Archive for March, 2014

Magical, Mystical, Marvellous Food

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

I have great news, boys and girls. Last week my dedication to writing restaurant and bar reviews on Yelp was rewarded. I, Jessica Davies, have officially become a member of the Yelp Elite Team, making me one of Manchester’s most Important People. Ok, that last bit is an exaggeration but I now have a little “Elite ’14” badge on my Yelp profile and I get to feel special. Coinciding with this promotion in Yelp status, I was lucky enough to be invited to my second Yelp Elite Event. Last month’s japanese saké and food extravaganza continues to sit fondly in my memory, occasionally bringing back taste-bud-memory hits of wasabi and soy, and so I was a wee bit excited when I received my invitation to March’s Magical Mystery Tour. Where we would go and what we would eat was kept a big secret from us all. Nobody knew. Let the tour begin.

Meet at Apotheca at 6.30pm

This was our only clue as to what the night would entail. Apotheca is one of the Northern Quarter’s hip and cool cocktail bars and somewhere I had been wanting to try. I once danced the night away there on a make-shift dance floor that my friend and I created but I had never sampled their cocktails. The Yelp Elite Team had the downstairs bar area to ourselves where we were greeted by our always-cheery host, Jonny, and a mojito. After standing around and meeting and greeting fellow Elite members, we were then treated to a variety of pizzas from Dough, the adjoining pizzeria. I had eaten at Dough once previously and while I enjoyed the slightly adventurous toppings, the bases were a little disappointing. Why can’t anywhere in Manchester make a decent pizza base? Once again I found the toppings delicious (the lamb with spices and sultanas was particularly tasty) but the bases were thin, cracking and far too perfectly shaped. They collapsed in our hands and had soggy bottoms.

While we were eating, we were invited to get behind the bar and have a cocktail making session with the mixologists. We could choose our drink of choice from their great range of drinks and then make them ourselves with the guidance of experts. I chose to make a cocktail called Just Beet It which contained vodka, beetroot juice, balsamic vinegar liqueur and basil. After adding all of the ingredients and giving it a good old shake, I was then allowed to drink my concoction. Amazingly good! I think my inner mixologist is bursting to come out.

Just Beet It

Just Beet It

I had to drink it fairly quickly though as our next destination awaited and it was time to move on.

Venue #2 – Pie & Ale

I had managed to get my friend and office-buddy, Hannah, to be invited to the Elite event so we were both a little concerned when we found ourselves walking back to the office. Pie & Ale is located next door to the office space we rent and we often get to enjoy the enticing smells of baking pies. Thankfully this time we were actually going to get to eat the pies – sixteen of them, to be precise. We were guided upstairs to a lofted seating area where we met the manager of Pie & Ale who explained what our next food and drink experience was going to involve. The chefs had prepared sixteen different pies for us to stick our forks into and sample and we would have three different beers to wash them down with. I tried to sample as many of the pies as I could – rabbit, wild bore, chickpea and, one of the highlights, crocodile. They were all very tasty although I think they could refine their pastry – it is very doughy and a bit excessive. And this is coming from someone who loves pastry and believes more is more.

Crocodile pie

Crocodile pie

The beers we tried were the Golden Arrow, Yippee Pie Ale and the 10 Storey Malt Bomb – basically golden, pale and dark. All very delicious with the dark ale coming out as my favourite. But who doesn’t like liquid caramel?

Our tour didn’t stop here – oh no. Why only go to two venues when you could go to three? Time to move on.

Venue #3 – Bakerie

We didn’t have far to walk to get to our next location. Bakerie is located next door to Pie & Ale and owned by the same company. Despite these connections, Bakerie is a bit more ooh-la-la and focuses on its wine. And cheese. You can imagine the delighted faces of us already happy Yelpers when we discovered we had free access to the “Wine Jukebox” – a glass fronted box containing approximately 12 wine bottles. Inserted into each wine bottle was a plastic tube. Above each bottle was a button. Push the button and wine is sucked up the tube and into your glass, giving you a taster-sized serving to enjoy. Glorious. Paris and all that I learnt about wine flooded back to me as I made a strategic decision about which wines I would try. My choices ended up being two of three most expensive wines in the jukebox – an Argentinian Malbec and the French Bourgogne. They were both amazing and the sort of wine I will drink when I am a world famous author. They were made even better by the cheese platters placed in front of us. Blue, smoked, goat, soft and squeaky (halloumi) – the cheese and wine combo made Jess a very happy girl.

