Archive for March, 2013

Oh Goodness Gracious Me.

Friday, March 29th, 2013

I have become extremely aware in the past few days that in one week and two days I will be running in the Paris Marathon. I am completely willing to admit that I am really, really, really, really scared. Beyond scared really – I am terrified. I am not sure what of, exactly – perhaps my legs falling off or just not being able to run further than 10 kilometres. I know these are both not going to happen and I accidentally ran 10 kilometres the other morning by getting lost in Manchester, but my brain works in mysterious ways. I feel very under-prepared as moving countries, packing boxes, and getting gastro and then a cold have all meant that I haven’t been able to do as many long runs as I would have liked. But then I wonder if it really would have made any difference and I can quite genuinely say that I doubt it. I’ll either be able to do it or I won’t and I’ll try my best and see what happens. But if anyone is free on Sunday 7 April and feels like standing at various points along the route and cheering for me and telling me that I’m not dying and that my legs are still attached and that I really can make it to the end then I would really, really, really, REALLY appreciate it. Thank you kindly.

Oh and a little note for my sponsors who are paying for me to do this fantastic event – I currently don’t like you very much. Just kidding! I will just be a very, very happy girl when it is over. Then I might start training for the Manchester Marathon…


Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Yesterday I needed to release a bit of anxious tension and escape my apartment (aka. the place where everything is breaking. My washing machine is broken. My email was broken. My hot water system is leaking. My internet is non-existent and therefore broken. My ability to find work is broken.) So my first stop was the CornerHouse – a cool gallery/film/café/bookshop space which has been my ‘go-to’ on several desperate occasions. Here you can find relatively reliable cake – something that is extremely important when you are me. I looked at the digital film currently in the exhibition space and then had a cup of tea and a raspberry ‘friand’ at a table that was magically lit by the sun spasmodically. It wasn’t really a friand because if it was it would have been smaller and oval instead of round, but it was delicious and it made my life better through sugar.

After filling myself with sweetness, I went for a wander through Manchester and headed to the Manchester Buddhist Centre in the Northern Quarter. I had read about their drop-in meditation sessions on Tuesday nights and decided it would be a good way to get me into a more ‘zen’ state. I had contemplated attending meditation sessions before but had always come up with an excuse not to go. This excuse usually revolved around me not being enough of a hippy and not smelling like incense. But I am in a “must try new things” mode at the moment where I am forcing myself to do things I would normally avoid. I am hoping this will eventually lead to me making some friends. So I went. And it was brilliant.

When I first arrived it was like walking into a hippy zone with lots of beads and incense sticks and hemp material, but I soon realised that hippy-ish people are REALLY friendly and welcoming so I was instantly invited inside, spoken to and made to feel at home. Soon the waiting area filled with people for the drop-in class and I was amazed to see so many people of such different walks of life. Young, old, casual-clothed, business-dressed, hairy, clean cut. Everyone was there. The meditation room was packed and everyone seemed really relaxed and excited about the hour of meditation that we had ahead of us.

The teacher was a gentle and well spoken man who carefully explained what would happen and it was so easy to follow along. There were plenty of other beginners in the class as well as people who must be regulars. The session involved deep breathing exercises and positive thought and I left the class feeling lighter, happier and more positive about myself and life in general. I plan on going to these classes on a regular basis and hopefully becoming a much more well-rounded and zen person.

Wales for the Day

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

As part of my extensive social calendar thanks to my cousin Lesley, I was invited to go to Wales for the day to visit one of Les’s friends. I hadn’t quite realised how close I was to the Welsh border but after only 30 minutes in the car I couldn’t understand any of the street signs. Welsh is amazing! Any language that can string that many consonants together should be strongly encouraged.

Looking for chocolate in the Pethau melys aisle

Looking for chocolate in the Pethau melys aisle

Thanks to Les’s friend, I was taken on the scenic route through the Snowdonia mountains where there was indeed snow. The countryside was spectacular – snow covered mountains and forests and then rocky outcrops of grey and green and purple slate. I didn’t even know you could get purple slate, but now I do! My excitement for the word “sea” meant we went home via a coastal road and I was allowed out of the car to inhale salty air. Oh how my lungs sang with joy! And lambs. Did I mention the lambs? For this Paris-ified city-girl it was a massive country hit and I spent most of the journey staring out the window saying, “WOW! LOOK AT THAT!” I now really want to buy a car and just drive. Or live in a tiny town in Wales, learn to speak Welsh, work at the local pub and marry a local farmer boy. Yep. Good plan.

