My Week In Happy: SpacePortX launch, Corrie visit and tea-powered talk


Hello! I bet you’ve wondering what I’ve been up to this week? You probably have some idea if you follow me on Twitter or Google+ as I post regularly on both platforms.


An after work trip to the Northern Quarter for the launch of SpacePortX – the co-working and community space  which has picked up where TechHub Manchester left off with a bit of extra Manchesterness baked in.

Chris Northwood and Zoe E Breen at SpacePortX launch networking

Chris Northwood and I pose for the camera.
(Photo: Drew Forsyth)

CEO Shaf Choudry spoke with passion about how, in its new incarnation as SpacePortX, the venue was not just for start-ups but the whole local tech community. There are so many events going on now in Manchester in the geek / start-up diary that it’s a job not to double-book yourself!

The aim of SpacePortX is simple – to make Manchester one of the top five tech cities in the UK. I think we can go further so please think about adding the hashtag #MCRTOP5 to your tweets when you comment on tech in Manchester.


I do like my soaps, I used to watch a whole bunch of them until they ate up too much of my time. Although I will always prefer EastEnders over Coronation Street, since I’ve moved up north I’ve taken much more of an interest in Corrie.

With Coronation Street now based at MediaCityUK the old sets at Granada Studios have been opened up to the paying public. It took very little effort to persuade my friend Elizabeth to join me in celebrating a piece of Manchester’s rich cultural heritage.

Behind the bar at the Rovers Return Inn.

Liz McDonald eat your heart out – behind the bar at the Rovers Return Inn.

Elizabeth, her daughter Hannah and I were pretty soaked by the time we got to Granada Studios, but the warm and entertaining tone of our tour guide Leah soon took our minds off the rain.

Photography is not allowed in the interiors sets, although you do get the chance to have your photo taken in the Rovers. Elizabeth and I got a photo each in a 2 for 1 deal for £5 and I have to say I’m pretty chuffed with the result (see picture above).

Once outside on the street you’re free to take as many pictures as you like. I think the dark and rain made for some quite atmospheric panorama shots.


The Rovers Return Inn, the street, and Audrey’s salon.


Prima Doner kebab shop, Roy’s Rolls cafe and Barlow’s Buys.


Bridge, Rovers Return Inn and Audrey’s salon.


Wide shot featuring Beetham Tower in the background.

You can read my review on the official Coronation Street Tours Google+ page.


Headed back to the Northern Quarter to meet with my friend Ian to discuss an idea for a dating format that I’d struck upon. I’m not going to share the concept here as it’s not really very developed and needs quite a bit of work.

We met at North Tea Power which I was keen to check out as I’d somehow never made it there before. So tea (Earl Grey Blue, Lapsang Souchong) and coffee (Americano, mocha) were consumed as we chatted over the merits of different dating formats.

Ian had been working on a blog about sensory dating after I shared a link with him about an event being held at the Science Museum in London. I am really interested in different ways of bringing people together and it would be great to see something similar being held at MOSI in Manchester.

We also talked about different dating shows that he had been involved with – the wonderfully named ITV format ‘How To Get More Sex’ (2007) which was his first foray into the world of speed dating and BBC Three’s ‘A Year Of Making Love’ (2013) which matched potential partners based on an online ‘compatibility test’.

As far as I understand it, scientists continue to be baffled by why exactly people are attracted to one another. While finding a mate by sniffing a t-shirt they’ve worn may seem a bit gimmicky, I’d hope the experience would allow people to loosen up, get talking and possibly share a memorable evening together.

The fact is that all dating formats – on television, online or ‘in real life’ are gimmicky by their very nature. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that – in fact I quite like it.

My Week In Happy: Stressipes, recipes and taking things at my own pace


This has been a relatively quiet week for me going-out wise allowing me time to spend a bit more time reflecting and less time doing.


Spent some time learning about the kinds of things stress people out at work and how these ‘stressors’ can cause us to behave. At times it can be difficult to separate out issues at work from other events in our lives and all of these anxieties can combine to become what I think of as a ‘stressipe’ (rhymes with recipe).

Cheer Up Love - upcoming events

Giving my whiteboard some love.

Lifestyle is one of the key factors (other than personality type) that affects how we cope under pressure – one key aspect of this is making sure we do stuff we enjoy. That’s a big part of what is about – and to make it seem more official I’ve started using my whiteboard to display the fun events I’ve got coming up.


Received a last minute invitation to see War Horse at The Lowry. I was actually feeling pretty weary but I knew that the offer was too good to turn down. It was lovely of my colleague Andrea to think of me when someone had to drop out the day before (especially as the ticket was just a tenner).

I had seen and heard a lot about the show, which is story based around the events of World War One, it’s not a subject I am normally drawn to but the spectacular puppetry and gripping emotional plot made it totally worth it.


I recently decided it was time to get really serious about nutrition. On the advice of my personal trainer, it’s out with processed food, too much cheese and gorging on sugary fruits, and in with a high protein diet which includes ‘good fats’ like nuts and seeds.