This was the end of our mystery food tour and we all sat around rubbing our bellies, unable to believe just how much we had consumed and how wonderful the experience had been. The Yelp Elite are a great bunch of food-loving people and it was a really fun night out. It is nice to meet people who appreciate good food as much as I do and a huge treat to be able to be invited to such a gluttonous event. Bring on April!

Library Lady

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

This weekend I intentionally went to TWO libraries. Not just one. Two. Nerd alert.

Library #1 – Manchester Central Library

Since moving to Manchester I have watched with great interest the redevelopment of the Manchester Central library. A large and commanding building situated behind the Town Hall, it has been surrounded by partitions and scaffolding and I have been eager to get inside and take a look. On Saturday it finally reopened and the public was able to visit the new and improved building. Being the eager book-beaver that I am, I was there with the rest of the nerds keen to see what sort of books I could get out on my library card. (Not that I have one yet. I signed up on Saturday.)

The building is circular and features a large dome in the centre. This is where the main reading room is located and is most definitely the high light of the building. The previous week, a friend had mentioned the whispering wall effect that he remembered being prevalent in this room when he used to go there to study. I was excited to see if this still existed or if the architects had ruined it with soundproofing. I believe it may have been reduced slightly, however as I stood in the middle of the room taking a photograph of the inside of the domed roof, I clearly heard the voice of a man who appeared to be standing right next to me and speaking directly into my ear. But there was no man! In fact, a large pillar in the centre of the room blocked my view of the person speaking as he was located directly across from me. It was fantastic! I spent about ten minutes walking around eaves dropping on conversations that were happening at the opposite end of the room from me. I plan on spending a lot of time here feeding my need to listen to other people’s conversations.

Inside the dome.

Inside the dome.

Family history plays a prominent role in the new development. There is a section dedicated to helping people research their family history and discovering more about Manchester. I plan on using these services to find out more about my own family history and trying to discover why exactly my great grandfather decided to move to Australia. Obviously he was just a wise man, but perhaps there’s more to the story.

I haven’t been a member of a library since I was a kid but wandering around the Central library on Saturday made me realise how useful it will be to me as a wandering traveller. Borrowing books from a library is a much cheaper and lighter way of reading books – I don’t need to pack them into boxes and send them on to my next destination! Yes, this is a bit of a blonde realisation and I’m sure many of you are currently shaking your heads at my ignorance. But it’s the truth. So there you go. So I joined the library on the weekend and hope to get a library card. Then I’ll be a real nerd.

Library #2 – Chetham’s Library

Located in the centre of Manchester next to the Football Museum is Chetham’s School of Music. This prestigious school is hidden quite mysteriously behind gates and a lone security guard and is difficult to infiltrate. However, the Manchester Histories Festival is currently happening throughout the city and a few buildings have been opened to the public. So I took the opportunity to go and visit Chetham’s library that I had seen photographs of and read about on various websites.

Please Ring.

Please Ring.

The school features beautiful old stone buildings that make it look like the set from Harry Potter. The library is located upstairs through a wooden doorway and you are instantly welcomed by dark wood shelves and a high half-timbered roof. It is just spectacular – you can’t help but say “WOW!” as you walk into the space. It oozes history and you can just sense the hundreds of brilliant scholars who have spent hours reading books there.

Beautiful books.

Beautiful books.