A llyn.

A llyn.

Mountains! Snow!

Mountains! Snow!

The Irish Sea

The Irish Sea

The White Cottage

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

One of the key reasons that influenced my decision to move to Manchester was that this is where my great-grandfather (my dad’s dad’s dad) was born and raised. In 1910, William left England and sailed to Australia where he fell in love with a lady, had plenty of babies and started the Australian Davies clan. It wasn’t until 2006 that my Australian family became aware of our English side and over the past few years we have been getting to know one another and researching our very extensive family history. William was one of nine children so it is a particularly large family tree.

Last year when my parents were in Europe, there was a large family gathering at one of my ‘cousin”s house (by ‘cousin’ I mean my great grandfather’s sister’s granddaughter.) With over 40 people it was overwhelming to meet all of these people who are genetically related to me. In some it was easy to see genetic similarities while others were less obvious. One of  the ‘cousins’ in my Dad’s generation is a clone of my grandfather. In some of the other cousins I could see my rounded facial features and red cheeks.

At this family reunion, one of the cousins brought along a painting of a white cottage that was apparently the house where my great grandfather was born and spent his early childhood. This cousin believed she knew the whereabouts of the actual cottage and so last week, a group of us went in search of the potential home of our ancestors.

The cottage, now named Rose Cottage, is in an area that we know our family was living in. The shape of the building is very similar to that in the painting and the country side surrounding it is certainly the same except with a few extra developments. We are hoping to contact building authorities and look at ownership records to see if they are listed as living in there. The cottage is a listed building so there should be some sort of information on its history somewhere.

The potential family home

The potential family home

The mystery of trying to discover where our family lived is fascinating and addictive – I would love to research more into our family history and see how they lived. I love the fact that I have returned to my great grandfather’s place of birth and am now living in the city that he left in order to establish a new life in Australia.

Administrative Fun

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Moving to a new city/country/apartment/life is a definitely challenge for one’s ability to comprehend and juggle various administrative tasks. Firstly you have to close, cancel or put on hold anything that you had in your original location, and then reopen new accounts in your new place of residence. The last few weeks for me have involved many moments of “What on earth is that?” and “I need a what before I can have this?” and “I don’t have one of those yet. It’s coming in the mail.”

Bank accounts, SIM cards, broadband, insurance numbers (which I didn’t know I needed until an Australian told me about them), council tax, council tax benefits, rental agreements etc. It is an endless list that is also quite cyclical, as in order to apply for one thing, you need the other. It would be very helpful if when you cross the border into England, the Customs officer handed you a piece of paper with a check list with all of the things you need to do after entering the country. Then some sort of time line showing you when to do what and in what order. I’d be willing to create this except I still don’t think I quite understand everything yet. I am waiting for the next administrative discovery.

My lack of internet and technology (I don’t have a printer) has meant that I have wandered the city in search of various offices in order to speak to people or pick up forms. It has meant that I have managed to see buildings that I wouldn’t normally have ventured into! Plus there’s the amazing wonder of actually speaking to friendly staff members. I am yet to find a grumpy Mancunian.

I Do Like Manchester. Really.

Monday, March 25th, 2013

I have had it brought to my slightly one-sided attention that my previous entry was very anti-Manchester, which I honestly didn’t mean for it to be. But I have had a “I’m so lonely” day today so my view on the world is somewhat negative. My sincere apologies to Manchester – I really do like you! I am going to make up for my previous rant with a TOP FIVE GREAT THINGS ABOUT MANCHESTER entry! Ready? Go!

  1. People are FRIENDLY here. It is remarkable – people smile, are polite, laugh, provide you with additional information when you don’t even ask etc. I am yet to feel like I am wasting someone’s time/generally annoying someone by asking them to do a job they are being paid for. Pure brilliance.
  2. I could finally quench my intense craving for fish and chips. A few months ago I smelt fish and chips in Paris which is impossible because they don’t have it. But since that moment I have wanted, desperately, to have deep fried fish with delicious fat chips. AND I NOW HAVE! Sadly it was served with mushy peas which are seriously, seriously disgusting and I love everything green.
  3. The buildings. There’s something about an ex-warehouse/factory building that has been turned into apartments or a pub that really excites me. The big brick facades, chimneys and large open interiors are fantastic. And I’m living in the heart of the industrial revolution! Plenty of mills and factories here.
  4. Pub food. Hooray for pies, roast lamb and sticky toffee pudding! People say that British food is bad, but they clearly have never had a good roast.
  5. Access to the great outdoors. In the past two weeks I have managed to spend a fair amount of time walking through the countryside. It is so close and accessible (when trains are running) and breathtakingly beautiful. The English countryside offers, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful scenes in the world.

