Guilty Pleasures

Have you answered this weeks Booking Through Thursday Meme?

It’s my question! I’m so pleased they liked my meme enough to use it. In fact, I’m positively delighted that they used it! (Which is why I’m urgently sharing my news with you now!)

My question is:

What book(s) have you read that you’re secretly ashamed to admit?

Some of you already know my answer… but for those of you who don’t here’s a re-blog…

Book Swap Guilt

I don’t read chick lit. I’ll read just about anything: fiction, history, thrillers, sci-fi, the occasional biography, anything, except chick lit.

The first time I noticed this particular book in the book swap area I sniggered, then shuddered. I wondered “Who would bring that in?” Personally I’d have donated it to charity shop rather than publically confess a penchant for romantic tosh. But that’s just me. I’m an action-flick kinda gal.

I pass the book swap pile daily and frequently skim the spines for new titles. This book has been there for several weeks now. No one has touched it. Even the spine is un-creased. (Perhaps its previous owner didn’t read it after all).

Each time I passed it I would inwardly shake my head and think “Urgh! No-one is going to take that. They’d be too embarrassed for a start”. Even the picture on the cover makes me cringe. Then yesterday, inexplicably without any warning, a little voice in my head said “Oh go on then”.

WHAT?!

Where did that come?!

I was mortified the idea had sprung from my own brain. I checked left and right to make sure no one had seen it reflected in my face. I walked away quickly and sat at my desk. Fingers on keys. Eyes on the screen. I told myself no. NO. I have never, ever, wanted to read anything by this author, popular as she is.

I have never, ever, wanted to read this particular book. I don’t want to read it. I don’t. I really honestly and truly don’t.

(Deep breath)

But I’m going to. I didn’t decide that right away. On my journey home last night I found myself thinking: If I do take it I can’t let anyone see me take it: I’ll need something to hide it in. Perhaps I should wait until the office is empty… But what if people see me acting suspiciously? They might think I’m stealing! What if I’m subjected to a handbag search? How could I not look guilty?

! ! !

Where were these thoughts coming from?

Again I checked around me in case someone was monitoring my facial expressions. I’d clearly lost my senses. What was wrong with me? Was I seriously considering taking and reading a book that makes me wince at the thought of it? I took a few deep breaths, considered it for a while then reasoned that I might as well.

It is right that I should feel embarrassed? It’s only a book for goodness sake! I don’t even know what the book is about. Do other people feel this shame about chick lit?

Is this normal?

I feel a need to conduct some experiments, to give me a reason, an excuse for reading it: Perhaps I should take it out in public areas, on a train or in a café, just to observe how other people react to it. Will they snigger? Will they judge me harshly on my dubious choice? Will they smile at me but ooze pity from their eyes? More to the point, could I bring myself to be seen with it in public?

As I sat in the canteen I wanted to air these questions: Share my dilemma and consider the responses. I couldn’t. Our book swap is anonymous. I don’t know who the donor is and I couldn’t risk making them feel uncomfortable if they overheard me. I’m grateful other people are willing to swap books. I really am. I certainly wouldn’t want to scare anyone off. So instead I’m sitting here quietly, biding my time.

Tonight, when the office lights dim and most people have gone home, into my pre-prepared black plastic carrier-bag I’m going to slip a pristine copy of a Jilly Cooper.

All comments (and mocking) most welcome. 🙂

Cheery Cheap Weekend

Doing more with less challenge: Part 2

(Two ticks for the Day Zero Project)

Last week I was sent on a mission to see how far I could stretch £50 in Manchester. As predicted the answer is very far.

I had a non-stop day of activities planned for Saturday, which I estimated would cost about £45. When it came to it I barely dented the budget.

I enjoyed a full day out in Manchester for only £1.60.

OK, so I changed my plans slightly: I substituted eating out with eating at home and decided to drink coffee instead of cocktails but after a busy day that’s honestly all I wanted. Plus now I have £48.40 to stretch over February too.

Here’s how I got on…

The Manchester MuseumManchester Museum

The first place on my visit list was the Manchester Museum, the city’s very own natural history museum. Knowing it was all the way across the city centre, (walkable sure but I had a lot to fit in,) I hopped onto the free Metroshuttle (Green bus, number 2) to Chester Street and walked the remaining half mile along Oxford Road in the pouring rain.

Until recently it had been a shockingly long time since I’d been inside the Manchester Museum, 10 years at least. To be honest I felt a bit intimidated by it.

Set in the historical University buildings I half-expected it to be pretentious and inhospitable and I recalled wandering around totally alone looking through unmarked drawer after unmarked drawer. I remembered the Egyptian Mummies, a firm favourite, but as for the rest I remembered it being monotonous and gloomy. I expected it to be the same today.

I was so very wrong.

Family Friendly: Vibrant and Fun

I had read that the Manchester Museum is ‘family friendly’ but I was sceptical until I saw it for myself. I arrived to find a bright airy reception, bustling with young families and cheery commotion. For a few moments I actually thought I’d arrived just as a special children’s event was dispersing, but no, the museum remained that vibrant all morning and probably all day. There were children having fun and learning in every crevice of every room. It was delightful to see.

