When I left Sydney in June last year, I remember feeling like I was only just getting started. I was Senior Producer on a great radio show, I'd just interviewed John Pilger. I was getting stories published, like actually in print, and getting paid for it. I knew the staff at my favourite bar, and I liked them and I think they liked me.
I was finally getting somewhere, after two years of turning the engine over and thrashing myself against that tough city. And then I just I left, just when I finally started inching along the main road. Because, in some way, I was tired. I got exhausted just as I got started.
I've only been in Manchester for 7 months, and here, things are completely different. Maybe it's because this time, I have practice at being new to a town, maybe it's because I've had to find the city by myself, maybe it's because I'm on facebook and twitter this time, or maybe it's just because Manchester is flipping awesome.
But here's the thing: I've only been here 7 months. And I'm already getting somewhere, somewhere I want to be. I'm not even near tired of this place; it's just not as harsh a town as Sydney was. Because for all its beauty and secrets, Sydney, for me, was (is) impossible.
I've already had two visitors. There was Emily (whom I wrote a post about here).
And then there was my dear friend (formerly my graphic design teacher) gregg. He usually spells his name all-lowercase, so I have continued that convention, out of respect for everyone's right to define their own identity regardless of society's "language rules." Also because I do that, too.
Here's the thing about gregg. You've maybe never heard of him. But you've definitely absolutely seen his amazing work, on the cover of some band you love. He's been featured in hot hot design magazines, and he's just finished his MFA in graphic design, arguing that online contracts (i.e. you must agree to our 1,000 pages of terms and conditions before you can see this one photo your mate sent you) are just a touch too complicated for the average interwebs user, who usually just hits the "for fuck's sake, I agree, goddammit, I don't even know what you want from me, but you can have it, just let me see the stupid picture of my mate with underpants on his head already" button.
Yeah, that's the technical explanation of his thesis. Anyway, he went to Birmingham to present it, and dropped by Manchester 1) because his flights worked out better that way and 2) to see me! (in that order).
I took him to dinner at Cedar Tree, a Lebanese restaurant in the NQ, which I will never visit again, not because the food wasn't good, but because it took a really really long time, and I'm not sure I can ever plan to get to a restaurant that long before I get hungry. Then we went for drinks at The Castle, which (if you go by how often I'm there) is definitely my favourite pub. It was a really fun night, lovely to see a familiar face again. We told stories about our parents and about school and work, and generally had an awesome time. He's a good egg, and I'm proud to know him.
Everyone, please think your strongest thoughts for gregg and his lovely family. He and his wife both have full-time jobs and a toddler and an infant, and you know that ain't easy.
Also at the Castle, I went to another Open-Mic reading night, called Bad Language. I couldn't find any friends to go along with me, but I really wanted to hear some of these storytellers, so I decided to go alone. I ended up getting put on the list read, because there had been a cancellation! Some people I really admire told me they liked my stories, which was really overwhelming and wonderful. And I met a heap of cool writerly-sorts, exactly the sorts I like to know. Another indication that going to events by myself works for me. Really works.
I couldn't record it, as I'd loaned my recorder to a friend, but my new friend Guy was taking some photos.
There's something magical about the Castle Hotel. The back room looks beautiful, perfect for listening to stories and having a drink. I took some colour photographs, and I love how the chandelier's lamps flared in my camera, so it looks like there are sparkles floating down the room, about to gently illuminate the reader.
As soon as I was done reading, though, I had to leave the Castle because there was a Flashmob fundraiser for Japan happening at Piccadilly Train Station! We were all to bring something to tie 'round our heads, and follow the sensai's Karate Kid moves at 9pm. This is how I looked like:
So. Well, it wasn't quite as awesome as it sounds. I've seen some videos of Flashmobs that seem like the huge crowd of people must have practiced for ages together to get so synchronised. But this one... not so much. The "sensai" brought an amp and played Kung Fu Fighting and just sort of danced. But, once we all realised we couldn't quite follow his moves and just started to do some random kicking/punching dance moves, too, it was a fun time. I know it's annoying that it was for Japan, and it was supposed to be Karate Kid, and they played Kung Fu fighting, even though Kung Fu is from an ENTIRELY different country. I know.
I thought it was fun dancing in a train station with a bunch of strangers. I would do it again. And that's good enough, right?
The next night, there was a charity festival organised over Twitter (called, nauseatingly, Twestival – sounds like it's almost dirty, doesn't it, like it's too close to Twesticle?). It was at NoHo, which might end up being my new favourite place to be-- already we've booked it for the next New Student Writing Society Open Mic night!!
Anyway, I didn't know anyone else who wanted to go, but that's never going to stop me again. I rocked up alone, chatted with someone I'd met the night before (see her excellent work at http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.com/), and ended up meeting some more fascinating, kind, brilliant people. An after-dinner onion bhajia at a fast food takeaway on Oldham St. A new friendship forged.
As I walked home that night, I just couldn't stop thinking about how I am lucky to be here, right now, in this amazing town. I'm still falling in love with Manchester.
And I tell you what. I am just getting started. I'm on the freeway, and I'm not even looking at the exit ramps.