Posts Tagged ‘pub’

Weird British Event #3 – Gravy Wrestling

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I read an advertisement for the bank holiday activities at the Rose ‘n’ Bowl pub in Bacup. What are you supposed to expect when you read the words “Gravy” and “Wrestling” next to each other? No… Surely not…? It must be a typo.

But no, my friends. That was no typographical error. The World Gravy Wrestling Championships were happening and that same curious bug that begged me to go to worm charming and chicken racing was back again, telling me I needed to go and experience this wonder. I attempted to convince Sir Pubert Gladstone that driving 40 minutes north of Manchester to the fairly average town of Bacup to go to a slightly dodgy pub to watch people rolling around in hot meat juices was a GREAT way to spend his Bank Holiday Monday. He agreed and we were off!

Technology at the Rose 'n' Bowl

Welcome to the Rose ‘n’ Bowl

So Bacup’s name is far more interesting than the place itself. There are some streets, some houses, a few pubs and that’s about it. It does have a great view of the hills of the Irwell Valley which made for a great backdrop to the jawdroppingly remarkable stage and gravy pool set up for the Gravy Wrestling Championships. I was shocked by the effort and planning permission that must have gone on behind the scenes to set up the performance area. I believe the Rose ‘n’ Bowl normally has a lawn bowls green behind the pub. The entire space had been covered in plastic with a raised pool area set up in the middle. In the pool was a steaming lake of brown liquid – the infamous gravy. The commentator informed us that the gravy had been sitting out for one and a half hours and was therefore cooling down and forming a nice gelatinous top. Delicious.

A professional set up

A professional set up

Monday was an unexpectedly cool day and so all of the spectators were keen to see the action get underway. After some customary technical difficulties with the sound system and a lovely performance from the local under-15s dance school, we were underway. Out came the competitors – they were READY TO RUMBLE!

The competitors line up

The competitors line up

Driving to Bacup we had discussed the possibility of competing in the competition and I had seriously contemplated giving it a go. However, like worm charming and chicken racing, I soon realised that this was serious business and you couldn’t just enter on a whim. All of the wrestlers had planned and gone to great efforts with their costumes – no one was just wearing their old sports clothes. Super man, Oscar the Grouch, a headmaster and Tarzan were there and they had all practiced their entrances.

Last year's champion won best costume as Oscar the Grouch

Last year’s champion won best costume as Oscar the Grouch

It was WWF with less baby oil and more gravy. As the first bout was called, the two wrestlers came out calling to the audience, strutting their stuff and mocking their competition. The white-shirted referee blew the whistle and it began. Gravy explosion.

Gravy is slippery stuff when it is coating plastic and human flesh. The first two male wrestlers slipped around all over the place, throwing each other into the air (as best they could) and body slamming with vigour. It was incredible! Strength, agility but mostly luck combined for a highly entertaining wrestling competition. The wafts of hot meaty liquid really added to the overall experience.

GRRAAAAVVVYYYY!!!

GRRAAAAVVVYYYY!!!

The cold weather and a desire to eat something other than a chip butty meant we didn’t hang around to watch the entire competition and a lack of information of the Rose ‘n’ Bowl Facebook page means I have no idea who won. But it was a fantastic way to spend a cold public holiday. Unlike worm charming, I don’t think I will come back to compete in the Gravy Wrestling Championships next year. I would need years of preparation and some serious protein shakes.

 

Walking Up High in Wales

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

I have said this before, but I love the fact that I can get in a car, drive west-ish for about an hour and find myself in Wales. I can cross a border and be in another country where the people speak a different language, have funny accents and are generally more relaxed than the English. I take any opportunity to pop over the Welsh border and so when Sir Pubert Gladstone’s birthday arrived I decided to organise a Magical Mystery Birthday Tour of Secrets and Surprises. This involved Sir Pubert, his car, my excellent GPS navigation skills and Thomas Telford’s magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (if you can pronounce that, you win ten points and a thumbs up from me.). The day before the mystery tour, I frantically searched Google maps for an interesting ‘thing’ for us to visit. It had to be worth driving to, preferably free, and within a short drive of a good pub with a ploughman’s lunch. As soon as I discovered Tom’s water bridge, read that it is the highest aqueduct in Britain and that people who are scared of heights (aka Sir Pubert) may not enjoy it, I decided I had found a winner. Everyone needs a challenge on their birthday.

