Fairly well organised: A Carefully Planned Festival #2

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I left the house. Oh yes, I did. I got out of my pyjamas, brushed my hair, and left my dark, dingy, and damp thesis writing cave, not only to go to the shop and buy some milk or a huge box of caramel short breads, oh no, I went into the centre of Manchester and spent a whole (GASP) 12 hours there. And it goes a little something like this:

After a quick (the eating, not the waiting) breakfast at Trof’s new place Gorilla on Whitworth Street West (ex The Green Room and is it just me or is Trof slowly taking over every single empty bar space in Manchester seriously this is a lot of Trofs just for one city right I mean the first couple were nice and then the Deaf Institute seemed like a good addition but now they’ve got the Sal and Gorilla and that huge place on Peter Street and WHEN WILL IT STOP?) we made our way into the depths of the Northern Quarter to hang out with some indie kids at “A Carefully Planned Festival”, which I had wrongfully titled “A Fairly Well Organised Festival” when mentioning it to friends the day before.

The first band on was “This Town Needs Guns” which is kind of a funny band name if you imagine they’re from Manchester, but it turned out they were from Oxford and I don’t think Oxford ever had the nickname Gunsford, so I guess that’s okay and they might in fact really need some guns in Oxford. Who knows. Oh yeah they play math rock which in this case is just another name for instrumental guitar music and those two songs that I managed to hear were actually quite good. The audience at 2022nq definitely seemed very excited, despite it being 1:52 pm on a Sunday afternoon. Not that you can’t get excited about a band at 1:52 on a Sunday afternoon, but, well, you know what I mean. I’ll stop now.

A short walk down the road we gatecrashed the Bad Language poetry session at the Castle Hotel where my favourite weirdo writer Fat Roland (bottom third pictured above)happened to be reading bizarre tweets by David Cameron (“David Cameron”), an epic diary of a failed marriage in list form, and other ramblings, followed by the strangely enticing Jemima Foxtrot who half* sang half* acted half* recited slam poetry about her life as an actress, and topped by the stupidly amazing duo Les Malheureux, consisting of the writers Sarah-Clare Conlon and David Gaffney, who entertained us with a rather brilliant performance of poetry reading set to a background of playful organ tunes. Yeah. That.

After the Bad Language session, we settled for a game of scrabble just round the corner at Nexus Art Cafe, which was packed with people sinking into sofas while eating cake and drinking tea. My kind of rock music festival. Having moved our armchairs to make room for Nexus’ faithful and utterly off-tune piano, we watched some of Ajimal’s set who happily alternated between his guitar and the piano. In combination with the still ongoing scrabble war, the arm chairs and the cozy atmosphere at Nexus, this made for a rather marvellous time. But even without scrabble and cake, he’s pretty good. You should listen.

The evening was concluded by a birthday dinner at Jamie’s Italian on King Street (recommendable if you want to eat a scrotum-shaped deep fried courgette flower stuffed with tons of ricotta. It’s an experience.) and half of Tall Ships‘ set, which was kind of okay but oh whatever, guitar bands, eh, before it was back to the cave for me. Thanks, Careful Planners. I enjoyed this festival quite a bit.

* Stylistic means.

#manchestereats. Cause we’re hungry up North!

So, you know I do computery stuff for a day job.* And I genuinely enjoy doing computery stuff in my spare time, too. Long story short: I played with the Twitter API and jQuery and out came manchestereats.com – a site which does what you all love: Show pretty pictures of tasty food. Think Pinterest for food in Manchester. A very specific Pinterest. Some might even call it pointless. Oh, whatever. Go on the Twitters, tweet your breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks with the hashtag #manchestereats (or #mcreats if you prefer it shorter), then go and drool over manchestereats.com.

 * Job = I get EPSRC money for writing hundreds of pages of text which no more than 3 people (examiner 1, examiner 2, and both supervisors to an approximated 50%) in the world will ever read, but hey ho.

A few of my favourite things

So, I got caught up in a torrential rain storm on my way home last night, and, having screamed at the rain all the way while cycling down Oxford Road, I did the only reasonable thing and sought shelter at Big Hands. As I was trying to get a little dryer (by sitting on bench… I know, good story, right?) I started chatting to some Australian girls who had been in Manchester for a few weeks. I kept asking which places they had been to and ended up jotting down a list of my favourite spots to visit in Manchester. I couldn’t help but turn this into a blog post,* so there you go:

Central

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

Oh, how I love this place. Whether it’s for a full tour round the different exhibitions (which can easily take you half a day), or just for a sneaky visit to the absolutely magnificent steam engine hall, MOSI is one of my staples to take visitors to. If you’re lucky, the steam engines are running, and you can spend quite some time just marvelling at these fantastic pieces of engineering, with their bolts and pistons moving to what seems like a perfectly choreographed little dance. Well, I do.

