Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Nerdish Brownies

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

I am supposed to be doing work right now, but I have news that needs immediate discussion. This morning was the first time my library-buddy, Joe, and I have been working in the Central library together. As per usual, at 10.30am I headed to the library café to buy my morning coffee. Before departing, I asked Joe if he would like anything. A cheeky look spread across his face as he suggested we share one of the cakes on offer. I agreed.

Joe trusted my cake-selection abilities and so I chose the chocolate brownie, an item I had sampled thanks to some bite-sized tasters the café sometimes makes available, however I had never purchased an entire slice.

Holy moly.

Never would I have guessed that I would find one of the world’s best chocolate brownies in the café at the Manchester Central Library. It is rich, dark and gooey on the inside with a slight crunch on the outer layer. There are small pieces of walnut scattered throughout, breaking up the intensity of the chocolate.

Library brownie – served in a lovely cardboard box/plate/dish/thing

Library brownie – served in a lovely cardboard box/plate/dish/thing

I am very, VERY picky when it comes to chocolate flavoured sweet goods and I never give praise unless it is deserved and this was bloody awesome. And so my first official work day of 2015 has been delicious. I haven’t done enough work, but finding a delicious brownie is a far better use of my time.

Oh Hello, 2015.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Somehow I have managed to make it to 7 January without writing a long reflective blog post about my past year and all that I have achieved/seen/done/visited/eaten. This is due to various factors:

  1. I have been too busy.
  2. I didn’t necessarily want 2015 to arrive quite so quickly so I am avoiding the subject.
  3. I haven’t sat in front of my computer for the last seven days so haven’t had the opportunity.

Does anyone really want to read a pensive exploration of my past year or should I finally accept that I only write it to boost my own ego and to prove to myself that I haven’t wasted another 365 days being a lost soul pretending to be a writer but really just plodding along? Either way – here’s my year in hyper-speed and in no particular order.

In 2014, I…

  • Lost my Co-Op job (good start.)
  • Contemplated returning to Australia early and then realised that was a stupid idea.
  • Went to Sheffield many times.
  • Did a lot of baking.
  • Climbed a few mountains/hills.
  • Met a boy.
  • Had lots of picnics/outings/adventures with aforementioned boy.
  • Moved apartment and shared a house for the first time ever.
  • Became serious about this ‘copywriting’ bizzo and actually started doing it for realz.
  • Explored many great places in the UK, including Chester, the Peak District and Blackpool.
  • Went to Northern Ireland and learnt about the importance of tray bakes.
  • Ran a marathon in Manchester.
  • Ran a half marathon in Paris.
  • Got gastro.
  • Joined the wonder that is Yelp and had so much great food and drinks and met so many fun people that it made me giggle like a school girl.
  • Attended various weddings and half weddings.
  • Hugged my Dad.
  • Had lots of fun times with my fabulous friends.
  • Had one of the best food-filled, view-over-Manchester-with-a-cocktail-including, educational birthdays.
  • Discovered a lot about crisps thanks to various office mates.
  • Became addicted to pound stores and discount supermarkets. Seriously – I wander through at least one a day. You won’t believe the bargains!
  • Went to Scotland and the Edinburgh Festival.
  • Saw the Lochness Monster.
  • Witnessed worm charming, chicken racing and gravy wrestling.
  • Went to Old Trafford.
  • Discovered the joy of working in the Manchester Central Library. So quiet. So calming.
  • Painted walls and floors/installed kitchen cabinets/re-painted walls in Sir Pubert’s renovator’s delight.
  • Decided I like Manchester too much and began the process of trying to stay.

So that was significantly more than I realised. I’m glad I decided to feed my ego.

I have 23 days left in the UK. That’s not a lot. Most of that will involve packing, crying, saying goodbye to people, and deciding whether or not I really need to keep all of my belongings. In between all of that, I also have plans to make the most of my time here and climb as many hills as possible. But right now I must do some of that copywriting do-dally.

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

No Longer Dreaming of a White Christmas

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The drive home from the Yorkshire Dales on Boxing Day was a tad hairy as the sky let loose a decent downpour of rain. Sir Pubert made us tune the radio to the Boxing Day football commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and continues to assure me that he was listening to it despite his closed eyes, dropped head and occasional snore.

