Tea + Laptop = No.

November 24th, 2014

I have always tried to maintain the rule of no liquids next to my computer. I once had a fit when my boyfriend at the time accidentally dropped birthday cake on my laptop when he tried to show my parents what we were eating via Skype. So I’m not entirely sure why I have become lax in this rule and have recently had cups of tea sitting precariously close to my laptop on my work desk.

Never again, my friends. Never again. I have well and truly learnt the lesson that “Liquids + Laptops = Tears and General Disaster.” Last Wednesday, having rushed around for half of the day feeling like I wasn’t getting enough done and that I had to get to the office and work, work, work, I finally made it to my desk, turned on my laptop, started to do some work and then absent-mindedly knocked my cup of tea across my desk.

It was one of those moments when time slows down and you stand and stare at the mess you have just created, not quite believing it. Then reality hits and all you can do is swear under your breath and rush around frantically looking for paper towels because maybe that will fix everything.

Luckily I had three fellow workmates who calmed me down, tipped my laptop upside down and provided me with sage advice and moral support. My laptop ended up being nestled upside down in a tray of kitty litter for 48 hours as I looked at it with mournful eyes and general dread. It is when your computer is sitting in kitty litter that you realise how much you rely on it. On Friday morning I waited for as long as possible before pressing the power button and felt an immense sense of relief when it successfully started up. Sadly, it did suffer from the tea spillage and it now believes that every key on the keyboard is the number ‘5’, except for if you press ‘4’ and you get ‘345’. I think that’s quite an impressive quality that no other laptop offers.

Laptop in kitty litter

Quick! Put it in kitty litter!

As a result of this accident, I now have a beautiful new machine that is functioning at some sort of light speed. I knew my old laptop was slow but I never quite realised it was a slug. My old machine served me well, giving me almost 5 years of use and travelling with me to Paris and Manchester. I shall miss its heavy body and the sound of the hard drive eventually switching into gear when I turned it on. I’m sorry I spilt tea on it. It was crummy black tea, too. I should have at least taken it out in style with a nice red wine.

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

November 24th, 2014

This time last year, my friend Pooja and I noticed a tall(ish) tower being installed in Spinningfields as part of the Manchester Christmas Markets. We were instantly excited by the potential fun that the red and white helter skelter offered us and vowed that we would slide down this tower of joy.

Sadly, despite the helter skelter being in Spinningfields for over four weeks, we never made it down. And so, when we noticed its return for this year’s markets, we were at the front of the line and waiting with our money before any little kids could get in our way. We were so early, in fact, that it wasn’t open yet, and we had to come back the following week.

The moment finally arrived – last Monday at 4pm, Pooja, her husband, Jonathan, and I met to take the most anticipated rides of our lives. There was a slight drizzle, which meant that the guy in charge hadn’t bothered to wax the end of the slide. “You’ll either stop on the way down and have to shuffle yourself to the end, or you’ll come straight off the end or sumfin,” he said. But due to the less than perfect conditions, he was offering us two rides for our £2 entry price. What a champ!

Pooja and I went up first, leaving photography guru, Jonathan, to record our descents. The climb to the top was cramped and screaming ‘Public Liability’ but we made it to the top and I suggested Pooja went first. I figured it was only fair that she propel herself down a slide first seeing as I had walked on fire before her. Pooja’s super slim figure fit easily onto the very narrow slide and I watched pondering what I would do if I got stuck half way down. Pooja made it safely to the ground so it was my turn and I then realised that wearing a skirt to go on a slide wasn’t the smartest choice.

And off I went, zooming down the surprisingly fast slide, flying off the end to a sudden halting stop. IT WAS AWESOME! I was then particularly pleased that we were allowed two turns, although the second go was slightly less exciting than the first.

Helter skelter

WAAAAAHHHHOOOOOOOOO!!!! Photo credit : Jonathan Pow/jp@jonathanpow.com REF : POW_141117_2346

Pooja and I celebrated – we had finally fulfilled our plan of going down the Christmas helter skelter, even if it was a year later than planned. The three of us then wandered off to the Christmas markets where we drank disappointing glühwein and stole pieces of Jonathan’s not-so-great curry wurst. And that’s where my Christmas spirit ends.

On This Day…

November 17th, 2014

I have just had a quick skim read of my blog posts on and around the 17 November in 2010/11/12/13 and it has made me quite pleased that I write all of this random drivel and chuck it into big bad world of THE INTERNET. So what was I up to, I hear you ask with excitement and vigour? Well!

In 2010, I was in Sydney applying for my first travel/work visa to go to France. These were exciting times as I suddenly had permission to go and live in my favourite city in the world and I was in Sydney eating cheese with my best friend, Gill. What more could a girl ask for?

