I’m a sloth. A short fat hairy one.

It’s early January. I peer out of the cave expecting the usual grim, damp cold wintry weather only to be blinded by bright sunshine and a blue sky!Rear view of Failsworth Town Hall, library and Wholesome Cafe

Damn. So much for hibernating. I’ll have to get up and do something now. But what though?

I shuffle through the cave garbage for ideas, got some leaflets somewhere.

  • A walk: short, about an hour around Moston Brook
  • Nordic Walking: interesting, sticks provided, starting point the local park
  • Cycling: around the track at Boggart Hole Clough, an ‘inclusive‘ activity
  • Pilates: gentle exercise, over 50’s class in Blackley
  • Running: organised Park Run in Chadderton

Running was that? Don’t make me laugh. With all this fur? Nope, a walk’s more my thing, the shorter the better.

The Wholesome Cafe at Failsworth Town Hall was warm, comfy and bustling. I could have stayed all day but the group set off with a spring. Ann Bates led the way and I mooched along at the rear.Lots of variety packed into just one hour and we were back before I knew it. Taking a route alongside the canal, we went over bridges, through open fields and wooded areas, picked out the brook, up and down paths and steps. We paused now and then to chill out and listen to titbits of local history, courtesy of Alan Hampson.

You couldn’t get a finer group of gas-bags. I hardly got a word in edge-ways.Ann Bates (pictured) said “I’m planning regular, monthly, walks and some will be themed too. Covering different aspects of the brook through the seasons. Anyone’s welcome.”

Pooches seemed welcome too, on a lead, plus a brew at the end if you fancied it. I had a blast and it blew a few cobwebs away.

I was so inspired I went for a bike ride a few days later, courtesy of Simply Cycling.

The word ‘bike’ is a bit loose. I chose a tricycle. Don’t laugh. Broke my leg a while back so my balance is a bit skewed. To prove a point, I veered straight down a path and crashed into the gate before wobbling out onto the track.My pride was dented but the gate and ‘bike’ were undamaged, thank God, or I’d have disappeared into the distance never to be seen again.

The sports track at Boggart Hole Clough wasn’t too busy. I shared it with a gentleman rider keeping a good pace, a couple of youngsters trying out a tandem, a mother with younger child on a two-seater. Plenty of others came and went and no-one was disappointed.A bargain at just £2 a session, Simply Cycling have lots of different cycles to choose from, some curious looking. It’s ‘inclusive’ because anyone, any age, any ability or disability can have a go. There’s parking nearby, toilets on site and a cafe next to the boating lake further in the park.

Volunteers are on hand to help you chose a carriage and, in my case, get on the damn thing. I whizzed round and round the track until my legs were tired but it was good fun and I’ll definitely go again.Boggart Hole Clough boating lake and cafe

Details of upcoming events around Moston Brook are posted on the Moston Brook Friends facebook page. Simply Cycling run sessions at three parks across Manchester, including Boggart Hole Clough, just check out their website.

As well as pilates classes, North Manchester Fitness run a range of activities for all ages and abilities throughout the week in Blackley, Harpurhey and Prestwich. Visit their website for details and pick what suits you best.

So, is this short fat hairy sloth ready for spring? Mmmm…maybe but I’ll give my cave a sweep first and take a nap before I decide what to do next…don’t want to overdo it after all?

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Maxine Peake at the Miners Community Art and Music Centre

I’m a Dinnerladies fan. Twinkle’s my favourite character.

She was played by Maxine Peake and the chance to watch one of her films ‘Funny Cow’ at Moston Small Cinema followed by a ‘question and answer session’ doesn’t come along every day. I struck early and got a ticket.

Maxine Peake: Dinnerladies (Twinkle), Early Doors, Silk, Coronation Street, Peterloo, Hamlet, Funny Cow and many more. BAFTA nominee and UK Theatre Awards Winner. Smug’s the one with the beard.

The film was intense, shocking, realistic and brilliantly acted. Afterwards, Smug Roberts asked most of the questions and the audience needed no encouragement to ask theirs.

