Snow.

December 19th, 2014

It would seem that I have had actual paid work and responsibilities this week as I haven’t written about the fact that IT SNOWED last Friday. I had been concerned that I had lost my inner child who becomes ridiculously excited by the arrival of falling icicles; so imagine my relief when I giddily screamed “SNOW!!” when I saw the first flakes fall. They melted instantly and turned into slop but for a brief second I was excited.

Ice patterns on Sir Pubert's car

Ice patterns on Sir Pubert’s car

Friday’s blustery snow arrival was more impressive in hilly parts of the North such as the Peaks, the Lake District and Scotland. So on Saturday, Sir Pubert and I packed an impressive lunch and headed along Snake Pass into the Peaks in search of a picnic spot.

Warming soup.

Warming soup.

 

We headed to the highest part of the Snake Road pass where we were surrounded by fog and scatterings of white icy stuff. We parked and walked a very short way along a muddy, icy and therefore slippery path before sitting and scoffing our faces. The sun managed to come out from the behind the clouds and warmed us up nicely. It was great fun but after we’d eaten our delicious cheese sandwiches and warm soup, we threw a few snow balls and hurried back to the car. Sir Pubert was concerned we would get stuck in the Peaks due to ‘the weather’. That’s Brits for you – always concerned about getting lost/stuck in the ‘wilderness’. We managed to escape unscathed.

Snow at the High Peak

Snow at the High Peak

Since the weekend, the weather has changed once again and turned into a constant drizzle. It is much warmer but I have holes in the soles of my shoes and my feet keep getting wet. Everything is wet. It’s quite horrible.

In other news, today I bought my plane ticket home to where the current forecast for tomorrow is 39 degrees. No rain. This ‘going home’ thing is suddenly sounding ok.

Weather Update

December 10th, 2014

Word on the street is that it is cold – and I concur. Last week, it was with great pain and general disgruntlement that I put on my winter coat for the first time. I hate admitting that it is cold but chilly winds had made the temperature drop from a balmy 12 degrees to a knuckle-reddening 4. This morning on my run, I went past the SUPER ELECTRONIC signage outside Manchester University on which, through the wonders of technology, it announces the time, date and temperature in a rotating sequence. It was 1.8 degrees Celcius and my wet nose and numb hands believed this to be accurate. It was also the first morning where I almost lost my balance as I ran onto invisible ice. Damn invisible ice… It is very tricky to see. Probably because it is invisible to eyes that are watering due to cold winds blowing into them.

I am currently sitting on my own in my office space avoiding going home. It is raining outside and I don’t really wish to get wet. I have had an unusually productive day considering last week I spent 60 per cent of my time procrastinating and the other 40 per cent eating. Today I went for a run, had a meeting, did some work, payed bills, did some more work, and started writing a hopefully convincing description of why I should be allowed to study a masters degree next year. Does anyone enjoy writing about themselves? I certainly don’t, particularly when I need to explain why I have spent the last four years of my life avoiding responsibility and career paths. Being a travelling nomad sounds romantic and fun but it isn’t academically sound. No one really believes in the School of Life, except for perhaps myself and my dad.

I have no exciting adventures to write about this week as the weekend involved a lot of cooking and the painting of skirting boards at Sir Pubert’s ‘Renovator’s delight’ house. That was fun as it involved a visit to an even bigger B&Q and we went to the Tameside Environment Centre, a poetic name for the rubbish tip. Another highlight of Greater Manchester for me to tick off my list of ‘must visit’s.

Ok. Enough blabbering. It’s time to go home.

My Favourite UPT

December 4th, 2014

Throughout my trip to Northern Ireland, I learnt more and more about the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of family members and the local population in general. It didn’t take me long to work out what my favourite local custom was – the tray bake. I have never before heard the phrase ‘tray bake’ used as frequently as I did in this country. After confirming that a ‘tray bake’ is Irish/British for what I would call a ‘slice’, it amazed me how regularly it popped up in conversation.

While I was never offered of a tray bake during my stay (although at our first family member visit the table was covered in pikelets, meringues, short bread (one could argue that this is a form of tray bake), biscuits and eventually a trifle, but we had already eaten) I did discover that many of Sir Pubert’s family members had freezers full of pre-prepared tray bakes. And not only tray bakes but scones, soup, and entire meals, all frozen and ready to go on demand. One aunt had nine types of scones in her freezer – now that’s my kind of household. Baked goods on demand.