In 2011, I was writing 50,000 words in one month for NaNoWriMo (a task I managed to successfully complete) and I had tripped over whilst running along the Canal Saint Martin in Paris, horrendously injuring my knees. Or at least, that’s how I made it seem.

In 2012, I was eating cake and enjoying Beaujoulais Nouveau in Paris while attending exhibition openings that I made a small appearance in. Ooh la la!

In 2013, I had recently met the Queen. That’s how I roll.

So that’s not bad really. Not bad at all.

Hey Little Lamb!

November 17th, 2014

Every time I catch a bus down Wilmslow Road towards Didsbury, we go past a large Middle-eastern/Indian/Asian supermarket that sells everything you could ever imagine from every country you can think of (except Australia.) It also appears to sell cute little lambs. I think I might get myself a pet for my last few months in Manchester.

lamb

Too cute!

B&Q v Bunnings

November 17th, 2014

The weekend arrived once again and my inner Duracell Bunny was as eager as ever to get out and see something, do something, eat something. This nervous-twitch-like-habit that I have developed over the past for years of living in new cities is having to be managed by Sir Pubert Gladstone who owns a car and is therefore my instant chauffeur. So where did he take me this weekend for an exciting Saturday adventure?

The plumbing aisle in B&Q.

Believe it or not with a name like Sir Pubert, he is currently renovating a house and had some plumbing issues on Friday afternoon. That is not the time when you want leaking pipes. So to B&Q we went to find the necessary bits to control water flow.

Luckily for Sir Pubert, I love hardware stores. From a young age, I have looked forward to weekend trips with my Dad to Perth’s B&Q equivalent, Bunnings, helping him find the right nut and washer for the bolt and picking the straightest length of MDF. I love the smell of hardware stores and the range of ‘stuff’ you can buy. Then there’s the terrible 90s rock music that always seems to be playing and the special bins of additional paraphernalia that you didn’t realise you need but that may come in handy one day. I can wander the aisles for hours looking at tools, cuts of wood, plastic pipes, and screws and bolts, wondering what that strange shaped joining bit could be used for.

While waiting for Sir Pubert to find the right connection to fix his plastic pipe to metal hose issue, I tried to decide which hardware was better – B&Q or Bunnings? My final outcome is that really neither is better than the other. They are both understocked and never have the one thing you need. B&Q is slightly cleaner, which in my eyes isn’t necessarily a good thing. A hardware should be used, a bit dusty and kind of rough around the edges. It shouldn’t look like a homewares gift shop with shiny floors and clean aisles. So having come to the conclusion that neither hardware store lived up to my expectations I returned to trying to find a 35 degree push-fit pipe elbow.

Then we went to the supermarket.

Something you would definitely hope to find in a hardware store.

Something you would definitely hope to find in a hardware store.

Movebubble and Shaker

November 15th, 2014

As Friday evening draws closer and my working week comes to an end, I thought I would clear up the misconception that some people seem to have that I don’t actually do any work. I have some how managed to create the illusion of being a lazy unemployed bum, but sadly this is not the case. I am quite lazy, I am unemployed (self-employed technically) but I am not a bum.

Over the past few months I have managed to build up a lovely group of clients and have worked on some interesting projects. One of the best things about my job is that I have to learn about a very random range of subjects – this week I wrote about data protection, recycling, infectious diseases, security systems, and community gardening.

One of my most regular writing projects is for a start-up company called Movebubble. They have created an online platform for homeowners to list their houses for people to view and rent. You can set up an online profile with previous rental history and referees and connect with homeowners looking to rent. It’s BRILLIANT. Especially the blog that features some fantastic posts written by various genius writers, including yours truly.

So should you feel like moving to London any time soon and you want to learn more about Islington, landlord insurance or what handmade gifts to give this Christmas, check out the Movebubble blog.

Manchester Update

November 14th, 2014

I feel that I haven’t written a general “This is life in Manchester” update in sometime. As I am currently at a loose end with a desire to write something but a disinclination for that to be anything work related, Manchester has become my topic for this here post. It is like to turn into a ramble with no clear point or purpose and will therefore also be a clear insight into the nonsensical workings of my brain. Good luck, dear readers.

Date: 13 November 2014
Current time:
3.51pm
Weather: 
Windy and overcast but not raining. And it isn’t that cold, really. These are all very positive things.
Amount of sunlight left remaining in the day:
Not a lot. What is sunlight?

I am currently sitting in a room above one of Manchester’s hippest hipster bars. The same hip hop tunes that have been playing on repeat for the last month are continuing strong from the speakers in the bar below. I’m not sure how many more times I can hear that he is killing her softly with his song without turning to similar violence.

