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!

Inspired

October 25th, 2015

Last week, poet Lemn Sissay was inducted as Chancellor of the University of Manchester. He has become a hot topic (appearing on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs means you’re really made it in the world) as word gets about town about how inspirational this guy really is.

Adopted out as a baby and raised by a family in Bolton who later disowned him, he has had a rough life and yet brings a refreshingly positive and pragmatic outlook to life. Through his poetry and his work, he pushes the ideas of equality and belonging.

On Friday night, I went with my cousin, Les and housemate, Alice to see him perform as part of the Rochdale Literature Festival. I fell in love with him (how could you not with a smile like that) and his ideas, beliefs and his words. I don’t normally go for poetry, but the passion with which he spoke resonated with the entire audience. It was sad, beautiful and uplifting all at the same time.

I recommend listening to his inauguration speech which I think I will bookmark to listen to whenever I am doubting my decision to do this Masters degree.

Also check out his poem Inspire and Be Inspired. 

Ten things that have happened since my last post

October 21st, 2015

Life, hey? Crazy thing. Perhaps it has something to do with the arrival of Marty McFly from the past tomorrow. Or maybe it is just that time flies when you’re having fun or are just really, really busy. Anyway, quick catch up in dot point form. I’ve chosen to do the ‘ten things’ list as I recently had some work published on BuzzFeed (although posted under my client’s name) which truly brought home the fact that I am one of those people who fills the internet with rubbish. I’m sorry. But I’m about to do it again.

  1. I went to Oxford with uni and visited the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Ashmolean. Two incredible museums; two very different spaces. Pitt Rivers was my favourite – an intense, ‘here is everything you could ever possibly imagine shoved into one space’ kind of a place. A feast for the eyes.
  2. I went to Liverpool with uni and visited the Worlds museum. Another fantastic experience – this time we got to go behind the scenes and look at the process of setting up an exhibition. My favourite part was seeing the workshops for the mount makers and set builders. I wanted to live there forever.
  3. I went to my first ParkRun. Every Saturday at 9am in parks across the world, thousands of people run 5 kilometres. I went to the run at Platt Fields Park and ran with about 250 people. I was the 21st girl which I was happy with.
  4. I am in the midst of organising a pop-up exhibition with uni. We have been put into groups and have been given objects from the Museum of Medicine and Health, which is located within the university. We have to create a pop up exhibition with these objects and it will be displayed at Chethams school of music in December. It’s a slightly onerous and scary task considering we have no equipment and limited budget but hey… how bad could it be?
  5. I LOVE MY DEGREE.
  6. It hasn’t rained for two whole weeks.
  7. I’ve had some family time with my Aunty Kaye visiting from Australia. That involved a crazy-cousin-catchup which is always entertaining.
  8. I have been working in Central Library again and last week it was a Classroom/library buddy reunion session as four of us happened to cross paths in the reading room. It was one of the greatest moments of my week, seeing my work friends again and feeling that sense of camaraderie and nerdishness. Oh so squishy!
  9. I got a new mattress! This might not sound like news worth writing about, but try lying on a pile of springs for a month and see how you feel when someone says, “Yes, you can have a new bed and mattress.” Glorious!
  10. I have been watching an unusually large amount of rugby and gaining an unusually large amount of pleasure from doing so. Mr Pubert, as he will now officially be called, and I went to watch the Rugby League final at Old Trafford again. Last year’s match was highly entertaining thanks to our Wigan supporting neighbours, and Wigan were in the final once again. However, sadly Leeds were the better team this year and the crowd was far less entertaining. We did then go and have delicious korean food afterwards so that added a win to the evening.

So that’s my life for the last 20 or so days in 10 dot points. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. Now I’m off to bed.