It’s time to forget Manchester’s ‘culinary revolution’ – and head to Wetherspoons

Big butch gay Oscar said there are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it – he probably forgot to mention missing kids, yachting tragedies, nasty hangovers and WH smiths; but to be fair he has a point. So, I can’t decide which was the better morning of – Brexit or Trump’s victory. Now the initial excitement is waning a little – I’d have to go with Brexit. Brexit was a plus-plus-plus, whereas Trump’s victory was a plus to Brexit – sort of like stumbling on a suitcase full of cash and then a few months later a long lost relative leaving you their entire heritance – including an abandoned castle in the outer Hebrides.

I mention all this not because Wetherspoons was pro-Brexit (I’d never eat anywhere for political reasons that would be hugely idiotic), but only because a certain tribe of snobs roundly despise the discount chain pub – preferring to flitter away their cash on overpriced pompous morsels of floating excrescence shat out of the backsides of giant gastronomic monsters and massaged into conceptual poo shapes by Manchester’s so-called food and culture scene. I dare you. Dance with the devil. Read any ‘review’ on the plethora of online food and drink magazines – (on the one hand, on the other, overall it was) go and you’ll be baffled as to how stupid you and apparently everyone else is.

These tiresome mouth trumpets of top ten lists, launching parades and ultimate countdowns are in essence just favours for favours and cock-sucking advertorials, but even the once mighty Manchester Evening News seems to have given up on journalism all together and is now content with blowing the city’s mediocre food and drink scene. So, it’s time to set the record straight – you heard it here first – the only place worth eating in Manchester is Wetherspoons (second to home, naturally) – and no, I’m not kidding or taking a back hander.

The reason why Spoons evades your culinary kaffeeklatsch is nothing other than good old-fashioned metropolitan snobbery. Curry Thursday, how ghastly, the snobs shriek, I bet the place is full of bloody bricklayers as well, best spend £50 at Vernacular across the street with the civilised educated people who voted remain.

But wait! Is that £6.65 for an 8oz Aberdeen Angus steak with chips and a glass of quaffable plonk? £1.99 for extras? Yes, and a perfectly acceptable steak it is too. You could double and probably triple that everywhere else, add another three quid for chips and £6.50 for a glass of red – if you’re lucky. Is it the best steak ever? No, but neither are those fancy places. Are the walls graced with local dulux encrusted art? No, but a lot of them are in grade-II listed buildings. Will anyone be voting Labour? Probably not, but you can always keep your comments down to a dull whisper – to avoid getting a good beating.

Food, sadly, has become political – and now denotes nothing more than the sad segregated society we now live in. The hotpot and all those other congregations of beautiful stodge are dead and buried, now head to a gourmet burger joint in the Northern Quarter, shout you voted leave and watch the blood sap from their insipid humourless faces. What you stuff in your mouth has always denoted social status, but when once the clients ate gruel and the patrons prime beef, now we’re all eating the same – just some are desperate, nay demanding to pay more for it – oh and make it gluten free, my stomach is pouting in a serene grimace of self-importance. They’re basically saying: I pay more, so I’m better than you.

The liberal worldview is well and truly kaput, now – the cherry on the cake – these ghastly eateries must vanish into the ether and begone – but then again, what on earth would I whine about. Let’s make 2017 even more rebellious and head to Wetherspoons.

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Restaurant Review: Solita, Manchester

Food 2/5  Atmosphere 3/5

Nobody will like it, but it has to be said. I’d have said this earlier, but I hoped, nay feared, that I might be wrong. I’m not. I’m right. In fact, there are two things that must be said – because most of us have reached the point of no return and so it’s absolutely necessary to say it. No, wait, three things that must be said – I’ve just remembered. There’s probably more things that could be said, but don’t necessarily have to be said, I might mention them later depending on certain conditions and word count.

Needs must, so first things first. Firstly, ‘the restaurant scene’ or whatever you call it in Manchester is, with a few exceptions, universally ghastly. You’ve heard it here first. It truly is. On the scale of ghastliness, we’re fluctuating somewhere between pompous rubbish and over priced mediocrity with not a few diversions into bland, bewildering and raw. Nobody seems to realise it and that’s because, as I’ve said before, no matter how many trendy places they frequent and flutter with peacock like intent and determination Mancunians, almost without exception, no nothing about food.

