What Makes Britain so Brilliant?

“A lot of things actually. Far too many to mention them all…” so said the 4-page Carling advertisement covering this morning’s free Metro newspaper.

Reading their list brightened my rainy Mancunian morning, so if you don’t mind I’d like to share it with you.

60 YEARS, 60 REASONS

Since it’s the Queen’s Jubilee (and we’re about to have a FOUR DAY WEEKEND to celebrate – Yippee!) here are 60 reasons, one for each year of her reign (shamelessly reproduced without permission…)

  1. Marmite. Mmm…yuck.
  2. Our devotion to our wonderfully gripping soap operas.
  3. Vivienne Westwood’s heels. It’s worth the pain.
  4. The Earl of Sandwich’s groundbreaking concept of putting a savoury filling between two pieces of bread.
  5. Glastonbury – mud and all.
  6. Our modesty – we never boast about how great we are, apart from today.
  7. The pound and our reluctance to adopt the Euro.
  8. The best selling music artists in the world are our very own: The Beatles.
  9. Our politeness – no matter how irritated we get, we are always too British to say anything.
  10. Kate Middleton and her sister.
  11. The Great British Summer (don’t forget the brolly).
  12. Driving on the left (the right way to do it).
  13. No matter where you are in Britain, you’re never far from a pub.
  14. Any excuse for a cup of tea.
  15. Curry, the unofficial national dish, with a pint of cold larger.
  16. We don’t moan because we’re miserable, we moan because it makes us happy.
  17. Our international language. Travelling abroad is a doddle.
  18. The Queen and her graceful wave.
  19. The Great British countryside, when you’re not stuck behind a tractor.
  20. Freedom of speech.
  21. Deep fried food. Fish, sausages, Mars bars… absolutely anything.

  22. Some of the very best museums and galleries on the planet. Free.
  23. The national tendency to cheer the underdog and ridicule the mighty.
  24. We apologise way too much. Sorry about that.
  25. Crisps. We eat more of them, in more varieties, than the whole of Europe put together.
  26. Shakespeare. When thou can understandeth it.
  27. Sir David Attenborough and his soothing voice on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
  28. British strawberries, perfect with cream.
  29. Our cobbled streets, watch your heels ladies.
  30. Chips with fish, or cheese, or beans, or pies, or steaks, or curries or in a sandwich. Chips with pretty much everything.
  31. We know the importance of a good queue.
  32. Beans on toast, brilliant no matter what your age.
  33. Courtroom WigCourtroom wigs. Our great way of making very smart people look very silly.
  34. Pantomimes. The jokes never seen to get old.
  35. No matter how cold it gets it will never keep us from our nights out.
  36. HP sauce. Chuck it on everything.
  37. The 3pm Saturday kick off.
  38. Cream teas. In case you’re wondering, Cornish is jam first, Devon is cream first.
  39. Jellied eels. And jelly. Though not necessarily together.
  40. Beer gardens. Because we love our beer and we love our gardens.
  41. Saying ‘I’m fine’ no matter how we feel.
  42. A love of mowing the lawn.
  43. Plugs with switches. Amazingly nowhere else seems to do this.
  44. Tolerating nearly everything, but banning hosepipes.
  45. Llanfairpwllgyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllantysiliogogogoch in North Wales. Just wait till your sat nav tries that one.
  46. World Cup, 1966. We’ll be clinging to it forever.
  47. Egg and soldiers. Those brave and tasty souls.
  48. The BBC. The only time you’re not constantly reaching for the fast-forward      button.
  49. Our British seasides. Watch out for the seagulls.
  50. Archie Gemmill’s goal against Holland.
  51. Prime Minister’s Question Time. A no-holds-barred, public bashing for whoever’s in charge. Every week.
  52. The Full English breakfast. Served all day.
  53. The weather. Although we get less of it than almost anywhere, it’s still the major talking point.
  54. 99 FlakeThe 99 flake.
  55. Morris dancing. We know how to move it 15th Century style.
  56. Allotments. Our very own little patch of the countryside.
  57. Our love of everything pickled.
  58. Carry On films. Oooer Missus.
  59. Our talent. Be it our artists, musicians, directors or just dancing dogs.
  60. And finally…

(Seeing as the list was a Carling advert I’m sure you can figure their last one out).

Happy Bank Holiday / Queen’s Jubilee / Weekend everyone!

Do you agree with the list? What are your plans this weekend?

