The blog of a travelling psychiatrist and football lover. Who happens to be a halfway decent photographer. Takes a cynical view of the world

Archive for the tag “manchester”

Reflections on 24 Hours in Helsinki.

This is not a city that I find easy to enjoy. Maybe this is me and not Helsinki. Walking around the city seems bland in comparison with other Scandinavian and Baltic capitals. A kind of hidden vibrancy is missing, something almost invisible cannot be seen.

00003440There were few smiling faces. Many engaged with their headphones, music and phones and not so much conversation going on even in the cafes.


The obligatory young persons uniform. Cigarette, headphones and phone. just dont let the world in

The harbour and marina areas looked tired and uninterested in visitors.

00003459 There were indeed many historical looking buildings, some grand and some not. But none enticed anyone inside.

IMG_2804Even the high steps did not seem dangerous or challenging  when walking down them. There were in fact few people around. Maybe at different times in the year the feel of this city will be different but in April this city seemed comatose. The only time it came to life for me was when sitting in a hotel bar and in the next room a private function was taking place , maybe a record launch, with a singer and her singing was amazing. Amazing enough to download Shazam and discover who she was. A rasping voice that oozed feeling. The singer is called Katea. The song was California Baby. IMG_2777

Much of the city centre is a melange of shops and shopping malls. There was little evidence of any pavement cafe society even allowing for the April weather. Few smiling faces. The architecture surely can be described as grand but is it beckoning? Even the trams looked sad as they slowly went their way through the city, with less self-esteem and grandeur than Amsterdam or Manchester trams, that would happily sweep you off your feet.00003429

The only sign of life was inside coffee shops and the one that caught my eye was Strindberg down near the harbour area where enough people were inside to give me a feeling that I was not alone on this earth. The other one that also escapes my criticism is the Neuhaus cafe shop, that sold the delicious chocolates but also functioned as a pleasant street cafe. A cup of tea (3 euros for a teabag, but served in a curiously interesting mug) and some homemade mango cheesecake, though no-one ever states in which home it was made, kept me occupied for the best part of an hour.

IMG_2829 The shop was run by a highly efficient  girl who gave the image of being an academic student ( like a Latin or Greek scholar maybe) who not only ran the shop, sold the chocolates , took and ordered the food, but also made whatever had to be made. Clearly not a British employee.

The boats looked sleepy and disinterested. As though waiting for a different week or month to attract people.00003391.JPG

In huge areas there were so very few people walking around. Part of the harbour area had some tents erected that were mini-restaurants selling mostly Finnish food, such as reindeer hotdogs and other more usual foods. IMG_2806FullSizeRender-1


Restaurants  in the city centre of course there were many but often impossible to know if they were open or closed.  Food was expensive. In many restaurants, just average ones, the main courses were around 20 euros and with a starter and a drink that made a fairly simple lunch cost over 30 euros. It was easy to find set course lunch menus costing 50 euros or more. Lunch seemed curiously to start around 10.30 am and by 11.30 am ” ladies that lunch” could be seen sipping champagne and having important conversations in some of the more eloquent looking restaurants.

IMG_2784IMG_2782There was little evidence of the wonderful and artistic graffiti that adorns many European cities. In the central part of the city rather curiously the only sign of graffiti was on the door leading to the National Library of Finland. In short the best adjective to sum up 24 hours in Helsinki is Neutral.

IMG_2787IMG_2789As in all cities there were a few characters to be seen, together with some interesting takes on hair styling. The exceptionally tall man in the bowler hat I oddly passed twice in very different parts of the city. People observing us might conclude that we were both spies meeting for our assignments. Considering spies there was no evidence of a queue at the Russian tourist board office.00003414.JPG

A plethora of expensive shops abounded. Tumi, who some might recall I encountered at London City Airport, when finding a small carry on case there that looked good, then finding the cost was £675 ( and yes I checked the decimal point), was present. I saw one professional beggar in the same position on the same street, who started ” work” at around midday, and who incidentally wore better clothes than I own.


There were sights to see of course, but even these were quiet and few tourists were visible. Maybe I need to go back here on a different day or different season.


Novustory @229 The Venue London April 2016. This is a band to watch

Novustory are a 3 piece Progressive Alt/Indie Rock band from Bury, near Manchester,  with Imogen Storey (vocals), Declan Brown ( guitar) and James Duckworth (drums). They have just released their first EP Mirrors. Novustory were one of five bands performing at 229 The Venue in London and frankly were amazing. The event was superbly presented by Absent Kelly and gave five new bands exposure to a London audience. The energy and superb stage performance from Novustory suggested a long previous gigging career however they are relatively new. The sound of their live performance was little different from their EP. To photograph such a band is not a chore at all with such fascinating band members. Enjoy the photographs and go listen to the music.

Any information you need about the band can be found in one of my previous articles including links to their music


And if you want to help the band tour, and thats a good thing to want, then click the link in the above article . Even a few pounds pledged all helps.




Imogen Storey




Ice and Snow. What can we learn from Scandinavia? Oslo airport. Gardermoen.

At around the same time Manchester airport was being closed due to snow and bad weather, the weather was not so different in Oslo and flights were leaving on time. Not so many are aware that Norway is the northernmost, westernmost and easternmost all all the three Scandinavian countries and has a population of only 5 million, mostly Norwegian people. And it also is a country without an official religon having separated from the church in 2012.    And humble Oslo is only the 17th busiest airport in Europe with 24.2 million passengers in 2014. About half the airport operator’s income is from retail revenue. There are twenty places to eat or drink, in addition to stores and other services including banks and post. In all, 8,000 square metres (86,000 sq ft) are used for restaurants, stores and non-aviation services. And yesterday it felt like an expedition to get through the duty free zone to anywhere near a departure gate. But as Oslo airport is connected to 162 other airports, maybe I can excuse the retail element. This of course has nothing to do with why the airport functions when all others close down.

