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National Buildings Parsonage Gardens (sorry - text obscured due to jpeg compression!)

former Hacienda Whitworth St

FANCY A DES RES IN THE CITY? There's never been a better time to enjoy city centre living than now! Well, that's what it says in the glossy sales brochures and adverts, and it's true. All over Manchester's central area, 19th century warehouses and 20th century office buildings are being converted for use as apartments, many of them extremely plush and extremely expensive. At the moment there are more than 5000 people living in the city, and by 2005, Manchester City Council predicts there will be 20,000.

In the early eighties, the apartments near St John's Square, off Deansgate, were just about the only ones in the centre. Since then there has been a steady influx of people into city centre homes. I'm constantly surprised at the buildings which will soon be transformed from offices into flats: National Buildings (above top left) , Parsonage Gardens, behind Kendals, is the latest to catch my eye. The building on the left dates from 1905, the extension on the right from 60 years later. Highland House, just down the Irwell, may also become residential, as well as Piccadilly Plaza. According to a survey published last week by English Partnerships, the government regeneration agency, 57% of city centre dwellers are single 42% are on over 20,000 a year and they're 66% males. That should please a young female professional I know who's just bought one of the Grand Hotel apartments on Aytoun Street.

I'm certainly attracted to living in the centre of Manchester. The kind of apartment I'd consider would be like the one on the top floor of the Hacienda building - (above lower left) fantastic vistas - which I'd capture on a webcam view for you to admire - wide floor space, roof garden, helicopter pad perhaps? The only problem is the 300,000 price tag!

And city centre residents won't have far to go for a swim, when the new swimming pool complex is completed. Yesterday evening, I saw workers lifting the first of the supports for the massive glass roof. It's located on Oxford Road on the left, just beyond Grosvenor Square.

AN OLD HILLTOP BUILDING with a fanatastic view over Manchester and five counties has been renovated and re-opened to the public. I'm talking about The Cage at Lyme Park, which we visited on Sunday. Visitors can now go inside and climb the 84 steps to the top, but make sure you arrive between 12 and 4pm - there aren't enough staff to cover the building the whole day.

QUARRY BANK MILL STYAL has been awarded a 103,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund - it'll be used to set up a permanent exhibition about the founder of the Mill, Belfast-born Samuel Greg. I went for a quick stroll there yesterday - it's a wonderful place, marred only by the sound of jet engines coming from the Airport just beyond the trees.

IF YOU LIKE PLANES, the Aviation Viewing Park is the place to go - it's always very well attended, and has a cafe and shop which is an aladdin's cave for plane spotters. It's £1.50 to get in on weekdays, £2.50 at the weekend. There are also season tickets for hard-core plane addicts. Today I saw the arrival of the Airbus Super Transporter, which looks like something out of Thunderbirds - it carries Airbus parts to the main factory at Toulouse in France. Earlier, an Emirates A300 arrived from Dubai. The award-winning Dubai-based airline has chosen Manchester to introduce its new A330-200. The fleet of 17 of these giant new airbuses will have personalised video screens and satellite phones in business class. The wings are made in Chester and the Rolls Royce engines in Derby. In my Gulf days, I never worked for an employer posh enough to buy me a ticket on Emirates. I once flew on Aeroflot (from Heathrow), now that really was more like an air-bus!

MANCHESTER SCIENTIST DR ROBIN BAKER been arousing controversy all week with his predictions about the future of sex and reproduction. Instead of using contraception, he says, people will be able to bank their sperm (if male) or eggs (if female), be sterilised, and then later in life, have a baby through in vitro fertilisation or cloning. That's if I've understood him correctly. It's easy to lose perspective with this bizarre way common vocabulary is used - talk of eggs, sterilisation and reproduction restaurants, it all sound like something out of a science fiction novel. In today's paper, The Venerable Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme Designate, offers an opposing view. The book "Sex in the Future" is priced at 12.99.

MANCHESTER RESEARCHERS have been making great advances in the development of a male contraceptive, which they think will be on the market within five years. Volunteers in Manchester have been helping to test the technique, which involves taking a pill and applying a body patch. The work was presented today at the National British Endocrine Society conference in Bournemouth.

