10 June 2012

What the British might call "Bits and Bobs."

Manchester has had 2 intermittent weeks of summer this year. The geese and ducks who live in the canal behind my house have hatched their babies for the year. The baby ducklings and gooselings (I know, I know), are adorable. They have yellow fuzzy butts and they are so cute.

There was one week, back in April, when the weather was so gorgeous, I took to drinking a cold glass of wine in my garden.

Then it was cold and rainy again for awhile. After that, a few weeks ago, we had yet another week of amazing sunny warmth, and I held a barbecue. It made me think about the things I really do miss about Sydney. How you could trust summer to hold, once it got going, and you could plan barbecues two weekends in a row.

How you could pop down to the Chinese Noodle Restaurant, under the escalator, and get amazing food for almost no money.

How you could have a bike there, and not have to own a waterproof suit.

How you could forget your umbrella.

And, of course, it's June now, which in Sydney means Lemonade season is about to get started. I miss lemonades so much, I got all teary telling someone about them the other day.

Of course, it's not just the food and weather I miss about Sydney. The ease of a well-oiled relationship and long friendship with Craig is something I miss all the time here. I spend a lot more time alone than I used to, and while I like it most of the time, I miss having someone around who can come along to the movies and art shows. Of course, friends and flatmates, oh dear, dear, friends and flatmates come to the rescue. All the time. But they're not nearly as reliable as someone that plans their entire social life with you.

These things feel easier when Mark is here, or when I'm in Norwich.

I went to Norwich a few weeks ago, and the city was in festival! The Norfolk and Norwich Festival, to be exact. The city was all dressed up!

I think the lion looks a lot less menacing with his pretty knitted mane.

Part of the Norwich festival was a show by Paper Cinema. There are really no good words to describe what they do, because they are so awesome. They use several cameras to produce animation and puppetry and project it live onto a cinema screen, while an orchestra play a beautifully arranged score. We saw the Odyssey, and you can watch the trailer for it here:

If they come to your town, go. Drop everything. Don't worry about the ticket price. You will never forget how moved you were by a paper puppet of a cyclops screaming in anguish as Odysseus and his men sneak away from him.

My opinion of Norwich has only grown in the time since my previous trip there. I learned that Norwich has the largest collection of mediaeval churches north of the Alps. A full 32 of the original 56  churches survive, probably explaining why Norwich has such a strong old-world feel. One of the churches has a beautiful old clock that, for some reason, says "Forget-Me-Not" on it. I love the pink colour of the clockface.

Every week a group gets together to play bluegrass music at Mark's local pub. We happened to be there enjoying a pint, and were treated to this amazing show.

It started with one guy getting out his banjo and starting to play, and he was eventually joined by about 5 other guys of widely-varying ages, with guitars and mandolins. I told my friend David Stephens about it (the best banjo player and puppeteer in the South East, at least!) (rhyming!), and he said, "Yeah, that sounds about right. One banjo to 5 of everything else!"

It seems this group gets together every week or so, and it was great to hear such great music.

I remembered to take a picture of The Window Coffee, and it was even cuter this time!

I also learned about an interesting part of Norwich's history: the Strangers. The Strangers were 20-40 Dutch and Flemish Protestant families who fled to England to escape Catholic persecution. Over time, the Strangers and their descendants made up about 1/3 of Norwich's population. They brought with them the weaving skills that eventually made Norwich a major center of pre-industrial wealth in England. It seems the Strangers were welcomed into Norwich's business community quite easily, as they had so much to offer. They also brought their pet canaries and today, the "Norwich canary" is the city's mascot and the emblem of the Norwich City Football Club.

Neat, huh?

Last week was the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration. Apparently the actual date of her accession to the throne and her coronation are somewhat different to the date of the celebration, but they decided to celebrate it last week to coincide with the Queen's birthday, giving the Queen's subjects 2 days of bank holiday. The Norther Quarter held street parties, basically making the Jubilee into an excuse to drink in the sunlit streets.

Fine by me! I had just booked over a month's work at the BBC, so I was ready to celebrate.

Lots of shops opened up stalls for the street party, and this awesome older couple got out their lindyhop shoes! They tore it up.

Dear Mark bought me an amazing new lunchbox for my upcoming days at the Beeb.

It's a fantastic lunchbox, and for some reason, I feel like it pleasantly encourages me to not only take a lunch break during work, but also to make it a healthy one. I also take along a thermos with veggie broth, so I can heat up the broccoli and dumplings in a quick soup.

In other food news, most of you know that I was a vegan for 7 years. After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and moving to Australia, I decided on a less-strict diet and went back to being a cheese-loving vegetarian. Because, let's be honest, I was a cheese-loving vegan, and I spent all my time either wishing I could eat cheese, or shoving it in my mouth anyway and feeling guilty over it.

That is no way to live life. These days I'm more concerned with locally-produced and whole food than I am with just cutting random things out of my diet. Though I don't think I'll ever eat meat. I've been vegetarian for far too long, and it's not something I miss.

Last Thursday, I did something that my vegan self could only ever have dreamed of: I went to a cheese feast! Basically, everyone takes 400g of a locally-produced cheese, you cut them into blocks and share them around. It was organised by FoodLink Manchester, and it was brilliant. We talked about the look, smell, feel, taste and texture of each of the cheeses, and got to try about 14 cheeses altogether!

My favourites of the evening were a sheep's cheese by Leagram's and a blue cheese by Burt's. The blue was produced in the Greater Manchester area-- super local!

I'm really excited now to try loads of different crazy cheeses. I'm even keeping a notebook with my thoughts on each one. It makes for a strange sort of poetry:

"Crazy looking rind, green, blue, white, purple.
Beautiful look.
Light smell of mouldy blue cheese. Not strong smell.
Part soft and runny, part semi-soft and crumbly.
Semi-soft blue
Incredible flavour, so good. 
Not too sharp.
Runny bit stronger than hardish bit."

Speaking of poetry, Bad Language held an event recently called "CRINGE," where writers were invited to read out their teenage diaries and poetry. I volunteered to do it, of course, because I'm an oversharer. Obviously. I'd long ago thrown out all my high school journals, but I did keep a sketchbook from back then, and my amazing sister sent me scans of my poems.

Oh, they are so bad.

But I'm glad I did the event. It was an incredibly fun night, largely because everyone was embarrassing themselves, and everyone had come for that express purpose. Despite the fact that we were all wincing through the whole night at our own young selves' serious political and romantic misunderstandings, we were doing it together, and one really good thing came out of it for me.

While looking for some of my old high school scribblings, my sister found this drawing I made, when I was 17, of Nicolas Cage.

I leave you with that image, dear readers, to ponder as you go about your days. I hope it gives you no nightmares.