As the commentary skipped from one football ground to the next, we were informed of the weather conditions throughout the country. Most games were being played in very wet conditions, however Manchester City was playing West Brom in the Midlands where it had started snowing.

As we arrived home and sat in comfort and warmth by the fire, I looked out of the lounge room windows and saw that the usual Manchester drizzle was no longer just heavy rain but had turned into big, floaty snow flakes. It was snowing on Boxing Day – I was counting this as a white Christmas! Sure, the snow melted on impact and it was mostly just sludge, but they were definitely snow flakes and it was definitely still the “Christmas season”.

snow

Eat your heart out, Bing Crosby.

 

As far as white Christmases go, it was a bit disappointing and I will continue to seek a better example of it in the future. However, having spent five winters in Europe, it was about time that snow fell on Christmas. What happens in movies, happens in Manchester.

So Long, Christmas!

Monday, December 29th, 2014

My inner Scrooge is pleased to see the end of all that tinsel, mulled wine and festive cheer, although I am willing to admit that Christmas Day turned out to be a lot better than expected. Some forward planning based on the knowledge that I would be spending the day on my own meant I could fill it with all things “Jess”.

1. Get up early and run a half marathon.

I don’t know many other people who would set their alarm for 7am on Christmas morning in order to get out of bed, eat breakfast and digest before heading off for an extended run. I figured if I had all day I may as well make it a decent jog so I set myself the goal of a Christmas Half Marathon. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

My running route.

My running route.

It was a beautiful, crisp, blue-skied morning and by the time I left home the sun was attempting to show itself. Perfect running conditions as I headed off, getting slightly lost along the way and having to re-route due to muddy conditions. My final distance was a comfortable 24 kilometres, the last seven of which were slightly less comfortable. I fed myself chocolate flavoured energy gels and recovery shakes as reward for my long slog. Holy moly, those things are good. I would run excessive distances every day if it meant I could eat chocolate-flavoured protein bars.

Run, rabbit, run.

Run, rabbit, run.

2. A little bit of stollen.

After de-stinking myself, it was time for morning coffee and a slice of Aldi Rich Fruit Marzipan Stollen. While it wasn’t bad for a budget supermarket cake, it certainly couldn’t compete with my brother’s version and there definitely wasn’t enough marzipan. But then again, is there ever enough marzipan? Ooh, deep.

More marzipan, please.

More marzipan, please.

3. Christmas lunch for one

A week or so before Christmas I saw a recipe on the Sweet Paul Magazine website for a beetroot salad that instantly screamed “EAT ME FOR CHRISTMAS LUNCH!”. Unable to find half of the ingredients (Dear British Supermarkets, please sell fennel. Thanks. Jess.), I adapted the recipe to include roasted beetroot, kale, blue cheese and an amazing mixed nuts selection that I had found at Aldi. Served with a glass of elderflower champagne made by my friend, Garden Boy (aka Jon), it was potentially the BEST CHRISTMAS LUNCH EVER.

beetroot salad

Wow. Just wow.

I Skyped my family back home while munching on my lunch and it was lovely to be able to sit and chat with the folks and the bro. Thank you for existing, Skype.

4. Christmas bake-off.

Thinking I would have all of the time in the world on Christmas day, I had decided to bake biscotti as a Christmas gift for Sir Pubert’s mum and her partner. I suddenly became aware of the rapidly decreasing amount of time I had to achieve this, so I bid adieu to my family and then raced around the kitchen creating what ended up being the best biscotti in my baking career. Boom.

biscotti

Crunchy nutty chocolatey goodness.

5. Father Christmas really does love me.

Sir Pubert collected me and my hundreds of bags and we headed to his house for Christmas dinner with his mum, Katy, and her partner, Ken. Over a glass of champagne I was overwhelmed to discover that Father Christmas hadn’t forgotten me and had left a plethora of presents in a PaperChase stocking just for me. Plus additional gifts from Katy, Ken and Pubert – spoilt, I was.