Thankfully the weather was on our side with sunshine, blue skies and a few big fluffy clouds. I don’t think walking across a raised water source in the rain and wind would have been very pleasant. The aqueduct was very impressive – a long raised canal crossing over a river valley. Built between 1785 and 1805, it is remarkable that it continues to function today. I do wonder why it seemed like a good idea to suspend a canal 126 feet in the air, but it has made for a very impressive structure.

It's a canal. In the air. Amazing.

It’s a canal. In the air. Amazing.

Amazing views from the aqueduct

Amazing views from the aqueduct

A fantastic structure.

A fantastic structure.

After we had crossed the aqueduct we headed to Llangollen, a beautiful little town that is clearly a popular spot for visitors on a Saturday afternoon. After spending 30 minutes trying to find parking, we made it to The Corn Mill – a lovely river side pub where we managed to score an outdoor table in the sunshine.

Riverside views at The Corn Mill

Riverside views at The Corn Mill

Sir Pubert had been wanting a ploughman’s platter for sometime so my pub search had involved scouring menus in search of a plate with cheese and bread. Sadly it wasn’t the greatest ploughman’s as it could have done with five times more cheese so we are now on the hunt for the WORLD’S GREATEST PLOUGHMAN’S. If you know where it is, please let me know. 

Ploughman's platter

Ploughman’s platter

A wander back through the town, supposedly Welsh ice-cream and then into the car and home again in time for me to catch a train to Sheffield. I went from Manchester to Wales to Manchester to Sheffield in 8 hours. I saw plenty of green rolling hills and sheep that day and it was the best Magical Mystery Birthday Tour of Secrets and Surprises that I have ever been on. Ever.

 

Who is She?

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

This week I went to the Bay Horse pub in the Northern Quarter. I was with Sir Pubert Gladstone (He requested a pseudonym, so he got one.) who informed me of a ‘lady in a glass box’ located downstairs in the basement. I went to investigate and sure enough, there she was. A blonde, sunglasses-wearing lady staring at a bird in a cage. Who is she? And what was she doing in the basement of a fairly average pub? This lovely lady and a bit of Nick Cave and the Black Seeds have prompted the following story.

Lucy and the Bird

Lucy’s limbs flail as she dances in the corner of the Bay Horse basement to the music that only she can hear. She dances alone in an almost empty room, everyone else settled in booths sipping whisky and beer, conversation underway. She has been here before. Every night, in fact, for what feels like forever. Next to her a bird sits silently and motionless in a silver cage, watching the scene unfold. Only its eyes flick back and forth, back and forth as the clientele pass. Few people notice the bird and those who do are disappointed by it. A dry martini sits untasted on a small mantle next to a half-melted candle and a stack of Jim Beam coasters. Lucy has the same drink every night but never takes a sip. The owners don’t ask what she would like; they simply nod at her and pour. Her blank face shows no response, she simply treats the small glass as a fee for being there.

Lucy is given a wide berth as she dances, her eyes covered in dark, rounded sunglasses. Her peroxide blonde wig is dry and frizzy; fibrous strands pickup static charge as her hands brush past it. Her legs are encased in criss-cross stockings; shoeless, she dances unflinching as her feet stick to years of sticky alcohol accretion.

Upstairs the bell rings for last drinks and the small crowd finish the last drops of precious liquid, pull on jackets and leave. Lucy continues to dance in her corner, bar staff collecting empties and placing chairs on tables around her. A quick mop just for the sake of it, the final glasses washed and put away for tomorrow. The doors are locked and the lights turned off, leaving Lucy and the bird together in the darkness of the Bay Horse basement.