As part of the festival, there was a gentleman showcasing a wooden letter press and I stood and had a bit of a chat with him about the processes involved. We were then invited to watch a performance of ballads that had been written in Greater Manchester to spread news and stories about what had been happening in the local area. The girl performing the ballads was great and brought a spark to the ballads. I had previously read some of them as they hung on the walls of the Manchester Art Gallery but it was a completely different experience to listen to them being performed.

I was sad to leave Chetham’s library simply because it was such an enjoyable space to be in. If you get the chance to visit make sure you do.

Web Content Overload

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

For the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time looking for writing opportunities and exploring the big-bad-world of THE INTERNET. I have become somewhat horrified by the excessive nature of web content and the number of sites that exist purely for people to write “SEO articles” to increase user traffic to their websites. I realise that as a copywriter I should be joining this bandwagon and writing articles about how to avoid procrastination as a freelancer, why SEO is important, or perhaps how to “Smoke a can of tuna with toilet paper.” You know, important stuff. But I just can’t – it hurts too much and there are already enough people writing exactly the same things, quoting exactly the same people and raising exactly the same points. I wouldn’t be bringing anything new to the table.

My search for writing work has taken me down some dark and torturous paths, mostly involving websites advertising freelance writing jobs at ridiculously low prices. There are bidding wars for who will complete the jobs for the lowest price. Write twenty 500-word articles for £20 – at an hour per article, that’s £1 per hour. Who is actually willing to do that and why are they making it hard for all of us to make a decent living?

Perhaps I am lazy for not participating in this battle but I am not willing to accept that my industry and my own professional skills are worth so little. Copywriters are often the first to be taken out of a creative project when budgets are restricted because ‘everyone can write.’ Perhaps, but not everyone can write well. So I am continuing on my search for exciting, positive and creative projects where people are wanting to produce beautifully crafted work. I know there are other people who feel the same way – let’s create our own band wagon. Ours will have streamers and novelty horns.

A Girl, a Man and a Dog

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Tuesday 18 March 2014 – 7am

I am running along the River Irwell, wiping away watery tears as my eyes react to the cool morning breeze. Some music is pumping into my ears; it’s Underworld, I think, but I’m not sure. It takes me a while to wake up and become aware of my surroundings. Not that long ago I was comfortably dreaming in my bed. Then my alarm screamed at me to get up and get jogging.

I pass under the bridge next to the Campanile Hotel. Most mornings the cars of business people and budget-travellers are parked out the back, but today the car park is almost empty. Under the bridge arch a man is pacing slowly. He is wearing Adidas sneakers with very white soles. He stops and pretends to tie his shoe laces to let me pass. He’s here every morning with his hood up, avoiding my eye contact. I have never seen his face. I keep running.

As I round the next corner I spot a familiar face pounding towards me and my spirits lift. I have met this dalmatian and his owner before on the corner of Liverpool Road and Deansgate. His spotted fur is tired but his face shows he has lived the good life; sparkling eyes and a slobbery smile, he lifts his head and sneezes a ‘Good morning’ to me as we cross paths. “Would you like a dog?” says the man, a cheeky grin on his face as he recites the line he uses on every lady he passes. Like owner, like dog, he has a generous face and laughing eyes. “He’s lovely,” I say, “but I’m allergic to dogs.”

His eyes widen in dismay as he contemplates life without his friend, but then he smiles and says, “Well, he’s allergic to humans. He has come out in spots.” He laughs to himself as he walks on.

18 Miles is a Long Way

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Last weekend I discovered that 18 miles equates to 28.9 kilometres which concurrently equates to a really long way. I also discovered that 30 kilometres is even further and that your thigh muscles really, really hurt if you run that far. Prepare yourselves for a bit of bragging, my friends, because I am about to get on my pedestal of “Look at me” and declare that I RAN 30 KILOMETRES LAST WEEKEND!

I joined a group of 20 or so runners who are all planning on completing the Manchester marathon in four weeks’ time. We met at the sports store Up&Running and after signing up, doing some nervous stretching and asking each other what on earth we were doing this for, we headed off. The planned route had been split into two parts – a 10 miler which returned to the store where we could refuel before completing another 8 miles. At the start this seemed like a great idea as it would split the run into two manageable parts. It was two short runs instead of one stupidly long one. But then we started running.