Manchester Museum for KidsI leisurely strolled though each exhibition, staring in awe at the animals and surreptitiously doing the challenges set out for children. I watched a girl draw the taxidermy animals and kicked myself for not having the foresight to bring a sketch pad myself.

Large Tusked ElephantEvents For All Ages

The museum has focussed heavily on children’s events in the past few years so now they are turning their attention to the adult programme. As I was planning my weekend I noted down activities I was interested in and found one that fitted in with my schedule:

Crafternoon Tea

I had hoped to take part in Crafternoon Tea, a social art and craft workshop where participants enjoy a cuppa whilst trying their hand at something new. I had earmarked £5 for the workshop but discovered I had gone to the wrong venue.

Crafternoon Tea is part of the Whitworth Art Gallery events programme, not the Manchester Museum’s. Ooops!, The Whitworth Art Gallery, which is also part of the University of Manchester, is a further 5 minutes up the road. Had I made enquiries earlier I could have dashed over there but by the time I asked I was already too late.

Fortunately the staff members I spoke with were very friendly and helpful so rather than laughing at my foolish mistake they encouraged me to try out the new adult events programme at the Manchester Museum instead.

Book Crossing

Before leaving to visit the next venue I sat opposite a dinosaur and registered a book with the Book Crossing website. People probably wondered why on earth I was juggling sticky labels, a mobile phone, a thriller and a still-sopping-wet umbrella.

Book Crossing means to leave a book in a public place so that another may pick it up, read it and do likewise.

When you register a book online you are given a unique ID number which you copy onto the bookplate (sticky label) inside the cover, along with the instruction to check out the website. You can then leave a note online for whoever finds the book and follows the bookplate instructions. Each new person who enters the unique ID onto the website is able to leave a message. Therefore, as the book is passed from reader to reader you are able to track its journey.

I discreetly left the book on the chair and made a swift exit. A week has passed and no-one has left a reply yet. I hope the book made its way into someone’s rucksack rather than into the ‘lost and found’ box. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you don’t. To learn more visit the website here.

Font Cocktail Bar

After leaving the museum I headed back down Oxford Road towards the Cornerhouse Art Gallery. On reaching the Thirsty Scholar I impulsively took a detour down the side street to Font Bar.

Being in the heart of Studentville Font prides itself on providing cocktails from as little as £2 each. Baring in mind a cocktail in the Northern Quarter, or virtually anywhere else in Manchester city centre might cost upwards of £6.50 (excluding happy hour offers) it was almost too tempting to resist.

I wandered in, wandered around and wandered out again. It seemed a good idea when I was heading towards it but I decided I should probably visit a few other venues before blowing the budget on cheap and cheerful booze.

Cornerhouse Art Gallery

The Cornerhouse ManchesterWhen I studied in Manchester I used to visit the The Cornerhouse Art Gallery during my lunch breaks. As I have neglected it since gaining full time employment I added the venue to my Day Zero List.

Although there are 3 floors only one exhibition space was open. Lost is Found is a group show of work from nine artists, all under 20 years of age, based in the North of England. The exhibited works were said to “find beauty in the redundant and discarded, explore past lives and find new stories in transformations and fleeting identities”.

I cannot adequately describe the exhibition so instead you should read this review and visit it for yourself!

Manchester Town Hall

I didn’t plan to visit the town hall but as I was passing it would have been rude not to!Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian Gothic masterpiece, designed by Alfred Waterhouse who also designed the Natural History Museum in London.

Often people don’t realise that behind those hefty doors is a relaxed and reasonably priced café where you can admire the décor over a variety of snacks or go all out on a three-tier afternoon tea.

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On weekdays you are allowed to explore the building by yourself (email me for a self-tour guide) or for a small fee you can book a guided tour of the clock tower. I couldn’t resist taking lots of photos.

As tempted as I was to sit in the town hall café I had promised myself I would visit Nexus Art Café as recommended by Manchester’s Artistic Son.

Nexus Art Cafe Statement of IntentNexus Art Café

I had heard there was a night café somewhere in the city centre but despite passing it almost daily it didn’t click that Nexus was that place.

Nexus Art Café is a community based charity, which hosts various creative events and remains open until 6 am at weekends to provide a safe venue for people making their way home after a night out. They’ll even phone for a taxi if you need one and feed you bacon butties whilst you wait.

Set in a basement on Dale Street, Nexus has a distinctive student vibe, similar to that in Common but without the alcohol. I took advantage of the free wifi by registering another book to the bookcrossing website, whilst sipping a coffee (£1.60) and curling up in a wicker chair.

Nexus Needs Our HelpSupport Nexus!

I regret that it’s taken me so long to visit this little gem, especially now I know it is struggling to stay afloat! One Night Café session costs £200 in overheads and they desperately need more support to keep on going. Click on the image left for more information or to make a donation contact support@Nexusartcafe.com

Feeling refreshed I left the bookcrossing book on the coffee table and handed our cups in at the counter. I had one last place to visit before going to home to raid the fridge.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre

As I made my way to Paramount Books on Shudehill I made a final detour through the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Set in the Victorian market building the Craft and Design Centre is the place to go to buy something handmade, unusual and bespoke. The two floors of contemporary studios sell paintings, jewellery, ceramics, interior accessories, furniture, bags, baby wear and more, or you can simply drop in to visit the café.

