Where would you rather live?

Was amused to see this advert (below) while passing through Salford’s MediaCityUK the other day. I snapped a photo on my phone in order to show you what £135,000 gets you these days.

Underneath the Salford flat image is a picture of what a Swedish prison cell looks like, just for comparison. Is it just me or do you get a lot more square feet in jail?

I would imagine you get superior laundry facilities when banged up in Sweden too and, without doubt, the food will be better.

Flat of Prison Cell sdf

Jan Gerl thinks about urban living quite a lot. He has transformed Copenhagen into one of the most livable cities in the world.

No British city ever gets placed on one of those ‘livable’ lists. Seems like it’s not in the British psyche to believe in anything better than adequate.

(side factoid: Denmark is about as densely populated as the UK, yet a house in Denmark has about 2/3 more floor space than an average house in the UK.)

Other bits of the world are catching up with Jan Gehl’s ideas.

If you’ve seen a congested,cluttered junction transformed into a tranquil, bike-and-pedestrian-friendly meeting place, with all signposts and barriers removed, then some of Jan’s ideas were probably being adopted.

His big idea is this: cities should work for everyone, not just those behind the wheel of a car.

Another idea is that the success of an urban centre isn’t purely about how good the shopping is. That’s how we tend to judge a town centre in the UK,  but Jan thinks it should be judged on how appealing it is to people who have no intention of spending money.

Imagine if the success of UK towns and cities was measured in happiness, or the number of outdoor chess games going on, the number of people sat reading, and not purely the number of profitable retail units.

Think on Mary Portas.

Jan Gehl – What happens when an architect marries a psychologist?

‘Eat that!’ yells a vilified Netto

New vast Tescos at Trafford, Manchester

Depressing, moi?

Which? Magazine (my Dad subscribes) has a feature this month called Best and Worst Supermarkets.

Forget what supermarkets do to undermine communities, this survey was purely about what they are like to shop in.

The survey placed the mighty Tesco at the very bottom of the list. ‘Eat that!’ yells a vilified Netto.

The survey looked at pricing, the freshness of fresh produce and the great British afterthought, customer service.

Participants found shopping in Tesco ‘unpleasant’ and that stores tended to have ‘surly staff’.

Quote: Tesco is also considered the supermarket which cares the least about its customers and is least trustworthy.

‘It’s too keen on profits and not keen enough on service,’ one member told Which?.

Only 27% of members felt that Tesco is helping to ease the strain on their food budget. No other store in the Which? survey was as poorly-rated in this respect.

The Tesco Effect hits Altrincham Hardest

Ghost Town Vancancy Rate

Let’s face it, the battle to save our towns from becoming crap-towns has been fought and lost.

In reality it wasn’t a fair fight. In war/fairness terms it was like pitting the 101st Airborne against Nicholas Parsons.

In his excellent and blood-pressure doubling book Captive State, George Monbiot talks about the Tesco-effect and what it does to towns.

This effect is approximately this: If a Tesco (or any big supermarket) opens a store in your town, employing say 500 people, then within a 5 mile radius roughly 1000 people will lose their jobs and businesses.

Net loss, 500 jobs (usually butchers, pubs, ice-cream men, chemists, milkmen, bookshops and, of course, grocers).

With this in mind, I was not exactly astonished to read that the town of Altrincham topped a recent list of new ghost towns, towns with a high incidence of vacancies – a word planners use to mean boarded up shops.

Now Altrincham was, until recently, considered quite posh. It is still surrounded on all sides by prosperous family neighbourhoods and good schools.

With Dewsbury and Bradford, also high on this ghost town list, there are other factors, like a terminal decline in industry. But Altrincham doesn’t have these broader, historical problems.

So why has the town centre wobbled and waned faster than Eric Pickles doing the three peaks? Well a downward view from google maps sheds light.

Altrincham not only has one of the biggest Tesco stores I’ve ever seen (blue on the map below), but somehow it got permission to build this megashed literally fifty yards from the high street (red).

(Supermarket people always claim they will ‘increase choice’ if they are allowed to build. The term ‘increase choice’ is used by all sorts of idiots, often politicians just before they begin privatising something.)

Altrincham Town Centre

Altrincham Town Centre, what chance did it have?

If you start walking from the other side of the town centre, the place visibly gives up and dies the closer you get to the Tesco Extra.