It was a remarkably beautiful day in Manchester – the sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was weirdly hot. When it has been below seven degrees for the past six months and it suddenly reaches temperatures around 12, it’s as if you have just walked into desert and forgot to wear a hat. It’s remarkable how 12 degrees can feel like 35. And this sudden heat wave made it significantly more difficult to run long distances. We were sweating.

I managed to complete the first 10 mile run fairly easily, sticking close to a group of three guys who were setting a steady pace. It was good for the ego to be one of the runners in the front third of the pack. And I wasn’t dead yet. Excellent.

Stopping at the store was both good and bad. They had a toilet; that was good. We stopped running; that was bad. We had lost momentum and starting off again felt similar to stabbing multiple forks into my legs. Luckily my new running buddies were very supportive and stuck with me. I really needed it when we were two kilometres into the run and discovered that the first half of the run was predominantly up a hill. The second half was then back down aforementioned hill. Having already run 10 miles, when faced with an endless upwards slog, your legs are not happy chappies.

It hurt and at one point I felt all of the sugar rush out of my body and I resulted to walking. But thoughts of eventually being able to go back down hill and the support and encouragement of my fellow runners, I made it to the turn around point and could head back for home. Unfortunately the homewards journey wasn’t a walk in the park as running downhill really hurts tired muscles. And basically I just wanted to stop running. But I continued on and made it back to the store with a miraculous time of under three hours. I amazed myself with my time and am now quite pumped to see what time I can get for the marathon. But I just need my thighs to stop hurting. It didn’t help that I moved apartment the following day.

Birds in the Mists of Time

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Manchester has been clouded in thick fog for the past two days making my morning runs quite interesting. Yesterday I ran along the Manchester Ship Canal to Salford Quays and couldn’t see beyond 50 metres ahead of me. It was fantastic – the heavy fog muffled the sound of distant traffic and as I stopped to stretch out my very sore leg muscles, it was just me and tiny sparrows who were darting about busily preparing for spring.

Fog seems to bring out cormorants. On my return journey, I spotted three – two perched up high on the tops of lamp posts, the third standing proudly by the side of the canal. They are such mysterious birds. If they were human, I think they would been tall, lanky men with moustaches, wearing grey trench coats and standing off to the side of the room before disappearing without anyone noticing. Cormorants have a way of looking at you that makes you aware you have been seen yet you feel like you are being purposefully ignored. They are not regular visitors to the canal – they just appear when it suits them and blend into their surroundings so it is often not until you are standing next to them that you become aware of their presence.

It was like a scene from Swan Lake on Ice that morning – the canal was flat and glossy with flocks of white swans gliding noiselessly through the water. Every now and then one would lean its head into the water to hunt for food, sticking its rear into the air to reach the delicious delights down below the surface.

However, the highlight of my morning’s birdwatching was the arrival of a flock of Canada Geese, flying through the air in a V-formation. This sight brought flashbacks of two great 90s films that were highly influential to my childhood. Obviously there was the ice hockey film phenomenon The Mighty Ducks with their game winning tactic of the Flying-V. And I will openly admit to seeing the geese, laughing to myself (and anyone who was listening behind the bushes) and saying “Fly away home!” Ahhh… so many fond memories of renting that heart-warming film from the video store during summer holidays and watch Anna Paquin show her adopted geese how to migrate. Cinematic brilliance.

Weekend Plans

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

It is Friday afternoon. I haven’t achieved anything of any economic worth since I walked into the office six hours ago. I have written a meandering, fruitless piece about ‘Home’ but it isn’t what I want it to be and it severely lacks a conclusion. I went for a walk in the sunshine; that was nice. And I found out a guy I share my office with worked (and danced) with Alison Goldfrapp. Very cool. But that’s about it really. Not the most productive day. Having said that, I don’t think Fridays at work are ever productive. When I worked at Curtin, my co-workers and I would bring out the wine and cheese at 4pm having had an extended lunch break and a lot of general chit-chat throughout the day. At the Co-Op, no one would call and ask for IT support after 2pm on a Friday. So really, I have achieved a lot today. I feel better now.