Lady at the Bay Horse

Lady at the Bay Horse

Bad Language at the Castle

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Fear not – this blog entry does not include excessive amounts of swearing. You’re safe with me, kids. Bad Language is a monthly spoken word and poetry open mic night held at the Castle Hotel in the Northern Quarter. I had been wanting to go to a spoken word event since discovering them in Paris and two years later I finally achieved this goal.

Last Wednesday I went to Bad Language with Hannah and Damion, two friends who work in The Classroom with me. After purchasing reasonably priced beer from the bar, we made our way past the regular Castle residents and managed to squeeze our way to some seats in the very packed room. An usually large turn out meant that there weren’t enough seats and lots of people were standing at the back or perched on the stage with the performers. The vibe of the room was relaxed and welcoming and a bit of squishing, bumping and finding a seat on the floor didn’t worry anyone.

The performers read with varied degrees of success but everyone who got on stage was supported and appreciated. Getting on stage and reading your words aloud isn’t an easy thing to do. Poetry was the main focus of the night and as I have previously mentioned it is not my preferred style of text. Some of it was good, some just passed over my head and left me pondering what it was all about. It was great to see the passion that some of the writers had for their work. I wish I was currently feeling the same level of passion for my own words.

I want to set myself the challenge of performing something at one of the Bad Language shows but need to write a piece that is worth performing. Any topic suggestions are most welcome.

Fire and Explosives

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Last night saw the skies of Manchester light up with the glow of fires and the flash of fireworks, followed by the gentle orange drift of explosives smoke. It was bonfire night (aka Guy Fawkes night) where people around the UK set things on fire and let off fireworks while standing in the rain drinking cider.  The origin of this event stems back to King James I surviving an attempt on his life by Guy Fawkes in 1605 (thank you, Wikipedia) and, for years afterwards, people have taken the opportunity to blow things up. I find this a little contradictory considering Guy tried to kill James with explosives and now children are blowing their hands off with rogue rockets and roman candles.

There were no bonfires within Manchester city centre as fires and enclosed city spaces are generally not a good combination. I headed to Cholton with fellow Australian, Eli, as all British nationals had declined to join us. We headed to the usually pleasant residential square of Cholton Green where we found hundreds of people squished together trying to buy hot cider and get the best position for the fireworks. We arrived just in time for the 9 o’clock display as fireworks were set off from what appeared to be the roof of the Horse & Jockey pub. Considering it was just a local fireworks display it was quite a pretty show and it received plenty of oohs and ahhs from the appreciative audience.

Ooh! Ahh!

Ooh! Ahh!

Eli and I went in search of a bonfire as what is bonfire night without a bonfire? We found a burning pile of wooden packing crates at the back of another pub. When the wind changed direction and picked up speed, the people standing on that side of the fire would get a burst of hot air, ash and smoke. Delightful.

Fire!

Fire!

Everyone was getting into the community spirit and there was a great positive energy permeating the crowd. I was happy with my first bon fire night experience and am now just waiting for the smoke smell to dissipate from my jacket.

Getting My Legs Out

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Something truly astonishing has happened today. After approximately seven months hidden in the dark cave of jeans and trousers (I live in England now so I am practising not saying ‘pants’), my legs have escaped and are being exposed to UV light. The forecast for today is 19 degrees and sunny, which is the British equivalent of mid-summer in Australia. While 19 degrees would normally have me in multiple layers and complaining about how freezing it is, my internal thermometer appears to have shifted since moving to Europe and I am currently thinking, “Gosh, it’s warm.” I am joining the inevitable onslaught of pale and pudgy English flesh that will be reflecting the sun’s rays in parks, terraced pubs and any sunny public space. Normally I would be shy of my ridiculously pale legs, but here I blend in nicely. Although I am contemplating joining the Orange folk with their splodgy boot-polish brown spray tans. Then all I need to do is draw on some fake eyebrows, peroxide my hair and wear some leopard-print lycra and I’ll look like a local.