Whenever I visit I always linger the longest over Linzi Ramsden Ceramics. I find her designs simply stunning and struggle to find a favourite to purchase. If I could I would buy her designs in threes.

Paramount BooksParamount Book Exchange

After I allowed myself to be dragged from Linzi’s window I finished the day in Paramount Book Exchange near Shudehill station.

The moment I entered my ears were blasted with piano music. I mooched between stuffed shelves and crammed boxes looking vaguely at the titles but mainly marvelling at the jam-packed chaos. A few books caught my eye but I was repeatedly distracted by the random dolls and other paraphernalia squished between the spines.

I was tempted by a box of Sandman Dustcovers by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean until a fusty smell overwhelmed me. I thought the stench was coming from the girl next to me but in hindsight I realise it was probably the sofa.

In addition to old books Paramount Book Exchange sells vintage comic books, (and vintage porn!), LPs, CDs, DVDs, rare books and first editions. If you have the time to scrutinise the shelves and can live with the smell you’re sure to find a hidden treasure or two!

So that was last weekend. How are you stretching your post Christmas budget?

All comments are welcome 🙂

A Day in Books

I began the day with Serial.

On my way to work I saw Annabel and walked by The Wasp Factory to avoid Demon Girl but I made sure to stop at The Secret Garden.

In the office, my boss said, We Need to Talk About Kevin and sent me to research The Haunting of Hill House.

At lunch with Madame Bovary I noticed A Friend Like Henry under Salem’s Lot then went back to my desk Forever Odd.

Later, on the journey home, I bought Blood, Sweat and Tea because I have Clones then settling down for the evening, I picked up The Diary of a Nobody and studied Tooth and Nail before saying goodnight to The Peppermint Pig.

Thank you to Lou from I Hug My Books for posting this meme on her blog after spotting it on Cornflower Books.

The idea is to complete the story using the titles of books you’ve read this year.

Unfortunately I can only remember as far back as Halloween and most of the titles I read at that time were creepy / weird / ghoulish – Not particularly appropriate three days before Christmas.

New Year resolution: Record the titles of books I’m reading 

I think I’ve just about managed to rein it in. Not too creepy? It was difficult not to duplicate what Lou wrote seeing as I’m in Lou’s book club and we’ve read several of the same books this year.

Please try the meme for yourself. If you don’t have your own blog feel free to publish your ‘Day in Books’ in the comments here.

All comments are welcome 🙂

Cutaway

Christmas is nearly upon us, followed by the New Year a week later. Where did December go? With only 4 days left until Christmas you might be a little too busy thinking about last minute shopping, buying a turkey or wrapping presents to think about getting published…

…If however, seeing your own words in print sounds like the ideal Christmas present to yourself this should interest you:

Cutaway is an exciting Manchester based magazine which is looking for people to submit their own poetry and prose in the New Year to be published in the summer. (OK, so make that a belated Christmas present to yourself).

Here is Dave Schofield’s guest blog about Cutaway Magazine:

Ernest Hemmingway wrote:

“There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly: sometimes it’s like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”

I have a similar relationship to my writing as I have with food. Sometimes I can have a perfect meal and be content, sometimes I sit with a chocolate smeared face shouting ‘I HATE YOU!’ at the bathroom scales. Either way I need it.

And there just can’t be too many places to publish these days, since everyone says how hard it is to get in print. Electronic publishing / on demand / pdfs etc all make it harder on those who want to see their poem or story as an actual thing they can keep on a shelf – not just an email address they submit to and just get a link in return. It’s not quite the same. Hence Cutaway.

CutawayCUTAWAY

Cutaway is a new Manchester based literary fiction / genre magazine, looking for poetry and prose from around the world. We are open for submissions on January 1st, and will close to them on March 1st and publish around the beginning of May.

We expect a lot of submissions from the local area based on the vibrant literary scene – what with an abundance of local blogs, Bad Language spoken word nights, growing publishers like Comma Press and Nightjar Press, literature festivals galore and all the other events which evidence a glut of avid writers tucked around the conurbation – not to mention the recent flurry of activity with the poetically named NANOWRIMO.

You can check the website out for more information and our contact details, but take this as advanced warning – forget Christmas and New Year – get some paper and a pen and start scribbling.

To get an idea of what we’re looking for check out the blog posts on the cutaway website. Cutaway will be available for purchase on demand via Amazon and through selected retailers in Greater Manchester.

If plenty of Mancunian writers are inspired to join in there might be a get together at the launch in May next year in the Northern Quarter, with reading, drinking and lots of cheering and clapping.

Neglected. Eroded. Derelict. (Manchester: Post Apocalypse)

Manchester Meanders has been much neglected these past few weeks. ‘Tis the season to be jolly but I’m rushed off my feet both at work and at home.

