Archive for October, 2013

Happy Needles

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Who would have thought that sticking sharp things into your skin could actually make you feel GOOD as opposed to riddled with pain or wishing to faint? I’m not talking syringes here and there are not hallucinogenic drugs involved – just incense, pressure points and teeny, tiny needles that solve all of your woes.

For anyone who cares, I have had stomach issues of various degrees for over 10 years now (when I realised how long it has been I almost fell off my chair) and have recently been feeling nauseous at around 5pm every day. I was sick of feeling sick (ha) and had tried doctors, naturopaths and peppermint tea but nothing helped. So one day, while idly walking through the Northern Quarter I went into The Health Store (a health food and vegetarian store) and enquired about their acupuncturist. The lady in the shop advocated his skills with such impressive salesmanship that I had to make an appointment.

Now, I hate needles. I am one of those people who faints during blood tests and I go all squeamish when the piecing of skin is discussed or performed. It’s just gross. So I felt a wee-bit nervous about allowing someone to stick large numbers of needles into my body. Chris, the acupuncturist, assured me I would be fine and I was quite surprised at how little you feel the needles. Those people who say “Oh you can’t feel the needles at all!” aren’t lying (much). During my first session with Chris, he put needles into my back. After the first needle I felt all brave and proud of my achievements and he placed a second and third needle in. On the fourth, I felt my body start to heat up and my head went into that heavy floppiness that I now recognise as “IT IS TIME TO LIE DOWN, JESS!” I didn’t completely faint – it was just a close call. After Chris had fanned me down and stuck a few more needles in me while I was lying down, I was back to my brave-self.

My second and third adventures to the acupuncturist have resulted in no fainting attacks and an amazing and surprising result. While this blog post may have seemed like an attempt to gain sympathy, it is actually a huge thumbs up to acupuncture and all its wonders. How on earth sticking needles into my wrists, calves and back have resulted in me not feeling nauseous anymore, I have no idea. But I don’t care – it has and I feel so much better than I have in months. I am adding acupuncture to my list of “Things Everyone Should Have” along with personal psychologist, a friend who is a hairdresser, and endless supplies of dark chocolate digestives. Jess’s tips to a perfect life. So go for it, friends. Acupuncture for all!

Rowter vs Rooter

Monday, October 28th, 2013

My new job as an IT guru has placed me in a difficult position with my co-workers. As the only Australian on the IT help desk team, I am being significantly teased for my pronunciation of the word “Router”. Every day we received numerous phone calls from users in funeral care parlours who have lost their internet connections or are having trouble with their ADSL phone lines. We are often asking them to reboot their routers or check that they have actually been plugged in in the first place. This is all fine, except for the fact that I am having to have discussions (arguments) with both colleagues and the people I am helping on the phone as to whether the word is pronounced rOW-ter or rOOt-er.

Generally speaking, Australians use British spelling and pronunciation for words, however it seems we have picked up the American twang for this piece of technology. I am finding myself wanting to join sides with my British colleagues and am starting to pronounce it as they do. I certainly don’t say “I am taking the scenic route” with an American ‘ow’, so why do we use it for this? So I have decided that I am willing to accept defeat but I plan on doing it as quietly as possible. There’s no need for my co-workers to feel that they have beaten me. I won’t, however, start pronouncing ‘castle’ like a northerner. Ca-ssle instead of Car-sle. That’s just weird.

A Series of Unexpected Events

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Sometimes, just when you think things have settled down and the world is becoming normal again, life throws moments of “What?!” at you. Unexplainable happenings. Unbelievable occurrences. General mind-blowingly WEIRD stuff that makes you stop what you’re doing, shake your head and laugh out loud at the sheer absurdity of it all. The past month has been significantly more banal than my first few months of living in Manchester. Things have become serious, I’ve spent more time sitting in front of my computer watching movie re-runs in my pyjamas and I have a job. Boring. But then last night happened.