And that, my friends, is why I am very pleased to be living here.

Accepting Differences

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

My move from Paris to Manchester has been a remarkably smooth process and I haven’t felt as overwhelmed as I expected. This largely due to the wonderful support I have received from my extended family members who have been looking after me and taking me to wonderful places. I think it is also because moving to England is a bit like moving back to Australia, only the buildings are older, the weather is colder and the people say strange, strange things like pronouncing ‘castle’ as “cAssle” instead of “cAAAARRRRstle”. Weird.

I am, however, having to come to terms with some significant differences between Manchester and Paris. While I miss Paris and my friends, I am not desperately wishing to return and am enjoying myself in Manchester. But there are a few key things that I am having to get used to.

Public Transport
It’s rubbish. I am now very aware at how well organised the public transport in Paris is. Here in Manchester, I have had many long waits standing in biting winds and snow waiting for a tram/bus/train that is delayed or apparently non-existant. Last night, for example, I had planned my evening so that I would prepare my dinner and then at 7.30pm catch a tram to Salford Quays to watch a group of people running and dancing around in costumes covered in LEDs. I was very keen to see the performance and it was only going to be on between 8-9pm. At 7.30pm I was at Deansgate tram stop waiting for two possible trams and as I froze to death in the siberian winds that are currently caressing Europe. Half an hour later, neither tram had arrived, despite them apparently coming every 12 minutes. I gave up and went home as I was completely numb, generally annoyed and wouldn’t have been able to see much of the performance if a tram had eventually arrived. This experience made waiting 4 minutes for the next train on the Paris Metro seem very insignificant. Considering these are the only trams that go to the area where the performance was, it wasn’t the best service.

Chain Restaurants
In the three weeks I have spent in Manchester, I have eaten at two chain restaurants and been informed they are good. I have been to a Pizza Express and a Tampopo (which describes itself as an “Asian restaurant”. Hmmm…) My food snobbery has reared its head as I can’t accept that a restaurant chain is a good eating option. Sure – it’s cheap, edible and it isn’t McDonalds – but the food is produced following detailed instructions and is in no way influenced by the person cooking it. Both meals were ‘ok’ but could have been prepared by anyone. The menus don’t change depending on seasons and there is no care, precision or passion in the food. It’s just something to eat. I am looking forward to trying some real restaurants with real chefs in the near future.

Meal Times
Following the food theme, I have also eaten dinner at 5.30pm twice. Sure, both times were because we were going to see a theatre performance, but if this was in Paris then we would have something to eat after the show at 10pm. Most restaurants in Manchester are filling up by 6.30pm and many have special ‘Early Bird’ specials if you eat before 7pm. This does remind me of being back in Perth but I had grown to love the long after-work event of an apero at 6.30pm followed by dinner around 8.30pm in Paris. I hope that summer time will slow things down in England but I doubt it will be the case.

I was overwhelmingly relieved to receive a REAL loaf of bread when my brother came to visit on Tuesday. There are no real bakeries, no real patisseries and finding decent baked goods is very, very hard. I miss my daily trip to the boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette. I also miss real cheese, although I am enjoying some good English cheddar. At least I have dark chocolate digestives. They make me a very happy girl.

Thankfully I still don’t understand half of what is being said around me so I can live in a bubble of blissful ignorance as people talk around me in strange accents and saying odd things. It is wonderful.


Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

On Saturday I officially moved in to my new apartment in Manchester. In the words of the great Darryl Kerrigan – location, location, location. While I may not have impressive electricity poles or an airport next door, I am in one of the ‘up and coming’ areas of Manchester and a five minute walk from the city centre. Behind my apartment are the canals of the Castlefield district and across the road is the Science and Industry Museum. I am contemplating going in to the museum every day and learning about a different wheel or plane or vacuum cleaner, just because I can. It’s free entry! But today there were large groups of screaming school children hanging around outside so I am yet to venture in. My brother is coming to visit tomorrow so I might send him in first to clear the way.

My new view

My new view

My new canal.