I should be writing about the Christmas Markets, the lights, the charity Santa Runs, Santa’s Steam Train, the 2 for 1 cocktails at my beloved ‘The North Pole’, the ice skating rink at Spinningfields, reviewing the much anticipated opening of the Oast House, Christmas shopping / bargain hunting and the humorous and unusual ways window designers are trying to tempt us into their stores.

There are so many wonderful cheery things I could, should and want to write about…

…but the thing that stopped me in my tracks and evoked such emotion that I HAD to write today, even though I don’t really have the time right now, is James Chadderton’s exhibition at Incognito Gallery, Northern Quarter.

AFTER AN APOCALYPSE

This morning, before my first brew of the day, I browsed the BBC News website and clicked on a link called Manchester After An Apocalypse. The images that flashed on my screen were a stark and disturbing contrast to the backdrop of tinsel, trees-lights and Secret Santa parcels. I was staggered and speechless.

THE PALACE THEATRE

James Chadderton's photo from Mmanchester Apocalypse - Palace Theatre

The first digitally altered image to confront me was of the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street. It was so unexpected and alien it took a moment for me to register what I was looking at.

THE HACIENDA

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_hacienda

Most of us have seen post-apocalyptic images before, either in films or in computer games. In fact, Chadderton cited films, books and games as his inspiration to show Manchester as a “human devoid wasteland where the buildings have been left to decay”.

THE URBIS

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_urbis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be honest, I’m usually desensitised to such things. Perhaps these images stunned me more because it’s MY beloved city that has been depicted in this way.

“James Chadderton has smashed Manchester up. The Town Hall is a blasted husk, the Palace Theatre is wrecked. Urbis, the best of the sequence, is a shattered shell. There are no people, they are killed or gone, the streets are empty. Manchester is dead.” Jonathan Schofield, Manchester Confidential

THE PRINTWORKS

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_printworks

Perhaps it wasn’t just the contrast with the winter festivities that disturbed me: Two nights ago I read ‘When God Was a Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman for my book club. We each took something different away from the book – But to me it was a story of hope and despair, childhood enchantment and innocence lost, against a backdrop of real life events – Events which many readers, like myself, gravely remember.

I won’t review the book here,* I’ll just tell you that my recent recollections of the real life heart wrenching events mentioned within those pages are probably what caused my mind to jump to memories of the aftermath of the Manchester IRA bombing and the lawlessness of the rioting and looting earlier this year, rather than simply admiring Chadderton’s semi-fictional cityscapes with curiosity and awe from the outset.

THE BIG WHEEL

James Chadderton's photo_manchester_apocalypse_wheel

Jonathan Schofield, writing for Manchester Confidential wrote: “[James Chadderton’s] digitally delivered images are fun to view and allow Mancunians to contemplate the fall of their own city. They could be the perfect Christmas present for the twisted mind.”

‘Fun to view’ – FUN? It’s not a sentiment that I share. I absolutely WILL go to this exhibition: I will admire the inventiveness and imagination of the artist and I absolutely WILL be buying the postcards to remember it by, but as for ‘fun’ or a ‘perfect Christmas present’ (albeit for the twisted mind) – I think not.

So much for Christmas cheer.

BEAUTIFUL MANCHESTER

Don’t get me wrong – I think these images are fantastic – I just don’t be hanging them on my living room wall.

If like me you prefer your photographs of Manchester to be a little less morose check out Andrew Brooks’ website, (the photographer who very kindly gave permission for the use of his Manchester at Night piece as the Manchester Meanders header image) and Aidan O’Rourke  – Both of whom are celebrated Mancunian photographers whose work I absolutely adore and wouldn’t hesitate to cover my walls with!

What were your thoughts when you first saw James Chadderton’s images? Do you plan to visit the exhibition?

All comments are welcome. 🙂

  • *Read Lou’s book club review of When God was a Rabbit here 
  • Manchester: Post Apocalypse is showing at Incognito Gallery, 5 Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, M1 1DN. Phone: 0161 228 7999.
  • The gallery is open Monday-Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday noon-4pm.
  • Large framed and signed prints – £350; Smaller prints – £135; Postcards – £2.

N4 Guerrilla Gardening

The Secret Garden (Full Cover)I recently purchased a 1958 copy of The Secret Garden by F. Hodgson-Burnett at Barnardos on Piccadilly Approach. It isn’t an original but I couldn’t resist the 50 year old copy with its faded cover and browning pages. (Three shillings and sixpence!) Despite its aged appearance it was calling out to be loved.

I normally buy books, read them, then give them away but this one is a keeper: I devoured it in one afternoon. I should have read it growing up but for whatever reason I didn’t. I would have loved it as a child.

I vaguely knew what it was about of course, in the same way I know the plot of the 1997 film The Titanic. (I know it is going to sink so I haven’t bothered to watch it). This book is called The Secret Garden and the name says it all.

GREEN FINGERED

I’ve always loved gardens. I would play for hours amongst the trees and bushes as a child. I had a few secret gardens of my own growing up. All I needed was a shady spot between overgrown plants and a garden fence, or a hidden arch inside the bushes where the leaves didn’t grow. If adults couldn’t see me it was mine.