My initial plan was to meet my friend Eli and some co-workers at the Manchester Art Gallery. Last night was the Grayson Perry exhibition opening and Eli, who works at the gallery, had acquired tickets for us to go. Throughout the two hours of the opening, a random selection of people formed our group – friends of friends and the like. We made the most of the free wine, chatted and analysed Grayson’s amazing tapestries, trying to decide whether or not the lamp shades depicted in the kitchen scene were from IKEA or not. There must be something about the Art Gallery as I have made many friends within its walls. I originally met Eli there and we have since become good friends. Last night I made friends with a Scottish lass who screamed with delight when she discovered I had sent a ‘wee text’ to her mobile.

We all went for a drink and some food at a local pub and, after a fun evening of chatting, I decided to head home at about 10.30pm. I walked outside with two of my work colleagues and stood outside as they smoked cigarettes. While they inhaled toxic fumes, a guy walking past the pub stopped and asked to borrow a lighter. His Australian accent was picked up by the shrewd ears of my colleagues and we started chatting, discovering he was South Australian, now based in London, was visiting Manchester for a week and knew no one. Were we interested in going for a drink? Sure. One must look after one’s own kind.

So two Australians, an Irish/Jamaican and a Chinese guy, headed into the Northern Quarter for a quick drink. Where should we go? How about Terrace? Agreed. Arriving at Terrace Bar we discovered the place was heaving – music was pumping, people were drinking and the dance floor was going off. Highly unusual for a Wednesday night but hey – why not?

Our quick drink turned into two hours of dancing, laughing, singing and general craziness. It turns out we had accidentally walked into Terrace’s first birthday celebrations. At 12.30am I called it to a close, remembering that Wednesdays are school nights and that according to School Night Rules 101, I really I should have been in bed hours ago. But I had had such an unexpectedly fun evening out, made new friends and bonded with my new colleagues. I now know that two guys in my team can dance far better than me – an invaluable piece of information to know in the workplace.

I really enjoy life’s ‘What?!’ moments. They draw me out of deepening holes of self-pity and make me see how unexpected life can be. You never know what is going to happen or who you are going to meet when you step out of the front door of that pub and choose to take the risk and say yes. I don’t think my dreams would have been even half as entertaining as the events that occurred last night. I’m glad I chose life over sleep, although that may be the strong coffee that I am currently surviving on speaking.

A Potentially Stupid Idea

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

I am having a ‘stuck’ moment today where I am doubting my ridiculous insistence at trying to be a writer. I am thinking it would be best for me to give up, study accounting and get a real job. However, whenever I have these days I always concoct a stupid plan to distract myself from the reality of my life, such as setting myself 108 challenges to achieve in 108 days or running a marathon. Today’s idea – sign up for NaNoWriMo (again.)

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month – a month long period where people across the world set themselves the goal of writing 50,000 words. I successfully completed it while living in Paris in 2011, however have always felt that I cheated slightly by writing a memoir, rather than a fictional novel. Last year I contemplated trying it again but failed as fiction is just not my thing. However, maybe these additional 12 months have developed some sort of creative impulse in me and I will now be able to do it. I highly doubt it. But maybe.

I feel that I will need some sort of plan for the story – otherwise I will start writing and become instantly bored and annoyed with my characters and story line. So what will I write about? If I can come up with a decent story idea, or at least an interesting main character and location, I will agree to participate in NaNoWriMo. Of course, I only have 8 days to come up with this as it starts on 1 November. So… any ideas?

Sitting High in Manchester

Monday, October 21st, 2013

In the seven and a half months that I have been living in Manchester, I have seen a lot of new cafes, restaurants and bars pop up around the city. While the UK is still going through economic difficulties, it seems the Brits will always have enough spare cash to go out for a drink or two. As a lover of food and drink, this all good with me and I have taken it upon myself to try as many of these new venues as possible. I am proud of my achievements to eat at as many of the BoBo-cool bistros of Paris and have brought this determination with me across the channel.

Two weeks ago, I met up with some of the girls that I worked with at Artisan. Our night’s plans included heading to one of Manchester’s latest additions that has some very high expectations weighing down on its shoulders. Set up by Living Ventures, the same company who owns Artisan and half of the restaurants in Manchester, Manchester House has been established as being THE RESTAURANT in Manchester that will earn a Michelin Star. High expectations mean high prices and while I would love to be able try the 10 course tasting menu, the £95 price tag (an extra £70 for wine) means it is a little out of my budget. That said, if anyone wants to demonstrate how much they love me… I’ll book the table.