Winter is, thankfully, taking its time to arrive. Talk about town includes, “Gosh, it is unseasonably warm, don’t you think?” with most people not having pulled out their winter jackets yet. It won’t last, of course. Particularly not now that the Christmas markets are opening on Friday and people will be wanting to wander around outside.

The Christmas Markets are apparently going to be bigger and better than ever before, which I take to mean that instead of four over priced fudge stalls owned by the same company there will be five. And it will not be physically possible to walk across Manchester without being forced to walk past stalls selling tacky christmas ornaments and novelty hats. Step outside and you will instantly smell like a german sausage. Yes, I admit that part of me enjoys the sights, smells and fairy lights of the markets, but that’s the same part of me that wanted to go to Blackpool. Give me an hour and I will want to leave.

Santa statue

Mega Santa takes over Manchester.

Every weekend, the city centre seems to be getting busier and busier with the main shopping strip, Market Street, becoming a human wave of shoppers. In September and October it was the sudden influx of students that ruined my commute to and from work when suddenly I was having to dodge hundreds of students carrying pillows and staring at their mobile phones as I tried to walk home. Now everyone is getting into the ‘Christmas Spirit’ and is out shopping for Timmy, Susan and Pedro’s christmas presents. One day I want to walk down Market Street in a very straight line and see how many people I manage to walk into. It would be the ultimate game of Chicken and I think I would score quite highly.

On a more positive note, the warm temperatures have meant that while the sun doesn’t get up until after 7am and has disappeared by 4.30pm, the weather has been remarkably good. My morning runs haven’t turned icy yet although I am having to avoid running along dark canals in order to not be murdered.

With two months and 17 days left on my visa, time is rapidly disappearing. But the closer my imminent departure gets, the keener I am to stick around. Yes, Manchester is dark, dirty and drizzly, but I like this place. It is growing and changing and becoming a seriously cool city. So the plan is to next year become one of those annoying pillow-carrying students and walk up and down Market Street bumping into people. Mostly because students in Manchester get a discount on almost EVERYTHING and I love a bargain.

Call Me Robin

November 12th, 2014

I am contemplating a life living in a forest with a bunch of merry men and attempting to win the heart of a fair maiden named Marian. I’m not sure how long it would last but at least I could feel confident heading off into the woods knowing that I’m not that bad with a bow and arrow.

On Sunday, Sir Pubert and I had a one-hour archery lesson in the Peak District near Sheffield. My single previous attempt at archery had ended in many tears and an early exit from the range. Seventeen years later, I had finally moved past that experience and felt confident enough to try again. My dad was a little concerned about me attempting archery again, but I assured him that as I am no longer 12, I am significantly less weak and pathetic and I now have a better understanding of the physics of bow handling,  I would be ok. But secretly I was still a little nervous.

The class was held at the Ringinglow Archery club and we were instructed by Damian. For obvious reasons the safety instructions were outlined very seriously but soon we were on our way to firing sharpened sticks through the air.

Archery

Not a bad view.

Our first target was 10 metres away, which doesn’t sound like much but when you’re attempting to make a thin projectile hit a dot on a board, it seems much further. It was very relieving when my turn came to shoot my first arrow and I not only managed to hold on to the bow correctly and make the arrow fire, it also hit the target. It wasn’t a bullseye by any means, but it didn’t go completely off track and hit one of the horses in the nearby paddocks. That is success in my books.

We were soon firing off arrows like pros – Sir Pubert will be disappointed if I didn’t mention that his final score was higher than mine, but who hit the central part of the target first? Oh, would that have been me? Why yes, I do believe it was.

Archery target

Arrowed!

Pubert wasn’t content with the 10 metre target and convinced Damian to let us have a go at the 20 metre range. I missed my first shot but managed to land the rest of the arrows. It was amazing to see how much you have to change where you aim when you move from one distance to the other. I would classify myself as a short-distance archer at the moment with potential for inclusion in the Olympic team in 2016.

Run, Doggy, Run.

November 4th, 2014

My adventures into the world of ‘The North’ continued last Saturday night with a visit to Belle Vue with my friends Garden Boy (Jon), Hannah and Steve. Don’t be deceived by the ooh-la-la name – I have seen belle-r views in my time. Belle Vue is the grey hound racing track of Manchester, located in that glorious suburb of Gorton that I mentioned a few posts ago. The first grey hound race was held here in 1926 and it has developed a big reputation for itself (with hens parties in Manchester, at least.).