There was also a magnificent clearing behind my grandparent’s house in Wythenshawe which no-one owned and no-one loved. I would scale the fence, which was twice my height, clamber over the neighbours rubbish (notorious fly tippers) and play amongst the weeds and wildlife. If only I had read this book as a child. I could and should have done great things with that garden!

The Secret GardenA PLACE OF MY OWN

Since reading the book I have decided I want a garden. I grow vegetables and roses in my city centre apartment but they have a tendency to take over and block out the light. I want a real garden. There are several parks and patches of grass nearby which I could sit out on when I want to. But I want a secret garden.

I WILL have a secret garden.

BENDING THE RULES

Whilst walking to work one morning I remembered a story I heard in school: The teacher told us about a village that petitioned their council about an ugly brown roundabout in the middle of a busy road. The villagers asked the council to plant up the roundabout but due to lack of funding the council refused. The villagers asked if they could plant it up themselves but again the council refused. They said the road was too busy, that it wouldn’t be safe and that they would prosecute anyone who stepped foot on the roundabout.

Undeterred, the villagers drove round and round the roundabout whilst their passengers threw seeds out of the windows. After a couple of months the roundabout was bursting with colour. Isn’t that a great story?

AN IDEA BEGINS TO GERMINATE…

So I’ve decided to do a bit of Guerrilla Gardening of my own. For the past week I have been eyeing up patches of unused land on my way to and from work. I might start carrying packets of seeds in my pocket ready to disperse when no-one is looking. The only thing holding me back is the forthcoming winter. Spring is probably a better time for sowing seeds.

I need to put more thought into the location too. It needs to be somewhere I pass regularly so I can tend to it daily on the sly. I also don’t want to tread on the toes of the lovely people at The Manchester Garden City Initiative, who have been busy all year planting vegetable patches on disused land in the city centre; or on the toes of the equally lovely NQG: Northern Quarter Greening group. who are helping to make the Northern Quarter a better place to live, work and play.
NQG.org.uk

Photo with thanks to NQG.org.uk who both planted then published photos of these flowers on Church Street.

They’re doing a fantastic job aren’t they? If you’ve been in the Northern Quarter this summer you must have seen all the new planters and greenery. Both schemes are as much about creating community spirit as they are about growing fruit and vegetables or  planting flowers. Anyone wanting to volunteer or pledge support for the initiatives should contact them through their websites using the above links.

INTERNATIONAL TULIP GUERRILLA GARDENING DAY

Whilst I contemplate enacting my plan, I have one other little scheme in mind: Sunday the 9th of October is International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day. How could I possibly resist! I love Tulips for their simplicity and elegance, plus they’re ideal for guerrilla gardening because they should bloom for several years without any maintenance.

Next Sunday (the 9th) I will be heading out with a trowel and bulbs in my backpack (the hoodie and balaclava are optional) and I will be secretly planning tulips wherever I can. Come on, who’s with me? Wherever you are, we have some secret gardening to do!

(For more information on Guerrilla Gardening take a peek at this London blog. International Sunflower Guerrilla Day is on the 1st of May, so put that date in your diary too).

All comments are welcome. 🙂

Mini Manchester Musings

…And so another hectic week is coming to a close. The downside to working fulltime and having several projects on the go is that it interferes with my blogging. :-p It’s a good thing you don’t know I secretly planned to publish a Day Zero update every ten days. (Oops. Pretend you didn’t read that.) I promise to [try to] update you on my progress next week.

I’ve stumbled across several news items in the past week which I wanted to share with you. I’ve posted a few of them on the Deals & Bargains and the Events pages – after all, those pages are the reason I started this blog.

In case you don’t subscribe to those pages here are some snippets that caught my eye:

ENTERTAINMENT

Simple Street Party: American Funfair

If you’re looking for something to do this Sunday how about joining Simple as they celebrate 10 years in the Northern Quarter? From noon until 8pm, Tib Street will be closing for a 50s style American Funfair with cheerleaders, carnival stalls, fairground rides and Pink Ladies. (It’s on my doorstep so it would be rude not to go…)

They will be taking donations on the gate for local charities and giving away prizes for the best 50s dressed guest. Read more here.

The Black LionBlack Lion to Re-open with its own Cinema

The Black Lion pub on Chapel Street is frequently opening and closing and opening and closing. It’s a great little pub but it never seems to stay open for very long. My friends and I toyed with the idea of buying it ourselves and making better use of the upstairs. It appears someone else had the same idea:

The Black Lion will reopen shortly [they’re not sure when] and hopes to draw in the coffee-drinking lap-top crowd [rather than the ale drinking punters?]. Upstairs is being turned into a cinema which will focus on screening the latest in British cinema, to rival the Cornerhouse’s European Cinema.

The concept sounds interesting. 🙂 I’ve no doubt my friends and I will be there to drink them along. Read more here.

OktoberfestAlbert Square Oktoberfest

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival is nearly upon us and this year it’s kicking off with Oktoberfest. From Friday 7th to Wednesday 12th October Albert Square will house a pop-up Bier Keller with steins of Veltin’s Bavarian beers and traditional Bavarian and German sharing platters. The festival is free but the beer and food isn’t.

I’m going. How about you? Read more here.

