Monday, 29 January 2007

Local Writers - Phil Caveney

I was taking my daily constitutional along Heaton Moor Road when I spotted Phil Caveney sitting in The Orangery sipping a coffee. Phil is one of the best known authors living on the Moor. I got to know him when I was a member of his Manchester Writers' Workshop which has met every Tuesday in Didsbury for the last twenty-seven years. His first novel, a thriller, did quite well and for a while he combined his day job as a copy writer for Great Universal Stores with turning out highly readable and page turning stories like Slayground, Burn Down Easy, TigerTiger and Skin Flicks. After twelve fairly successful books his publisher pulled the plug and for some six years he was still writing but with no regular publisher. During this period he tried net publishing - but this route is more hyped than well trodden and Love Bites did not sell that well.

During this period he presided every week at the Writers' Group, applying his keen sense of what works and what doesn't to the efforts of the regular participants. Four of the current members have contracts with publishers, which is an extraordinary testament to Phil's skills as an endlessly patient and encouraging teacher. It's a very heterogeneous group of embryonic authors - some might call them oddball outsiders. Maybe, in turn, it was this group which gave him back the thing which has recently fired up his career again. Some members began to write for a younger age group and Phil's recent book, aimed at the same audience, has proved a mega-hit.

Sebastian Darke came runner up in the recent Waterstone's Prize for Children's Fiction and some say he was unlucky not to carry off the main prize. And it's all because he kept writing and self-belief intact when his writing career bumped along the bottom for a few years. The new book has caused such a stir that translation deals have been signed and recently a Hollywood producer emailed Phil expressing interest in film rights to the book. So the sky - deservedly so - now seems to be the limit. Watch this space for updates on the progress of a genuinely talented local author.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Does Heaton Moor really exist?

If you drive along the A6 and turn into Heaton Moor Road, you are still in Heaton Chapel. That's the address of the Royal Bank of Scotland, on the corner. Continue, and you pass the local benighted railway station - called Heaton Chapel so far as British Rail is concerned. Carry on, and you pass another bank on the right - Natwest, Heaton Chapel branch. In fact you can continue as far as the Reform Club and still be alongside somewhere with Heaton Chapel in its title.

By the time you reach Moorside Road, you have gone too far. You're in Heaton Mersey - or is it Heaton Norris? And if you took a left into Green Lane, it's not long before you hit the border in that direction too.

Maybe you would have better luck heading off down Mauldeth Road - one of the many local roads which is confusingly twinned with roads of the same name just across Kingsway? But no - afore too long you are back in Heaton Mersey, despite the grandeur of the properties. And of course unless you slam the brakes on, you'll soon be cross the real border and end up in the badlands of Burnage.

So where does Heaton Moor begin and end? I think a local historian with strong topographical leanings is required. Any offers?

Labels: , , ,

Friday, 26 January 2007

Local Rubbish

I’m now of an age when many, many things annoy me - but I’m sure that I’m not alone in feeling that Stockport is one of the dirtiest towns in the UK.

I am constantly appalled by Wellington Rd as I walk into the town. The litter starts by the church spire and gets worse so that the area just before Debenhams is chockablock with fast food wrappers, plastic containers, and sundry items.

On a Sunday morning the bus shelters at the bottom of the hill are awash with detritus, but at least there are some bins to overflow whilst further up the hill there are not.

Just how bad the problem is can be seen when one goes abroad to Germany, France or Spain. The latter two countries have been traditionally perceived by Brits as on the dirty side. Not any more. Both Spain and France provide a model for how litter can be kept under control even in a very built up area. The streets are not just tidied up, they are also washed down with water. It’s embarrassing to show guests around from other countries. I try to avoid the ‘grot spots’ which disfigure our otherwise quite nice northern town.

So I was a little surprised to see in The Civic Review, the regular news sheet from the council, that the number one priority of the ‘Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Stronger’ council is a ‘Cleaner Stockport’.

I have lobbied my councilors - nice public spirited people - to put pressure on the council for months now. But the ‘grot spots’ persist and offer a reproach to the stated aims of our elected officials. What does one have to do to poke them into some kind of action?