6. Turkey.

A whole turkey for three adults and a vegetarian is a little excessive. Plus parsnips, potatoes, peas, bread sauce, stuffing and red cabbage. Followed up with homemade and hand-fed Christmas pudding with custard makes for many a stuffed belly. There was plenty of moaning and regret following that meal but a content bunch of over-stuffed humans we were.

christmas dinner

Mmm… too much food…

So while I may whinge about Christmas and its ability to make human beings act like piggish idiots, it was the simplicities of the day that made my Christmas very enjoyable. Great weather, wonderful family and friends, delicious food, and a bloody long run.

The End is Nigh (Again)

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Dear Scientists,

You’re a smart bunch of people. You have done some really neat things that have been particularly useful such as inventing computers, harnessing the power of electricity and finding cures for stuff. Do you think you could please invent a way of slowing down time? I would be most grateful.

Cheers for that.

Love Jess

So it would appear that time has done its thing and passed with rapid speed once again. The expiry of my UK visa is looming, becoming more and more real every time I wake up in the morning. Last Thursday it all became terrifyingly real when I bought my plane ticket home. The culmination of paying an excessively large sum of money for something that I didn’t necessarily want and the fact that I now officially have an end date AND time, made everything sink in.

Mum, Dad, don’t get me wrong – part of me is very excited to be coming home. I haven’t hugged my mum in 2.5 years, which for someone who thrives on Mum-hugs is a really, really long time. Plus I have heard rumours of this thing called a ‘sun’ that delivers ‘warmth’ – that all sounds rather good. Plus I can ride my bike, be babysat by my parents, see my friends and meet some of the new additions that have been produced while I have been away. All of these things are great. But I still don’t want to go.

I have had this feeling towards the end of all of my visas and it is the fear of change, the unknown, the “what the hell am I doing with my life?” that rears its ugly head as the days count down. At least this time I haven’t made myself sick, unlike when I returned to Perth to apply for Paris Visa #2 and spent the month before my departure with a stomach ache. Maybe I am getting used to it and learning that no matter what happens or how hard I try and slow down time, life soldiers on. There’ll be another great adventure and I just have to wait and see what it entails. Still sucks though.

Australia puddle

This puddle that looks a bit like Australia has been outside my office window for over a week. This is the most exciting part of my day.

This morning, like many mornings, the question of “Why didn’t I just settle in a normal job with normal working hours in a normal office cubicle doing something like marketing?”. Then maybe I would be like many of my friends who seem to have found their place in the world and who have real careers, babies, families, husbands, houses, mortgages and sanity. Or I would have gone nuts, smashed down the office cubicle in a fit of rage and run off to deserted island. Hmmm…

So perhaps I should just stop fighting the fact that I need change, I crave adventure and I don’t like sitting still. I always want more, more, more and the purchase of this plane ticket is just that – it is the start of Jess’s Great Adventure #4 and the search for something more. I just wish I didn’t have to pack up all of my possessions every year or two. Fun fun fun.

Snow.

Friday, December 19th, 2014

It would seem that I have had actual paid work and responsibilities this week as I haven’t written about the fact that IT SNOWED last Friday. I had been concerned that I had lost my inner child who becomes ridiculously excited by the arrival of falling icicles; so imagine my relief when I giddily screamed “SNOW!!” when I saw the first flakes fall. They melted instantly and turned into slop but for a brief second I was excited.

Ice patterns on Sir Pubert's car

Ice patterns on Sir Pubert’s car

Friday’s blustery snow arrival was more impressive in hilly parts of the North such as the Peaks, the Lake District and Scotland. So on Saturday, Sir Pubert and I packed an impressive lunch and headed along Snake Pass into the Peaks in search of a picnic spot.

Warming soup.

Warming soup.

 

We headed to the highest part of the Snake Road pass where we were surrounded by fog and scatterings of white icy stuff. We parked and walked a very short way along a muddy, icy and therefore slippery path before sitting and scoffing our faces. The sun managed to come out from the behind the clouds and warmed us up nicely. It was great fun but after we’d eaten our delicious cheese sandwiches and warm soup, we threw a few snow balls and hurried back to the car. Sir Pubert was concerned we would get stuck in the Peaks due to ‘the weather’. That’s Brits for you – always concerned about getting lost/stuck in the ‘wilderness’. We managed to escape unscathed.