Angie's chilli

Chilli grown and packaged by @angieokchan – used for very tasty salmon and broccoli stir-fry.

All of this has taken considerable getting my head round but it really does make sense – so it’s back to the chopping board for me! I’m experimenting with recipes that consist of 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% (as proportions of the overall number of calories. If you have any suggestions for meals I could try I’d be glad to hear from you!


Popped in to Silicon Drinkabout Manchester at The Lower Turk’s Head near Shudehill tram stop. I hadn’t been to a Drinkabout for a while and I have to say the venue was ideal for chatting and mingling.

Had fun hanging out with @angieokchan, @frimkron@cnorthwood, @ianforrester and we *somehow* ended up chatting for ages about dating and Ian’s proposed ‘flirkshop’ event and eating at the legendary Northern Quarter burger joint Almost Famous (definitely not nutrition compliant!).


My lovely friend Elizabeth invited me round to her flat for a ‘bring and share’ afternoon tea she was holding. This was kicking off at 4pm so I thought I had plenty of time to bake. Of course, I couldn’t do anything simple. Of course, I knew that the supermarket would not stock one key ingredient in the recipe and max out my culinary skills.

I also knew that I would forget I had a fan-assisted oven which meant it didn’t need to be on so hot, and that I definitely had a cake tin big enough to put the finished product in.

Slice of avocado cake

Avocado cake – yum!

Also, I definitely knew when I tried to whisk the ingredients with a hand-held blender that they would spray all over the hob and work-tops. What I did not know was that this would necessitate a complete reorganisation of my cupboards as they had kind of been annoying me lately.

Thankfully, the cake turned out well in the end – due to feats of engineering with ingredients, oven heat and transit arrangements. It was lovely to catch up with Elizabeth and her family, chat about BBC Radio Cumbria and drink tea, but it was a definite bonus that I had made a cake I felt proud of – happy days!

My Week In Happy: Happy Seasons, Northern Soul Dance School and First Class to Coventry


Rice bowl and different Cantonese dishesI have to admit that I had so much to put in last week’s blog that I neglected to remark upon a delicious meal I had with Naz at Happy Seasons (great name) in Manchester’s China Town last Sunday.

Naz certainly knows her (spring) onions when it comes to places to eat in China Town and Happy Seasons served delicious traditional Cantonese dishes and offered highly attentive service.


Did body pump (weights) with a new instructor, and although he encouraged us to load up our weights I was careful not to overdo it. Afterwards I took on an hour-long Ashtanga yoga class, perhaps forgetting just how taxing the stretches were. Let’s just say I’ve been feeling rather stiff this week!

While these experiences may not seem to relate directly to happiness, looking after ourselves includes both stepping outside of our comfort zones and knowing our own limits. Sometimes we have to exceed our limits before we learn what works for us – in my case no more back to back gym classes after work.


Having had an early night on Tuesday I had recharged my batteries enough to head out Northern Soul Dance School with Karen P. We needed to grab some food beforehand so I suggested we try the Allotment Bar (which I went to with Google last week).

IMG_0844 2

I chose the veggie burger, which in fact was not a burger in any conventional sense but a stack of beetroot and courgette served in a bun and served with an edamame bean and leaf salad with a cute little bucket of wedge-style fries.

It’s was pretty fresh and tasty, but as someone who isn’t a great fan of burger buns I would love it if the bread was replaced by field mushrooms to make it healthier still.

Karen P was pleased with her courgette, mint, pea and feta salad and generally impressed by the number of veggie choices too.

So, on to the Northern Soul Dance Class at Night & Day Cafe ably led by DJ / school teacher / dance hero Tobin Lochrie. Was great to practise some moves from last time (V-shape, L-shape, kicks and spinning) and learn some more fancy ones too.

To give you a taste of what the night is like I’ve created this playlist showing a demo from Wigan Young Souls followed by a rather cool spin and back drop by Tobin.

I have to say that Karen P was a bit more adventurous than me when in came to backdrops (I’m still scared I’ll do myself a mischief). Neither of us were quite ready for some of the floor based acrobatics, but that was cool too as people really didn’t take it too seriously.

The class is already very popular and I think it’s only a matter of time before Tobin will make the night more regular. He’s also starting a Northern Soul event NQ Working Men’s Club from October.


Popped over to Rosie’s place after work to join in her birthday celebrations. I could only stay for a bit as I was travelling the next day, but the flat was very cool and decorated with some cute balloons containing LED lights. I had a go on the (indoors) trampoline while James attempted to upstage Rosie at pole dancing!


Time for a long overdue parental visit to the Midlands. I don’t get to see my parents as much as I’d like to and as they live in completely different places to each other this requires a bit more leg work.

I was lucky enough to get some very decently priced first class return train tickets which added to the sense of a proper day out. In fact, I had the carriage to myself in both directions and it was a bit of a shock to get on to a busy metro when I landed back in Manchester.

So, parental visit was very pleasant. Time for lunch and a chat before I headed back to the North. What I love about travelling First Class is the little touches that Virgin add. I was served two very cleverly designed ‘snack boxes’ on the way there and back.