The Knott

This pub, just round the corner from MOSI, offers some of the tastiest pub grub in town. They used to have a grilled halloumi sandwich which was so good, it made me weep (I do get very emotional when eating nice veggie food); the Lancashire cheese and beet root pie (if that’s your kind of thing), however, has now become my new favourite.

Cloud 23

While I find Cloud 23 as a bar rather unattractive, it’s definitely worth a visit for the Afternoon Tea (or, aptly named, “High Tea”). Watch Manchester from above while eating cake – winner.

Affleck’s Palace

It seems every Mancunian has a story of how they used to hang out at Affleck’s in their teens. This indie shopping mall is a huge maze of little shops spanning several floors, ranging from second hand to fancy dress, posters and badges, hand-made jewellery, and general weird stuff. There’s a tasty little milk shake bar hidden in some corner on the 1st floor (maybe… I tend to lose my bearings as soon as I enter the building), a cafe on the top floor, and endless hours of fun.

The Star & Garter

When I first moved to Manchester, I spent many a Saturday night dancing at Smile, “Manchester’s longest running indie night” at the Star&Garter pub. While the novelty of drinking double g&ts and falling up and down the epic staircase has worn off, I still enjoy the odd night out at Smile, dancing to some excellent and un-embarrassing tunes. I’ve never made it to the Smiths night (which, apparently, attracts a fair number of quiffs), but it’s definitely on my “things to do before I leave Manchester” list.

Big Hands & The Temple

While I don’t usually spend too much time at pubs, Big Hands and The Temple are certainly two of my favourite places in Manchester. They’re gloriously dark and scruffy places with similarly scruffy patrons, brilliant jukeboxes (always fun to take non-Brits who are not yet used to the concept of jukeboxes) and overpriced beer.

The Cornerhouse

This art gallery/cafe/bar/restaurant/cinema “complex” is always a safe bet if you fancy art/coffee/drinks/food/indie and artsy movies. Having said that, the cosy little cinema screens are certainly my favourite, in particular because you’re ok to bring in your own snacks (unlike basically any other cinema). My go to combo for rainy days is a pack of biscuits and a cup of tea from the cafe to go with my movie.

Manchester Museum

I like to hang out in the live animals bit of Manchester Museum and watch the chameleon climbing around its little artificial rainforest, which is strangely meditative. Apart from that, it’s the place to go if you’re into dead animals (stuffed and skeletons alike). The bony dude on the picture is called Stan, by the way.

Surroundings

Fuel, Withington (south)

Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel. I love Fuel. If it was legal to marry pubs, I’d have drunkenly proposed to Fuel a few times already. Mind you, I probably have. There’s veggie food, which always ends up being absolutely perfect, lovely staff, a brilliant quiz on Tuesdays (hosted by two Welsh brothers), open mic on Wednesdays, free gigs on weekends ranging from hip hop to hardcore and back, knitting groups, poetry, comedy, and what not. Oh and there’s no bouncer to yell at you when you stand outside with a drink, so on busy nights half of the fun is usually happening outside on the pavement.

Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury (south)

My favourite park in Manchester. The Japanese garden is absolutely gorgeous in spring/summer.

Bury Market, Bury (north)

One of the biggest markets in Europe. Definitely worth the visit if you want to eat your way across the continents and perhaps buy some slippers.

Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley (north)

I came across this place very randomly when I got my first bike in Manchester and pointed at a map saying “let’s cycle to that place with the funny name“. This seemingly average park turns into what can only be described as a huge hole in the ground, with a little garden and a few benches at the bottom. We sat there eating our lunch while watching a small group in fancy dress filming what looked like an Alice in Wonderland themed scene. Weird-o-rama.

Islington Mill, Salford (north west)

There’s art, gigs, yoga, dancey nights, and more gigs. For some unknown reason, I hardly ever make it down that side of town, but if I weren’t such a lazy bugger, I’d definitely spend more time at the Mill. You should go. It’s good.

Now it’s your turn – What are your favourite (non-pub) places in Manchester?

* I actually woke up at 6am and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was so excited about the idea of writing this up as a blog post. And while getting out of  bed to write is certainly laudable, not sleeping off the drinks has started to take its toll on me over the course of this blog post being written and I only just about managed to finish it without curling up on the sofa. I guess that’s what they call “writer’s dilemma”.