Wonder if a late counter-offensive from Mary Portas could put things right?

Screw-top wines have no romance – Published 26 Aug 2010

Wines without corks

Most wines available in supermarkets in the UK seem to have screw-caps these days. I don’t know why, it must help the supermarket in some way but I would imagine most people find them cheap-looking and unromantic.

Besides not liking to open a bottle without the familiar pop of a cork, I’ve also long suspected that the dregs of Europe’s wine production are shipped to the UK in bottles with screw caps and passed off as drinkable to a nation with a notoriously indifferent palate.

In France and Italy, even in large supermarkets, you will never see wine with screw-tops.

If you know nothing about wine and want to be an expert in 10 seconds, read this: spend more than £8 and only buy a bottle with a cork in it. Doing this will ensure you bypass 95% of the dross.

And More. It turns out there’s a good ecological reason for supporting the cork…

Put a cork in it: the environmental cost of the screw cap

So that settles it.

The British attitude to wine…

Somehow this seems to say a huge amount, perhaps even everything you need to know about the British.

Wind in plastic cups with a tin foil peel-back lid

What we are seeing here are pre-poured glasses of wine (plastic glasses) with tin foil peel-back lids  (yes, yogurt-pot-style) for sale in Marks & Spencer’s, of all places. Cheers gluggers. (clack!)


A visitor‘ left this comment on 7 Sep 10
Point taken but it all tastes the same after the first glass. My mate nearly severed his arm off trying to open a bottle of wine without a cork screw. Plus I witnessed my Mum and Aunt hacking away at a cork for half an hour in the same situation. The screw cap gets you quicker to the good stuff. Once you’ve knocked a bit back, romance is definitely in the air! Know what I mean?

How the skies clogged up after the volcano ash – Published 14 May 2010

A visualisation of the northern European airspace returning to normal after being closed due to volcanic ash.

Airspace Rebooted from ItoWorld on Vimeo.


A visitor‘ left this comment on 5 Dec 10
Wow, great video, looks a bit like snow

The future of documentary film-making? – Published: 28 Apr 2010

Prison Valley is a documentary you watch online. Only, you don’t just watch it, you sort of play it too. Beyond the short, elegantly shot intro, you must then create an account to proceed.

What happens next is completely engrossing and immersive. As you click around and begin your exploration, you start to think this is how documentaries must be made now. It’s like when they added sound to silent movies, the future of docos is here.

It was all done, as far as I understand, with a digital slr camera and some tremendous skill and research.

More background about the project here…


The French duo David Dufresne and Philippe Brault decided to produce a documentary on the issue of incarceration in Colorado.

But, they didn’t just throw up a passive, hour-long, badly compressed web video. Instead, the end product became an interactive documentary with user-submission tools throughout and availability on multiple platforms…

Memoirs of a Geisha, with interruptions – Published: 19 Mar 2010

Modern life is rubbish, we all know that. And we’re comfortable with it.

Part of the rubbishness is that everything is fragmented now. We don’t watch telly together anymore, because unless it’s an app on our phones were not interested.

Except that isn’t the case. We still want to sit down to watch TV.

It’s the TV channels that are a mess, not the audience. Here’s what I mean…

Watching Memoirs of a Geisha the other day on FIVE made me realise why I no longer trust the TV to give me TV.

Memoirs of a Geisha tells a huge story. The titular Geisha, who has loved a man since she was a child, has lived through horrors, war, revenge, exploitation and a form of crushing tradition that’s hard to imagine, finally comes together with the man her heart always yearned for.

It’s a tearful, joyful moment in an enchanted garden. They finally kiss! And as if out of respect, the camera bows to the reflection in the pond. Then, right on cue, this pops up…

Extreme Fishing with Robson Green

I was so bewildered I paused it and took this picture. And then I blogged it via a special phone app.


A visitor‘ left this comment on 27 Aug 10
Because the audience will all be reaching for their remotes to see what high quality, yet affordable, jewellery is available on QVC NOW! unless they are informed RIGHT THIS MINUTE that Robson Greene is riding over that hill to save your viewing pleasure, like Gandalf at Helm’s Deep, bearing aloft his shining (extreme) fishing rod.
And now some childishness… 

Simon Russell Beale

Who wouldn’t fall about laughing three quarters of the way into Simon Russell Beale’s rather good series Sacred Music after hearing this….?

Simon Russell Beale mp3.