Manchester House is spread out over two floors of a tall office block in Spinningfields – level 2 is the Potentially-Michelin-Starred restaurant, while high up on the 12th storey is the bar. Sarah, Ceri and I felt a little underdressed and lacking in gold credit cards as we walked into the ground floor foyer and were greeted by a host. She didn’t seem to notice our lack o’ cash and we were shown into a lift and whisked up to the 12th floor. Here we were  greeted by another smartly dressed and very good looking host. The handy thing about working for a company that owns every bar in the city is that you get to know the staff, so we were instantly made to feel comfortable. We were taken on a tour of the bar which has 360 degree views of the city – very cool. The layout of the bar has pockets of seats, benches and outdoor seating areas. The layout was great but the white leather couches were already getting dirty and parts of the ceiling appeared to detaching themselves and the bar hadn’t even had its official opening yet.

We made our way to the bar and started perusing the cocktail menu. The most ‘budget friendly’ drinks were around £10 each but when you include the whole experience of drinking high above Manchester it didn’t seem so bad. The guys behind the bar were friendly and helpful but both were clearly ‘learning’. Luckily they were serving three girls who know what it is like to still be coming to grips with a new menu.

Flame thrower.

Flame thrower.

I would like to go back to Manchester House when there are a few more people in it. We went before the official opening party and on a Tuesday night so not many people even knew it existed. That said, it was nice to have the place almost to ourselves and to be able to pretend that we were rich high flyers who always spend that much on drinks.

A drink with a view.

A drink with a view.

One last thing I would like to mention/whinge about is that the glassware in Manchester House reminded me of my Nanna’s crystal glasses that she gets out when she has guests. Clunky, old fashioned and not very cool.

Thank Goodness That’s Over

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

On the 14 April of this year, I set myself 108 challenges. I never really completed all of them – in fact, I didn’t even think of enough challenges to reach the 108. However, one of the challenges that I did set myself was to read Anna Karenina. Over recent years I have been trying to read some of the ‘classics’ that get thrown into intellectual conversations and that I feel I should know about. Anna Karenina was one of those and the sheer size of the tome just added another impressive aspect to the challenge.  So one day in April, I started reading it.

THE BOOK.

THE BOOK.

At 1am this morning as I tried to read myself to sleep, I finished it. The sheer happiness of having finally read the last words of Tolstoy’s book almost made me jump out of bed and head out into Manchester to celebrate. I wish I could say that I was profoundly moved by the ending and that I feel like I have learnt from the literary expertise of the great Russian writer. But I would be lying. I thoroughly enjoyed the first third of the book – it was like a soap opera with characters having affairs, falling in and out of love and bitching about each other. But then it turned into a long story about Russian farming practices and aristocracy. New characters randomly appeared (or perhaps they had been mentioned before but their very similar names made them hard to distinguish) and the general flow of the book changed from being a little bit racy to just plain dull. I’m probably not supposed to say that about this book. I am supposed to say that it was profound and skilful and I wish I could write like that. But the one thing that I did learn from reading it was: Less is more.

I have a strangely vivid memory of watching an episode of Oprah during my university years and Anna Karenina was the book for that month’s Oprah’s BookClub. Oprah openly admitted that she hadn’t been able to finish it. Hence my determination to at least read the book to the last page. Oprah may be richer and more popular than me, but I read Anna Karenina to the end and she didn’t. WIN.

Spontaneous Sunshine, Sea Water and Sand Dunes on a Sunday

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I have been very behind with my blog updates. As per usual I could rattle off excuses but I won’t. Instead I pretend that I am completely up to date and talk about events of the past as if they just happened.

It seems like just yesterday that my ‘cousin,’ Caroline, and her three year-old son, Meryan, took me to the beach. Sure, it was two Sundays ago but that’s besides the point. The night before I had been drinking beer at a very un-German Oktoberfest in a large tent outside the town hall when Caroline messaged me to see if I happened to be free on the Sunday.  We decided to make plans in the morning.