It is 10.30am on a Bank Holiday and the city is currently dead as everyone recovers from their MAD Sunday night out on the town. As my Sunday night involved abstinence from alcohol, a chicken and roast vegetable salad, and the final of Master Chef, I was up for my usual morning run at 7.15am. Running on public holidays is the most enjoyable experience as NO ONE else is around. Today was particularly glorious as the sun was shining, there was no wind, the air was slightly crisp and the trees are currently in bloom with pink and white blossom. All I needed was for a deer to run along side me and I could have been Mary Poppins. But as I returned to the city and ran along the main drag of Deansgate, I ran past a series of pubs that had smashed glass and beer stains all over the pavement. The stench from stale beer was overwhelming and forced me to run faster in order to get away from it. I don’t think Mary Poppins had to deal with that.

Today I am planning a walk along the Manchester Canal to the Lowry centre where there is a food festival on. I am mostly going in order to complete one of my 108 challenges – to get as close to Paul Hollywood (a celebrity baker/chef with “piercing blue eyes”) as possible. He will be there signing books and as long as I don’t have to buy a book, I will attempt to get a photo with him. Right – time to go and work on my tan.

Serious Apple Pie

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

I am currently sitting on the train from Sheffield to London digesting. Ben and I went to his local pub, The Broadfield, for lunch and both rolled home in a state of extreme excess. Ben was worse than me having chosen the beef and mushroom pie which is served with hand cut potato chips and mushy peas. The pies are very good but I wanted dessert so I was somewhat smart and chose the leek, potato and stilton soup. We both then ordered apple and walnut pies. In my mind I pictured a decent slab of sweet pastry filled with soft apples and the odd bit of nut. I had quickly dashed off to the loo and returned to discover a PIE THE SIZE OF MY HEAD sitting on my plate. It wasn’t just a slice, it was a full pie with a pastry lid and everything. Next to it, the ball of vanilla ice cream looked miniscule. Ben and I looked at each other and just laughed – how the hell were we going to eat these things?

That's a big pie.

That’s a big pie.

The answer was ‘we couldn’t.’ We tried – oh how we tried, but we both left large amounts of pastry cases on our plates. I usually love the pastry more than the filling, but even I couldn’t tackle this. The pie innards were very good – huge chunks of apples with whole walnuts and dates. Seriously tasty. But way, way, way too much. Even if Ben and I had shared one we wouldn’t have been able to finish.

It pains me to leave food on my plate, particularly when I have enjoyed it, but if I had continued to eat my stomach would have exploded into a hundred million pieces, strewing itself throughout the pub with large chunks of pastry hitting other customers’ faces. And I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about it.

Who is that Guy?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

There’s a new sock creature in town but no one really knows who he is.

That guy sock creature

Hello, Sir.

He is one of those mysterious types – people are saying he is either an undercover agent working for some secret governmental department (or the tax office) or he is Spanish. His moustache would suggest the latter but no Spaniards are that tall. Have you seen his legs?

That guy sock creature

He's really tall for a Spanish person.

There is also the question of the remarkably spiky hair that descends down his back. Rumours are spreading that maybe he comes from some sort of demonic land and has come to influence innocent children, encouraging them to join his cult, but the fact is he doesn’t talk to anyone. Not a soul. No one even really knows if he can speak, and if he does, what language. Maybe, they say, he doesn’t have a tongue.

That guy hairy back

You can't blame a guy for having a hairy back, but this is just strange.

Everyone refers to him as either, “That Guy”, “The Red One” or “Alf” as they figure he’s from another planet. He doesn’t seem to be as friendly and outgoing as the real Alf, which is really quite disappointing. All That Guy does is walk into the pub staring with his blank-eyed-look at no one in particular, and then he points at the bottles of Coke lining the fridge. He sits at the bar, sipping slowly through a straw, occasionally turning to look at who has just walked through the door. Once he has finished his drink he will order another, and then a third, a fourth, until the sun goes down, everyone heads home and the pub closes. He will then place the exact change on the counter, slide from his chair and leave.