The reality is pride and equipment and foresight.In Nordic Countries, Skill at Keeping Airports Open Through Blizzards Is a Point of Pride. Winter can last 6 months and airplane de-icing starts in august.Across the chilly water, on the bleak Svalbard archipelago in the Norwegian arctic, winter temperatures can drop to -55C. In winter, airport employees work round-the-clock shifts,  at the first sight of snow.

Another Nordic secret: pushing producers for absurdly powerful equipment. Oslo Airport runs two of the world’s largest self-propelled snowblowers, built by Norwegian airport-equipment maker Øveraasen AS. Only two other of the TV2000 units operate at airports; they, too, are in Norway.The 2,000-horsepower machines can shoot 10,000 tons of snow an hour more than 150 feet from the tarmac.

So we can say that foresight, effort and equipment play major roles in explaining why Scandinavian airports stay open , but also airport capacity . Heathrow for example, one of the worlds worst airports in my opinion, operates to 98% capacity and thus even small disruptions can be chaotic. Stockholm Arlanda has over 40 people dedicated to snow clearing during the winter.The airport has 18 PSB (ploughing, sweeping, blowing) machines. These are followed by snow throwers which move the line of snow left by the PSBs. Behind these come friction measuring vehicles that test the likelihood of skidding on the 2 photo 3 photo 4


Worsley Park Marriott Manchester

Not too shabby a hotel.  The entrance from the main road sweeps around through a golf course until the hotel entrance is reached. The morning of this photograph it was foggy and with a little play on the computer I ended up with this which I may well use as the title slide to one of my talks.

Worsley Park Marriott Hotel Manchester

Worsley Park Marriott Hotel Manchester

Worsley Park Marriott hotel. The mist of Manchester

Worsley Park Marriott hotel. The mist of Manchester

Marriott Hotels- Why do you rip us off for Wi-Fi and in room beverages?

Yet again I arrive at a Marriott hotel in the UK, in Manchester, and find that one is charged £15 for 24 hours wi-fi. I will repeat my usual rant. Firstly it is rare that anyone stays 24 hours in a hotel, secondly this is the same cost as for a month of top-class broadband/wi-fi from Virgin Media and lastly the quality of this alleged “high speed” broadband is very poor. Wi-Fi is free now in so many places, like USA hotels for example, McDonalds, Krispy Kreme and numerous other local bars/pubs/public places. There really is no excuse for this.

My own view remains unchallenged. When you buy a hotel room you should buy all that you reasonably need, breakfast, car parking, wi-fi, newspaper. These are not luxuries, but pretty much what you have at home. The price charged should reflect this.

To make mattters even worse. There is a mini-bar in the room. Oh yes. Can of Diet Pepsi £2.50. …………..A total disgrace.

Manchester. Not a city of Angels

Having spent the last 48 hours mostly in Manchester I feel sufficiently able to appraise folks of my findings. These are not exciting but might save you some time and money. Firstly, the issue of paying for wi-fi in hotels. Let me list some reasonable places where wi-fi is free in no particular order, McDonalds, USA,Italy, Munich Airport and the Worsley Pub next to Worsley Park Marriott hotel. Now a game. Lets find a place where they charge 15£ for 24 hours wi-fi. Yes you guessed it the Worsley Park Marriott hotel and in fact all Marriott hotels in UK ( as far as I am aware). This is a disgrace. So my first recommendation is yes to stay at the Marriott hotel ( its rather nice and not overpriced) but instead of eating or drinking there, walk 200 yards to the pub next door and eat for less than the cost of the wi-fi.

My second recommendation is to avoid central Manchester. Signage would be better in Antarctica. The roads are crowded with folks all giving good impersonations of intractable ADHD, not able to wait at red lights, junctions or anywhere in fact.

My final recommendation is to avoid the Palace hotel. A miserable excuse for a hotel. everything was bad.

Good things? Norton Caines Services on the M6 Toll are the best I have found this year. But avoid petrol there. I can buy my diesel for 137.9p at my local south london Esso garage. Diesel at Norton Caines was 152.9p. Put it another way. Filling my tank there would have cost me an EXTRA £10.

Not Manchester but in fact a view in January 2011 from outside a hotel in Coventry on a cold morning

North Wales

Well it has to be said that it is alleged to be an area of beauty but sadly that beauty evaded my vision on sunday and monday. all I saw was an unimpressive coastline, rain and grey skies. Manchester airport was less than idyllic too. I did not get off ot a good start. A Vauxhall insignia car, in the dark, with no instructions. first problem how to open the boot. Second problem, how to get the handbrake off. third problem, how to start the car. Hmmmm…….
anyway a couple of lectures and then home again. The bus from the airport was an interesting as in cabaret experience. The X26 is an airport bus, it runs too and from Heathrow. Rather strangely it has precious little and indeed almost no space for luggage. the bus fills up quickly and the driver had a stand up argument along the lines of ” you dont respect me” and ” i know more than you…”, with a gentleman who would not put his case in the correct place!
Went to see Tinker Tailor Soldier spy tonight in a really little cinema in wimbledon above HMV, called oddly enough HMV Curzon. Great film and great acting, if you like spy films. Not looking forward to my london jaunts for the next three days. commuting is not fun

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