The Retired Martin household spent 25 December in Sheffield. No presents at all, but we did allow Mrs RM to serve a Christmas pudding she’d picked up cheap at Aldi late on Christmas Eve. I do not approve, but I have no say in my own house.

All I want now I’m 58 (I know, I don’t believe it either) is a decent haircut, which is why Matthew is such a valued member of the family.

5th December 2022.

I visited Matt in his new salon Helvete, which I can best describe as being “near the posh student bit of Oxford Road not far from the Salisbury”.

The 15 minute walk from Piccadilly takes you past a couple of classic pubs,

both of which are in the shadow of Manchester’s every increasing high rise.

May it never stop.

But Matt tells me the BIG news in town, bar Haaland’s 6 week goal drought, is the arrival of Parmogeddon. Finally, culture comes to Manchester.

Despite what Google thinks, I haven’t been yet; I’m saving it for a special occasion.

That day, I was headed to North Manchester for some genuinely exciting ticking on the edge of Heaton Park, which was built in the 19th century to stage dreadful open air gigs by old blokes to nostalgia addicts in the 21st.

Actually, I think I’ve only been to the pubs around Prestwich town centre, and the little area near the park entrance is a joy. All the celebrity legends follow Mark E Smith (RIP) here, including Phil.

What Pub says the Royal Oak is open at 12; the landlady says it’s actually 2, so I do the Ostrich first.

What can you say about a north Manchester Holt pub.

Cobbled street, multi-room, bench seat, cheery welcome, pint of bitter just over £3. It’s almost a cliche.

Just the one couple in the bar, and I stupidly take the side room so I can take a photo.

Would you like the TV on ?” asks the landlady, a gem.

But I’ve already finished my pint, a cool, dry cracker (NBSS 4).

And the Royal Oak has just opened.

Well, almost. A couple of Old Boys hover impatiently at the door as 2pm comes and goes, and exchange Manc insults with the landlady (are they all landladies here ?) as the door opens.

The Hyde’s pub isn’t quite as ornate as the Holt’s, and the sound goes up a notch as Neil Diamond on Radio Gold competes with the sound of pool balls smacking.

But they’re both spotless, and effortlessly cheery pubs.

Not an obvious cask pub, you’d think, but I see a few pints of Original pulled and at £3 it’s priced to turnover.

A second GBG worthy pint in 20 minutes, the smooth Hyde’s and properly bitter Holt’s a contrast in beer styles.

Can we have the telly on ?” shouts a Carlsberg drinker.


Why ?”

I’ll think of a reason in a minute“.


Neil Diamond gives way to “Super Trouper” and the ABBA give way to one my very favourites.

The talk is of bets nearly won.

I had a bet on 3-2 but he wouldn’t let me cash out“.

BRAPA will love it.


  1. I had my first Holt’s for several years on Boxing Day in the thankfully refurbished Park Hotel in Monton, near Eccles. An old college haunt where I once had four pints at lunch as a 16 year old.

    Then to the Lamb in Eccles for another – thankfully not refurbished but the snooker table has gone.


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