On Sunday I woke to unseasonal blue skies and a light breeze and Caroline and I decided that we should risk the extremely likely chance that the weather would change by lunch time and go to the beach. Caroline, Meryan and I headed off in the car to Formby – a long stretch of sandy beach near Liverpool.

It could almost be Australia.

It could almost be Australia.

When we arrived and I smelt the sea air I felt this ridiculous rush of excitement that I now get every time I am near the sea. Having grown up with daily sea breezes and easy access to ocean water, I never realised how much my body needs to feel these sensations. I have now spent 2.5 years living in land-locked cities and each time I venture to the sea side I feel an instant kick of revitalisation. It is as if my body sucks in the salty fresh air and I wake up, grow and my hair becomes instantly blonder. I’m not sure who was more excited to be by the sea – myself or three year-old Meryan. I think we were on par.

Formby is known for its receding tides and and pre-historic footprints that can sometimes be found in the muddy shore. I didn’t get to see any footprints but we were lucky enough to have a remarkably sunny day. We had a picnic, sailed the seas on a log boat with Captain Meryan, and climbed up and down sand dunes. I collected an impressive amount of sand in my shoes and my underwear from sliding down sand dune hills on my rear-end (Meryan worked out how to do it and Caroline and I just followed along.)

Dunes. Glorious dunes.

Dunes. Glorious dunes.

Before driving back to Manchester we stopped at Crosby beach to briefly look at Antony Gormley’s permanent installation – Another Place. Statues are positioned down the beach, staring out to the horizon. The setting sun and increasingly blustery conditions made for a very impressive viewing of these statues. I want to come back and explore them further at a later date.

Another Place, Antony Gormley.

Another Place, Antony Gormley.

Have You Tried Turning it Off and On Again?

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Exciting times, kiddliewinks! It would appear that I have decided to make 2013 the year of doing jobs you’re supposed to do when you’re 16. I have spent the last four months working as a waitress and being paid minimum wage to carry heavy plates, be yelled at, and clean up after rich people’s children (and rich people, for that matter.) Four months was sufficient time for me to establish that I never, ever want to do that again. I enjoyed the company of my fellow food-slaves, the music was good to dance to and there were occasions where I actually had some nice chats with some very friendly customers. I was even told by a very drunk 50-something-year-old man that I was the best server he had ever met. I like to believe he really meant it. But finishing work at 2am after cleaning flecks of pizza dough out of the cracks in the tables is really not my thing and I will forever more praise every staff member of every restaurant I eat at. They work hard (well, most do) and get paid poorly. Tip them handsomely, my friends.

After searching high and low for alternative sources of income and realising that my accordion playing skills just aren’t good enough for me to become a professional busker on Market Street, I was offered the opportunity to take the job a friend of mine was leaving. A fellow Aussie, Eli, had been doing a part time office job for the Co-Operative (a bit like Woolworths but with a few more morals) but was having to leave in order to further her career at the Art Gallery. I met her for lunch on a rainy Manchester day, I was feeling depressed as I had just said goodbye to my brother at the airport and I was hungry. Oh so hungry. Anyway, after I had whinged incessantly about my great dislike for my serving job, Eli suggested I replace her. And within 48 hours, I had applied for her job, been offered it and resigned from Artisan. WOOHOO!

Last Saturday night was my final shift at Artisan (finishing at a record late time of 3am Sunday morning), and I have spent almost one week in the super-shiny office building of the Co-Op. I wish I could say that my new job is more glamorous than my last, but the truth is I am one of the IT crowd. Got a problem with your computer/printer/phone? Call me. I will log the call and if I can’t fix your problems then I’ll pass it on to someone who can. While this isn’t my dream vocation and I have to wear a stupid Bluetooth headset, it is part-time from 9am-1pm, giving me adequate time to do some writing in the afternoon and it pays significantly more than minimum wage. Also the people I work with are friendly computer geeks, which is one of my favourite brands of human.

I am currently completing two weeks of full-time training (I need to stop changing jobs as they all require two weeks of training) and am slowly understanding the various different programs, systems and codes for all things IT. I am seeing that I will need to draw upon every gram of patience that resides in my body as some callers appear to barely know what a computer is, let alone where to find the off switch.