20 April 2013

The Real Story

I cannot be trusted with my free time. I have learned this through years of spending free time watching Prick Up Your Ears and certain Bollywood movies over and over and over. Given free time, dear reader, I will waste it.

I don't have much free time these days. And yet. To avoid ever possibly having any, I've started yet another new project.

A few years ago, I entered a creative nonfiction writing competition, called The Real Story, and I was one of five winners. The competition was run by Kate Feld, writer of The Manchizzle, blooger extraordinaire, and general champion of the North.

Recently, she and I have re-launched that website, to celebrate the vast world of creative nonfiction. If you like good journalism, essays, and things about the real world: check it out.


And I have another real story to tell you, as well, dear reader. Previously on this blog, I've told you about a lovely, shiny new gentleman; last week, he and I had a short weekend frolick in London, seeing friends and drinking and eating. Otherwise known as the rather nice Mr Internet Man, allow me to introduce you to Jonti (a common short for Jonathan round these parts, apparently). He's unlike any other.

We had brunch at a crazy place that glowed with pink neon. Mimosas made with rosé prosecco. I think Jonti had never had a mimosa before. I think he liked them, which bodes well for the long, warm, summertime Atlanta brunches I hope to eventually, somehow, recreate here in Manchester. Just waiting on the weather...

I picked up a new Tatty Devine piece: meet my new foxy! I haven't named him yet, though it is tempting to go with 'Knoxy.' Don't worry. I won't.

And we went to an amazing natural wine bar. I'd never heard of natural wine until Jonti extolled its virtues. No sulphates, no preservatives. A place called Terroirs, this place inspired Jonti to volunteer on an organic vineyard in France last summer. The wine is amazing, unlike any other wine I've ever sipped in my life. If you get a chance to have natural wine sometime, take it. It tastes more like grapes, more like where regular wine actually starts off. I can't believe I'd never encountered it before, considering my obsession with whole food, free from preservatives and additives...

I think we followed up the wine bar by walking directly to the London Gin Club. As you do. One of Jonti's friends joined us there, and the three of us tasted and talked through 2 gin flights. Jonti has the loveliest, cleverest friends. Each flight featured 4 different gins with different garnishes and came served with Fever Tree tonic. Big-bowled, green-glass stemmed glasses with large, irregular chunks of ice.

My favourite was Bathtub Navy gin, garnished with blood orange. Because I am a dork and a super-organised one at that, I kept a chart. Because I am a bossy woman and a persistent one at that, I made Jonti and his friend keep a chart, too.

Then we headed over to Dumplings Legend, my favourite dumpling haunt in Chinatown. Sichuan cucumber salad, vegetarian steamed dumplings and soup dumplings, and your average Japanese lager. I could not ask for a better meal. Which was then followed up by cider at some gorgeous little pub.

Given that amount of drinking on Saturday, I was not surprised that we didn't manage much on Sunday. Jonti did some work on a paper for his Masters, I edited it for him. He had a mismanagement with a knife and rather too stale end of breadloaf, leading to deep, spurting cut on his index finger, which still, nearly a week later, looks absolutely terrible. I'm beginning to think we should have taken him to A&E.

And then, he asked if I'd ever seen St. Pancras Tube Station.

I fell in love with it, curvy and carved stone, red and orange on the outside, black and white and grey inside.

Next thing we knew, we were on a train back to Manchester, tired and happy. I thought about how nice it is to live in the same town as the person in whose company you want to spend every moment. He still seems rather nice. Look at him being goofy.

I like goofy.

01 April 2013


Though I've lived in Manchester for nearly 3 years now, until last weekend, I had never visited either of its nearest city neighbours: Sheffield or Liverpool. Both are only about an hour away on the train, but I suppose I've never really had need to explore them. Manchester always fascinates me; there is always so much to do here...

But the other day, I read this article on the Guardian, about a pub in the Sheffield train station... a pub that is so nice, locals come to the train station just to have a pint! In this country of horrible train station cafes and uncomfortable waiting rooms, some twisted part of me just had to go see this anomalous Edwardian real ale microbrewery.

Yes, I wanted to take an hour-long train ride, to have a drink.

Mr Internet Man had asked me to come up with some ideas for an outing. I thought, "If he doesn't also want to go to Sheffield for a pint, well then, maybe he's no good."

Turns out he's twisted, too. He couldn't wait to get on that train to Sheffield. (As of this post, it's been a little more than two weeks since I first met Internet Man. I can confirm that he still seems  rather nice.)

A huge, clever water feature, just outside Sheffield train station
Its curvy, mirrored design makes it so that when you stand right close to it and look up, you feel like the water is going to come down on you. The sight of rushing water filled my view, and made me a little dizzy, a little unsure of my balance.

And the pub itself was amazing.

Internet Man and I sat in the newly renovated dining room, which houses a microbrewery.

I don't know why the children on these Edwardian tiles look so sad. 

With glass after glass of lovely ales, we whiled away a whole afternoon, talking and watching people, watching the trains come and go. We saw a group of men teaching a young boy how to be a trainspotter; he was so into it, with his little notepad, writing the numbers out.

We saw couples flirting and big groups of friends hanging out for hours. It was nothing like the brightly-lit cold and ugly train station waiting rooms we're so used to... This is a station where you'd feel lucky to miss your connecting train, and get waylaid for a few hours.