not to find such specialities as kazsa. barszcz, orzcrek, bigos or chlodnik. (Yes, you're right, I looked them up in wkipedia). Indeed, the boards of goods on sale do not include one item that I would say was quintessentially Polish. Even the youngish dark haired owner turns out to have been born in Bosnia from where he came to complete a doctorate at UMIST. From there he worked in the aricraft industry for a while but the family tradition of restauranteering caught up with him in the end and he opened the deli. He expplained, almost apologetically I thought, that his gandfather was from the Ukraine - well,that's near enough to Poland I suppose.

Such calculations seem irrelevant once you enter the shop, however, as it is resplendently well stocked with all the standard deli fare of cheeses, cold meats, dips, pies and quiches and all the rest you might expect. But the real delight of the place is the area out back where you can enjoy a marvellous cup of coffee and a good range of sandwiches, pannini and other soups, snacks and drinks. And all at very reasonable prices. It's been here a year and this was the first time I'd tried it. It won't be the last.

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Monday, 9 July 2007

Business on the Moor

Heaton Moor is a rich middle-class suburb offering golden opportunities to would-be entrepreneurs. But to be successful you need to understand the prevailing ethos of commerce in the area. These are just a few tips to help those ready to make an investment and reap the rewards.

If you are starting up a new business, it's best to make a close study of those already operating. One glance at trade along Heaton Moor Road should tell you that unless you're in a position to start a new charity shop or an estate agency, you should strongly consider opening a hairdressing salon or a nail shop. There's just no end to the demand for these services. You could also go for a wine bar, or an Asiatic takeout.

Staffing should present no difficulty. After all, there are several schools nearby - so you can recruit fourth-formers in the holidays. They will gladly accept the minimum wage or below. If they give any trouble, a brisk staff turnover keeps everybody on their toes. Training is not really worth the investment, so there's another saving. Alternatively, use relatives such as your aunt or mother-in-law: they will have local knowledge and be able to relay gossip.

All modern business practice theories tell us that the secret of success is to keep as small a stock inventory as possible. Don't worry if you don't have what customers require: they will be happy to wait ten or fourteen days for their order to come through. Alternatively, when a customer asks for something, tell them there's no demand for it.

Opening hours. This is another excellent way to keep costs down. Make sure you close at 5.00 pm promptly in the afternoon. After all - nobody expects shops to be open after that time. Enjoy well-deserved half-day closing on both Wednesday and Saturday, and make sure you close completely for two weeks annual holiday.

Given the uncertain business climate, there is no point investing in elaborate shop fittings. Use self-adhesive plastic Fablon to give your shelving a 'contemporary' feel, and a lick of paint every decade should otherwise do the trick nicely.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Stockport Plaza - An Interwar Night Out

To The Stockport Plaza Friday evening to see Miss Potter, the story of Beatrix, of Peter Rabbit fame. The Plaza was built, in striking art deco style, in 1932, to help Stockportians take their minds off the depression, so the notes say on the display in the faded (though once sumptuous) lounge where we sipped our aperitifs before taking our seats in the circle. We are told the cinema drew in crowds from miles around to enjoy the comfort of this up-market facility together with its Compton theatre organ but sometime in the seventies takings fell so low it degenerated into a bingo hall. Eventually a charitable trust stepped in and with a half million pounds grant from the council and the help of a body of dedicated volunteers it was restored and now offers selected films, sometimes musicals from the thirties, sometimes more modern fare.

But the purpose of the present day Plaza is as much to offer a step back in time as anything else. We just missed the Compton emerging up through its hatch in the floor in front of the screen but were happy to be serenaded by hit songs from musicals from the thirties’, forties and fifties. After many crescendos and flourishes the bald pate of the organ player sunk back into the bowels of the cinema to warm applause, and the intermission began. This was the occasion for the usherettes, in period attire, to offer us Lyons Maids and tubs of ice-cream. Just as in days gone by, no doubt, the queues stretched back to the projector box.

Then came the Pathe News films, from 1951 and another from the early ‘sixties, complete with Bob Danvers Walker’s strident tones, making every item sound like a wartime triumph and causing every attempt at humour to fall resoundingly flat. We saw Vera Allen, a petit, long forgotten Hollywood starlet pouting at the camera in a publicity shoot and an item on George who had been bottling wine out of oak barrels for 30 years (‘what a lucky fellow!’) Then the main film arrived- a not especially memorable piece of family fare starring Renee Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor (no relation to Peter Rabbit’s infamous adversary). But, with nostalgia the prescribed mood, everyone basked in its inoffensive charm, period detail and gorgeous footage of the Lake District.

We stayed on as the credits rolled up expecting to join everyone in the traditional stand-up for the national anthem. But credits for the mini-bus driver for the Isle of Man film unit and Miss Zellwegger’s catering assistant(an acting coach might have been preferable) came and went and still those familiar quavering yet elephantine tones failed to issue forth. But we refused to be disappointed and departed this temple to interwar entertainment, well satisfied with our brief journey into the past. The same could be said, I’d wager, for the goodish crowd of fellow nostalgia seekers, mostly of an age to have savoured the experience in the original, but leavened by more than a few teenagers and younger ones to suggest such evenings will not surrender to bingo or its equivalent for a while at least.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Local writers - Bill Jones

What's the potted biography?
I was born in the Welsh borderlands and grew up in Shrewsbury. After graduating from Aberystwyth University I got a job at Manchester University. I became Director of Extra-Mural Studies 1986-91 but then had a stroke whilst out jogging. I retired on medical grounds but I still teach part-time at the university and write a number of reasonably successful books on British politics. I also write a blog on the same subject at Skipper.

Why live in Heaton Moor?
I've lived in Heaton Moor since 1979 after divorcing. Back then, it was part of a new beginning for me. First I lived in Moorside Road for two years, then in Parsonage Road for 20 years, and latterly in Mount Road, Heaton Norris, close to the Nursery pub. I think this is a good place to live.

What's good about the Moor?
I like the Edwardian architecture. I used to live in such a house in Parsonage Rd - where developers have allowed it to survive amoung those newbuild 'luxury apartments' of every kind. I also like the greenery and the pubs - especially The Nursery - and the people who are for the most part very friendly and fun to live with.

Any dislikes?
I'm furious about lots of things but top of my list is the extent to which Heaton Moor is litter strewn and marred by chewing gum on the pavements. That's my Victor Meldrew moment over.

What are your current projects?
At the moment I'm writing a new kind of textbook on British politics and trying to develop some creative writing of various kinds. I also do occasional broadcasting - like today on Radio Manchester!

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Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Culture on the Moor

Perambulating the Moor Top area recently (as is my wont) I spotted that Room 101 (known to its owners as Room 311) has a music night. Featuring no less than local Mr Funk, Stevie Williams. This guy is terrific - so much so that I'm soon going to attempt an interview for these very pages. Oh, and I've also uncovered three more local writers - so stand by for a strong cultural blast in the coming days. You've never had it so good.

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