Oh, Hello April.

April 8th, 2016

So apparently it is April. I’m not sure how that happened or how I only have 1.5 months left of my Masters degree. Yes, I still have to write that “dissertation” thing but in mid-May all of my classes finish and I hand in my second semester assignments. And that is that. All I have to do is pass those and I can start signing my name on emails as Jessica Davies B.A., M.A. and people will be impressed (not). Of course, in order to pass my assignments, I have to write them and therein lies my current problem.

Spring has been making its way to Manchester in ebbs and flows over the last few months. We had some sunny and surprisingly warm days very early on in the year but they were then replaced by snow. It is now a daily struggle to work out what to wear as it is hot in the sun and freezing in the shade. There are some excellent clouds about at the moment though, bringing rain and hail showers. I much prefer these temperamental conditions to endless drizzle – adds a bit of spice to the Manchester weather forecast.

cloud

You could just eat it!

I am hoping the wind will back off on Sunday, however, as I am once again pushing myself through 41.something kilometres and running the Manchester Marathon. Anyone wanting to follow me from the comfort of an armchair can do so here. I have had a slight set back in terms of a ridiculously sore toe. I usually ignore aches and pains but this particular niggle was excessively painful and a trip to the cheapest physiotherapist that I could find suggests it is runners’ arthritis. Not surprising really, given my family’s medical history. Just slightly annoying as I now haven’t run for 1.5 weeks, the longest period of time that I haven’t run for approximately 6 years. I haven’t gone AS nuts as I thought I would, which is pleasing. But I am very much looking forward to Sunday and have been telling my toe that if it dares to slow me down I will have it surgically removed. Nothing messes with me, not even my own digits.

marathon

Go Jessso!

A couple of weekends ago, I participated in a workshop connected to the Pilcrow Pub project. The Pilcrow Pub is a community pub that is being built by hand by a group of seriously dedicated people. They run workshops where you can come in and make a stool, clothes hook, ceramic jug or something else that will be used in the final pub. I went to the “wooden workbench” workshop that involved us turning pieces of wood that had been reclaimed from a giant Christmas tree installation into a workbench that would then be used to make other things for the pub. It was so much fun! It required a huge amount of brain space to work out how to make very non-straight pieces of wood come together to create a stable table. Plus it was all done by hand so it was hand saws and chisels in action. It was team building central and by the end of the day, my group, ‘Team Leg,’ were high-fiving and patting each others backs with pride. Amazing work. I am hopefully doing a second workshop in a couple of weeks’ time – basket weaving!

workbench

We made that!

Speaking of basket weaving, I helped my friend Jon (aka Garden Man (apparently calling a man a boy is a negative thing so I am upgrading him)) run a weaving workshop at the Whitworth art gallery. I forced Jon to let me help him so that I can write an essay on it for my Creative Learning unit at uni. It was such fun working with families to weave giant balls of willow and it once again reinforced my desire to work in engagement programmes in art galleries. It is very reassuring that I continue to have this passion and excitement for galleries and museums and that I’m not completely sick of them. Maybe I really have picked the right degree!

willow

A ball o’ willow

And one final piece of news before I go and do some real work – I finally installed my pop-up exhibition in the glass case in the Samuel Alexander building at uni. I was given the project in December last year and it took me until March to install… oops. I like to say it was because I was developing my ideas but it was mostly because 1. I had essays to write, 2. the building was locked on weekends, 3. I am my father’s daughter. Anyway, it is an exhibition showcasing people’s Instagram images of Manchester. I am going to change the photographs over the next few weeks so that there are new images to look at. It didn’t turn out quite as I expected but it still looks surprisingly good considering. I am quite pleased.

#ISeeYouManchester

#ISeeYouManchester

Ok, really should go and write an essay now. Peace out, kids.