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, 25 January 2007

The Looney Council

One of the things that sends me into a civic rage is the visual pollution of our streets and highways by the absurd decisions of local council planning departments. Number one is meaningless road markings - such as those politically correct but completely useless cycle paths which go nowhere and no sane cyclist would use. Or how about those huge white stripes to indicate bus lanes which are only operational for a short while in the rush hour. [And since almost all bus companies are now completely commercial, why should they be given any priorities?] Another which I am going to start photographing is the sprouting of income-generating commercial advertising on roundabouts, adding to the visual clutter the motorist has to decipher.

In Heaton Moor I boggle and fume each morning when I walk across the completely meaningless red ochre box painted onto the road just before the Savoy (outside the electricity sub-station). It includes inward-facing chevrons, now rapidly fading with abrasion. Do you know what it is for? No - and neither did the contractors who painted it there - because I asked them.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Restaurants on the Moor

Bon viveur Bill Jones reports on Heaton Moor's eateries, wine bars, and smooth locations. He's put a lot of time and waist-expanding effort into these researches, so take note if you want a good night out.

Well located on the corner of Green Lane and Moorside Road. It offers more room than the cramped Valentinos. Opened about two months ago and ever since has been busy whenever I've walked past it. The food is good quality, cheap and cheerful Italian - pastas, pizzas, pollo this, pollo that - and generally good value for money. The service is quick and very friendly - a big plus for the Moor where service tends to be poor. In fact it's a virtual clone of the (now) rival from which it originated. Overall rating: a good 7.

The Bakery
This one of the better eating places on the Moor in that it's quite comfortable (ambiance 7/10), the food is well above average (8/10) but the service is poor (4/10). On occasions, I have had to wait an age for each course and once had to forego my sweet as a waiter had just cut off his finger. Modern interior design, but tiled floor pumps up all noise to ear-splitting level. [Corner of Shaw Road and Heaton Moor Road]

Heatons Tandoori
Amazingly good value fill-your-boots Indian restaurant. Prices low, service good, no frills, and popular from tea-time onwards. Clientele young families and young men with no jackets taking their girl fiends out for the night. If you sign the guest book, the management will send you a Christmas card - forever. (7/10) [Shaw Road]

The completely average, standard, cheap-and-cheerful Italian restaurant. Not a single surprise on the menu - but good value if you want to get round the wife after an argument. This place has survived whilst others have come and gone, so they must be doing something right. But what it is, I do not know. (6/10) [Heaton Moor Road]

Room 311
This place seeks to fulfill a slightly more upmarket niche than, for example Valentinos. Beers and spirits are consequently overpriced, though wines less so. The price factor does not deter large groups of drinkers from crowding the open-air tables and chairs in summer. Food good - tuna steaks, stuffed chicken breasts - and the chips are virtually irrestistible. Good value for money. Service generally welcoming though can be unpredictably tardy. 7.5/10 overall. [Near Savoy]

Labels: , ,

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Pubs on the Moor

Heaton Moor appears to be well-blessed in terms of its pubs, but visits to them are likely to prove that they are not as varied as their appearance might suggest. The following are in descending order of desirability.

The Nursery
A regular award-winner in CAMERA's 'Pub of the Month' competition. The main feature is a comfortable wood-panelled lounge. Relaxed on opening hours. Food well-rated. Clientele completely divided between darts players in the Smoke Room and mature conversationalists in the Lounge. Recommended. [Green Lane]

The Griffin
The most attractive features here are the stunning Victorian curved etched-glass bar and a selection of comfortable side rooms. Clientele divided between Manchester City supporters and taxi-cab drivers. Killer feature - beer at less than £1.50 a pint. Beware of the landlady. [Didsbury Road]

The Moor Top
The traditional pub sign shows a shepherd with crook and (rather bizaarely) three-piece suit, plus his trusty collie waiting to round up sheep. Inside, the ambiance is wide-screen Sky TV, with In-ger-lund buntings throughout the year. Clientele: OAPs at lunch time, and Youf the rest of the day, with baseball cap, tatoos, and the white Ford escort in the car park. Beer - over-priced rubbish. Oh - one plus. There's free broadband access if you need it. [Heaton Moor Road]

The Crown
Quaint traditional Robinson's pub situated in conservation area of Heaton Mersey. Country-style low ceilings, snugs, and olde-worlde furnishings. Comfortable, but suffers from a culture of militant Nationalist ambiance which seems to persist (rather like the Royal Oak in Didsbury) from previous eras. Handy for recently-notorious dogging spot in local car park. [Didsbury Road]

Labels: , , , , ,