MISCELLANEOUS

Relish Greater Manchester Cookbook

New to the bookshelves is Relish: Greater Manchester and Cheshire: a collection of 60 recipes to celebrate some of the top restaurants and some of the regions most high profile chefs including; Andrew Nutter from Nutters Restaurant in Rochdale, Harvey Nichols Second Floor Manchester Restaurant and Room Restaurant in Manchester. Along with the recipes the book contains wine recommendations and a hand-picked Larder Guide of the region’s best local suppliers.

I probably haven’t eaten in half of the restaurants listed in the cookbook – I suppose I could settle for trying their recipes at home instead. Read more here.

Be Proud, Love Manchester

“The Be Proud Awards are a celebration of Manchester’s heroes, rewarding volunteering excellence and outstanding spirit in our communities. This is your opportunity to recognise those who have worked hard to change and improve the lives of others.” If you would like to nominate anyone for the Be Proud Awards check out the website here.

Meditating Flash Mob

‘Participate in a Flash Mob’ is on my 101/1001 list, so imagine how disappointed I was to learn that I missed one in my home town yesterday. Mancunian blogger Minusonemoose wandered around the city centre taking photographs of people meditating for International Day of Peace.

I’m very sorry I missed it. If anyone hears any rumours of any Flash Mobs in Manchester or in the North West please will you give me a heads up? (sulk)

Scary PumpkinHalloween Walking Weekend

Large Outdoors are a friendly outdoor pursuits and social group with offices on Port Street in Manchester. (It’s opposite Port Street Beer House. Have I mentioned it? It’s a great little new pub!)

As part of their walking / hiking club they have arranged an alternative Halloween weekend at the ruined Barden Tower just outside Skipton. (Fri 28th – Sun 30th Oct).

For £65 you get two days of fully guided walks in the Yorkshire Dales, two nights bunk house accommodation, breakfast on Saturday and Sunday and an evening meal on Saturday night. One of my Day Zero Challenges is to do a hike with this bunch. Now I just need to persuade someone to come with me…

DOWN RIGHT WEIRD

Do It Yourself Taxidermy, LIVE in Stockport

I had to scrape my jaw off the desk when Tillybud mentioned this on her blog earlier this week. If the post about Charles Darwin’s Gourmet Club didn’t turn you to vegetarianism then this will:

On the Arts Council website it reads:

“This time we’re going to town with lazers, smoke machines and wall to wall projectors… not forgetting the all important stuffing.”

…“Delivered in a ‘shopping channel’ style” [ed -WHAT ON EARTH?] “She gives you handy hints & tips… where to source animal parts legally & personal preservation methods, giving a unique insight into this seemingly dark art and mind of an artist.”

I don’t know about you but I’m speechless.

Any plans for the weekend? All comments welcome. 🙂

Defective Baking

To be honest, I knew it wasn’t going well when it turned green. I’d followed the instructions exactly: It said “gradually add a few drops of blue food colouring (don’t add too much or the cake will look green.)” Well excuse me, but any yellow mixture is going go turn green if you add blue. It couldn’t be helped.

The Gingerbread House’s Battenburg turned green. Did I really expect mine to go differently? No. I looked at her photo and knew mine would go the same way. In hindsight I should have used white butter instead of yellow butter. When I was in Tesco’s surreptitiously buying a kilo of the stuff it just didn’t occur to me to peal back the wrapper to take a peek inside.

So my cake batter was green. Not the nice bluey-green Gingerbread House managed to achieve. Mine was more of a sickly pea-green. At least it didn’t curdle when I mixed the sugar, butter and egg. Oh wait, yes it did. The recipe said “If the mixture looks like it is curdling add a spoonful of the flour”, so I did. It didn’t help.

I probably should have used a proper cake tin. Instead I used a flimsy latex one from The Pound Shop. You’d think I’d have taken more care when putting it into the oven. It nearly ended up on the oven door. I caught it, just in time. I balanced the flimsy square on my left hand, the edges drooping on three sides threatening to overspill, whilst my right hand battled the oven rack.

Grabbing it with both hands wasn’t much better: the cake flopped into a V shape redistributing the mixture once again. (Note to self: Use a baking tray in future). I scrapped the mix back into the ‘tin’ and popped it in the oven.

I shouldn’t have opened that bottle of wine. I was home alone and baking on a Saturday night. I knew it was a mistake but I did it anyway. I thought I deserved it at that point. It couldn’t get much worse, could it? …

…That’s as far as my diary entry went for Saturday night.

I meant to finish writing about my disastrous Union Jack Battenberg and post it in a blog. I also meant to write about the wonderful chocolate / vanilla marble muffins I successfully scraped together. (Number 44: Tick!) The recipe said they were cupcakes. Who am I to My Chocolate Cup Cakesargue? If I’d known they were muffins I’d have used a muffin tin instead of a Yorkshire pudding tin, then maybe they wouldn’t have spread out and covered the tray. They still worked out well, considering. They look good though, right? They tasted good.

I also meant to write about the “Northern Quarter Loves You” festival which took place over the weekend. (2 day, 3 stages, 30 bands etc.) I wish I had the time to tell you about sitting outside Centro Bar on Tibb Street listening to J.P. Cooper and chatting with a fascinating ex-pat Mancunian who nearly died in the Boxing Day Tsunami, but survived with just one leg amputated.

