Salford Quays: the signs were always there

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This morning, I was late getting to the swimming pool in time to get to my subsequent hair appointment. This meant that I had few minutes to spare and, rather than feeling defeated, I took the opportunity to take a really close-up view of the locality.

By stopping for a moment, I was able to slow down and really pay attention as if entering into some kind of ‘mindful photography’. For instance, it was then that I noticed that many of the road and pedestrian signs are different to the standard ones found in the Highway Code

My Week In Happy: Skipping a beat

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My intention with this blog is to write an update each week. In reality, this doesn’t always happen. I try not to give myself a hard time about it as it invariably means there is something else more interesting going on in my life…

A round up of recent events

Theatre in the ‘burbs

Checked out The Garrick Theatre, Altrincham for a performance of The Lieutenant of Inishmore on Saturday 7th March. The setting of the venue is very suburban – just a short walk from Navigation Road tram stop.

The comedy, begins when local pussycat ‘Wee Thomas’ is murdered. His owner, the unpredictable Padraic of the Irish National Liberation Army, returns to the island of Inishmore to seek vengeance for his beloved feline’s demise.

Despite the dark nature of the material, physical comedy and fine performances by young cast members Megan Johnstone (Mairead), Charlie Gallagher (Davey) and Adam Gonet (Padraic) made for a winning formula.

Let’s talk about sex(ology)

Dr Tommy Dickinson's book 'Curing Queers' at MOSI

Dr Tommy Dickinson’s book ‘Curing Queers’ at MOSI

I was excited to hear that this was coming up when I first heard about it at the launch of Manchester Science Festival last year. The event, on Wednesday 11th March, boasted ‘scientific speed dating’ along with a variety of activities and talks taking place at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

I ran into a couple of friends who had signed up for speed dating and were filling in the scientific survey after ‘voting’ for who they would like to see again. The twist? After they had chosen they were told how popular each potential date was and given the opportunity to switch votes.

There’s more on this, including Hannah Fry’s ‘Mathematics of Dating’ TED Talk on Ian’s blog here.

The MOSI event also featured some quirky activities including a challenge to draw genitals in three seconds (harder than you think) and a tasting of foodstuffs considered to make us feel sexy.

There were some great talks including Dr Tommy Dickinson’s discussion of his research for the book ‘Curing Queers’ which looked at mental health treatments for homosexuality in the last century.

The closing act on the main stage was Dr Matthew Mears from the University of Sheffield who gave a very illuminating talk on the physics of ‘pole fitness’. This was demonstrated by an experienced athlete and Matt even got up there himself a couple of times.

It turns out there is a scientific reason why pole fitness requires a lot of bare flesh – it provides superior friction therefore allowing more advanced moves and acrobatics…

My Week In Happy: 42 – the answer to life, the universe and everything else

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Or is it 41.92?

Presents! Thanks everyone :)

A selection of gifts and cards I received on my 42nd birthday.

In Douglas Adams’ geek classic The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, there was a joke that ‘the answer to life, the universe and everything’ could be summed up by just one number – 42.

This is not something that I have paid much attention to until turning 42 last year.

If the mantra ‘life begins at 40’ did not seem quite convincing enough, the idea that becoming 42 might have something magical about it – even based on no science at all – really appealed to me.

Imagine my delight when I came across some real research that suggested that we reach our creative prime in our forties.

A Dutch economist, Philip Hans Franses, looked at the lifespans of 221 famous painters between 1800 and 2004. He then used art market data to work out how old artists were when they created the piece of work that had sold for the most money.

The average age was 41.92.

Not only did this reassure me that the best may be still to come, but some of the artists didn’t get really good until they were in their seventies – loads of time left!

Comedians in their prime

The Lowry Arts Centre in Salford attracts some great comedy performers, and this week I was lucky enough to catch three (count ’em) stand-up acts at the venue.

Lucy Porter

Wednesday’s gig was Lucy Porter’s with Me Time. She is also 42 which meant that a niche cultural reference to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Can I Kick It?’ didn’t go unnoticed. However, I was less prepared to hear the truth about some drama on Mumsnet’s ‘Am I being unreasonable?’ thread.

She also traded on the glory of winning Celebrity Mastermind (in 2009) by running a very successful ‘name the top famous people from Salford’ quiz and gave audience members actual prizes including a finger of Fudge and even a Double Decker (but no plastic trophy).

Andy Parsons

On Friday I went to see Andy Parsons (Live and Unleashed – But Naturally Cautious) who I hadn’t seen do stand-up before but recognised from his regular appearances on Mock The Week.

Andy is 47 (not 42, but a prime number so some specialness) muses on the absurdity of life and how the ‘pasty tax’ got overturned but we still don’t have a legally enforced living wage in the UK. He also talked about poo quite a lot.

Richard Herring

Last up, on Saturday, was old favourite Richard Herring and his show ‘The Lord of the Dance Settee’. The title, as it suggests, is what Herring believed the words to the popular-in-seventies-primary-school-assemblies hymn ‘Lord of the Dance‘.

Richard Herring is 47 (see Parsons above) and recounts attending a variety performance featuring Ted Rodgers of 3-2-1 fame just to heckle him. Herring is horrified when he discovers that at the height of his fame, Rodgers was 48 – just one year older than him…