The weekend is almost upon us which should bring joy to my heart and a spring to my step but this weekend isn’t shaping up to be a great one. I have two main tasks to complete in those 48 hours, neither of which spark much excitement or happiness.

Task #1. Pack everything I own into boxes in preparation to move apartment. Woo. I am trying to lessen the pain by reminding myself that the last time I moved it was much worse. Last time it was from Paris to Manchester and I had to send everything by post plus cart two suitcases and a backpack to Gare du Nord, onto a train to London, then walk to Euston Station, then get onto another train to Manchester, before wedging everything onto the back seat of my cousin’s VW Beetle and carrying it all up a flight of stairs to her spare room. Now that was FUN. This time I am moving two blocks away and my cousin, Caroline, is providing me with the services of herself and her car. And there are lifts.

But who likes packing? I have put a few things in boxes but every evening this week I have returned home with good intentions of packing EVERYTHING but then convinced myself that I may need to use each and every item that I own sometime between now and Monday and if I pack then I will just need to get it back out of a box. So it has come down to this weekend where I will have to take a no-excuses attitude and just get it done. I am gaining some enjoyment from the fact that I am packing my things into boxes branded with Salt ‘n’ Vinegar, Char-Grill Steak, and Sweet Chilli flavoured crisp packets. I asked my local Sainsburys if I could have some boxes and the manager left a note for the unpackers to ‘leave 4-5 crisp boxes for a lady named Jess.’ I’m not sure why crisp boxes are the best for apartment relocations but they are working out well.

Task #2. Run 18 miles. The time has arrived for me to do my longest training run before the marathon and a sports store that is sponsoring the marathon (Up&Running) have organised an 18 mile practise run on Sunday. As running 18 miles on your own is really, really boring, I have decided it is a good opportunity to do the run and not fall asleep in the process. I am actively avoiding converting 18 miles into kilometres because then I will have a far better understanding of how far I will be running and then I might cry. Best to just whack on my shoes and follow the crowd.

So basically my weekend is going to involve a great deal of pain. However, in between all of this I am also going to watch my friend Nat play roller derby (which is probably even more painful than my two activities combined) and eat food. So I guess it isn’t all bad.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday Write-In #81: Spring Fever

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

This is my second attempt at Cake.ShortandSweet Wednesday Write-In. This week’s words were: drawn; sitting comfortably; sag; hiss; Ship-shape. I was instantly drawn to the word ‘hiss’ for reasons you will soon discover if you choose to read on.

Spring Fever (Or When Geese Attack)

Even the most pessimistic Mancunians can’t deny the approach of spring in the city. “It has been the wettest winter on record,” they complain. “Last summer was the best we’ve had in years. That won’t happen again.”

Perhaps it is thanks to the endless winter drizzle and the increasing hours of sunshine that is exciting the daffodils, plum trees and cherry blossom. Crocus flowers are being drawn up from their muddy winter hideaways to add splatterings of lilac to dormant parks and roadside garden beds. Those browny-green twigs you have ignored during the winter months are suddenly bursting into joyful colour – electric green leaf shoots and look-at-me flowers. Nature is coming to life again and it wants to show off.

The birds are back in town, too. Petit sparrows, wagtails and tits dart about claiming territories and socialising. The larger breeds fly in with their heads in the air, cruising down the ship canal and sitting comfortably like bored teenagers by the water’s edge. With each movement they call to their friends – “I’m going over here now.” “Hey guys, I’m bored.” “Sweet, that kid’s got bread!”

Everyone is feeling good about the change of seasons and the approaching warmer weather. However, while sunshine and pretty flowers are good for the soul and breaking the communal SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), no one thinks about what the arrival of peak spring really means.