Goodbye, Lemon Curd

March 9th, 2016

An empty jar marked with a sticker clearly stating that it must be returned to its true owner, S.L.Wrightson, is all that is left of my lemon curd. It has been living in my fridge for the past two and a half months, slowly decreasing in volume. Every time I open the fridge door, it winks at me, reminding me of its presence. And, like all temptations in life, how can you say no? The contents of this small jar dissolved not from being spread on toast or used to add a tarty sweetness to a dessert, but simply from being enjoyed in small tastes from the end of my little finger. Occasionally a teaspoon was involved but nothing tastes better than when licked from your finger, feeling youthfully naughty and hoping no one has spotted you in the act.

One Year Warning.

February 1st, 2016

Yesterday was the one year mark for how much longer I have in the UK until I am kicked out (again.) Although I have realised I have chosen an excellent year to buy myself a student visa as I get a BONUS DAY on the 29th February! Sure, I will be in Holland on that exact day, but still. I’m quite pleased about this extra time I managed to weasel out of the British Government. Ha! A win for Jess.

Being one of those people who likes to reflect a lot about such things, the one year count down mark is a tad scary and somewhat (extremely) depressing. However, my previous experience with such things suggests I should keep on keeping on and simply ‘see what happens’. You never know. I might suddenly decide that I should do a PhD and become a Doctor in something useless. At least that way when I introduce myself as “Doctor Jess” as I sometimes currently do I won’t be lying quite so much.

This is, however, extremely unlikely as I have zero desire to do this. Although I never wanted to do a Masters either and I’m currently LOVING IT. Perhaps I should start saying that I really don’t want to be director of the Whitworth Art Gallery. It would be the WORST. Gosh, I really hope that never happens. Particularly not in the next 365 days.

Three Weekends. Three Walks.

January 26th, 2016


Since the start of the 2016 I have managed to go on three consecutive Sunday walks. When I first moved to England I was determined to become one of those ‘outdoorsy people’ who makes rustling sounds when they walk thanks to their appropriate wet weather attire. It has taken me over two years to get anywhere near this dream and while I have been on various walks over this time, it hasn’t been until the most recent sales that I invested in a “wet weather jacket”. Amazing things! Not only do they keep you warm, they also STOP RAIN. This was particularly useful on

Walk #1

Some of my Yelp mates have decided that regular outdoor exercise is a good way to balance the regular indoor eating that we do. On the first Sunday in January, I headed north with Michael and Lucas (everyone else had dropped like flies as the weather forecast rapidly worsened) to Rivington Pike – a small(ish) hill near Bolton. We left early to avoid the rain and as we pulled into the car park to start the walk it began to sprinkle. It then proceeded to becoming increasingly wetter and windier the higher we climbed.

Rivington Pike

Walking up the hill.

It was all worth it – reaching the top to eat a piece of homemade carrot cake that I had brought along and pretending to be in the Matrix (while facing the wrong direction) in the wind on the top of the hill was great fun. We couldn’t see far as the rain and clouds were covering most of the countryside but hey – we made it. And we didn’t drown.

Plonkers

Posted by Lucas Smith on Sunday, 3 January 2016

Rivington Pike

My cake, Lucas’s hand.

We did get saturated EXCEPT as I removed my rainproof jacket I was delighted to discover that my inner layers were dry! Now all I need are some water proof trousers. I can’t wait to hear the rustle.

Our walk ended with a slightly snooty lunch at a local pub where I had soup that was served with two rocks that were apparently my ‘bread’.

Rivington Pike

Soup and rocks.

Walk #2

The following Sunday, Garden Boy took me to Entwistle reservoir for a good old stroll around the water. The sun was shining and it was a remarkably warm day – surely there’d be no water worries today! WRONG.

Entwistle reservoir

Entwistle Reservoir with giant, man eating bird.

Recent flooding in the Yorkshire region had resulted in the reservoir breaking its banks in a few sections and there were many puddles for us to get through. And by the time we had made our way around the reservoir we had climbed muddy banks and jumped fences in order to not drown. It was definitely wettest walk on a path around a reservoir that I have ever done and even Garden Boy was surprised by the amount of water. Turns out that my second hand walking boots are not so water proof if you walk ankle deep in a puddle.