Maxine told us how she landed her role as Twinkle, about working with Victoria Wood, moving back up north and being around places she knew in Bolton. Hearing about her time at RADA was fascinating.

“It’s a real leveller” she told us. “In my year, there was a really good balance including lots of working class Northerners as well as people from places like Oxford and Cambridge. It was a really good mix; it reflected the business with someone from every walk of life, from every ethnicity.”

“One thing I admire about you is you’re not scared of voicing your opinion.” Smug commented.

“When you do a job you have to do publicity and you get asked all sorts of questions.” Maxine replied. “When I’m asked about how I feel I like to be open about what my feelings are. I never tell people what they should think; I don’t force my opinions on them.”The audience were smitten with her and so was I. She was very witty, warm and open. The whole evening was a pleasure.

She’d mentioning having to do publicity but Maxine wasn’t at the Miners on a cold November evening to promote her film. She was there to promote and raise funds for Lifeshare, a charity that helps meet the needs of homeless and vulnerable people in Manchester and Salford.

She wasn’t the only performer at the event either. We were also treated to a surprise live performance of ‘Human Touch’ by IORA (Holly Phelps). It’s available to download for a minimum £1 donation by clicking here  – all proceeds going to the charity.The evening at the Miners Community Arts and Music Centre raised a fabulous £1,300. To find out more about Lifeshare and the work they do, click here.

It’s nearly Christmas so thank you for taking the time out to read this blog.

For details of up and coming events at The Miners, including films at the Moston Small Cinema, check out their Facebook page.

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Christmas markets a la Moston: The Christmas Event

I’m a Christmas humbug at heart. A bespectacled ‘Grinch’. Winter’s for hibernating, staying in and keeping warm.  So I ask you: Christmas markets? What the hell are they all about? I don’t get it, never have.

To be fair it’s been a while since I went to one but this sums up my memory – drizzle, standing in muddy sludge, overpriced overheated wine, over loud people with overcoats on and over large feet, shoving and pushing, and me, tip-toeing away when everyone had their backs turned.I tried to swerve neatly past the Moston version. Maybe it’s not as busy or as much of a phaf to get to but you can’t turn up to these things in your PJ’s, slippers and fluffy dressing gown and expect to stay warm.

But the adverts kept coming. They looked really bright and colourful. “Mmmm, maybe.” I thought. “If I go to Asda I’ll just drop by for half an hour on my way back. Maybe.” At worst I could write a blog.

So, this is it….and never mind half an hour, I stayed half a day.

The weather was dull and overcast. It could have been brighter but at least it was fairly dry. Parking was easy, just over the road off Kenyon Lane. So far, so good.

There was plenty of food on offer, hot drinks, various stalls selling Christmassy things like cakes, home-made sweets, scented candles and other gifts, a tombola, a DJ and Father Christmas in a grotto. You get the picture.The hot chocolate was wonderful, not like the magma they serve in some well-known establishments. My dad will adore his rum truffles and I might just keep the vanilla scented soap for myself.

I didn’t win the raffle because I didn’t buy a ticket. Not on purpose, I’m just a bit dozy and missed them. I didn’t miss the glass of mulled wine and mince pie however. I was first in the queue for those. The children were giddy and polite; all the rubbish went in the bin and if there was any queuing to be done it was without everyone jostling for position.The singing group, or to be more accurate, young vocalists from North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) were absolutely brilliant. The DJ picked just the right stuff and everyone was in a good mood.What was lovely about it all, more to the point what kept me there so long, was the atmosphere. It was delightful. I spotted a few faces I knew and chatted to a few people I didn’t.

We all cheered when the tree lights came on. We cheered louder when the organisers stood together and we raised our glasses to them. They’d worked hard for months to make it happen and well deserved the applause.It was dark when I tip-toed away. The volunteers were working hard taking all the gazebos down and packing equipment up. If they’d turned and looked towards Kenyon Lane they might have seen a bespectacled Grinch grinning, clutching a bag of Christmas goodies and a free mince pie.