My Manchester in 52 words

Our balcony overlooks the Northern Quarter; a heritage site, the original Victorian centre. Red brick buildings and rooftops interspersed with flourishing trees give way to high-rises beyond. I glimpse the Pennines and wind farms in the distance. I smile. Sometimes we watch fireworks or glowing paper lanterns. It’s peaceful here: Quiet.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

52 WORDS

NQLovesYouEdgeStreetChris Smith and Liz Peel from Finding Manchester are embarking on the mammoth challenge of visiting 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks in 5 continents. It’s a fantastic project inspiring people to reach out and connect with other communities around the world, as well as encouraging people to share their own experiences closer to home.

Chris interviewed me at the Manchester Museum earlier this year, so Manchester Meanders could be ‘placed into the Manchester Box’. This ‘Box’ will travel with them around the world help them explain what it is like to live right here, right now, in Manchester UK.

Contact Chris Smith

Follow Finding Manchester on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m already in the box but there is an opportunity for you to get inside the box too: by entering the 52 word challenge.

The challenge is simple…In 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

You’ve read my first attempt at the challenge and you can read a few more of my ideas below.

But first, here are the rules:

CLAIM A PLACE IN HISTORY

The competition is open to everyone. Thirteen entries will be selected from each of the four age groups, so there will be 52 winners in total.

Entries can be short factual stories, poems, parables, songs or anything else as long as they are exactly 52 words in length. (For simplicity, hyphenated words count as two words).

The winners will claim their place in history by having their reflections entered into the Manchester City Archive Repository for perpetuity. How often does an opportunity like that come along?

Will you write something? Go on, try it. How hard can 52 words be?…

Here are three more of my quick attempts:

When I joined the Duck Race I imagined real ducks, not yellow plastic rubber duckies. I should have guessed. How could they herd thousands of birds along the River Irwell? They’d fly away, surely? Spectators line the banks of Spinningfields, laughing, watching them bob. We cheer for wind to float them along.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester’s first Duck Race was held on a scorching hot spring day. There was barely a breeze so we cheered for 40 minutes getting sunburned whilst they barley moved 10 meters. At one point they even moved backwards.

Manchester Duck Race

Photo: Thanks to MEN Media

The Duck Race is a fun but bizarre family-friendly day out with decent Manchester based prizes. Sponsoring a Duck costs from just £1 per duck (more for businesses) and the money raised goes to a children’s charity. This year they DID herd real ducks! (Technically, they were geese). Did you sponsor a ducky?

Whose idea was Pub Golf? A cocktail here, a pint there: I don’t normally mix my drinks. I’d rather sit and chat if I’m honest. It’s a good way to see new bars I suppose. Drink up: next venue. An eight-hole ‘course’ and I’m seven over par. The costumes are overkill.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Pub Golf is on my Day Zero list but I’ve been putting it off. I’m fully resigned to the idea of coming last: Who wants to get so drunk they can’t stand up anyway? It’s the [optional] dressing up, having a giggle with friends and visiting new bars that counts. I will play it, one day. Probably.

Festival season again: So much to see and do! Parades, Markets, Street theatre, Concerts: I want to do them all! I plan the weekend meticulously. It’s the only way, I think. There’s never enough time. I’ll probably get side tracked as the crowds swallow me up. I rarely stick to the plan.   

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester Galleon at the Manchester Day Parade

Manchester Day Parade

Regular readers will know my my plans change frequently. (Fantastic Frantic Festival Season, the £50 weekend challenge and my attempt to follow the Art Crawl are a few examples). It’s good to have a plan but you don’t have to stick to it. Plans get you out of the house and into scenarios where you can be spontaneous. Does that make sense?

So, in 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

All comments are welcome 🙂

(Enter the competition here)

Accidental Activist

Monkey and a Shrub

Monkey and a Shrub: Guerrilla Gardeners in a Manchester Protest in 2007. Photo borrowed from the BBC News Website.