My new canal

I am enjoying being in the centre of it all again. I thoroughly enjoyed the suburban, green-tree life of Swinton, but I do enjoy being able to go for a walk and being overwhelmed with ‘stuff’. Sunday was St Patrick’s Day and the city was alive with plenty of green; giant novelty blow-up Guinness pints; and drunkenness. The Royal Exchange Theatre building was open-all-areas for the public so I could explore the inner workings of the theatre and escape the drunk locals.

My first night in Manchester was saved by my particularly friendly real estate agent who took pity on the loner and showed me some cool bars in the hip-n-cool Spinningfields area. We went to a cocktail bar called The Neighbourhood where the staff (all male) were wearing yellow braces to hold up their pants. I mean trousers. Trousers. Trousers. I could have been in one of cocktail bars in Paris except I felt extremely underdressed, under-make-up-ed, and generally not tarty enough. Or drunk enough. I have received an instant reminder of the Anglosaxon drinking habits – lots and loud. On my run this morning I found plenty of evidence of the weekend’s activities splashed all over the footpaths. While I’m not missing Paris’s constant waft of urine, Manchester isn’t all that much cleaner.

I have to wait until after Easter for my internet to be connected in my apartment so I am currently sitting in a cafe/bar/events venue called Gorilla using their internet for the price of a cup of tea and a flapjack. I love flapjacks. Not having the internet is a bit like falling down stairs and hitting your head against a wall at the bottom every time you remember that no, you can’t check your email. Or no, you can’t look that up. Or no, you can’t Skype your Mum and Dad and show them your new apartment. I am trying to remind myself that not having the pesky internet to distract me is a great reason to do lots of writing. So I have no excuses for not having my book completed by Easter. Yep. Definitely. Or I’ll just be very fat from lots of flapjacks.

Tea and flapjack

Tea and flapjack

Hello, Manchester.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Isn’t it remarkable how much can change in just a few days. This time last week I was in Paris, carrying large boxes to the Post Office and saying goodbye to my friends. I had a wonderful going away party on Wednesday night with so many of my friends coming to wish me bon voyage. It is moments like this that make me realise how lucky I am to be able to have so many friends in so many different parts of the world.

Now I am sitting in an almost-sunny room in my ‘cousin”s house in Swinton. Ahhh Swinton. Centre of the universe. Well, it is a neighbourhood/town within Greater Manchester and is therefore great. I surrounded the word cousin with inverted commas as my relationship with Lesley is quite complicated. Her grandmother was my great grandfather’s sister. Her great grandfather/mother were my great-great grandfather/mother. So you could say we’re close. We do share a love for Volkswagen Beetles so we are obviously related.

I arrived in Manchester last Thursday afternoon, having dragged, carried, lifted and shoved one large heavy suitcase, one small heavy suitcase, and one heavy backpack from my apartment in Paris to Gare du Nord, onto the Eurostar, then from St Pancras station in London to Euston Station, onto another train, and then through Manchester train station to Lesley’s car. We then had to drop the hood on Lesley’s convertible Beetle to get my bags onto the back seat. The transfer of my worldly possessions from France to England went relatively successfully and I am very pleased with my bags and would like to give a big tick of approval to Burton for my large suitcase and the Taiwanese manufacturing company that made the small 10 Euro case.

Leaving the Récollets.

Leaving the Récollets.

I only had to have one argument with a snooty-nosed woman on the train to Manchester who wasn’t impressed that I was rearranging the tiny bag rack on the Virgin train (Useless. Utterly useless.) and that I was therefore touching/moving her bag. She reminded me of a high school English or Economics teacher who has been doing her job for too long. Grumpy grumpy grumpy. Anyway, I made sure to be as polite as possible as loudly as possible and to point out the fact that her bag would be significantly safer if it wasn’t squashed underneath my very large suitcase. I’m reasonably certain that I had the rest of the train passengers on my side.

Since arriving I have organised a SIM card, opened a bank account and am in the process of signing a lease for an apartment in the city. Things are coming together very quickly, largely thanks to the superb organisational skills of Lesley. She is very good at reminding me to call real estate agents. And organising theatre tickets. In the next month I am already going to see two shows, plus a movie and my social calendar is full. Sure, I am mostly hanging out with people over the age of 60, but they’re seriously cool over-60-ers. I love it.

So this is my news so far. As I look out of the window the sunshine has disappeared and been replaced by rain. I have had three beautiful sunny days so far but now the dreary drizzle is returning. It wouldn’t be England if it didn’t rain.

Old building. New building.

Old building. New building.