That guy moustache

He sure does stare a lot.

No one knows where he lives. Once some of the neighbourhood kids tried to follow him home, but they lost sight of him when he disappeared into the woods. Some people say he gets sucked up into an alien spaceship and they claim to have seen bright lights shining over the deepest, darkest part of the woods at night time. Others say he climbs down a hole into the depths of the underworld, while others insist they have seen him walking past their windows in the early hours of the morning.

That guy hole in sock

He shows signs of having led a tough life – clearly life is hard where ever he is from

Normally the town’s folk wouldn’t put up with someone as strange as him hanging around, but the problem is that he is also a highly profitable tourist attraction. Bus loads of tourists roll into town every day hoping to catch a glimpse of this strange personality. The pub has never sold so much Surf ‘n’ Turf and the newsagent is making great business selling tshirts with “I Survived Seeing That Guy” and “What’s He Looking At?” printed on them.

You, too, can survive seeing That Guy – he’s on sale at my Etsy Store.

They are Wrong About English Food

Friday, April 6th, 2012

As I am sure you all realise by now, I generally base my enjoyment of a country on how many delicious meals I eat, and I can therefore declare that I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to England. Most people poo-poo British food, and while I agree that some of it is awful, I can also inform you that some French food is awful and that is apparently one of the best cuisines in the world. British food is definitely moving away from stodgy vegetables and mushy peas and you can now find some wonderful restaurants.

The numerous times that I have been to England, I have always managed to have a really good meal at one of the many, many pubs scattered throughout the country. They are a bit like the Parisian bistro – you have to pick wisely but you can find some that offer excellent meals. The area around Creswell isn’t exactly a culinary hub, however, in a nearby town there is a pub called the Elm Tree which I went to with Ben for dinner.

Elm Tree

British Cider at the Elm Tree

Where English pubs differ from Parisian bistros is the presence of friendly staff. AMAZING. A smile and a friendly welcome – who would have thought? Anyway, the Elm Tree is a simple local pub which appears to be very popular as we attempted to go there three times but each time it was fully booked. We ended up there on a Monday night and it wasn’t particularly busy. I had a steak which was served with hand cut chips and vegetables, and I chose a peppercorn sauce to go with it.

Elm Tree steak

Mmm... steak.

The sauce was an extra two pounds but considering I got a bucketful it was worth it. And oh was it delicious. The steak clearly came off one of the cows in the paddock nearby – very tender and perfectly cooked. Ben had a cottage pie which was very well put together and very flavoursome.

Elm Tree Cottage Pie

Ben's Cottage Pie

We both had dessert – I went for the sticky toffee pudding because I think it is the ultimate british pub dessert, while Ben had a chocolate and marshmallow brownie. My pudding was rich, sweet and moreish and was served with a tooth-breaking lump of honeycomb sticking out of it. Wonderfully good. I turned up my nose at the inclusion of marshmallow in the brownie but I was wrong – it was served with a rich, dark chocolate sauce which cut the sweetness of the marshmallow and it was a really good chocolate cake. A fantastic meal.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Look at that lump of honeycomb!

Another food highlight was a lunch in Sheffield with Ben’s friend and co-bread-maker, Martha. We went to a café called the Blue Moon which offers three vegetarian mains which come with a plate-load of salad. The meals are made from organic produce and were HUGE and very, very delicious. It was a wonderfully relaxed environment and a fun place to eat.

Blue Moon vegetables

It doesn't look like much but it sure was tasty!