THREE EWM READERS had letters in the In Touch section of Saturday's Manchester Evening News. And just to prove it, I've included a scan of the actual page. Click on the image (left) to download a larger version - it's about 120k in size.

YOUNG DANIEL PENNINGTON hit the headlines on Friday with the story of how he donated bone marrow to his elder sister Emily when he was only 10 months old. The operation took place nine months ago at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital in Pendlebury. The Penningtons have started a charity The EKP Fund (Emily Kate Pennington) for the Borchardt Childrens Cancer ward at Pendlebury. Donations can be made to Halifax account number: 00889156, sort code: 110514.

NINE OUT OF TEN respondents to a recent MEN poll said Britain shouldn't allow Kosovo refugees to come here. Many people have written to Postbag expressing disappointment at this. In another MEN poll, 87 per cent said Blair had blundered on how we should help the Kosovar refugees and 60 per cent said Nato should have accepted Milosevic's peace offer. On another issue, they were more decisive: 97% were against the adoption of a Euro passport.

400,000 HAS BEEN DONATED by people across Greater Manchester for the MEN Kosovo Appeal. Further donations can be sent to the appeal c/o Oxfam, 6th Floor, Graeme House, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, M21 9AS, and there's also a credit card hotline: 0870 606 0900.

THE CORONATION ST studios were deserted today - Cast and crew had gone to Salford Cathedral (right) to attend a service in celebration of the life of Bryan Mosley (pronounced 'mozz-lee'). He was born in Leeds and first appeared in Coronation St in 1961. He died last February.

THE MINES ADVISORY GROUP, which campaigns against the use of land mines, has opened an office on Albert Square. The group were strongly supported by Princess Diana, and her former butler, Paul Burrell, was at the opening of the office.

BIRD EGG COLLECTOR Kevin Gray was convicted in Bury last week of offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. The court heard how he travelled to many parts of Britain, climbed up trees and stole the eggs of rare birds, including buzzards, red kite and ravens.

AN ADVERT POSTED to businesses in the city centre, picturing the Trafford Centre on fire, was described by Trafford Centre bosses as being in bad taste. It was issued by Wrigley Promotions Ltd and offered two solutions to the problem of businesses losing trade to the Trafford Centre: "Set fire to the Centre and go to prison for life. 2: Fight back with aggressive and competitive advertising of your own". Point 1 is certainly out of order - though point 2 seems a fair suggestion to me.

LORRY DRIVERS staged a protest yesterday against high fuel and road tax levels. A couple of hundred lorries drove along the M56, M60, M602, across the Mancunian Way then anti-clockwise round the city centre via Great Ancoats Street and Trinity Way before departing again. The congestion wasn't as bad as expected, but Councillor Pat Karney was displeased with the truckers for allegedly causing economic damage to city centre Manchester, and threatened legal action if they stage similar protests in the future. Many people are sympathetic towards road haulage companies, who are facing tough times due to the high price of fuel. And driving through Higher Broughton last night, I noticed the price of a litre of unleaded has climbed to 70.9p, that's £3.22 a gallon! A tax on fuel is a tax on everyone and everything.

A CAR WAS MANGLED in a collision with a Metrolink tram last Tuesday night - A Piccadilly-bound tram crushed a taxi against a power line post in St Peters Square. Amazingly, the driver escaped with only minor injuries. Here's a Metrolink tram gliding smoothly into the station under Piccadilly. The blur is from the 1 second exposure I used to take the picture. I've added another photo taken round the corner a little bit earlier.

THE BID BY BSKYB to take over Manchester United (or "merger", as they called it) was blocked by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers, it was officially announced on Friday - The decision was made on the recommendation of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which considered that the take-over would have been anti-competitive and against the interests of British football. Fans were delighted - management issued a brief statement of disappointment. But Manchester United may still be taken over, it's reported: possible bidders are Time Warner or Walt Disney. There's also a possibility of a joint venture with Granada through the On Digital tv service, which is being heavily advertised on tv at the moment by camp comedian Julian Clary.