Last week I wrote about my intention to create a secret garden somewhere in Manchester city centre. Guerrilla Gardening certainly isn’t new but I’m a newbie at it. In my blog I mentioned NQG: Northern Quarter Greening group who have been guerrilla gardening throughout the city centre all year. They are true Guerrilla Gardeners: Many mornings I woke up to find an empty patch of land was suddenly filled with bedding plants to liven up my walk to work. I intend to join them, if they’ll have me.

I published the article on Saturday. Two days later I received an email that should have thrilled me: BBC Radio Manchester had been in touch to invite me to be interviewed on air about taking part in International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I’m a wallflower. I like to stay in the background and never take centre stage. If you read this piece you’ll know how painfully shy I was growing up and how it took years to crawl out of my shell. They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. I don’t want it.

ABJECT TERROR

The few people I told about the interview were ecstatic. They went beyond enthusiasm and excitement; they were bouncing off the walls with delight. I on the other hand felt abject terror. The more people delighted in telling me what a fantastic opportunity it was the more I felt myself withdrawing into my shell. I felt sick. I was shaking. The idea of speaking on the radio absolutely petrified me. I have never ever wanted to speak on the radio. I knew it was a privilege to be asked, but as for actually doing it – Not in this lifetime.

DECISION TIME

The fear lingered for hours. My colleagues wouldn’t let the subject drop. Whenever I managed to put it out of my mind for a while someone would bring it up again. I kept telling them “No chance. I’m not doing it. Nothing you can say will talk me into it” and then I thought about my Day Zero List.

Number 83: Agree to do something I really don’t want to do. Being interviewed live on the radio is something I really, really, REALLY did not want to do.

So I agreed to do it.

Beswick at BreakfastI tentatively emailed the producer. My hands were probably shaking as I typed. I enquired what they expected from the interview and whether it would be live or [fingers crossed] recorded so if I screwed it up we could start again.

The next day I received an email giving me a get out of jail free card; the producer told me it would be live (Sorry!) and that their reporter Kevin would take good care of me. Or, if I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t have to.

WAITING

Sometimes the anticipation is the worst part. Every day this week I have had an internal debate over whether to go through with it or whether to pull out. I could feel panic rising within me whenever I thought about it. I had already agreed and didn’t want to let anyone down so I knew I wouldn’t pull out, but knowing that I could and life would go on was comforting.

I needed this week. If on Monday they had asked could we interview on Tuesday I couldn’t have done it. I needed this week to calm my nerves and convince myself it would be OK. It didn’t help that I felt like a fraud: The NQG group have worked hard all year and here I was, a newbie, coming in and stealing their thunder.

ILLEGAL

It didn’t help that guerrilla gardening is illegal either. Was I really going to publicly announce my plan to engage in an illegal activity? It’s hard to imagine being prosecuted for having civic pride and wanting to improve the look and feel of your neighbourhood but it could happen.

THE DAY BEFORE

Yesterday I still didn’t know whether it was on or not. I had suggested a time and a place for the interview but there had been no solid confirmation. Was I relieved that I might not have to do it? Hmm, I was unsure. For days I had been brainwashing myself into thinking I could do it. Did I feel cheated at loosing the opportunity? Yes, relieved but cheated.

My challenge was to ‘agree to do’ something I really didn’t want to do. I had ‘agreed’ to do it. Would the fact I didn’t actually do it mean that it wouldn’t count? It’s hard to imagine another such opportunity which would make me recoil in fear, as per the challenge, short of a TV interview that is.

At about 2 pm my phone rang. It was Kevin, a BBC journalist, my interviewer. Challenge 83 was back on track.

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Last night I met Lou’s book group in Matt and Phreds. It was my first visit since the smoking ban was introduced. It was much brighter than I remember, but as I discovered Thursday night is salsa lesson night, so the lights were on. I’d been expecting darkness and jazz.

