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Several days to Christmas...

and as a result there's an Advent Calendar at http://www.houseoftheorangemonkey.co.uk/advent/advent2012/index.htm which might be amusing for a moment or two...

The Mousetrap on tour

Skull on railway sleeperApparently 2012 is the 60th year of the continuous run of Agatha Christie's play, The Mousetrap. To celebrate this they've decided to take the play on tour. When I accidentally found out that the tour includes a week in Manchester (the devil makes work for idle paws) I made Mr Rik book tickets. It would have been silly not to.

Quite a lot of other people booked tickets too, and earlier, so Mr Rik and Miss Carol were perched on the lower slopes of the Opera House's gallery, where a careless movement of the legs risks kicking people in the next row down in the head. Plenty of room for a small monkey, of course.

Anyway, The Mousetrap. Excellent set, with a really nice day/night/snow effect through a large window at the back and more wood panelling than you could shake a stick at. This distance from the stage was a bit of a culture shock as I'm used the much more close up and personal Royal Exchange. On the other hand, you don't need to be that close to the cast of The Mousetrap because it's not that kind of play. It is, however, rather enjoyable. There are numerous red herrings, more laughs than we'd expected, and both Mr Rik and I spotted the same clue to the killer. Of course we were sworn to secrecy at the end so we can't say who did it.

While we were waiting for the train, Miss Carol spotted the collection of stains on one of the concrete railway sleepers above. Random collection of oil and stuff, or the railway's Halloween decoration?


Or it might have been the Manchester Festival of Food and Drink. Or any combination of Manchester, Food, Festival and Drink.

Ginger's Comfort Emporium dispensing fine ice creamIt was on a few weeks ago, and the rain kept us away a lot of the time. But when we did go after we'd had cider and pizza we bought ice creams from Ginger's Comfort Emporium.

Obviously it's not really an Emporium, it's an ice cream van. What was really interesting was the flavours: Miss Carol had an Eccles cake flavour cornet, and Mr Rik had toast and marmalade. Toast and marmalade ice cream. Ice cream with chunks of marmalade (a rather nice thick-cut one, since you ask) and fragments of toast. Ice cream with currants and fragments of pastry. Both flavours worked because the base ice cream is rather excellent which sort of stops it being just a gimmick.

I think Ms Ginger also sells more normal flavours, but that's not really the point, is it?

In other news, Mr Rik's sister is getting married, and wants Mr Rik to give her away. This apparently involves wearing a kilt.


Happy Birthday Mr Rik!

That's it, really. Happy birthday to Mr Rik.

Watching HUGO was an excellent way to spend someone's birthday afternoon. 

What's that up in the sky?

Is it a bird? No, it's an actual plane, the first one we've seen flying in or out of Manchester since, well, since they stopped flying.

And it's very, very noisy.

Big steel Bittern arrives in Manchester

For the first time since, well, ever (or maybe 1966ish) a steam locomotive was allowed into Manchester Piccadilly. And this is it - Bittern, an A4 Pacific built for the LNER. It's the same design as the Mallard so in theory it could have done 125mph or so. It was pulling a rake of carriages and a Class 47 diesel, the carriages for passengers from London who were going to have the afternoon in Manchester and the Class 47 to tow them home (the Bittern sneaked off to York via Stalybridge.

Because they'd sort of told people it was going to happen, and because it was a Saturday there were an awful lot of people waiting at both ends of the platform it was due in on, and the platforms nearby (a Virgin Pendolino arriving about 30 seconds before the Bittern must have annoyed some people), and, once it had arrived anyone who hadn't got a train to run for came join the throng.

Next time they do something like this, we'll wait somewhere en route and catch it it moving.
It's an excellent thing, though.

Thursday night and Friday morning...

Spent yesterday evening at the Urbis closing down party, meeting friends old and new (see right), being mildly deafened by the sound system (heavy bass can seriously upset your beans) and generally being sorry that Urbis is shutting for 18 months. It'll be interesting to see what happens when it re-opens as the National Football Museum.

And this morning I found out that I'm the third and final winner of the great snowman hunting contest at EQ Comics. Hurrah!

Ostende trip now online

Astounding! Mr Monkey's Ostende trip - from September - is now online. That's... um... several months late. There's probably a reason for the delay, but I can't think of it yet. Maybe there were lots of visits to short term events... and Mr Monkey had a go at theatre reviewing...

Strange days in Blackpool

So, we went to Blackpool for the weekend; specifically we went for Heat the Streets and Showzam which are essentially ways of luring people to Blackpool during half-term.

I'll probably get round to writing some more about what actually happened, but it was a little unnerving to find that Blackpool had regressed into black and white.

The grey on grey appearance of the town was due largely, it seems, to there being a lot of freezing fog between us and the sun. Freezing fog is extremely cold.

Later it got marginally less cold, but to achieve any real warmth you needed a heat source.

Luckily, Heat the Streets abounded in naked flames, the best of which was the Fire Queen's Court. This featured a tall metal Fire Queen stumbling around setting fire to metal trees whilst security staff tell people to get out of the way.

And on Sunday morning there was snow all over the place. About half an hour before this picture was taken, there was snow on the beach too. Really. Snow on a beach, visible from the seventh floor of a hotel and we forgot to take a photo until it had melted.