Canada Geese. One of the most temperamental creatures in existence, I once saw them described as ‘friendly’ in an Illustrated Guide to Birds (the cutesie drawing of the goose even had it smiling.). Dear Author, clearly you have never encountered these malicious fiends in the middle of their mating season. It is obvious you have never had to walk along narrow canal-side pathways with water on one side and a Canadian Goose on the other. They see you coming with nowhere to escape. They move into action, positioning themselves directly in your desired pathway, calling to their friends to come and join in the fun. You reduce speed to a slow but steady pace, not wanting to appear threatening but hoping your larger body mass and intellectual superiority will encourage them to leave you alone.

No chance. Get within a foot of these beasts and they’re off – craning their necks like pissed-off cobras, puffing out their wings and stamping about in circles. You’re in their zone and they’re letting you know. But the worst part is still to come – now they are beginning to hiss. Opening up those supposedly smiling beaks into a ferocious snarl, the sound of a thousand poisonous snakes hits your ears and you know it is on. They attack, stabbing and jabbing and aiming for your knees with their knife-blade mandibles. Don’t put out your hand to stop them or they snap your fingers off. Just run. Your only option to escape this death trap is to get up on your tip-toes, flail your arms in the air and squeal like a small child, running as far and as quickly as possible. Do not look back. Do not make eye contact. Just get the hell out.

And when you can finally stop and catch your breath, your heart pumping with the adrenaline of primal fear, you will be hit with the realisation that someone may have seen that. It is guaranteed that someone probably did and you may feel ashamed about appearing inferior to a goose. But sleep easy knowing that one day that person laughing at your misfortune will experience this torture themselves and will scream an even girly-er scream than you.

Spring has sprung, my friends. The geese are coming.

What’s Up With Real Estate Agents?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

I am currently experiencing the joy that is ‘dealing with Real Estate agents’ as I have to move out of my apartment next week. When I first moved to Manchester I went into many different Real Estate offices in the hope that at least one of them would be willing to help me find an apartment. It was during this time that I discovered just how alien Real Estate agents are and how good they are at giving you completely blank looks when you suggest you might like to rent an apartment from them. When you look at properties online and press the ‘Request More Information” button (a button that to me says ‘Here is your opportunity to sell me your product. Go crazy! Sell! SELL!), you never hear back and when you call to ask about a property they don’t seem interested in talking about it. I’m not entirely sure why Real Estate agents exist in the rental world because they certainly don’t participate in the process apart from when they make you pay administrative fees.

I am in the middle of organising a new rental contract with a new agency which has been GREAT FUN. Not. This morning I had to go in to the office and hand in paper work and no one knew anything about who I was, why I was there or what I could possibly want from them. This joyful encounter inspired me to write a little story about how much I love Real Estate agents.
*I would like to state that there are nice, normal and approachable real estate agents in this world and I am making some very large generalisations in both my comments above and in the following story. However, I’d say the proportion of weird to normal would be 90%-10%.

 

What is Wrong with Real Estate Agents?

Advertisements for one and two bedroom apartments with river views and stunning wood laminate floors hang in the window. Like personal ads, the photographs depict mutton dressed as lamb – carefully angled shots of the kitchen/dining area from seven years ago when the apartment was first furnished, plus a picture of the exterior of the building and a view from a window. Images are for illustration purposes only and may not depict actual residence. Viewings a must.

You push open the door and enter the shiny floored office. People in shiny suits with shiny hair lounging on shiny vinyl seats look up at you as you step inside. Their desks are positioned sporadically across the office – there is no central point of contact and you look around trying to work out where to go. The shiny faces give you a once over – She’s a renter. Their dull and disinterested eyes turn away, leaving you to hang by the front door in awkward silence. No one welcomes you or acknowledges your presence. Your existence within the room is unnecessary, unwanted and almost confusing.