FOOTBALL AND OTHER SPORTS RESULTS: Manchester-City 4 Lincoln-0, Watford-2 Bolton-0, Oxford-2 Bury-1, Rochdale-0 Rotherham-0, Macclesfield-3 Preston-2, Fulham-2 Wigan Athletic-0, Oldham-1 Burnley-1. Rugby: Swinton Lions-24 Barrow BR-31, Wigan-24 Warrington-10, Salford-17 Castleford-29. Arsenal-0 Manchester United-0, Manchester United-1, Juventus-1; Basketball: Birmingham Bullets - 82 Man Giants -74.

20 TICKETS FOR THE MAN UNITED Juventus match were being sold by ticket touts for 150 and even 250 last Wednesday. The police have set up a special squad to combat illegal sale of tickets. They'll also use closed circuit surveillance cameras.

PERFORMANCES THIS WEEK INCLUDED UB40 at the Apollo, "Forbidden Planet" continues at the Palace, "Oh What A Night" started its run at the Opera House, Status Quo played to 150 punters in an upstairs room of the Star and Garter (below). "Hello Dolly" by the Romiley Amateur Dramatic Society was on at the Royal Northern College of Music, and Iona Brown conducted the Halle at the Bridgewater Hall on Thursday. Meat Loaf pulled out of his sell-out show at the MEN arena on Thursday night because of ill health. It will be rescheduled, probably for May.

THE SUMMER BRITS pop event has been cancelled due to lack of support from the music industry. Manchester-based record producer Pete Waterman criticised the music industry for this. Proceeds from the event would have gone towards promoting music training in schools.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND "LITTLE MANCHESTER"? In London, Adam Moss reports in an article about Mike Pickering, founder of M People. The north London suburb of Primrose Hill is home to quite a few Manchester music personalities, including Liam Gallagher and Mike Pickering who says: "Manchester is an incredible place, both culturally and historically. The computer was invented in Manchester and the atom was first split in the city too. These are two of the most important things to have happened in the 20th century. It also had the best club life at one time, though sadly that has gone now." Presumably one of the reasons why he lives in London - If you're reading this, Mike, please contact!

So what's the big attraction with the south? Ask Jeff Noone, the Levenshulme-based novelist who's moving to Brighton, Carl Palmer reports in the Diary. Jeff says that Manchester is "a cultural desert. A few years ago we had lots of thriving fringe theatre and things like the Manchester festival, but now it's all just about died the death." But Alex Saint, director of Arts about Manchester disagrees: "I'm new in Manchester and I find it a totally exciting place to be. There is a huge amount going on artistically with a lot of diversity." One upcoming event is the Streets Ahead Festival, taking place from 26th of April to 31st of May.

M PEOPLE will be hosting a New Years Eve Event at the MEN Arena billed as "One Night in Heaven - the Ultimate Millennium Party". There will be lots of fun and lots of champagne, say promoters SJM. Tickets are priced at 65 and 45, excluding booking fee. Sounds expensive, but you'd be surprised how many young punters have bulging wallets these days...

THE SUNDAY TIMES RICH LIST was published this weekend. People with local connections included: The Bee Gees, who grew up on Keppel Road, Chorlton, and moved to Australia in 1958. They're number 266 on the list and together, are worth 90m. Another familiar face on the list is Mick Hucknall at number 731 with 30m. Noel Gallagher is at 859 with 25m. Peter Stringfellow comes in at 971 with a mere 21m. He's not from Manchester, but founded the Millionaire Club here in the 70's - I once went there 17 years ago - it never seemed quite to live up to its image. People at the time said there werne't enough "millionaire"-type people in Manchester to sustain it. Presumably why he opened the legendary Stringfellows club in London in 1978. And Eastern Eye magazine has published their list of rich Asians: One tenth of Britain's top 200 wealthy Asians are from Greater Manchester.

THE WEATHER has taken a sharp turn towards winter. There was a mixture of sunshine, hail and high winds today, with snow on high ground. It's forecast to last the remainder of the week. Here's another daffodils picture for all you daffodils addicts out there - with the majestic Lyme Hall in the background - how can anyone live without having a place like that to go and visit on a Sunday? We have National Trust annual memberhip, so we part-own it - well, sort of! It'll do until we move into that £300,000 apartment above the Hacienda!


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