All comments are 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

So Many Festivals, So Little Time

There is so much happening in Manchester this month that I’m struggling to keep up. I want to sample a bit of everything but the quantity and variety available is overwhelming.

I’ve already written about the Manchester International Festival, but what about the ‘Not Part Of’ festival and the ‘Not Part of the Not Part Of’ festival, (I’m not kidding) and all the other festivals, activities and shows this month?

I can’t go to everything, as much as I might want to, so I’ve picked out a few events for my diary and I hope to stumble across others as the days go by.

NOT PART OF – 30th June to 16th JulyNot Part of The Festival Guide

First up is MIFs unofficial fringe festival: Not Part Of. They have more than 150 events at 48 venues over 17 days. There are performances / installations / photography / pub quizzes / stand ups / workshops / too many things to mention, happening in the street, in bars, in theatres, in cafes, in parks etc. Basically there’s stuff happening virtually everywhere so keep your eyes peeled.

My understanding is that the ‘Not Part Of’ festival is pretty much a creative and artistic free-for-all. The organisers don’t pick who will be involved – they offer guidance and support, but pretty much if you have an idea and the tenacity to pull it off the organisers let you run with it. Therefore ‘Not Part Of’ is the most diverse and inclusive festival imaginable. Check out the events listing, pick up a leaflet, plan your visits or stumble across them – just don’t rely on me to fill you in because my head is swimming.

ART CRAWL – 2nd to 16th July

That said I am planning to go along to the Art Crawl as part of Not Part Of. (As well as several other things I’ve circled in the brochure). Beginning at The Triangle there’s sort of a treasure hunt all over the city centre. You pick up a map at the first location and follow the numbers to different exhibits and instillations inside and outside various venues. I probably won’t visit EVERY location but once you have the map it’s the kind of thing you can dip in and out of over several days.

24:7 THEATRE FESTIVAL – 21st to 29th July24:7 Theatre Festival

Next up is the 24:7 Theatre Festival. It’s called 24:7 because it starts on 24:7, get it? I didn’t. The Executive Producer himself had to point that out to me, after we’d finished running away from aliens at MIFs Doctor Who. (Hi David, if you’re reading this! See you at Sherica!) Of course, as it ACTUALLY starts on the 21st July this year and not on the 24th as it has previously I think I can be forgiven, right?

There are 13 shows at non-theatre venues around the city centre and at £8 per ticket I think these are a bargain. The ones on my shortlist are ‘I Know Where the Dead Are Buried‘, ‘Sherica’ and ‘The Crimson Retribution’.

24:7 don’t just have theatre productions they have workshops too, not that I’ll be joining in. My method acting (ahem) as a 12 year old for MIFs Doctor Who is as far as my acting abilities can stretch.

AND THE REST… If none of the above takes your fancy how about these:

FLARE THEATRE FESTIVAL – 4th to 10th July 

24 performances over 7 days, plus discussion panels and workshops at Contact Theatre, MMU Capitol Theatre, MMU and the Zion Arts Centre. Tickets start from £3 each.

LASSFEST – 1st July to 1st August

Lass O’Gowrie have created their own ‘one-venue’ fringe by offering 158 events across theatre, film, comedy, music, literature and visual arts.

CAMRA CHORLTON BEER FESTIVAL – 8th and 9th July

If you missed the Real Ale festival at the MOSI earlier this year then here’s another chance to sample some excellent ale, cider and perries.

JAZZ FESTIVAL – (MIF) 22nd to 30th July

There are typically around 400 musicians, doing 70-80 events at 7-10 venues. Some of the events are free in addition to all the free shows at MIF Festival Pavilion.

SUNDAE FESTIVAL IN THE PARK – 23rd and 24th July

Several live bands are performing each day at Heaton Park along with unlimited free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, plus silly activities for all ages.

GELATO IN JULY– 9th July

Islington Wharf is again being transformed into ‘Little Italy’ for the annual one day Italian Ice Cream Festival.

SCREENFIELDS – Weekly until 1st September

Manchester’s open air cinema at Spinningfields has weekly film screenings every Thursday at 8.30pm.

Don’t you just love living in Manchester? I do.

Have I missed anything out? Are you planning to go to any of the events? Are you organising or participating at any? (Shameless self promotion for your events is welcome here! :-p)

Have you stumbled across something and didn’t know which festival it was part of? Tell me what you’ve seen or where you’re going. I’d love to hear what other people think about all the events.