Before I arrived Dave informed the group of my impending live humiliation. I struggled to drink just 2 bottles of beer or to eat the delicious pizzas. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but was the deal: Buy 2 bottles of beer get 2 bottles of beer plus 2 pizzas free? What a bargain! I’ll go there again!) What I really needed was an alcohol free early night.

SHOWTIME!

I was woken up at 2.30 am and again at 5 am, after which I couldn’t get back to sleep. Feeling groggy and sick with nerves I found I had developed a cough in the night. It was as though my body was fighting me every step of the way telling me to pull out; cancel; abort.

Kevin from BBC Radio Manchester

Kevin from BBC Radio Manchester

At 8.30 am I met Kevin at a secret location. We chatted about a lot of things on the run up to the live slot – mainly to calm my nerves. We talked about Manchester Meanders and about being shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards. (Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I really appreciate it!) We talked about Manchester’s events and the Day Zero Project. We talked a lot about Guerrilla Gardening, after all that’s why we were there.

We ran through the procedure of the interview: Kevin told me how he planned to introduce the piece and the type of questions he was going to ask. We had 3 or 4 ‘dress rehearsals’ so I wouldn’t be frozen with terror and revert to nodding silently when it was time to speak on air.

Nerves came in waves. Whenever Kevin needed to adjust the microphone or test the equipment, or when he listened to voices in his headphones, I felt the butterflies taking flight. I hopped from one leg to the other and took slow deep breaths.

When Kevin started his introduction for the final time (It’s going out live!) I had to make a conscience effort to ignore the microphone and look at Kevin: Look at Kevin; Talk to Kevin; Ignore everything else. Just as it started a man walked past less than a metre from us. [Ignore him Sammy! Ignore him!]

At 8:59 am it was all over. I wasn’t traumatised. My voice didn’t shake ludicrously as I expected it would. I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself, I don’t think.

We didn’t cover the ground we’d planned to cover. In fact, I’m not entirely sure we talked about International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day (this Sunday) which was the whole point of the interview. I think I mentioned NQG and The Secret Garden but I’m not sure.

From the initial email we expected the interview to last 10 minutes but during our ‘rehearsals’ the slot was pushed back by 5 minutes, cutting the interview time in half. Kevin expected it to last 3 minutes. The studio overran slightly and as they had to play a jingle at a specific time exactly the final interview probably only lasted about 2 minutes. We might even have been cut off at the end. I have no idea what I did or didn’t say in that time.

The interview is available online but I haven’t listened to it.

I’m not sure if I want to.

I’m going to give you the link now but you have to promise to be kind. OK?

The interview was on Beswick at Breakfast on 07/10/2011. Our interview was right at the end of the show.

As I accidentally became an activist for guerrilla gardening please show your support by planting tulips this Sunday for International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day!

Challenge 83: TICK!

All comments are welcome. 🙂

One Down, One Hundred To Go

I am now on the 10th day of the 101/1001 challenge. I have completed ONE task.

Despite being giddy and excitable in anticipation of the challenges I haven’t actually managed to achieve very much.

Or have I?

I have only completed one task but I’ve been discussing the challenges at length, weighing up my options and putting feelers out for some of the others. It seems everyone I show my list to wants to help me achieve my goals.

A few people have presented an easy way out. For example, I was enthusiastically encouraged to make fish cakes decorated in tartar sauce, thus completing tasks 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45 all in one fell swoop.

I won’t.

I don’t want the challenges to be easy. I’ll feel cheated if they’re easy. Experience has taught me that you only get out what you put in. For the challenges to be worthwhile and memorable I need to put thought and effort into each individual one.

If I was willing to cheat I could claim I’ve completed number 44: Learn how to bake and ice fancy cupcakes. You see, Blondie gave me an impromptu lesson last night but to be honest it was a farce:

First Attempt at Cup CakesI measured too much butter. I didn’t beat the butter before adding the sugar. Blondie added too much milk so we added more of the other ingredients randomly to compensate. The mixture was still too runny so we put it in the freezer to solidify. The biggest cheat of all is that Blondie did most of it for me, except for icing the buns.