I wanted to tell you how much I loved seeing Manchester come together like that: having fun, eating, drinking, dancing; and I wanted to debate the idea of having a NQ festival monthly, bi-annually or annually.

I just don’t have the time. Not this week. Instead here are some photos from the Northern Quarter Loves you festival.

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If you didn’t go – You missed out. If you did go – Tell me about it. 🙂

All comments welcome. 🙂

… P.S. We’re looking for a Canadian themed venue in Manchester for our next book club. Any ideas?

P.P.S. My cupcake photo isn’t suppost to be part of the slideshow but I don’t know how to remove it without removing it from this page completely. Just ignor that one! :-p

Five Down, Ninety-Six To Go

101 in 1001 LogoI am now on day 26 of the 101 / 1001 challenge. Since my last update I have completed 4 challenges. Yippee!

The first challenge I completed, right at the start of the project, was Number 79: Persuade someone to join the Day Zero Challenge. That one is well and truly DONE. Since my last update I have talked a third person into signing up, who has in turn persuaded three other people to join in, plus Louise published her list yesterday.

I think I have nine willing volunteers in my pyramid scheme now. Cha-ching! (Or at least itwould be if I start rewarding myself cash for each new person who joins).

Before I go into which four I have completed, let us first look at the works in progress:

BooksIN PROGRESS

Number 26: I have read 10.1 cm of books – that’s about 6% of my height. My new phone has a little inbuilt-ruler-gadget-thingy which is proving very useful for this challenge.

(I went camping at the weekend – in the rain and cold. We could have left at any point but I had borrowed a book from another camper so I refused to leave until I had finished reading it. It gave me a further 2.2 cm).

I’ve also spent a small fortune on second hand books recently. If I just read books on my Kindle I would never complete the challenge. How many Kindles would I need to stack up to reach my height? Have you seen how thin they are?

Bear Grylls eating ZebraNumber 50: The challenge to eat 10 new unusual foods might not be as difficult as I first thought. I have discovered some crazy online shops that sell unusual meats, such as zebra, camel, python, rattle-snake and crocodile. Plus the Manchester Arndale market doesn’t do too badly either. From there I can buy pigeon, pig trotters, cow stomach, razor clams and shark, occasionally. I haven’t actually started this challenge. But I will. One day.

Number 56: I have attempted to curl my hair twice since starting the challenge. The second time I was even able to show my face in public. Alright, so I still looked messy and I was only visiting family but I am getting there. I just hope that incidents don’t go hand in hand with improvement. The first time I curled my own hair I looked dreadful. I brushed it out immediately but at least I didn’t burn myself. The second time it looked ok-ish, but in the process I burned my ear repeatedly and accidently grabbed the curling-wand with my un-heatproof-gloved hand. Ouch.

In brief, I have also:

  • Bookcrossed 5 out of 20 books (Number 29)
  • Sent off for my photocard driving licence again. (Number 81) My challenge was simply to fill in the form and send it off, which I have done twice now. I’m unwilling to tick this one off until I receive everything back safe and sound.
  • I have written my diary in 6 words for 36 out of 101 days so far (Number 86)
  • And Melanie has offered to write a guest blog piece for me (Number 88). I look forward to receiving that in my inbox at some point over the next 2.7 years.

MR PIGEON

Number 55: I became pretty obsessive about the Rubix Cube on my phone for about 3 days last week. After watching 4 or 5 hours of tutorials on Youtube and having written 10 pages of notes I managed to solve my first Rubix Cube. Hurray! When I went to tick it off my list however I realised my challenge was to ‘learn how to solve’, not just solve using instructions. Doh! So that one is still a work in progress.

I received an email yesterday from the Ebay seller who is sending me an actual Rubix Cube to work with. I ordered it weeks ago but it still hasn’t arrived. The email said:

“Mr. Pigeon informed us that he has completed 75% of its journey and preparing to land in a few days time. We are really concern that your item arrives on time and in good condition. Kindly keep we informed once you have received the item. If you have received your items please ignore this email, our pigeon must be have worked all the way out to get your products delivered.”

Homing PigeonHow sweet! A pigeon is carrying it all the way from China! At least that explains why it’s taken nearly a month. They should have used Owls. Harry Potter’s mail never took this long.

Soooo, now to the four challenges I have completed:

MAKE OVER – TICK!

Number 18: I won a makeover and photo shoot several months ago from one of the numerous makeover-photography places in Manchester. (There are dozens, seriously). When I won I thought I would wait a few months, take on a strict fitness routine, loose weight, look great, you know – that sort of thing. It didn’t happen. I love food too much so dieting was never going to happen. I could have exercised more but something always got in the way: Laziness, mainly. Plus a touch of procrastination.

If I was going to accept the prize I had to take it by the end of August. I just about squeezed it in by taking last Friday off work. When I booked the photo shoot I didn’t know it was going to coincide with We Love MCR Day. When I found out I thought ‘Great! I have the whole day off to enjoy it’.