Catching Up

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Gosh, how time flies when you have an approaching deadline. Four days have past since I last wrote which means I have lots of Fun Time Count Down events to tell you about. Let me see if I can remember…

Monday

Tom and I have decided that now we have been living together relatively successfully for almost a year it is time to take things further. We know it is a big step but we feel we are ready. It is time… to buy a Le Creuset pot. PLUS what better time of the year to do it than during the winter sales! For those of you who haven’t discovered of Le Creuset, step out of your restrictive shell and open your eyes to the world of cast iron cookware. They are beautiful, heavy as hell pots that will last you a life time, once you’ve made the investment. Being that they come from the land of the French, they are significantly cheaper in France. Plus with the current 20-30% discounts we’ve been seeing on them at shops throughout Paris, they’re even MORE of a bargain!

Anyway, on Monday Tom and I walked through Paris in search of a bargain pot but were slightly disappointed. Mostly because at one point we decided to go to Galleries Lafayette which is ALWAYS a mistake. I dislike that place with an ever growing passion. It is hot, it is stuffy, it is full of snooty Parisians and tourists. The staff are rude and I’m clearly not rich enough or touristy enough to be worth serving. Anyway, we didn’t end up buying one. But I have since found the exact pot that I want, in red, at a shop near my house. With 30% off the original price. Excellent.

All of this shopping had made me hungry so we had crêpes. I had my usual Nutella, while Tom went all out and ordered a cheese, ham and egg crêpe from the crêperie that claims to have the best crêpes in Paris. They are good, and they’re freaking huge. Tom spent the rest of the afternoon/evening walking around like a stuffed duck. Good times.

Crepe

It warmed my hands nicely, but then I ate it.

Tuesday

Tuesday wasn’t the greatest day as our friend and fellow Australian who is trying oh-so-hard to stay in Paris next year discovered that her application for a sponsored work visa had been rejected. There were tears, there were profanities directed towards Monsieur Sarkozy and his anti-immigration policies, and there were very early evening drinks at Pip’s bar. There’s still hope for Pip’s visa if she reapplies when she is in Australia (weird French policies about not being able to get a new working visa if she already has one… blah blah blah) but it’s ridiculous really. Anyway, I bought Pip a jasmine flavoured biscuit from a very unique patisserie Tom and I walked past.

Jasmine biscuit

A delicious heart for a broken heart

We also purchased a pistachio galette for ourselves as a “we have to make the most of being in Paris” treat. It did make things slightly better.

Pistachio galette

Mmm... so green.

Wednesday

I have been trying to do some writing and expand my range of writing styles and genres. I figure I should attempt some different forms other than first person narratives about Paris. So I spent the morning attempting to do this, failing mostly but at least I tried. In the afternoon we met some friends for afternoon tea at a café called Rose Bakery. It is very popular in Paris as a BoBo place to be and sells organic and home made food. I had a date slice which was delicious and a long black. The long black was served as an espresso with a jug of hot water. Strange. But it worked.

In the evening Tom and I went and cured my pizza craving at a restaurant on the other side of the canal. Maria Luisa is one of the few places in Paris where you can get a REAL pizza and their toppings are fresh and delicious. The restaurant itself is a bit pretentious, but of the three wait staff who served us, only one was grumpy. A miracle, really.

Pizza

Mmm... pizza... so big it is nearly falling off the table.

Thursday

Thursday was a busy day of washing, shopping and eating lunch with a friend from the Récollets. She is Romanian and made us romanian crêpes which were essentially the same as French crêpes only made by a Romanian. They were gooood. In the afternoon, I went for a walk to burn off my lunch, and attempted to get lost in Paris. Unfortunately I have tried to do this too many times now that I always know where I am. That’s a good thing probably. Anyway, I ended up at the WHSmith bookshop where I purchased three books for under 10 Euros. I was happy. They are all ‘classics’ as I am on a bit of a “I must read must-read books.” So I will soon be literary and knowledgable.

My walk home involved a sprinkling of rain, sunset (well, the sun was going away but it was cloudy so you couldn’t really see much) in the Tuilleries, a sparkling Louvre and turbulent and lively waters of the Seine. It was wonderful. But it also made me realise how much I don’t want to leave this place. But I’ll be back. Just you watch.

Louvre

Sparkly!