So, unless you absolutely know for certain (and this does not include the opinions of your palate numb work colleagues, hipster friends, trip advisor, online sites etc.) – by which I mean you’ve physically gone and stuffed food in your mouth and swallowed it, don’t take the risk – just stay in; you’ll save yourself an awful amount of embarrassment, money and maybe even your soul.

Secondly, contrary to popular belief, Manchester is not the ‘best city in the UK’ or the ‘coolest place ever’ as those ubiquitous advertorial Manchester based ‘culture’ websites are continually informing us. And here’s why: the entire city has been raped and pillaged by humourless faux-liberals and hipsters, who, I’m guessing, spend their free time rimming empty hummus cartons, nodding in agreement over daft art installations, and calling each other white supremacists on the Façadebook.

If these idiots left, well that would be another matter – but we’re stuck with them for now. And so, over the past 10 years Manchester has exclusively been designed and billeted to cater for the whims of this tiresome sub section of society – who seem intent on dragging the rest of us down to hell with them. If, for example, the Northern Quarter were in South Park, it’d probably be called NoMoreNorth or Thereunto or something along those lines. The third point, I’ve concluded, word count and all, is a could be said rather than a must be said; but, being just too crude and nasty – although undoubtedly true – to put down in print, I’ll give it a miss. So, we’ll move on.

Moving on, as you can imagine, when the gourmet burger restaurant Solita opened up a third branch in one of the least trendy areas of Manchester: Prestwich – where I live – I was a little apprehensive that north Manchester would soon be over-run with iron clad morons and my rent would sky rocket and that’ll I’ll have to move to Oldham or possibly even Bolton – thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet; but we’ll see. It turns out that Solita make decent, if a little expensive, burgers. I’ve been three times to the joint in Prestwich, which has this odd exclusivity feel – a sort of, are you one of us moment hits you as soon as you enter the place, exemplified by the blacked out windows which has the effect of a memory wipe, making you forget that you’re in the north of Manchester.

The first two times were deja vu: initial confusion over whether I wanted a starter or not – I didn’t bother; followed by delight and stupefaction when they placed the thing in front of me; then the daunting realisation that I’ll never be able to eat it without a knife and fork; then the nauseating gasp for breath two thirds in – that second long-island tea, a terrible idea; and finally the emotional shameful walk home as you conclude that it’s just way too expensive for a burger; no matter what you slap on it to add ‘value’, a burger is a burger is a burger. A burger is mincemeat, squashed, patted, fried and stuck between two slices of bread – a sandwich.

Blondie came the third time, this time – and possibly the final time.  Blondie and myself have been on a quest to find a decent eatery in Manchester that doesn’t make us angry or regret we were ever born. I should also note that Blondie hates everything other than: pies, fish and chips, fresh southern Italian antipasti, gravy, rare-bit, and cheese. So when her burger came with only a shaving of cheese he wasn’t too pleased.

Blondie ordered the Jack Daddy (£10.90) it was dry, a few mouthfuls short of satisfaction and covered, I mean totally coated, it this awful, sickly reduced sauce, which gave the impression post-eating that she had just quaffed a huge sticky toffee pudding and then smudged her hand over the plate to make some sort of pretty pattern to amuse the other customers. It came topped with two cold and congealed onion rings. I, in no mood for unnecessary condiments, went for the bacon double cheese (£10.90) which also had barely any cheese, was a little on the small side, but not as dry as the Jack Daddy. The whole experience lasted about 40 minutes. On the plus side, the cocktails were superb – even though we only had one each. The place was heaving, noisy, covered in local art and undoubtedly the place to be on a Saturday night. The service was occasional, casual and unfussy – at one point I was almost expected the waiter to interrupt and apologise for not asking if I had any allergies. She didn’t, which was a relief.

I really wanted to enjoy my third time at Solita; I didn’t, which is a shame – because it was a decent way to flitter money and time on a good burger. Those days are over; it’s time to move on. What exactly happened, I’m not sure; maybe it was a Saturday? Is that even an excuse? Probably it’s just become too popular with all the inevitable consequences that follow. And so, the quest continues; I haven’t given up yet.