In honour of what I learned on my trip to Northern Ireland, I spent the afternoon at home today and whipped up a little carrot cake in order to use up some eggs. While it won’t go in the freezer and it isn’t a tray bake, I feel it is the least I can do to recognise the tray bake phenomenon of Northern Ireland.

Carrot cake

Walnutty, carrotty goodness.

AONBs

December 2nd, 2014

While visiting Northern Ireland, I had the absolute pleasure of staying with Sir Pubert’s aunt, Lady BonBon. One of the kindest and most generous people that I have ever met, we were treated like royalty during our three night stay. I wasn’t even told to write this – I honestly mean it.

Lady BonBon had collected a range of maps and tourist information for Pubert and I to use to plan our day trips out and about. One of the maps was of the Areas of Natural Beauty (AONBs) to the north of where we were staying. So on Friday, Pubert and I headed out in Lady BonBon’s automobile (a Skoda) to discover them for ourselves.

ANOB #1 – The Dark Hedges

The map was what I would call “diagrammatical” or “lacking detail” and so we took a few scenic detours before finally reaching our first destination. All we knew about the dark hedges was that they were a bunch of trees covering a road and that they were near a golf course. Thanks to perseverance, a bit of GPS Jess map reading, and a lot of good luck, we finally found what we were looking for. A road in the middle of no where with over hanging trees. Thanks to some good weather and a little bit of sunshine, we managed to see the road in great light. Definitely an ANOB.

Dark hedges

The Dark Hedges. WoooOOoooOOOooo….

ANOB #2 – The Giant’s Causeway

I had heard about and seen photographs of the Giant’s Causeway but didn’t know a lot about it. I was thrilled to discover that it was a short drive from where we were staying and that it was an official ANOB on our tourist map. After parking the car and slightly fraudulently getting into the National Trust visitor’s centre thanks to Ken and Katy’s membership, we walked down along the coastal road to the famous site.

Giant's causeway

Walking down to the Giant’s Causeway

Thanks to a volcano, the ice age and various other earthly movements, the Giant’s Causeway is a collection of rocks that have magically formed in hexagonal pillars. It is absolutely remarkable – as I walked across the rocks it became more and more phenomenal how these unique shapes formed. And on top of that, how they have lasted in this manner for hundreds/thousands/millions of years.

Giant's causeway

Giant’s Causeway

My favourite rocks were those that were speckled with what I presume is some sort of algae. The white specks reminded me of the pyrite encrusted ring Pubert bought me for my birthday.

Giant's causeway

Hexagons

After an overpriced and average tasting lunch at the National Trust cafe and having been chatted up by one of the elderly gentlemen volunteers in the visitor’s centre, we headed off towards our next stop on our ANOB discovery tour.

ANOB #3 – Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Once again, thanks to a slightly inappropriate use of a National Trust membership (“You don’t look old enough to be a senior…”) we made our way to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. My new boyfriend from the Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre had said the walk to the bridge was at least 40 minutes, so imagine our surprise when we managed to do it in around 15. Clearly we were keen to get there.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge

A long way down.

The rope bridge connects the mainland to a small island off the coast where fishermen used to go to check their salmon nets. They have improved the quality of the bridge, however it is still a hair-raising experience as you step out onto a wobbly bridge, the sea below your feet and a bunch of tourists watching, hoping you’ll slip and fall for the perfect photo opportunity. Unfortunately for them, we both made it across safely.

Carrick a Rede

Nice.

Once again, the views definitely rated high on the ANOB scale.

ANOB #4 – Dunluce Castle

The problem with being a tourist at this time of the year is the extreme lack of day light. The sun is going to bed before 4pm so we were restricted by how much we could fit into our day. We headed back along the coast to Dunluce Castle, old castle ruins sitting precariously on top of the cliffs. We discovered that the once free to enter attraction now had a £5 per person entry fee. We were running short on time, so decided to head down a path to the side of the castle that took you underneath the ruins.

Dunluce Castle

A castle with a view

Below the castle is a cave where boats would come to the shore after being out at sea. Despite signage recommending No Entry and some encouragement from a local man who happened to walk past, we ventured into the mouth of the cave to listen to the waves hitting the shore.