Snow at the High Peak

Snow at the High Peak

Since the weekend, the weather has changed once again and turned into a constant drizzle. It is much warmer but I have holes in the soles of my shoes and my feet keep getting wet. Everything is wet. It’s quite horrible.

In other news, today I bought my plane ticket home to where the current forecast for tomorrow is 39 degrees. No rain. This ‘going home’ thing is suddenly sounding ok.

Weather Update

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Word on the street is that it is cold – and I concur. Last week, it was with great pain and general disgruntlement that I put on my winter coat for the first time. I hate admitting that it is cold but chilly winds had made the temperature drop from a balmy 12 degrees to a knuckle-reddening 4. This morning on my run, I went past the SUPER ELECTRONIC signage outside Manchester University on which, through the wonders of technology, it announces the time, date and temperature in a rotating sequence. It was 1.8 degrees Celcius and my wet nose and numb hands believed this to be accurate. It was also the first morning where I almost lost my balance as I ran onto invisible ice. Damn invisible ice… It is very tricky to see. Probably because it is invisible to eyes that are watering due to cold winds blowing into them.

I am currently sitting on my own in my office space avoiding going home. It is raining outside and I don’t really wish to get wet. I have had an unusually productive day considering last week I spent 60 per cent of my time procrastinating and the other 40 per cent eating. Today I went for a run, had a meeting, did some work, payed bills, did some more work, and started writing a hopefully convincing description of why I should be allowed to study a masters degree next year. Does anyone enjoy writing about themselves? I certainly don’t, particularly when I need to explain why I have spent the last four years of my life avoiding responsibility and career paths. Being a travelling nomad sounds romantic and fun but it isn’t academically sound. No one really believes in the School of Life, except for perhaps myself and my dad.

I have no exciting adventures to write about this week as the weekend involved a lot of cooking and the painting of skirting boards at Sir Pubert’s ‘Renovator’s delight’ house. That was fun as it involved a visit to an even bigger B&Q and we went to the Tameside Environment Centre, a poetic name for the rubbish tip. Another highlight of Greater Manchester for me to tick off my list of ‘must visit’s.

Ok. Enough blabbering. It’s time to go home.

Pubert’s Highlight

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Sir Pubert discovered the wonder of automated public toilets during our visit to Belfast. His fear of public facilities somehow led him to decide that a self-cleaning, coin operated toilet was better than a sneaky visit to a pub. Borrowing 20p from me, he entered cautiously and waved goodbye as the door closed behind him.

A few minutes later he emerged declaring his visit as being the highlight of his day. Whipping out his phone, he showed me the photographs he had taken from the inside – the count down clock displayed how many of his 15 minutes he had left until the doors would open again; the button that dispensed rationed sheets of toilet paper; and the hand washing sink that discharged soap and water at the same time.

Public toilet

Sir Pubert is in there.

The bright eyed boy was happy and it only cost me 20p. Now I just have to find an equivalent in Manchester and I will have sorted out his Christmas present.

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Monday, November 24th, 2014

This time last year, my friend Pooja and I noticed a tall(ish) tower being installed in Spinningfields as part of the Manchester Christmas Markets. We were instantly excited by the potential fun that the red and white helter skelter offered us and vowed that we would slide down this tower of joy.

Sadly, despite the helter skelter being in Spinningfields for over four weeks, we never made it down. And so, when we noticed its return for this year’s markets, we were at the front of the line and waiting with our money before any little kids could get in our way. We were so early, in fact, that it wasn’t open yet, and we had to come back the following week.

The moment finally arrived – last Monday at 4pm, Pooja, her husband, Jonathan, and I met to take the most anticipated rides of our lives. There was a slight drizzle, which meant that the guy in charge hadn’t bothered to wax the end of the slide. “You’ll either stop on the way down and have to shuffle yourself to the end, or you’ll come straight off the end or sumfin,” he said. But due to the less than perfect conditions, he was offering us two rides for our £2 entry price. What a champ!