Jon suggested a visit to the dogs as part of my assimilation into Northern culture. When asked to describe Belle Vue in three words, he eventually came back with this longer-than-three-word sentence:

Belle Vue dogs is a fascinating mix of pooches, flea bags, mutts, bitches, pups and hounds watching some dogs run around a track.

He promised me girls in lycra dresses and stilettos, terrible beer and a lot of frivolous betting. What does one wear to such an event?

Hannah, Steve and I caught a train to Belle Vue station, which was conveniently located across the road from budget supermarket, Aldi, and next to the grey hound track and a Bingo hall. What a location! As we walked to meet Jon, we all contemplated moving to this area with its amazing facilities and services.

I had pre-ordered tickets online for the bargain price of £3.50, which included a pint of Carling. I felt a little sorry for the people who were playing the full £7 entry at the door. As we collected our tickets, the woman serving us was blown away by the fact that I was Australian, that I had an accent and that I was standing in front of her at the Belle Vue stadium instead of on a beach back home. She was so overwhelmed that she gave us race programmes for free. Jon said we would have received them for free anyway, but I like to disagree with him. Life Lesson #1: Take an Australian with you everywhere.

As Jon was the only one of our group to have ever been to the grey hounds before, we put him in charge. He did seem to know some things and gave us a slightly confusing explanation of what was going on. After grabbing our free pints of refreshing Carling (Mmm…) we headed outside away from the over-heated dining room and stood track side.

Belle Vue stadium

Trackside at Belle Vue

I am not a gambler – I like to put my money in the bank in a high interest savings account and only spend it on food and plane tickets. I had difficulty inserting 2p coins into slot machines in Blackpool so when I was faced with placing £2 bets on whether a dog would run faster than a bunch of other dogs, I wasn’t particularly forthcoming. I decided to watch the first race and get my head around understanding the dogs’ statistics and the bookies’ odds. There is far too much maths involved in dog racing – fractions have never been my thing so when a dog had the odds of 11/7 to win, that figure entered my head, bumped around against the sides of my skull for a while and then spat back out as a ‘Huh?’

Belle Vue race programme

Place your bets!

The fact that I kept asking which horse had won and who the others were voting for, also didn’t seem to help my chances of looking like a regular punter. My first attempt was a failure with my dog coming somewhere in the middle but when I noticed that a dog called “Johnny the Fool” was going to be racing, I knew I was on to a winner. Sadly, so did everyone else so my £2 was merely turned into £5. Not bad except I then became greedy and lost it all again.

Johnny the Fool was my only winning horse (I mean dog) and I left Belle Vue £3 poorer than when I arrived. Not bad for an evening’s entertainment. As for Jon’s promises, there were disappointingly few lycra dresses (although Hannah assured me she spotted some in the ladies’ toilets as most had stayed inside where it was warmer) but plenty of terrible beer and some very scary bets being made. My inability to risk £2 was pathetic when compared to the money that was exchanging hands between the punters and the bookies. I would still choose to spend my money on food, though. And I’d maybe give some of it to the skinny dogs that were running so desperately after a fake rabbit.

Anonymous.

November 3rd, 2014

I am feeling almost naked at the moment as I have just inserted my passport into an envelope and handed it over to Royal Mail. They will hopefully deliver it to the Australian Embassy who will then send me back a new version. That’s the plan, anyway.

My passport expired on 14 August, much to my disappointment. For the past 10 years, that little booklet has been a record of my great adventures – annual trips to Singapore with my parents and brother, and then my own travels through Europe, Canada and America. There are stamps confirming my entry and exit from countries and four visas for France and the UK. Whenever I am travelling and am sitting in an airport bored, I will flick through my passport and look at where I have been and what I have experienced. And suddenly, thanks to a 10-year expiry date, that little book of memories is no longer valid. The worst part is that the days of immigration stamps have gone and now you have to be lucky or request a stamp in your passport. My old passport was almost full and my new version will most likely remain practically unstamped.

My need for a new passport meant that I had to find a photo booth and pay an excessive amount of money for a mug shot. This cannot happen on any old day as this photograph will remain as the record of my face for the next 10 years – you want it to look good. I got my first passport when I was about 4 years old and I spent five or so years with a passport photo of me crying and trying to run away from the photographer. Being laughed at by customs officers every time you cross a country border gets quite tiring. But potential travel plans in the near future and the fact that I need to get on a plane back to Australia soon resulted in me taking the plunge this morning and getting the photo taken. Apart from a shiny nose, it isn’t the worst passport photo in existence and I managed to hold back the tears. I now just have to wait and hope that it ticks all of the boxes for what your photo MUST NOT BE LIKE. Then it will be time to go stamp collecting. I will have a new book to fill!

Passport photo

What a mug.