This walk ended with lunch at another local pub called the Strawbury Duck. Despite the clear spelling mistake, the food was good, the beer was good and the service was great.

We then drove to nearby Summerseat where the recent floods had washed away a 200 year old pub that was sitting on a bridge over the river Irwell. Sad. We also managed to arrive at exactly the time that the Flying Scotsman train, zoomed through. It was only going to happen once. We were there. Awesome.

Summerseat

The Flying Scotsman above. Missing pub below.

Walk #3

The final walk was to Dovestones Reservoir with more Yelp folk. It had snowed the night before so some were nervous about the slippery road situation but we were keen to give it a go. Michael managed to keep the wheels on the road and we walked around the beautiful snow-covered fields and paths around the reservoir.

Dovestones Reservoir

Dovestones Reservoir

Dovestones reservoir

So pretty.

Having discovered my water + shoe = not so good, issue the week before, I had popped into town and bought myself some cheap wellington boots. BEST PURCHASE EVER. I am in love with my wellies even though they’re not stripy like I would ideally like. But they do say Dunlop which I like to believe is vintage cool.

Dunlop wellies

Looking cool.

My boots and I went stomping through snow, puddles and mud and not wet feet were had! On this walk I was warm AND dry. I am almost British!

Dovestones reservoir

Snow in them there hills

The pub this week was the best yet – we headed to a local pub in nearby Greenfield and waited over an hour for our hot Sunday lunches but it was so worth the wait! I had a fantastic beef suet pie with mushy peas (I weirdly like them now. I really am a POM.) and chips and gravy. So so good.

Suet pie

We’re fairly certain there was an entire cow inside that suet pie.

So as you can see, I am getting steadily closer to becoming a local. Soon I will rustle with the best of them.

And the rain keeps tumbling down…

December 30th, 2015

I spent three months sitting in an office with a man called Sustainability Steve who would regularly tell me that the world was going to end in the next 30 years and I think he might have a point. The world has been experiencing some strange weather recently that has caused a few problems for us unprepared humans. Sadly, over Christmas many people lost their homes and businesses through fires, floods and tornados and are having to pull their lives back together.

In England, steady rain over the Christmas period has brought extensive floods to the north of the country, and streets, houses and shops have found themselves underwater. It is terrifying to watch and I can’t even start to imagine how it must feel to have your house submerged in rising water.

debris manchester

Debris

The impact of the floods was even visible in central Manchester as the Irwell river broke its banks quite close to my old apartment. What was a pleasant paved boardwalk became a beach with piles of debris that had floated down stream stuck to railings, benches and posts.

Manchester

New Manchester beach

One of my favourite local pubs, the Mark Addy, was essentially washed away as it’s position down in the basin of the Irwell turned out not to be such a good idea. My brother and I had a pint at that pub two Christmases ago. It is so sad to see it destroyed.

The Mark Addy

The Mark Addy

Another storm (it’s name is Frank.) is currently hitting the north of the UK and I suspect there are a few anxious people hoping their homes don’t get flooded again. Not fun.

Medicine Cabinet (or when students are given a bunch of objects)

December 29th, 2015

On my first day at school, I was put into a group with four other students who would become my exhibition team members. We were given a box of items from the Museum of Medicine and Health at the University of Manchester and told to create a pop-up exhibition. This all seemed quite exciting and do-able until I realised that the five other groups of students also had boxes and were also creating pop-up exhibitions that had to then come together to form THE ULTIMATE EXHIBITION. Yikes.