Pooja and I went up first, leaving photography guru, Jonathan, to record our descents. The climb to the top was cramped and screaming ‘Public Liability’ but we made it to the top and I suggested Pooja went first. I figured it was only fair that she propel herself down a slide first seeing as I had walked on fire before her. Pooja’s super slim figure fit easily onto the very narrow slide and I watched pondering what I would do if I got stuck half way down. Pooja made it safely to the ground so it was my turn and I then realised that wearing a skirt to go on a slide wasn’t the smartest choice.

And off I went, zooming down the surprisingly fast slide, flying off the end to a sudden halting stop. IT WAS AWESOME! I was then particularly pleased that we were allowed two turns, although the second go was slightly less exciting than the first.

Helter skelter

WAAAAAHHHHOOOOOOOOO!!!! Photo credit : Jonathan Pow/jp@jonathanpow.com REF : POW_141117_2346

Pooja and I celebrated – we had finally fulfilled our plan of going down the Christmas helter skelter, even if it was a year later than planned. The three of us then wandered off to the Christmas markets where we drank disappointing glühwein and stole pieces of Jonathan’s not-so-great curry wurst. And that’s where my Christmas spirit ends.

Manchester Update

Friday, November 14th, 2014

I feel that I haven’t written a general “This is life in Manchester” update in sometime. As I am currently at a loose end with a desire to write something but a disinclination for that to be anything work related, Manchester has become my topic for this here post. It is like to turn into a ramble with no clear point or purpose and will therefore also be a clear insight into the nonsensical workings of my brain. Good luck, dear readers.

Date: 13 November 2014
Current time:
3.51pm
Weather: 
Windy and overcast but not raining. And it isn’t that cold, really. These are all very positive things.
Amount of sunlight left remaining in the day:
Not a lot. What is sunlight?

I am currently sitting in a room above one of Manchester’s hippest hipster bars. The same hip hop tunes that have been playing on repeat for the last month are continuing strong from the speakers in the bar below. I’m not sure how many more times I can hear that he is killing her softly with his song without turning to similar violence.

Winter is, thankfully, taking its time to arrive. Talk about town includes, “Gosh, it is unseasonably warm, don’t you think?” with most people not having pulled out their winter jackets yet. It won’t last, of course. Particularly not now that the Christmas markets are opening on Friday and people will be wanting to wander around outside.

The Christmas Markets are apparently going to be bigger and better than ever before, which I take to mean that instead of four over priced fudge stalls owned by the same company there will be five. And it will not be physically possible to walk across Manchester without being forced to walk past stalls selling tacky christmas ornaments and novelty hats. Step outside and you will instantly smell like a german sausage. Yes, I admit that part of me enjoys the sights, smells and fairy lights of the markets, but that’s the same part of me that wanted to go to Blackpool. Give me an hour and I will want to leave.

Santa statue

Mega Santa takes over Manchester.

Every weekend, the city centre seems to be getting busier and busier with the main shopping strip, Market Street, becoming a human wave of shoppers. In September and October it was the sudden influx of students that ruined my commute to and from work when suddenly I was having to dodge hundreds of students carrying pillows and staring at their mobile phones as I tried to walk home. Now everyone is getting into the ‘Christmas Spirit’ and is out shopping for Timmy, Susan and Pedro’s christmas presents. One day I want to walk down Market Street in a very straight line and see how many people I manage to walk into. It would be the ultimate game of Chicken and I think I would score quite highly.

On a more positive note, the warm temperatures have meant that while the sun doesn’t get up until after 7am and has disappeared by 4.30pm, the weather has been remarkably good. My morning runs haven’t turned icy yet although I am having to avoid running along dark canals in order to not be murdered.

With two months and 17 days left on my visa, time is rapidly disappearing. But the closer my imminent departure gets, the keener I am to stick around. Yes, Manchester is dark, dirty and drizzly, but I like this place. It is growing and changing and becoming a seriously cool city. So the plan is to next year become one of those annoying pillow-carrying students and walk up and down Market Street bumping into people. Mostly because students in Manchester get a discount on almost EVERYTHING and I love a bargain.