[Images cc-licensed by no22aScraggyDog, marcus_and_sue, and Pimlico Badger because I lost 30GB worth of photos in a Time Machine backup accident.]

How I went from Manchester to Sicily and back – via Bury

Got me one of them fancy retro picture apps on my phone now, all retro stylee here!

Anyway.

One rainy Saturday morning we were working our way through our adventure time stack of leaflets, flyers and maps which we have accumulated over the past year or so, looking for something to do on this rather miserable day. For a fraction of a second, the thick blanket of clouds opened up just about enough to let through a single ray of sun light, lighting up the leaflet I was holding in my hand. That very same moment, the church bells next door started to ring their most beautiful song, and an elating, almost euphoric sensation pulsated through my body. When I looked down at the leaflet, which was still lit up by that single ray of light, I knew we had found our destination for the day: Bury Market.*

And it was… well, big. Very big. A paradise for anyone who really, really needs several pairs of slippers. And meat. Lots of meat. In the food bit, there were fewer fancy food stalls with cake (CAKE.), chocolates, deli stuff, the usual, than I had hoped for, and the few fruit and veg stalls weren’t too convincing. Which, of course, did not stop me from buying my way across the various food stalls at the market. But then, just as I was wandering through a remote corner of the market, trying to find something lunch-able, I had the second epiphany of the day. All of a sudden, I could hear a quiet, friendly voice behind me: “Please… eat this. If you eat here, you will be very, very lucky today!”

“Well, I suppose if the food already starts talking to me, it has to be a lucky day” I thought and turned around. Three faces smiled at me, framed by an array of food and little signs. “We only just opened today, you should really eat something we made… it will be your lucky day!” one of the faces said to me. I quickly scanned the food on offer, just to spot something familiar looking: A small, bread crumb covered ball – an “arancina”, a deep fried risotto ball, which I had just discovered on a trip to Rome the week before. As I am unable to say no when offered food, particularly not by friendly faces, I accepted the offer for food and quickly engaged in a little chat while waiting for the “arancina” to finish its bath in the deep fat fryer. Turned out the stall owners of “La Putia” were incredibly friendly Sicilians with a love and a lot of enthusiasm for food, who were more than happy to talk about Sicilian specialities, Italian food in general, ice cream and tiramisu in particular, and which Italian restaurant in Manchester was the best (apparently none is proper Italian despite the Italian chefs and owners, but San Carlo comes close). I walked away with a delicious little crunchy-creamy risotto and spinach ball and a phone number for home made tiramisu, which happily joined the blocks of cheese, whimberry pie and fancy cordial in my bag. A lucky day indeed!

* In case you’re wondering: the tram to Bury was on time, the tram back into Manchester was massively delayed. That’s 50% of my Metrolink journeys this month delayed, good work TfGM! Oh and, by the way, the new black bus stop signs are ridiculously difficult to spot. Who thought “hey, we’ll design some bus stop signs that blend in smoothly with the urban environment” was a good idea?

Animals Are Cut In Two: My favourite vegetarian places in Manchester

Om nom nom. I do like a bit of good food every once in a while.* As a vegetarian hailing from the land of sausage, where no part of an animal is considered too inferior to be turned into something supposedly edible, I was shocked to find a wealth of meat-free offers on British menus. After years of eating side salads (and not even those sometimes, as the potato salad is traditionally made with beef stock in the Southern regions of my homeland), I was introduced into the delicious world of Asian food, pies (PIES!!), ubiquitous falafel, and generally delicious animal-free pub grub. It’s about time for a round-up of my favourite (and not-so favourite) vegetarian and veggie-friendly places in the rainy city. Without further ado:

The Greenhouse, Great Western Street, Rusholme

Ah, good old Greenhouse. Definitely not a place for a romantic dinner, but always fun with a big group. The menu is roughly the size of two phonebooks and ranges from vegetarian haggis (nice!) and old-fashioned classics such as nut roast and stuffed vegetables, to international dishes like curries and stir fries, with occasional excursions into the slightly freaky – deep-fried avocado or peach and stilton dip anyone? From the outside the Greenhouse looks a little bit like a voodoo cottage, while the interior seems to have been put together with finds from yard sales all over the world. If I was to describe the Greenhouse in one word, I’d say “interesting” – worth a try though!