The next 12 weeks involved a lot of confusion, laughter, tears, horror, worry, frowning, and general “how the hell are we going to do this?”. Each group had objects somehow related to health and medicine – my group had medical art while others had surgical implements, items from a doctor’s bag or ‘alternative medicine’ devices. Somehow each group had to develop an exhibition that told the stories of their objects while also combining all of the exhibitions together to form one overall display. We were due to exhibit on 11 December at a building at Chetham’s School of Music. After a change of date and location, we were allowed to install on 12 December at a different building at Chetham’s Library, 1.5 hours before the exhibition opened.

exhibition

My group’s final exhibition

It was a close call but somehow, through what I can only describe as a ‘Christmas miracle’, we managed to install our exhibition and be ready for our first visitors at the 11am opening time. A second Christmas miracle occurred when Pubert Gladstone was one of the first to come through the door. REMARKABLE yet wonderful.

I was overwhelmed by how successful the final event was. We had over 200 visitors throughout the day despite it being one of the wettest Saturdays in Manchester this winter and it being hidden in the depths of the beautiful Chetham’s Library. It was such a privilege to be allowed to hold an exhibition in such a beautiful old building. If you ever have the chance to visit the library, do. It is incredible.

Chetham's library

Chetham’s Library (before the rain)

I had so many friends and family members come to check out my work despite me suggesting it was a bad idea. It was incredible to have such support. Thanks folks – muchos appreciatos.

I got a little teary at the end of it all when my lecturer, Kostas, congratulated us on having such a successful exhibition and it really was – we had all worked our butts off and somehow managed to create something that none of us believed was actually possible. We bonded as a class group and came away feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

But thank god it’s over. I never want to organise an exhibition with 35 other people without defined roles ever again. The end.

medicine cabinet

Final results of our interactive activity

The Christmas that was

December 29th, 2015

A friend just asked me what my New Year resolutions are and I told him that I didn’t have any. I think this might be a slight lie. I always set resolutions, well aware that I won’t stick to them. But I need something to work towards and challenge myself with. I’m not entirely sure what they are yet (although reducing my sugar intake from its current excessive heights is definitely up there) but I know I want to return to writing more on my blog. I have been neglecting it lately and now that I have two large essays to write I find myself drawn back to the safety of my own personal writing. So much easier than scary academia.

December has been a crazy month – I spent a lot of it laughing/crying hysterically and pulling on my hair whenever someone asked me how I was. A lot of people had to put up with a manic Jess as I went a little bit nuts working on a group exhibition for uni. Thirty five people attempting to organise one exhibition does not make for relaxed times but the end result was surprisingly great. I will write about this in a separate post a little later.

exhibition

Proof that I am learning stuff.

I also had a written group assignment to put together, plus two other large essays looming. They’re still looming. Really. Need. To. Write. Them.

Plus paid writing work has been flowing in steadily which has kept me fed and housed. It has been lovely that so many of my clients have been willing to stick with me as I country hopped over the last few months. Being able to juggle university and paid writing work has been life saving. I don’t think I could handle a ‘real job’ at the moment.

And then there was Christmas. Once again, Jess McScrooge came out and I managed to avoid the Christmas markets until the final day when I stocked up on my favourite dutch almond slice. I am exceptionally lucky to have some exceptionally welcoming family members in this country and was invited to spend Christmas with them. It was a small and relaxed gathering (well, relaxed for me because I didn’t have to do anything!) with plenty of delicious food and a mulled wine or two.

On Boxing Day we went for a windy walk up Bosley Cloud, somehow managing to avoid the rain. We ate fruit mince pies at the top, a feat that required two hands in order to stop the wind from steal our pastry crumbs.

mince pie at Bosley Cloud

Pie and a view.

I had another large family gathering yesterday at another cousin’s house and it has reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such a great family around. Sure, they may all be a bunch of oddballs, but who isn’t? Much laughter was had. They’re a good bunch.

Now New Years approaches. I’m quite excited to see what 2016 brings – I already know it will be challenging as a dissertation awaits. If anyone has any thoughts on what I should write about, please let me know because I currently have no idea. Thanks.

Oops.