But the real gem of the journey was the First Class lounge in Coventry station. The lounge puts many others I’ve seen to shame with a spacious seating area, free Wi-Fi, laptop / phone charger points, PLUS tea, coffee, a fridge of canned drinks, biscuits and crisps. I was so impressed I put together a little gallery.


So the week has been rounded off by my own version of the Salford Triathlon – walking to the gym, doing 45 minutes circuits, swimming 800m and then walking home.


Brenda’s panorama taken from the Watershard Cafe, Imperial War Museum North (Thanks to @postern03 on Twitter).

They say that exercise is meant to be energising, but after that I had a nap before venturing out to meet my lovely neighbours Fiona, Brenda, Carolyn and Steve (whose clever young grandson accompanied him) at the Watershard Cafe at Imperial War Museum North – such a beautiful panorama across MediaCityUK.

Feeling happy but exhausted. Make mine an early night!

My Week In Happy: Being mindful, flowers, pizza and chips


This week has been packed with lovely people and things. Here’s the highlights.

Tuesday: Mindfulness meditation

Took part in a pre-work mindfulness meditation session run by Dr Pete Morgan where we focused on communication.

I started my mindfulness journey in London a few years ago and was keen to get involved when I heard Pete was running the sessions in Manchester. If you’d like to have a go visit Pete’s website, Free Mindfulness.

It might seem like mindfulness is just something that’s hip right now, but it really is a powerful practise.

Wednesday: Google greenery

Swung by the Google Local Manchester City Experts party at newly opened The Allotment Bar on Dale Street in Manchester’s fashionable Northern Quarter.

I took a friend a we were delighted to find that Google had booked local florist David Wayman who had brought along bunches of blooms for us to arrange and take home – in jam jars of course!

Google City Expert event, Allotment Bar, Manchester

There were a few other quirks on the night including people dressed as privet hedges mingling with the crowd, and as the night wore on their foliage sparkled with LED lights.

Friday: Pizza and chiptunes

After a post-work drink at The DOCKyard, I joined Elizabeth and her friend Jane at Pizza Express where we quickly put the world to rights.

Part two of the evening was a visit to a ‘chiptune’ music event at at Zombie Shack with my good friend David Craddock. The event, MegaByte, formed part of the warm up to SuperByte Festival – an event taking place in Manchester from 11-13 September around chiptune and retro gaming.

An act from the Netherlands, RoccoW, wowed us with tunes created with a number of Nintendo Gameboy consoles. You can hear his work on SoundCloud, or watch a slightly distorted version of him performing here.

Saturday: Ladies That UX Summer Picnic

The networking group for women with an interest in digital design marked its first birthday with a picnic at the secret(ish) rooftop garden, Plot. The venue, in the heart of the city, featured free wi-fi and was created by local digital agency Magnetic North as the first ‘on-demand’ garden in the UK.


The weather was kind to us and much networking was done in the sunshine with glass of something cool and of course a slice of birthday cake.

Sunday: Dr Helen Czerski

This month’s event from Manchester Girl Geeks was held at TechHub Manchester and starred physicist and television presenter Dr Helen Czerski.

In a talk entitled ‘Carnival of the Animal Senses’, Helen enthusiastically shared with us her ‘dream team’ of animals – these were creatures that had superior senses, such as huge-eyed giant squid.

I tweeted that the animals that she was describing reminded me of the odd beings that dwelt beneath The Trapdoor in the cartoon of the same name. Helen replied to say that she loved that show too!


Cheer Up Love: It’s all about happiness


flag-rectangleThe main reason why I’ve taken a break from updating this blog is that my own approach to how I feel has changed.

I’ve taken greater responsibility for my own happiness and started investing in the kinds of thoughts and behaviours that make me feel really great.

The Care Labels idea needs some proper thought before it can be moved it on. So, for the time being I’m putting it on hold and reflecting daily on this question:

Why wait for someone else to set the scene when you can you run your own show?

So, I took three weeks off work and resolved to do something new and different each day.  I set off to do exactly what I wanted to do, on most occasions this was regardless of whether any body else wanted to join me.

I went to gigs, comedy nights, dance lessons, exhibitions and ate out alone in London, Norwich and Manchester. Doing these things sometimes took some guts, but mostly I was relieved to find that it wasn’t that difficult.

More importantly, doing these things made me happy.

I spend quite a bit of time on Twitter documenting the cheering activities I get up to, and now I’d like to bring these updates to ‘Cheer Up Love’ – sharing my exploits as explore what the world has to offer me.

Now, this does not mean that I wish to go out by myself all the time. I do like going out with other people but I don’t want to miss out just because friends are busy or not into the same things.

Going out and finding things to do that make me truly happy keeps my life interesting and means that I always have something to talk about when I do catch up with friends.

And, because it doesn’t have to be all about me, I’ll be inviting some of my friends to share their stories of things that have made them happy too.

My hope is to make Cheer Up Love into a community of happiness. It’s about time this blog received the love and attention it deserves!