My Manchester

Today marks a very sad and poignant anniversary in my Manchester’s history. It was exactly 12 months ago today that a terrorist bomb was detonated in the Manchester Arena at the end of a concert given by Ariana Grande. In its aftermath, there was a tremendous outpouring of love and support, of music and poetry, of community coming together and a defiance that this horrific act would not stop Manchester and Mancunians being what we are and who we are. There was a determination that the very fabric of Manchester would be strengthened by this, not destroyed by it, and it would go down in Manchester’s history as just another thing that has happened to us.

You’ll notice I refer to my Manchester, and to us. That’s deliberate, because I am a proud Mancunian and I am so glad I was born in this wonderful place. This city runs in my DNA as much as my blood does, as it does with the million of other folk who get to call this city “home”.

I got to thinking about what being a Manc means, and how the demonstration of our spirit in these last 12 months can be an example to the rest of the world. Yes, we might seem to be territorial about our city, but it is a territory without boundaries and borders – anyone can call themselves a Mancunian so long as they play by the rules.

And the rules are simple:

  1. Keep strong – in the face of adversity (and that includes the weather). You may be battered about, but Mancunians stay strong. Together.
  2. Keep calm – get the job done, then go away and weep about it. You’ll find no hand-wringing here.
  3. Keep it together – look after your mate, your brother, the stranger in front of you or next door to you.
  4. Keep loving – don’t let hatred in, don’t let hatred win. Give love until it feels like you are going to empty yourself, then keep giving. It wells up from a deeper place and will only ever get bigger and stronger. Don’t look back in anger. Ever.
  5. Keep singing – it’s what we do best. From the textile mills to the coal mines, on the canals, in the workshops, on the football terraces, in schools, in places of worship, on street corners, in clubs and bars, singing is what we do. It draws us together and anyone can do it. Let that song live within you.

If you can live by those 5 rules, you can come in and be counted as a Manc. Blue or red, doesn’t matter. Christian, Muslim or Jew, doesn’t matter which. Man, woman, child, adult, doesn’t matter. However you see yourself so long as you can do those 5 things you can be one of us and you will join the biggest set of mates you will ever know.

We might not get on from time to time and we know we have our problems – which city doesn’t? – but the thread that holds this city together has been woven over centuries and the people here all play by the rules. Most of the time.

So what can we teach the rest of the world? Manchester’s symbol is the bee. It symbolises our industrial past – the worker bees supplying the world with our produce and goods – and it has become a true icon of our great city particularly in these last 12 months. What the bee can teach the rest of the world is that true sweetness can only come from a lot of people all working together, not against each other, and Manchester’s lesson to the rest of the world is just that: let’s work together to make the world a sweeter place.

Now, make us a brew while you’re up, yeah?

#onelove #dontlookbackinanger #loveistheway #lovewins #allyouneedislove


Blogging, Uncategorized

Stormy Weather

It’s a tad breezy out there tonight (she says in massive understatement). The wind actually sounds like someone is having a motorbike race on the roof!

I just hope our wobbly chimney stack will make it through the night. If you hear a big crash followed by lots of swearing you’ll know it has been blown in.

I’ll let you know tomorrow…


Why Do We Blog?

So, go on then. Why do we blog?

When I started blogging all those years ago it was because I was going through an extremely dark phase of my life and I was introduced to the idea of keeping some sort of journal to keep track of what was happening to me and how it all made me feel.

I began a blog with the site that came with my Hotmail account and my posts were very “urgh, had another bad day today”. I didn’t really intend anyone to read them and they were more of a personal record of feelings more than anything. I didn’t know much about writing online and I know that not many people read my stuff so it didn’t really matter what I wrote or how often I posted.

Then the Hotmail site announced it was going to be closing and offered to migrate all our blogs over to WordPress. That timing coincided with the start of another new phase in my life where I felt I needed to challenge myself and so when I started the Mushy Cloud here on WordPress I committed to writing  a blog post every day for a year.

It was not as easy as I thought it was going to be, but I did it. A whole year of blogging!

I did find that some days were easier than others and content came to me quite naturally but other days, crikey, they were hard. I moved away from the personal stuff and began to look for content that interested me and so I began to write thoughts for the day, or share bits of poetry and “on this day in history” type of stuff, and I loved it. It was exhausting, but satisfying to get to the end of the year without having missed a single day of posting content.

After that particular challenge I decided to pare it back a bit, but I had the bug for writing and when I restarted my studies with the Open University in 2013 I was keen to build on it. Ironically, as I began to study the art of creative writing, my public writing on the Mushy Cloud tailed off a bit and towards the middle of last year I sort of lost my way a little. I had gained my bachelors degree in the summer of 2016 but even so, my writing mojo had gone.

I then started studying for my Masters degree in September last year and this Christmas I decided to re-challenge myself to post something every day for as long as I could as a way of making sure I did some sort of writing at least once a day. It was a way to discipline myself and to focus my thoughts on what I was studying – warm up exercises if you like.