December 4th, 2015

So another month has passed and I am now three months into My Life in Manchester Part II. Every day I think “I should write a blog post” and then I do the copious amounts of uni work and work-work instead. I have decided to take a little time out to write about little old me again. I miss writing my blog posts and I’m certain you miss reading them. Ha!

Uni is seriously great. Never before have I been so excited about the fact that I have to write a 6000 word essay. It would appear that studying something that you actually love is really rewarding and inspiring – even if it does involve group work. My poor group members have had to deal with “grumpy old Jess” as their team leader and have had to learn what my frowning face means. Next Saturday, however, the class pop-up exhibition that we have been working on for the last semester is going to happen. I’m terrified – there is huge potential it is going to be dreadful. However, I am lowering my expectations so that I will be pleasantly surprised, and anyone who is planning on visiting the exhibition should do the same.

rain

Rainy day blues

Winter has been trying to arrive over the last couple of week. It has been raining a lot which doesn’t do much for moral – lucky the Christmas markets are on! Not. I have managed to escape them this year as I no longer live in the centre of town. Saying that, I did manage to find some festive cheer the other Saturday and I bought myself a hot, giant stroopwafel. It made me love Christmas just a little bit.

I really shouldn’t leave this blog writing for so long because I have lots of things to talk about but my inner professional writing nerd knows that no one really wants to read long blog posts. So I’m going to go now. I promise to write again soon.

Two-month-iversary

November 4th, 2015

Today I have been back in Manchester for two months which currently seems like the longest two months in the history of time. So much has happened in those 60-something days that it feels like I have really been here for at least a year.

Things are settling down nicely now – I have steady work, uni is really great, I’ve been going out lots and continuing to have many adventures. Fun times!

University of Manchester

Blue skies at the University of Manchester

Last night my housemate, Alice, and I went to the Royal Exchange to see the latest show, Pomona. It is a dark and gritty tale about an underworld that exists beneath Manchester and an abandoned plot of land called Pomona. This area actually exists and I used to run past it when I went along the canal towpath, and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if organ harvesting really was happening underneath there. Anyway, it was a great night of theatre and if you like swear words, sexual references and a bit of blood and gore then this is the show for you!

On the weekend I went for a walk in Delamere Forest in Cheshire with Garden Boy (Jon) to make the most of the autumn colours and to forage for mushrooms. The trees are incredible at the moment although some recent rain has meant the footpaths are now covered in very soggy leaves that are making their way through the soles of my boots (because, of course, yet another pair of my shoes now have holes in the bottom of them. Bah.) It was nice to get out of the city and wander through some woods, although I did keep pointing out to Jon that this supposed “escape from the city” did include seeing lots of other people and hearing the motorway. We also didn’t find any mushrooms which I entirely blame Jon for. Calls himself a Garden Boy…

Delamere forest

All the pretty leaves.

And in other news, I have signed up for the Manchester Marathon in April next year. Oops.

Happy Pumpkinween!

October 31st, 2015

If there is a vegetable in this world that I truly love, it is the humble pumpkin. So orange, so misshapen, so delicious with cheese. So despite my passionate dislike for all over-Americanised holidays, I do enjoy the increased number of pumpkins in supermarkets at the moment thanks to Halloween.

Last night, my housemate, Alice, and I got into the pumpkin carving spirit and made ourselves some jack-o’-lanterns. We combined this with making delicious spiced pumpkin and chickpea soup, using our little jacks’ innards. After long days at work, the soup was our main focus, but after eating, watching some First Dates and fuelled on chocolate, we got our knives out.

Alice went for delicate and detailed while I took out all pent up frustrations and used the hacking approach. This was my first ever pumpkin carving experience and it was surprisingly easy to do. The end results have turned out well and I am very pleased with Herman, the Spooktacular Pumpkin. He may look scary but on the inside he’s just a softie.

Halloween pumpkins

WooOOOOooooOOOooOo!