Crazy in Love: Westfest 2010

Ladies and gentlemen: it’s official. This blog is bipolar. I’m in a serious love/hate relationship, you know, the ones that go on forever, where you just can’t let go despite knowing better, because the good moments are amazing and the bad moments are, well, pretty bad, but hey, it’s not all that bad really, it could be so much worse, but DAMN, sometimes you just want to drop everything and say “right, that’s it, I’m not ‘avin it”.

I’m talking about YOU, Manchester. Don’t pretend you didn’t know this was going to happen one day: you’ve finally driven me insane. You make me rant before I even get out of bed in the morning, you make me smile for no reasons, you make me drink, fall down stairs, talk to strangers and hug the pavement*, you make me want to prod, poke and even punch you sometimes, and you’ve taught me that wellies are just another item of clothing that can be quite useful far away from muddy festival weekends. You’ve gone bonkers a long, long time ago, and I’m following you down the red brick road to the crazyhouse at last.

In other news: to celebrate my newly found enlightenment, I visited the Westfest, West Didsbury’s very own independence day this weekend, which is really just a synonym for “I stuffed my face with silly amounts of food, again”. Having missed the first WestFest last year**, I was looking forward to spending some time wandering up and down Burton Road, peeking into the shops I normally give a miss due to the rather scary price tags attached to all the pretty offerings on display in their shop windows, and sampling some food.

Unfortunately, Frankie’s Fish Bar had run out of veggie fish&chips – I would have loved to try the heart-attack-on-a-plate that is battered halloumi cheese – so I settled for a huge portion of chips, cheese & onion pie, and peas. Great, sturdy food, but the actual highlight was the waiter who accidentally charged us for the “free” side orders and simply explained “sorry, I can’t be held liable for this, I’m still drunk”. Quality.

The deep-fat-fried-goodness-induced food coma following my visit to Frankie’s makes the events of the day slightly blurry, but I remember the ladies outside Crazy Wendy’s dancing on tables, with one of their cooks ecstatically banging a pan lid as makeshift drums, buying raffle tickets at the WDRA stall and Moth, repeatedly bumping into people I know (figuratively speaking), ice cream, delicious punch from the cheerful chef outside Rhubarb, live music at Silver Apples and a rather busy street party and Prince’s “Raspberry Baret” playing outside Loft.

Somehow, I found myself with a bag full of food I must have bought at Thyme Out Deli, choosing a delicious slice of chocolate tart from the nearly raided cake buffet at Love2Eat. There’s no flights to catch tomorrow, so I might return for drinks tonight (rumour has it there’s a special “WestFest cocktail”), celebrating Manchester, West Didsbury, my insanity, and the weather that’s just about to go terrible again.

* Don’t ask. Seriously.

** Except for rather accidental drinks at Folk and even more accidental cocktails at the Drawing Room on Sunday night which made me miss my flight home the next morning. Damn you, Tom Collins!

Neighborhood #1: You are now IN Salford

Basically a part of Manchester (uh oh, I really shouldn’t say that), Salford is still the big unknown to me. Even after living here for 2 years, I only ever managed to cross the bridge once*, have a wander around the Adelphi campus, and then escape back to Manchester straight away. I was quite looking forward to spending a day in “the other city” last Sunday, when several Mancunian promoters were hosting the “Sounds from the other city” festival (which was pretty awesome by the way – I’ve written a more detailed review on bunmagazine.tumblr.com)

As soon as I had crossed the bridge and left the hot pink sign screaming “Welcome – you are now IN Salford” behind me, I was greated by one of the members of society who regard tracksuit bottoms as suitable for wearing outside a gym (Please note: They’re not.), smiling at me with his teethless mouth, then shouting at his son who was wearing matching trackies. Welcome indeed.

Walking down Chapel Street was a rather sad experience: Almost every other building, presumably former pubs, on this road is empty, boarded up and crumbling. What a shame, given it is so close to the city centre and could act as an extension to Market Street, with the Northern Quarter on the upper end of the street. It almost feels like Chapel Street was intentionally left deserted to avoid any kind of confusion with Manchester – a clear cut between the centre and Salford, constituted by a no-man’s-land devoid of function (okay, it’s not that bad, but there really isn’t much on that road).

There seems to be an ambitious regeneration (let’s hope it is more ambitious than the website…) project going on (Spinningfields 2 anyone?), and with events like the Sounds from the other city festival the usual Mancunian crowd takes notice of the existence of their neighbour at last – but there is still a lot of work to be done to make this area of Salford not only a place you could easily go to, but also one you would want to.

Looking down Chapel Street towards Manchester (Jenga-like Courts of justice on the right)

Islington Mill. Former cotton mill, fantastic gig venue and artist space. There’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud.

* Not incuding the trips to the Lowry and the Imperial War Museum North, but that doesn’t necessarily count as seeing anything of Salford itself.

Field trip: The Underground Tea (London)

My weekend activities? Well, there was a feminist march in Manchester, a geeky (un)conference in Cambridge, and a fancy afternoon tea at an underground restaurant in London. Hosted by a lady who goes by the name Ms Marmitelover, a small number of people gathered at a private house in north London to enjoy drinks, food and – sun! All top secret, semi-legal and home made.

There was a “psychic in the shed” (not my words) who told me some interesting things about my life. I had to choose tarot cards and picked “Death”. Oh.

The kitchen. Hardly visible in the back, giving instructions (and always wearing a timer round her neck): the lovely Ms Marmitelover – hostess, chef and underground restaurant legend. (I don’t know if she’s a legend, but she’s been doing it for 1 1/2 years now and she’s nice, so I think she deserves legend status).

In addition to tomato tart, blue cheese quiche, high heels biscuits, red velvet cake with raspberries, strawberry tart with custard, and tea infused vodka, we had this: rude biscuits, rose & chocolate marshmallows, Marmite cupcakes – absolutely delicious. I can’t wait for a pop up restaurant / supperclub / underground restaurant / youknowwhatimean to appear in Manchester!*

Until then, I suppose you have to make sure you book a place at one of the many supperclubs next time you go down to London!

* I’d totally do it, but that would mean entire meals consisting of dhal and broccoli, not too sure if that would go down too well with the foodies.