Solita (Prestwich), 401 Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester, M25 1AA (0161 710 2884)

Why does Manchester hate dogs? Are we androids?

Something ridiculous happened at this year’s hideously over managed, tiresome and predictable Christmas markets in Manchester. An employee of the dog Stasi, aka Manchester City Council, prohibited me from entering Albert Square (a public area, by the way) because I was carrying my beloved Chihuahua in a bag. I’ll say it again: a Chihuahua in a bag.

That wasn’t the worse bit though (and came as no surprise considering how increasingly regulated our lives are); no, the worse bit was the look of horror, and near panic on the official’s countenance. As though I’d strapped a suicide vest to the poor animal and darted toward one of those silly mock Disneyesque beer huts screaming Allah-Akbar.

‘Why’, I asked. ‘Don’t know, council ‘ave banned them,’ she replied, in your typical dim bat council employee fashion. But why? What’s the precedent? What possible disturbance could my Chihuahua in a bag inflict on the hundreds of already loud, mouthy drunken Christmas revellers?

In typical patronising fashion, here’s what the council say on their ‘we-know-better than-you-poor-peasants’ website: ‘Sorry pooch, but Albert square’s market area has a strict ‘no dogs’ policy…We love our canine friends but the enclosed space is just too busy and crowded, which isn’t a very suitable area for dogs…You can bring your dogs to other markets though…but it’s probably best to leave them at home while you visit the Christmas markets.’

Is it really probably best? Thanks nanny for informing me what probably is or isn’t best for my dog. The hundreds council pen-pushers (probably) who were paid to come up with that drivel are (probably) ignorant idiots. And here’s why: as any dog owner knows, the best way of bringing up a well behaved dog is by ensuring it is well socialised; in other words, by introducing it to a variety of social situations no matter how raucous, busy or enclosed, the dog will adapt and therefore behave more agreeably outside of the house. Restricting dogs in every conceivable arena of public life, as we do these days, is more likely to produce a problem dog.

The council though, in their new designated role as public life-coaches, have decided that it would probably be best if they legislated our dogs (along with smokers) out of existence.

Take, for example, the Metrolink, which has had a bye-law prohibiting dogs since 1992. Despite recent public consultations, which revealed that a majority were in favour of allowing dogs on board, they still refused to have the ban lifted – citing the usual waffle about health and safety, fouling damage, stress induced behaviour and allergies (By the same logic, you might as well ban children, the elderly, people displaying flu like symptoms, vomiting drunks, the agitated and infirm).

Bizarrely, dogs are now being discriminated against in the city’s parks. Certain restrictions apply in designated areas; or you must walk them on a lead, and a very short lead at that, or else. Some parks, including Platt Fields, have designated dog-walking areas – but watch your mutt like a hawk, in case they frighten an innocent bystander or maul a pigeon to death.

Anyway, I was reminded of all fascist big state stuff when reading Phillip K Dick’s brilliant dystopian novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? (Later filmed and renamed as Blade Runner.)

In the novel, a simple empathy test is performed to determine who among the populace is an android. ‘Subjects’ are given hypothetical situations relating to animals (such as pulling the legs of a spider and lots of other weird stuff) and tested to see their reaction.

As you might expect animal empathy is pretty much a hard-wired human emotion, so naturally none of the androids pass (schizophrenics also fail, so it’s important to differentiate). The point being that loving and caring for animals is a basic human emotion; and since our city’s leaders clearly hate dogs, it naturally follows they too must be either androids or schizophrenics (I’d proffer the latter – in the novel androids have really high IQs).