Number 44: Well and truly FAILED. (Oops, I mean IN PROGRESS).

FIRST COMPLETE!

1001 days to complete 101 challenges: That works out at one challenge every 10 days.

Yesterday, on day 9, I really thought I was going to fail to tick anything off in my first segment. That was until Melanie from Silly Wrong but Vivid Right saved me by publishing her own Day Zero list.

It could be argued that I had already passed this challenge when Manchester’s Artistic Son signed up, but as he was so easily persuaded and published his list before I did I felt cheated. Now that I have inspired 2 people independently I can confidently say: Number 79 – TICK!

Although I have completed the challenge I will continue to persuade others to join in. I really thought that task would be much harder. Complete yes, but was it too easy? How about 101 new joiners on a pyramid scheme? What is the policy on bonus points anyway?

REJECTION

The task I assumed I would complete first was number 81: Send off for a photocard driving licence. That should be simple enough, right? I filled in the form, took and attached a passport photograph, gave them my passport details, did everything they asked of me – then they rejected my form. I was disappointed to say the least. Dave made the mistake of asking what was wrong with my application: You can read my rant here…

IN PROGRESS

Several of my challenges are now in progress. Look at the Day Zero Project Tab for the full update:

  • I have read 5.7 cm worth of books towards reading my height (26);
  • I have ordered a Rubix Cube from Ebay (55);
  • I have stacks of used stamps ready to be cut out and donated to charity (34);
  • I am 21 days into writing a Diary In Six Words each day for 101 days (86). (I started this task on the day I decided to take the challenge. Day one reads “Started writing my Day Zero List.” That isn’t cheating, surely?)
  • I have registered 8 out of 10 books for World Book Night and I’m open to suggestions for what to nominate for the remaining two;
  • Plus I’ve started a few of the ‘list writing’ challenges.

FARM HAND

I wrote earlier that people are volunteering to help me achieve my goals: I honestly thought number 82 (shear a sheep and / or feed a lamb and / or milk a cow) was going to be a wild card. I didn’t even know where to start with it and yet as soon as I mentioned it someone piped up and started making plans to speak to local farmers on my behalf. How unexpected and fantastic! Do you know who is sorting this one out for me? My Mum.

My MUM!

How wonderful is my Mum?!

I really should bake her a cake. (Number 45).

x

All comments welcome. 🙂

Day Zero Project

101 in 1001 LogoInspired by The Laughing Housewife, Sarsm and Corkscrewboo-hoo I have decided to undertake the Day Zero Project, otherwise known as the 101/1001 Challenge.

The Challenge:

Complete 101 preset personal challenges in a period of 1001 days. Challenges must be specific and unambiguous, realistic and demanding.

1001 Days is about 2.75 years. This means I will have several seasons (and hopefully multiple opportunities) in which to complete the tasks.

Why am I doing this?:

Because it sounds fun. Because I take things for granted. Because as a child my dad told me to “Live Every Day of Your Life”.

It is actually quite difficult to write a list of 101 things you want to achieve in a relatively short period of time. I’ve already achieved a lot of things on my ‘some day’ list, such as doing a marathon, riding a horse in the sea, planting a tree, climbing a waterfall and learning the alphabet in sign language.

If you read my post The Next Step you will realise that I’m willing to try just about anything. Many of the items on my 101/1001 list were added on a whim. There are challenges that just popped into my head, sounded fun and I thought “OK, I can do that”. Although I had I never seriously considered them before I’m sure I will have fun along the way.

Other challenges on the list should encourage me to do my ‘some day’ items sooner rather than later. Others will stop me taking Manchester for granted, for example, I used to visit galleries regularly but don’t seem to find the time nowadays. Well now I have to – The clock is already ticking.

As I launch the list today I have only chosen 90 challenges. I am open to suggestions for the remaining 11. If you have any ideas for me or think you can help me with any of the challenges please get in touch.

Read my Day Zero Project List here

Wish me luck!