Dream Weaver

August 2nd, 2016

Over the last 8 or so years I have started to dream less. When I do dream, I very rarely remember them in the morning. However, the circumstances all line up and I do dream and I do remember the basic plot line, they usually revolve around a desperate need for a toilet or missing a plane. Dream sequence #1 is fairly self explanatory, however a recent dream involving me missing a flight to Spain with my cousins Sophie and Marieke resulted in me turning to Google to gather some insight. I do not currently have real-life plans to go to Spain with those two anytime soon, so what could this all mean? What was my brain trying to tell me?

Obviously typing “What do dreams about missing flights mean?” was going to deliver the most reliable results, and PsychicLibrary.com delivered. Apparently dreams that include missing or being late for something is your brain trying to process having too much to deal with. If it involves missing flights/busses/trains it implies that you are overworked and have anxieties about deadlines. The description was rounded off with the positive note that my brain believes that no matter how hard I work, there will never be enough time to get everything done. Great!

So it doesn’t take a genius or a dream interpretation specialist to work out that this is my brain dealing with my dissertation deadline, but last night I had ANOTHER dream about missing a flight and this time it was to Australia. My now fully-conscious self is finding it highly amusing that my dream self was disappointed about missing the plane but was more concerned about the fact that is was an EXPENSIVE flight. Basically, if I stuff up my dissertation, I am wasting a truck load of money.

Cheers, brain. I am well aware. Now if you can please return to focusing on having a decent night’s sleep so that I have the energy to write my dissertation, that would be swell.

A Taste of Manchester

July 31st, 2016

I realised I haven’t written about food in so long and you may have all started to worry about my health. FEAR NOT! I am continuing to consume large amounts of delicious food and drink within a slightly smaller budget than previous years.

While France brought me pastries and cheese, England has delivered real ale and is clearly attempting to turn me into red nosed alcoholic. The red nose is a given, but don’t worry Mum, my lightweight alcohol tolerance means I give up and go home hours before the rest of my friends.

The arrival of craft beer makers in Manchester means that most weekends there is either a brew tap or a food festival (with beer) to attend, usually located in a railway arch on the outskirts of the city centre. These have become one of my favourite things to do in Manchester – spending an afternoon with my foodie-friends eating local food, sampling local beer and having a good old time.

Yesterday the weekend’s festival was held in the People’s History Museum. It was all of my favourite things in one place – beer, cheese, friends and interpretation panels! It was held by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale organisation) and I am now trying even harder to grow a beard so that I can become a member. You don’t technically need a beard to join – it just seems more appropriate.

It is great to be able to try different types, strengths, and flavours of beers to learn what you do and do not like to drink. It reminds me of going to the Salon du Vin in France and being able to sample wine at over 150 wine stalls, only this isn’t quite as free and you don’t have to pretend to understand what the word ‘tannins’ means.

Beer + cheese!

Beer + cheese!

Oh… Hello Mid-June.

June 16th, 2016

It would appear that I have entered some sort of teleport and two months have somehow completely disappeared. So much has been happening that writing a little blog post hasn’t seemed like a good priority. I have missed it – writing for my own pleasure is something I really love. However I spend so much of my life in front of my laptop that when I have to choose between writing a blog post or going for a walk outside, nature and reality usually win.

Anyway, a quick update on one single aspect of my life – University! I am almost done (how I do not know) and only have a 3000 word report to submit by Friday. Then it is dissertation time and I am weirdly looking forward to it. Perhaps that’s because I really haven’t started and am therefore not completely sick of the term ‘digital engagement’. I’ll hate it by September. But for now I am excited.

Today part of my assessment for my university placement with the Manchester Histories Festival went up on the Cultural Practices website. If you’re interested to hear about how I have spent my last 5 months clenching my teeth while attempting to launch a digital game, please feel free to read it. If not, I am hereby promising to start writing more. I think I said this last time… I mean it for real now. Fo-realz.

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.


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.


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!


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!


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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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