So, the wonderfully diverse city of Manchester that caters and panders to every conceivable minority – no matter how ludicrous – has stuck two fingers up at the dog owning population, which you know, only accounts for between 200,000 – 300,000 council tax paying households in the region; 52,000 of whom live within 80 metres of the dog hating tram. And yes, of course, there are some skin headed hoodlums out there straining a pit bull on a lease – but these surely are a minority. Get a grip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant review: The Beagle (Manchester)

Food 0/5     Atmosphere 3/5

So it’s settled then. Manchester needs a kick up the arse – a how’s your father, an eke-name, a moniker, a diminutive term of endearment. London has Londonistan, Las Vegas went for Sin City; Bangkok pegged the City of Angels and Berlin The Grey City. It’s more of a US of A thing, isn’t it? We’re not as grandiose, freewheeling, riding off into the sunset to the beat of Fleetwood Mac as the ‘ol gas station smudges into the vista. That’s not us. We’re more subdued. Don’t want to blow our trumpets – didn’t know we had one.

But it’s time here in Albion that our reserved cities, towns and even small hamlets, buckled up and promoted their very own affectionate appellations – Manchester in particular. So, here goes: what about Madchester or Gunchester? (been there, done that) – never again, too nineties. The Rainy City? Boring, and besides, I think Seattle got there first. Cottonopolis? Reasonable and has a nice ring – but out of date. Granadaland? Forget it. Manny. Man Many Manny. Manchesterford? Spluttering and too eighties. Warehouse city. Manky. Manky mess. Manky mess messy? Manky messy public transport?

Obviously, nothing works.

How about a nod to our illustrious musical heritage? Again, out of date – nobody likes music anymore. What tickles our fancy? Drinking – yes that’s it! We love drowning our sorrows; lurching out of watering holes four hours too early, staggering into our hangovers as we hunt down some questionable halal certified eatery.

Eating, do we like to eat? Tough one that, it appears we do. There are restaurants popping like acne all over the Cottonopolis these days. Baying like jackals, a siren call of chain Italian restaurants, fusion street tapas, cocktails with hefty burgers, NQ this that and the other, New York inspired bold cartas brimming with hope – promising anything but Fish and Chips, black pudding, hot pot, anglicised curries and shepherd’s pie. And at 12 quid a smack it better be good – especially if it’s on an Ikea wooden chopping board – rimmed perfectly for collecting those lukewarm crimson juices.

It happened about 10 years ago. Mancunians decided they didn’t really like depressingly authentic public houses, music, bands and all that stuff to do with being a miserable Northerner. No, what really got their rocks off was playing at being restaurant critics – connoisseurs of the palate. The problem is, they’re awful at it. Watching Mancunians go out to eat is like watching partially blind lemmings stumble about in total darkness (obviously with a decent pair of night vision goggles).

Is it a bar or a restaurant? It’s a…look love, there’s some sort of la-di-da fusion food on offer if you can be bothered – the bar’s on the right, near the entrance/exit. Be sure to have a few pints on the way out. In fact, The Beagle in Chorlton, Manchester advertises as such: craft beer, cocktails, terrace, wine and vibes. Notably, there’s no mention of food, and for good reason – it’s awful.

It also appears to be Mexican, which is bizarre considering it’s called the Beagle, instead of the Chihuahua; and the walls are decorated with birds – not obese Mexican birds (I’m talking about women here), just your average bland English variety. ‘The birds’ bring plates of food to you, and the service is…well, they managed to bring it to the table without dropping it among the boozy revellers, which I suppose is commendable. The problem is what they stick in front of you makes you regret not spending it on booze.

The Al pastor pulled pork burrito was bland, stuffed with red cabbage, way too expensive at £8 (two beers, imagine) and almost definitely not spit roasted as advertised. We also went for the Lawndale burger – another £8 – a terrible idea of halloumi and soggy aubergine – the less said about that the better. The pick n’ mix snacks (3 dishes for £9.95) looked like pre bought frozen convenience lumps of charcoal.

After that, we decided like everyone else in the place, to just buy drinks. Only avoid the cocktails, they have really stupid names like Tommy’s Margarita and Jalapeno and Cucumber Margarita and ‘classics’ like Godfather and a whole list of other waffle. By closing time, we were all authentically pissed. I can’t remember, I think we went for a giant £4 greasy pizza at some nasty takeaway – you know, the kind that’d make you cringe if you were the opposite of paralytic. But what could I do? I was starving.