You pick the person sitting closest to the door – he is the youngest in the team, the new whizz kid who is still growing into his pin stripes. “Hi!” you say with positive intentions of bringing him business. “Yes?” is his response. As you sell your reason for being to him, explaining your need for an apartment and asking if the agency can help, he leans back in his comfortable chair, crosses his legs and looks back blankly. “Have you searched on the internet?” he asks. “We advertise all of our rentals on Rightmove. It’s best if you just look on there.”

In other words, piss off. We don’t want your type in here – when you’re ready to buy a property and act like an adult in the real estate market, let us know. Mark who deals with rentals isn’t in the office today and to be honest, the rest of us don’t care about those properties so we don’t care about you either. Therefore, if you would like to take your subordinate self out of our space, that would be great. Yeah, sure, leave us your details. In three months time when you’ve found somewhere to rent through alternative means we’ll start spamming you with emails detailing our available properties and claiming that we tailored it to suit your requirements. Now please just go – the work experience kid has returned with our Starbucks lattés.

You bustle yourself out onto the busy street outside, your jacket still undone, your bags slung hurriedly over your arm. Walking down the street it dawns on you that a fifteen year old in a polyester suit has just out-cooled you and you are still homeless. Two shops down you see another window patterned with For Sale/Lease advertisements. You peak through the glass and try to guess how many jars of gel the guy perched on the edge of his desk, trouser legs raised to reveal pointy-toed leather shoes with a slight heel, used in his hair that morning. He makes eye contact with you and frowns. Time to go home and search on Gumtree.

A Year Passes

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Time. It’s a magical thing. I don’t think we will ever really understand how it works and why it works that way. Speeding up and slowing down without warning and generally disappearing before your eyes. You may have noticed by now that when I start talking about time it is due to the day being of some sort of ‘anniversary-like’ significance in The World of Jess. Today… wait for it… my One Year UK-Versary!

On this day one year ago, I dragged two suitcases and a backpack from my apartment in Paris, caught two trains and crossed a large channel of water to eventually arrive in a surprisingly sunny Manchester. And there I stayed for 365 days making a new life for myself in ‘The North’. So what happened in that time? What was achieved? What were the pros and cons? Do I have a Mancunian accent yet? Let’s reflect.

  • I found, moved into and will soon move out of an apartment in a really cool part of the city
  • Thanks to my very-extended-cousins, I visited many ye olde houses, castle ruins and generally cool places
  • I saw a lot of theatre and developed an interest in Shakespeare
  • I met a great, yet slightly odd, variety of people who I am honoured to call my ‘friends’
  • I went to Croatia for my birthday
  • I am starting to learn the difference between ales, bitters, lagers and stouts (etc) and have developed a taste for whisky
  • I met the Queen (from a distance)
  • I ran a marathon
  • I became a waitress and then quit as soon as possible
  • I got a job as an IT analyst (fancy-afied IT Help Desk phone answerer) and was then fired
  • I set myself up in a communal office space where I now have friends
  • I learnt how to ‘network’ and now don’t completely hate it
  • I went to Wales twice
  • I went to Sheffield quite frequently and got to hang out with my big brother a lot (Win.)
  • I saw Goldfrapp and Fanfarlo and Sarah Blasko
  • I stalked Paul Hollywood
  • I ate a lot of great food and some not so great food
  • I watched numerous parades in Manchester
  • I volunteered in the Manchester International Festival and got to see free things
  • I learnt how to respond to the locals’ “Y’orrigh?”
  • I became older and wiser.

That will do. The last dot point I actually believe to be true. This past year I have felt strangely “adult” as opposed to “just some kid who can’t settle down.” Moving and living in another country on your own is tough and I’m quite proud of my achievements and the fact that I haven’t gone completely insane. Living in Manchester has been a lot easier than Paris for many reasons – language, politics, administration etc. But mostly because of the close proximity of my family members. It has been a huge relief to be able to spend time with my brother and with my very-extended-cousins who have accepted their long lost Australian relative like a daughter.

So now what? Another year (well 11 months now) awaits full of exciting adventures and potential. I have no idea what is going to happen and that’s great. Bring on round two.

Hello Manchester!

Hello Manchester!