Of course it didn’t quiet work out: Photo shoots always take longer than you expect, so I didn’t get to Exchange Square for 5 pm to tie a love-note to a balloon to release en mass at 5.30 pm. (Sulk!) I was looking forward to Number 77 but I’ll just have to buy a balloon another time.

World Book Night 2012WORLD BOOK NIGHT – TICK!

Number 30: The deadline for April 2012s World Book Night is upon us so I spent a lot of time last month deliberating on which 10 books to nominate.

For those of you who haven’t heard of World Book Night, it is Bookcrossing but on a huge scale.

World Book Night 2011For those of you who don’t know what Bookcrossing is, it means to leave a book in a public place for someone else to find, read, then leave in a public place for the next person to find. Feel free to look at my bookshelf here.

To Bookcross you register each book individually on the website then write the number and a brief message inside the book. Whoever finds it and reads the message can type the unique registration number into the bookcrossing website and leave a ‘Journal Entry.’ In theory you can follow your books journey around the world though the messages people leave. I think I’ve only ever received 4 messages but I live in hope.

So back to my challenge: World Book Night asked people to nominate 10 books to be Bookcrossed next April. Last year they gave away 40,000 books around the UK all in one night. In addition to nominating 10 books I have registered my interest to be one of the bookcrossers on the night. Fingers crossed that they pick me.

BE NOMINATED AS A TORCH BEARER – TICK!

CongratulationsNumber 91: (Yes, this is a new one). Those of you who live in the UK will have seen countless advertisements asking you to nominate a torch bearer for the London Olympics in 2012.

You were asked to nominate someone who does a lot of charity work or is active in the community. I secretly wanted to be nominated but I didn’t tell anyone. I do a lot of fundraising and volunteering so why not? I’m probably too old, ok I’ll admit that. 80% of torch bearers will be under 24 so it’s unlikely that I’ll actually get to the carry the torch, but I’m delighted to have been nominated. Thank you. 🙂

HappyBEING HAPPY – TICK!

Number 90: My fourth and final task this week was to list 101 things that make me happy. It’s quite personal so I’m not going to share my list, but I have written it. Honest.

It’s wonderful being so easily pleased!

 

How are you all getting on with your lists?

All comments are welcome. 🙂

Book Swap Guilt

I don’t read chick lit. I’ll read just about anything: fiction, history, thrillers, sci-fi, the occasional biography, anything, except chick lit.

The first time I noticed this particular book in the book swap area I sniggered, then shuddered. I wondered “Who would bring that in?” Personally I’d have donated it to charity shop rather than publically confess a penchant for romantic tosh. But that’s just me. I’m an action-flick kinda gal.

I pass the book swap pile daily and frequently skim the spines for new titles. This book has been there for several weeks now. No one has touched it. Even the spine is un-creased. (Perhaps its previous owner didn’t read it after all).

Each time I passed it I would inwardly shake my head and think “Urgh! No-one is going to take that. They’d be too embarrassed for a start”. Even the picture on the cover makes me cringe. Then yesterday, inexplicably without any warning, a little voice in my head said “Oh go on then”.

WHAT?!

Where did that come?!

I was mortified the idea had sprung from my own brain. I checked left and right to make sure no one had seen it reflected in my face. I walked away quickly and sat at my desk. Fingers on keys. Eyes on the screen. I told myself no. NO.

I have never, ever, wanted to read anything by this author, popular as she is. I have never, ever, wanted to read this particular book. I don’t want to read it. I don’t. I really honestly and truly don’t.

(Deep breath)

But I’m going to.

I didn’t decide that right away. On my journey home last night I found myself thinking: If I do take it I can’t let anyone see me take it: I’ll need something to hide it in. Perhaps I should wait until the office is empty… But what if people see me acting suspiciously? They might think I’m stealing! What if I’m subjected to a handbag search? How could I not look guilty?

! ! !

Where were these thoughts coming from?

Again I checked around me in case someone was monitoring my facial expressions.

I’d clearly lost my senses. What was wrong with me? Was I seriously considering taking and reading a book that makes me wince at the thought of it? I took a few deep breaths, considered it for a while then reasoned that I might as well.

It is right that I should feel embarrassed? It’s only a book for goodness sake! I don’t even know what the book is about. Do other people feel this shame about chick lit?

Is this normal?

I feel a need to conduct some experiments, to give me a reason, an excuse for reading it: Perhaps I should take it out in public areas, on a train or in a café, just to observe how other people react to it. Will they snigger? Will they judge me harshly on my dubious choice? Will they smile at me but ooze pity from their eyes? More to the point, could I bring myself to be seen with it in public?

As I sat in the canteen I wanted to air these questions: Share my dilemma and consider the responses. I couldn’t. Our book swap is anonymous. I don’t know who the donor is and I couldn’t risk making them feel uncomfortable if they overheard me. I’m grateful other people are willing to swap books. I really am. I certainly wouldn’t want to scare anyone off.

So instead I’m sitting here quietly, biding my time.

Tonight, when the office lights dim and most people have gone home, into my pre-prepared black plastic carrier-bag I’m going to slip a pristine copy of a Jilly Cooper.

All comments (and mocking) most welcome. 🙂