The Beagle, 456-458 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0BQ. (0161 8818596)

 

Restaurant review: Urban Cookhouse (Manchester)

Food 0/5     Atmosphere 0/5

What is commendable, and indeed ‘unique’, about this place, is that everything they put in front of you tastes of nothing at all; and when I say ‘nothing’, I truly, from the bottom of my heart, mean no-thing.

With a mind-boggling array of new dining experiences seemingly opening up at the rate of one an hour in Manchester, the city is currently in the throes of an eating revolution. Although with abstract names like Artisan, Scene and Poop (that last one’s mine) the casual eater can be forgiven for being somewhat confused even after they’ve paid the bill.

So, once you get over the initial ‘What does that mean?’ and ‘What is this?’ – then comes the even more difficult soul searching question of whether you like any of it. Because it used to be easy didn’t it. Deciding whether you like Fish and Chips. The fish is moist and succulent. The batter light and crispy. The chips nicely seasoned. Or a steak – was it juicy? Cooked just how you like it?

It is of course more difficult deciding if a Japanese twist on Spaghetti carbonara sates your palate; or whether drinking a cocktail with a burger is a good idea; or indeed, whether forking out a tenner for fusion street food, in a restaurant, inside, is really worth the hassle.

Anyway, with a new menu, Urban Cookhouse, located on Princess Street, on the fringe of the Gay Village, definitely falls into the ‘baffling’ category. Baffling, because it claims to bring: Inspiration from New York’ and ‘a taste of downtown Manhattan to central Manchester’. Yet does nothing of the sort.

As you’d expect the place is nice enough and has the sort of urban feel that we’ve come to expect – shiny Meccanoesque patterns; ghostly, slightly camp purple haze with the occasional hint of classical Greece; shiny grey everywhere; high stools you’ll need a stepladder to access; purple candles and dangling energy efficient lights. It’s lunch hour on a Thursday and the place is almost empty.

In fact, it is so dim that we opt for a window highchair. The menu is grey and bleak and surprisingly contains very little. I opt for the Gin Cured Salmon for starter. If it was ‘gin soaked’, then it soaked any flavour out of this sweet delicate fish. It is mushy and bland. (And I’m guessing defrosted about a half hour before we arrived.) The pecans, being earthy and crunchy, make no sense at all, the same with the accompanying pancakes, which were dry and added nothing to the dish. My companions choose the Potato Gnocchi – which was drenched in oil – and the Sweet Potato Soup, which was bland, way too grainy, and came with two dry half bitten morsels of coconut.

For mains I went for Rhode Island Chowder, which contained no clams and tasted – when push comes to shove – of tinned vegetable soup. It came with a side order of cock and bollocks, that is: two balls of some tasteless starchy substance and a burnt stick of streaky bacon stuck in the middle. We also had the Seared Duck Breast, one piece of which was raw, the dish was covered in a sickly sweet marmalade sauce; a burning cinnamon stick completed this uninspired dish – the ash gracefully fell all over the meat.

As I said the menu is sparse, but the dessert option contains almost nothing. With three options, none of which was slab of New York cheesecake, it doesn’t look promising.

Now, I don’t know what the chef was smoking when he came up with Mexican Rice Pudding, or whether I was high when I ordered it. But, it was undercooked and went doolally on the cinnamon. The lovely waitress – hands down for staying positive throughout the whole experience – informed us that the tequila in the accompanying chocolate paste made it Mexican. Maybe, but I couldn’t taste it; and besides, I was expecting something with chili anyway. The Midnight Manhattan, strawberry soufflé, was nice, but the Pumpkin Panna Cotta, you’ve guessed it, missed the mark, and didn’t taste of anything.

Even more baffling than the food, is that the kitchen seems intent on arranging your food into various phallic symbols – possibly a talking point – but personally I only found marginally funny.

The Mancunian weather: The rain falls hard on this humdrum town

When Mr Manchester himself, Tony Wilson, said ‘Jazz was the last refuge of the untalented’, what he really meant to say – to quote Oscar Wilde – was that ‘conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative’.

