Exciting times in the world of Zaum, me and all things Manchester – I am writing to you from my new office space! Extraordinarily uncomfortable faux-leather dining chairs, home-related distractions and general boredom while working in my apartment have encouraged me to seek new office territory. There are a lot of small, shared studio spaces around Manchester, most offering space to work at really low prices. I signed up to join a space called The Classroom – a white walled, school-desk furnished work space that is used by freelancers of various disciplines. For £24 a month, I can come in here and use the desks, printer, kitchen, and internet on any weekday from 9am to 6.30pm. I am yet to really meet anyone but I have only been here for half an hour. It’ll happen. I can smell great potential.
Something truly astonishing has happened today. After approximately seven months hidden in the dark cave of jeans and trousers (I live in England now so I am practising not saying ‘pants’), my legs have escaped and are being exposed to UV light. The forecast for today is 19 degrees and sunny, which is the British equivalent of mid-summer in Australia. While 19 degrees would normally have me in multiple layers and complaining about how freezing it is, my internal thermometer appears to have shifted since moving to Europe and I am currently thinking, “Gosh, it’s warm.” I am joining the inevitable onslaught of pale and pudgy English flesh that will be reflecting the sun’s rays in parks, terraced pubs and any sunny public space. Normally I would be shy of my ridiculously pale legs, but here I blend in nicely. Although I am contemplating joining the Orange folk with their splodgy boot-polish brown spray tans. Then all I need to do is draw on some fake eyebrows, peroxide my hair and wear some leopard-print lycra and I’ll look like a local.
It is 10.30am on a Bank Holiday and the city is currently dead as everyone recovers from their MAD Sunday night out on the town. As my Sunday night involved abstinence from alcohol, a chicken and roast vegetable salad, and the final of Master Chef, I was up for my usual morning run at 7.15am. Running on public holidays is the most enjoyable experience as NO ONE else is around. Today was particularly glorious as the sun was shining, there was no wind, the air was slightly crisp and the trees are currently in bloom with pink and white blossom. All I needed was for a deer to run along side me and I could have been Mary Poppins. But as I returned to the city and ran along the main drag of Deansgate, I ran past a series of pubs that had smashed glass and beer stains all over the pavement. The stench from stale beer was overwhelming and forced me to run faster in order to get away from it. I don’t think Mary Poppins had to deal with that.
Today I am planning a walk along the Manchester Canal to the Lowry centre where there is a food festival on. I am mostly going in order to complete one of my 108 challenges – to get as close to Paul Hollywood (a celebrity baker/chef with “piercing blue eyes”) as possible. He will be there signing books and as long as I don’t have to buy a book, I will attempt to get a photo with him. Right – time to go and work on my tan.
On Saturday afternoon I took the train through the glorious hills of the Peak District to Sheffield to see Brother Ben. I don’t think I will tire of this train ride – an hour of rolling hills, small English towns, sheep (so many lambs at the moment) and beautiful trees. On Saturday the sun was sort of shining so the sky was blue with big puffy white clouds. Quite spectacular.
On the Sunday I helped the Forge Bakehouse team sell bread at the Sheffield Antiques fair. Ben and I set up the stall with the wonderful help of Martha’s mum and her bread mobile (or Range Rover) and then two hours later started packing up. The bread disappeared in a flash as people stood umming and ahhing about which bread to choose, eventually deciding to take multiple loaves after I suggested slicing them up and popping them in the freezer for future convenience.
It was a fun weekend involving plenty of food and Ben falling asleep on couches after having two very early morning starts. The only down point was that I somehow missed my train back to Manchester by 30 seconds, meaning I had to buy another very expensive ticket to get home. Not happy, but as I am currently reading my horoscope on a daily basis for my 108in108 challenge, I discovered that it wasn’t my fault – it was the stars. Or the moon or whatever. The energies. Apparently that weekend was a BAD weekend to travel for business and I would experience hold ups and inconveniences. So there we go. It wasn’t just because I lost track of time and left home too late. Damn you, moon!
It appears I am becoming weaker and more emotionally responsive in my old age as I have now been brought to tears by two advertisements. Ads are making me blabber like a girl (ok, yes I am a girl but not a girly-girl), which is scary for me and good news for the marketing departments producing these things.
My first tear-jerking advertisement experience happened when I went to see a film at the Cornerhouse. Before the movie, one of the far-too-many ads was for the Volkswagen Polo where it follows the life of a girl from birth until she leaves home and watches her relationship with her father. The first time I saw it and started tearing up I was already feeling a little homesick and emotional so could accept my over reaction as the girl drove away from her house in her news Volkswagen and her father waved goodbye. But then a week later I went and saw another film, the same ad came on and more tears formed in my eyes. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! Even watching it now on YouTube makes me sad.
My Dad sent me a link to this second advertisement and as I sat and ate my lunch today and watched it, tears formed in my eyes once more. This ad for Dove is very well done and most likely speaks to many women (and some men too.) So instead of hiding the fact that advertisements are working on me and that I now want to buy a Polo and wear Dove moisturiser, I thought I’d share them with you all.
Every week at the Manchester Art Gallery there is an event called Thursday Late where the art gallery stays open until 9pm and there are activities, workshops, talks, tours, etc. This week the theme was “Walk the Line” and focused on printing and knitting and the role art and craft play in keeping humans happy and sane. This is a subject close to my heart, although my desire to get into craft has moved me away from sanity on occasion. But nothing will hold me away from FREE CRAFT!! So along I went.