But something happened, and I rather like it. I began posting in January and by the end of the first week I thought to myself that I would never find enough content to write something every day and I thought I might pare it back again to just once or twice a week. But I know myself, and I realised that if I only committed to once or twice a week I would either forget to do it, or I would find another excuse not to do it at all. And so I pushed through and made it to the end of January.

I had another rethink and thought, well, I’ve done a whole month, that’s enough to say I have met my challenge of writing every day and so time to stop now. But again, something happened. I had revisited some of my favourite memes and blog-hop sites from when I was fervently blogging before and I picked up some lapsed online friendships and I realised that I had missed them. There are genuine people out there with whom I have a genuine connection, who care about me and who I care about in return, and I had missed that online connection.

Now that we are well into February I have still not failed to post each day, but more than that, I am finding that my daily writing exercises are getting easier (not published online), and I am deepening those online relationships with people through blogging. And it’s great!

I had forgotten that pull of online friendships, with like-minded people who like to share things from their corner of the world with me and I am keen that all this continues. I draw strength and support from reaching out to people online and it helps me with my “real life” reaching out.

I admit that some days I do “cheat” a little and post just a picture, or a thought, or something quick and easy. But I try to make up for it with meatier stuff later on when I have more time.

So, that’s why I blog – it is somewhere to share thoughts with online friends, it helps with my daily discipline of writing and it is a way to meet a personal challenge of putting myself “out there”. Why do you do it? I know there are people who share aspects of their lives on here that I find invaluable and they draw strength and support just as I do, but I would love to hear what motivates them to do it. Is it like me, that sometimes you just need that quasi-anonymous relationship that is conducted through your screen? Or is it something else? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Happy blogging!!




I’ve been helping Emma learn some NATO maritime flags and symbols today, and this is BY FAR my favourite. It just about sums me up at the moment!

Ah well. Onwards and upwards!



Oh, the irony

You know how every now and again coincidences just happen, like when you’re indicating to turn a corner and your blinker synchronises with the car in front of you? Or, that when you’re watching TV and having a conversation with someone in the room and you suddenly realise that you have said the same word as someone on TV at the exact same time? 

Well, there are coincidences and then there are ironies.

Such as like tonight. Stuck in traffic on a particular stretch of the motorway at 6.30pm and then stuck in the SAME stretch of motorway on the return journey at about 10.30pm. Not a pleasant coincidence, but made funnier by the irony that I was listening to Meat Loaf (can’t beat a good rock out on the way down the M6 at night) and then this came on.

Ironic huh? “All revved up and no place to go” booming out whilst sat in four lanes of solid traffic with engines off because of an accident up ahead.

Have I mentioned I hate driving on the motorway at night recently? I’m sure I have…just once or thrice. It’s all because of the plan to convert the motorway network around Greater Manchester from a good-enough-but-would-be-great-if-it-were-better system to what they laughingly call a “Smart” motorway network.

It’s where the hard shoulder becomes a normal driving lane at peak times with a variable speed limit announced on gantries every half mile or so. Sounds smart enough, but the process has taken nearly 4 years so far, with frustrating traffic jams EVERY DAY, a mandatory 50mph speed limit, road closures, (lack of workmen working whilst said roads are closed), removal of lighting and junction signage pretty much all the way of the M60 between the M62 and the Trafford Centre, potholes that you could go fishing in and enough cones to stretch from Manchester to Mars and back – twice. There are hard barriers along the central reservation and the left hand edge of the carriageway and there are no hard shoulders any more, meaning when cars break down (or just overheat because of travelling in first gear for 20 miles), they have to pull up in the left hand driving lane (no shoulder or verge remember) and cause yet more tailbacks and more misery for the cars behind who have to either swerve to avoid them, or who slow down to see who’s hit who and if there is any blood anywhere.

Now, calling this new system “smart”, well, that’s ironic isn’t it?!!




Robert Burns Has a Face

Appropriately enough, today has brought the news that Robert Burns has been facially reconstructed by use of computer generated graphics and a complex mapping using a real human voice. The full news story is found here, but what a wonderful world we live in where we can breathe new life into old bones.

There’s something Biblical there, and I will return to it another time, but for now on Burns Night, here is the text of that poem that is so beautifully “performed” by a computerised Rabbie.

The original wording

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a pannic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

Thy wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

The poem in modern English

Little, well groomed, cowering, timid beast,
Oh, what a panic is in your heart!
You need not start away so hasty
With bickering prattle!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering scraper

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startle
At me, your poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, that you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse green foliage!
And bleak December’s winds coming,
Both bitter and piercing!

You saw the fields laid bare and empty,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! The cruel plough passed
Out through your cell.

That small heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!



Is It Spring Yet?

I’m so fed up of this winter now. I wish Spring were here!