Tucked away in a precipitous bowl shaped area of land, bordered to the north and east by the Pennines and to the south by the Cheshire plain, here, every day is like Sunday – we are forever destined to be the umbrella capital of the country

But the mercurial nature of Mancunian weather isn’t just an icebreaker. It’s a mood, a memory, a sound, an errant child and a naughty mistress. It’s an atmosphere, an emotion, an expression and era – and in this age of globalisation, it’s the weather that still ties us down to one specific place. It’s who we are and where we come from.

The relentless drizzle of our beloved city has inspired our greatest writers from Thomas de Quincey – who described his mental landscape as a terrifying cloud structure bubbling up beyond control – to our greatest painter L.S Lowry, whose unforgivably bleak, grey and unchanging skies were the expression of a generation of matchstick men destined to toil in this most industrial of cities.

Without the rain, Manchester would never have been the powerhouse of the industrial revolution (the damp air means the cotton is less likely to snap) – there would be no decaying mills and silent chimneys – which haunt, like ghosts, the psyche of our city’s writers, lyricists and artists. Rumour also has it, that the damp air is responsible for our slight nasal diction.

When Morrissey sang – “The rain falls down on this humdrum town, this town has dragged you down” – he owed much to the post-industrial romanticism of the city and the people that roamed its damp wet streets. The lethargic Well I Wonder, another Smiths song, ends with the sounds of falling rain, evoking the sense of a lazy rainy day. The same with Joy Division and their bleak claustrophobic mechanised melodies – both bands could only have come from the manufacturing capital.

But is it all a myth? Does the city really deserve the accolade of the ‘rainy city’?

That beacon of climatic common sense – The Met Office – defines a ‘rain day’ as being a day on which one millimetre or more of rainfall is measured. Manchester has on average 86.7cms of rain every year, compared to Britain’s wettest cities, Cardiff (115cms); Glasgow (112cms); Preston (103.36); it even rains more in Blackpool (88.27cms). In fact, Manchester barely makes the top ten – we do, however, have more rainy days than most with 150 sodden days a year (Glasgow still beats us with 170, as does Preston with its commendable 153).

If it is a myth, then where does it come from? Perhaps a document, dating to 1926, can provide the answer.

Discovered by researchers a few years ago, the 90-year-old record contains a map showing that some parts of what is now Greater Manchester experienced 139cms of rain a year, but only 78cm fell over Manchester. In 1926 the average rainfall in England was 91cms. The map was shaded blue – one of the first of its kind in the North West – to denote annual rainfall. It was printed widely in the press, including the Manchester Guardian, and experts believe it was instrumental in reinforcing the city’s reputation for dismal weather – and of course, once something sticks it’s difficult to shake off.

But then, myths are more potent than history; and if it’s a choice between legend and fact, always go for the legend.

Some rain enthusiasts disagree with the naysayers, pointing out that Manchester has, in fact, been getting wetter over the past 100 years – even going as far to suggest that Tuesdays are the wettest, Saturdays are getting wetter, and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are the driest.

And besides, if you count any form of wet like: drizzle, sprinkles, mizzles, dew, light showers, intermittent spots, mists, sprays, breezes, splashes, puffs, scuds and even a squelchy ground – it is ‘technically’ always raining in Manchester, even if you don’t necessarily get soaked.

So, there you go: the rain – the tippling, the pelting, and the plothering – luttering from clouds the colour of cigarette ash. It has inspired, amused, dampened our hair and spirits, razed our sense of fashion to the ground, besmirched our weekends, muddied our floors and revolutionised our textile industry. Whether we are the ‘rainy city’ or merely the ‘somewhat rainy city’, the rain still deserves a place in all Mancunian hearts. So, you see, Mr. Wilde, there’s nothing unimaginative in conversation about the weather.

(Published here at ilovemanchester.com)

Manchester’s Neglected Hero – Anthony Burgess

If there’s one thing Mancunians resent, it’s a sell-out. Whereas Lowry hung around, etching his working class roots into everything, Anthony Burgess, forever the rebel, abandoned the grimy industrial city for the more exotic Malaysia and Brunei, and later to Malta, Italy, America and finally to Monaco, where he is now buried – his home city never forgiven him for it.

The writer once said of Manchester: “As a piece of civic planning, or rather unplanning, I think it’s terrible.” Despite his ambiguous relationship with the place, he remained proud of his northern working class roots to the end.”