I arrived at 5.30pm for Craft Bites – a short discussion session run by a member of the art gallery staff where visitors are encouraged to have their say about a piece of work within the gallery. At first I was the only person there, but soon another participant arrived and so the two of us went with the lovely events co-ordinator to look at and discuss dresses. We were eventually joined by some other people who heard our discussion and decided to join in. It was a fun, although slightly off-topic, discussion session that ended up being mostly a whinge about the lack of arts jobs in England. A positive spin was that I came away with a new friend, and she and I went and joined an etching session downstairs.
This was fantastic! We were given a piece of cardboard, one side of which was shiny silver, plus a sharp pencil. We were then told to draw a portrait of ourselves or someone we knew, creating an indent into the silver. We then applied a oil-based ink (although this was brilliant stuff as it also washed off with water and soap!) which we pushed deep into the grooves we had created, wiped off the excess ink and then placed our blocks into a press with a wet sheet of paper. The result was as follows:
Considering I started and completed this in around 15 minutes, I think it is fantastic and I am pleased to have been able to try an etching technique. It was much easier than I expected and I think that will some fiddling I could do more with it. I am currently trying to work out how I can recreate the bricks of Manchester. I am completely in love with the dark red bricks that have been used to build all of the industrial buildings. Perhaps etching is my answer… we shall wait and see.
Yesterday was World Book Night – an event coinciding with the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death where throughout the US, UK and Ireland people hand out free books to be read and shared. I was sitting at the café at the Cornerhouse yesterday afternoon, attempting to write, when two girls came up and asked if I would like a book. But of course! The book was Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road and I was instructed that I should read it and pass it on to someone else. There is a tracking code within the book so I can watch its movements.
It was a delightful surprise as I had heard murmurs of this event via various social media throughout the day but wasn’t really sure what it was. Being suddenly part of it was fantastic and I look forward to reading my book. I just have to get through Anna Karenina first.
Today is apparently St George’s Day in England. As I don’t really know what that means, I have conducted a quick search where I have discovered:
- St George is Patron Saint of England
- For awhile St George’s day was a day of feasting and national holiday until England joined with Scotland and that stopped
- You’re supposed to fly the St George’s flag and wear a red rose.
- Since Shakespeare died on this day, it is now National Book Day.
Ok that is the strangest explanation for a ‘day’ that I have ever read on one webpage but that’s what I found on www.stgeorgesday.com
Manchester celebrated early with a weekend of ‘activities’. This was mostly the installation of a large drinking tent and three carnival rides outside the Town Hall. Sunday morning there was also the St George’s Day parade, which I decided I should attend so that I could learn more about the important national event.
It was the worst parade that I have ever seen. Ever. I waited for over an hour in the cold (the sun from the day before had disappeared) to eventually witness some belly dancers, a few trucks filled with children wearing red and white and waving flags, and two stretched hummers that are clearly normally used for hen’s nights and with slightly inappropriate words written on the side, go past down the street. It lasted approximately six minutes and I didn’t see one dragon.
I left feeling a little bit confused about what St George’s Day is actually about and it would appear that most British people are too. Poor George and his dragon. Hopefully one day I will find out the true meaning of his celebration and I will hold my own parade in his honour.
During high school, I loathed reading Shakespeare. I didn’t understand it, there were long dramatic monologues that just annoyed me, and I was then forced to write essays that I generally failed. So as a result, my thoughts towards Will have never been particularly positive and I have avoided interacting with his work as much as possible. So imagine my current state of surprise that I have spent the last few days walking around talking to myself in ye-olde-Shakespearean. Yes, perhaps I am slowly going mad, or maybe I have experienced the momentous occasion in one’s life when suddenly Shakespeare makes sense.
While in Paris, I received an email from a Manchester-events-website, GoSeeThis, offering me discounted tickets to see an all-male production by the theatre group, Propeller, of Taming of the Shrew and/or The Twelfth Night at the Lowry Theatre. As a lover of bargains and discounts, I couldn’t look past it so bought tickets for myself and my cousin, Lesley, to see Taming of the Shrew.
It was wonderful – a contemporary version with music, singing, comedy, great costumes and very clever stage production. It was fast paced but moving – the main conflict of male/female roles was quite confronting for the audience and we were all made to feel quite uncomfortable about the concepts being portrayed. The actors were brilliant as they changed between roles and portrayed female characters with amazing skill.
Lesley and I enjoyed it so much that we decided to try and get tickets for the Twelfth Night the following evening. So Saturday we headed back to the Lowry to watch yet another wonderful production, again with a clever inclusion of song and music but a completely different feel to the piece we had seen the night before.
I came away from both of these shows with a sudden desire to read Shakespeare – that’s how good the productions were! I have become aware of the great stories in his works and that maybe I am missing out on some wonderful literature.
Just in case you wanted to see in detail the hideousness of the medal that I ran 42km for.
Ok, I’ve done a marathon. Tick. Now I need to publish a book. That is significantly more daunting than running 42 kilometres and so today I came up with a genius idea which is either stupid and will just die out or brilliant and will actually work. I am hoping for the latter.
I am going to think of 108 ‘challenges’ or ‘tasks’ that I need to complete over the next 108 days, one of which is “Finish writing my book.” So on 31 July, I will have a final draft that will have been sent to publishers for their perusal. The other challenges will be smaller (although one is to go on holiday to somewhere sunny which is hardly small) and I am still working on the list. Currently it includes learning Dutch, working with an artist in their studio and reading Anna Karenina. I will write about each challenge as I complete it on my new website, 108 in 108, that I quickly threw together today using WordPress templates. The design isn’t mine but I love the balloons! So much fun.
So please follow along, support me and push me. I really struggle with the lack of motivation to finish so would appreciate all kicking up the butt. Go find those steel-capped boots! I am one stubborn mule.