ANOB #5 – Bushmills Distillery

While not technically an ANOB, I am going to classify the Bushmills distillery as a natural beauty unto itself. Anyone who creates a drink as glorious as Irish whiskey deserves a classification like ANOB. We had hoped to do one of the tours and my Giant’s Causeway boyfriend had said that the last tour was at 4.30pm. Turns out his knowledge of tour hours is about as correct as his knowledge of length of walking times. We arrived at Bushmills at 3.49pm. The last tour had started at 3.30pm. Dang.

We went inside anyway, checking out the gift shop and then wandering into the cafe area. We were contemplating purchasing a whiskey to drink to help us get over our disappointment for missing the tour, and the lovely girl behind the bar offered us a free sample.

Thanks to this knowledgable wee lass, we managed to get a lot of the tour information and learnt a lot about the Bushmills range. We sampled four whiskeys, debating on which were our favourites. We managed to agree on our number one choice while the other three were a mixed bag.

We left without buying anything. So overall a very successful visit.

ANOB #6 – ASDA

Our final stop for the day was an ASDA supermarket where Pubert and I were given the task of purchasing ingredients for Lady BonBon to use for a funeral catering service she was preparing for the following day. We wandered around the supermarket looking for square bread, salad cream and crushed pineapple.

And then it was home for a delicious meal with Lady BonBon and an evening in front of the fire. Good times.

Pubert’s Highlight

December 1st, 2014

Sir Pubert discovered the wonder of automated public toilets during our visit to Belfast. His fear of public facilities somehow led him to decide that a self-cleaning, coin operated toilet was better than a sneaky visit to a pub. Borrowing 20p from me, he entered cautiously and waved goodbye as the door closed behind him.

A few minutes later he emerged declaring his visit as being the highlight of his day. Whipping out his phone, he showed me the photographs he had taken from the inside – the count down clock displayed how many of his 15 minutes he had left until the doors would open again; the button that dispensed rationed sheets of toilet paper; and the hand washing sink that discharged soap and water at the same time.

Public toilet

Sir Pubert is in there.

The bright eyed boy was happy and it only cost me 20p. Now I just have to find an equivalent in Manchester and I will have sorted out his Christmas present.

A Trip to Northern Ireland

December 1st, 2014

Last night I returned home from a four day visit in the land of limericks and leprechauns. Early Thursday morning, Sir Pubert, his mum, Katy, his mum’s partner, Ken, and I loaded ourselves into a BMW with sports suspension and low-profile tyres and drove to Northern Ireland. We drove through three countries in one day – England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Neat.

Sir Pubert was born in Northern Ireland and we were off to visit the plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins who live in and around the Antrim/Ballymena area. My recent experience discovering new family members in my own clan has made me an expert at understanding family connections. I had been provided with general descriptions of each of the relatives I may or may not meet prior to departure and again at regular intervals throughout the trip. I am now very well versed on the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of Sir Pubert’s various family members and could almost draw a family tree. Almost.

Northern Ireland

Sunny Northern Ireland.

Having never previously visited Ireland or Northern Ireland, I was a tad excited and also somewhat surprised to discover that it was located so far south. In my somewhat naive head, I had always imagined Ireland as being significantly further north than England, but it turns out I was wrong. So there we go. This was good news, as it meant the drive to get there would be much shorter than I expected.

At this point I would like to mention that never before have I travelled in a car from England to Northern Ireland with such a good looking, fun and intelligent group of people. I may or may not have been told to write that.

With a brief coffee break in Dumfries, we made our way to Cairnryan where we drove the car onto a large P&O ferry that took us across the Irish Sea to Larne. This was definitely more enjoyable than my last car-on-boat-crossing experience that I had had in 2007, travelling from Custines to Bognor Regis with a bus load of french teenagers who were hyped up on sugar and pretending to not be homesick. This ride was smooth, the boat was half empty and Toblerone cost £5 in the gift shop. Ridiculous.

P&O Ferry

All abord the P&O ferry to Larne

Having arrived in Northern Ireland, I cheered for having added yet another country to my extensive list, and we drove off to visit family member #1. And so began a weekend of conversations where I desperately tried to work out which Aunt was being discussed, who they were related to and what their UPT was. I eventually gave up and just sat around eating for four days.

More adventures in Northern Ireland to follow.

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!