“It’s always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it,” he said. “To remember where you come from is part of where you’re going.”

Manchester has never shown any great enthusiasm in celebrating its greatest writer. Surprising, considering how loudly we boast of our cultural and historical achievements. Compare and contrast Burgess with so many lesser figures who have have become cultural icons of Manchester.

Burgess, by contrast, has a small museum devoted to him – The International Anthony Burgess Foundation (opened in 2010) and a hardly noticeable blue commemorative plaque at Manchester University (unveiled in 2012) – which, incidentally, is the only British tribute to the author. As the writer himself said: “I’m ignored in England.”

“Manchester meant a good deal to Burgess,” says Andrew Biswell, professor of Modern Literature at MMU. “Even when he was living abroad, he wanted people to know he was a Mancunian, as it was so much at the heart of his identity.”

Forever the raconteur, Burgess claimed to have introduced the word ‘Mancuniense’ to the Italian language, and to have been kicked out of Whitworth Art Gallery, as a boy, for assaulting a modernist sculpture.

He was born in 1917 in Harpurhey, Manchester, were he was brought up by his piano playing father and stepmother who ran a pub, the Golden Eagle, in Miles Platting. He was educated at Xaverian College and the University of Manchester – leaving the city for good in 1940 after he graduated with a degree in English literature.

(Read the rest at ilovemanchester.com)

To say that Spain is in the mierda is a bit of an understatement

“Why do English people say sorry, when they don’t mean it?” asked a Spanish man outside Sinclair’s Oyster Bar in Shambles Square. It’s a popular rendezvous for the Spanish community in Manchester.

I shrug. “I don’t know, maybe they mean it. What other cultural differences have you noticed?”

He pauses, clocks his surroundings and then says, “Going out at 7 and finishing the night early. At home we don’t go out until 10, sometimes later.”

Suddenly, and typically English, a fight spills out on to the street. It’s not even closing time. The barman tries to defuse the situation as the tattooed drunk stumbles around, shouting obscenities into the warm night air.

“Do people here drink more than in Spain,” I ask, a little embarrassed at our national stereotype, knowing full well the answer.

“Don’t ask me, I’m from Italy,” he replied. “The English drink more than anybody, don’t they?”

To say that Spain is in the mierda is a bit of an understatement. It has one of the lowest birth rates in the world at 1.2 children per woman; an unemployment rate hovering around 24.8 per cent; a shrinking and ageing population, with hundreds of thousands of young people fleeing to look for work elsewhere. Understandably many are worried that their countrymen are lost to their host nation.

How many have left Spain is difficult to tell. Suffice to say mass emigration on this scale hasn’t been seen since the Second World War. Before that – apart from those fleeing Franco’s regime – emigration from Spain had been rare. As an attractive half- Colombian Spanish lady tells me, “things are so bad in Spain that people are actually relocating to South America.” This time they’re looking for jobs, not gold.

Not everyone sees this exodus of Spanish youth as a bad thing. A case in point is Yashin Dadashnejad, an affable and articulate man from Tenerife who moved to Manchester ten years ago. He tells me it’s been good for both Spaniards and Mancunians that so many of his fellow citizens have relocated here.

“Before, you had many Asians but perhaps the city was lacking people from different parts of Europe. Now, Manchester has people from other cultures it didn’t have before.”

Having originally worked in one of the Spanish restaurant chains – “you know the ones I mean, where it’s not really Spanish food, and quality is poor” – he wanted to bring some of the authentic stuff to the city, so eight months ago he opened La Bandera with his brother. The restaurant has received rave reviews and has become popular with Spanish footballers resident in the city.

So, how’s the Spanish community changed since he arrived?

“When I first came to Manchester, at Uni there was a Spanish society of only six people, and another online community run by a guy from Barcelona, we used to meet up every Thursday, at a place called the Retro bar.” Times have changed. “Now you can find Spaniards all over the place. Sinclair’s is popular.”

In Spain, corruption and welfare are a major issue. “You can work for a year and live off benefits for a year after that – with something like 90 per cent of your wage. I don’t think that helps.”

(Read the rest at ilovemanchester.com)