Greens, Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury

Saying that Greens used to be nicer before they doubled in size makes me realize how long I’ve been in Manchester (4 years today!). It used to be a cosy little place with nice and sometimes a little bit fancy food and expensive wines (people tell me that back in the old days it used to be BYO, but I’ve not been here *that* long yet), the place to go to celebrate small achievements, birthdays, and for general treats. Unfortunately, it has now turned into a place that tends to get incredibly noisy, even midweek, with rushed service, and actually bad tables (the one near the kitchen / bar is just… awful.). This is a real shame, since the food is still great (even though it’s a little cheese heavy for my taste), with one of my favourite dishes ev-ah being veggie bangers and mash with a chutney-like gravy, which have been residing on the menu since my first visit.

Fuel, Wilmslow Road, Withington

Oh yes, I love Fuel. Like, super mega love it. Conveniently, it’s also my local. The food is exclusively vegetarian with some vegan options, covers everything from a proper fry-up, a giant cheesy spinachy breakfast omelette which is incredibly tasty and unhealthy in equal amounts, burgers, the best potato & sweet potato wedges combo, delicious homemade hummus, as well as stews and daily specials. The prices are okay (the most expensive item on the menu is around £7 or £8), they’ve got a huge selection of fancy beers, the Tuesday quiz is fun, and there’s always free gigs on.

Earth Cafe, Turner Street, Northern Quarter

Well. Earth Cafe in the basement of the buddhist centre is… okay. I kind of understand why you pay extra for sides like veggies and gravy (fair for those who don’t want it), but at the same time, this makes the meals rather expensive. The food is quite nice, home cooked stews, dhals, bean burgers, lots of rice, and mostly vegan, but it’s also a little bit… boring. There, I said it. I’m also not a massive fan of basements, and the atmosphere at Earth Cafe is not exactly cosy.

8th Day, Oxford Road

8th Day is not too different from Earth Cafe (cafeteria style, queue for food with a tray, basement), but somehow they managed to make the place slightly more appealing and comfortable. The food is nice and filling, with a daily selection of soups, stews and a couple of specials (hmm veggie lasagne!), and reasonably priced – and hey, they even do student discount. While they have a rather generous selection of cakes in the cafe downstairs, the highlight of every visit is a chocolate cherry slice from the shop upstairs: dark chocolate, gooey sticky cherry jam, and an incredibly sweet crumbly flapjack-like base guarantees a sugar rush and happy faces for the next two hours.

1847 Vegetarian Bistro, off Mosley Street, City Centre

The new kid on the veggie block. I went when it was still “DetoxRetox”, which was quickly changed into a slightly less juice bar-y name. The restaurant looks very, very nice both from the outside and the inside, and the staff are super friendly. Things might have changed since I’ve last been, but the food was a bit hit and miss. My starter of blue cheese stuffed mushrooms was, well, exactly that: 4 hardly grilled mushrooms, stuffed with a bit of blue cheese, neatly arranged in a square. My cheese binge continued with a cheesy souffle, with was in fact delicious, and went really well with the piece of fake fish & chips (battered and fried haloumi aka heart attack on a place) I stole from my dining companion. The pudding, again, was a nice idea (sticky toffee pudding with, I believe, lavender custard… or was it rosemary?), but ended up being a bit of a gloopy disappointment. Having said that – 1847 has so far been the cosiest and prettiest veggie place I have been to in Manchester, so I’m more than looking forward to coming back and giving it another chance.

I suppose that’s enough food for now. I’ve not covered all the places I usually frequent, so check back for the 2nd part of SAM EATS MANCHESTARRR.

* Constantly.

[Pictures by Ian Koh, Rain Rabbit, Binary Ape]

Slow, Slowly, Sloes*: Sloe picking in Chorlton

First things first: You want sloes? Go and get sloes! Check out my carefully drawn map of Chorlton Water Park (jelly-bean-shaped area marks the spot) and go sloe picking while they’re still there.

We’ve been wondering for a while where to find sloes from in and around Manchester. Due to lack of a vehicle, the tip-off about the sloe bushes at junction 19 of the M60 wasn’t exactly helpful. We were just about to head down to Stockport and wander around the parks there, looking for prickly bushes, as the mighty @robotswanking received a Twitter message from sloe expert Cormac. Plans were changed quickly and mission: sloes headed south-west instead, to Chorlton Water Park.

Just by accident (we did actually get lost on the way to the orchard, taking a right turn after the bridge rather than just heading straight on) we wandered down a small path in a field that seemed completely overlooked by the many visitors. And there it was: a sloe bush. Not very big, not many fruit, but it was what we were looking for. As we had picked what would have been enough for at least a glass full of sloe gin, we moved on further down the path – and discovered what can only be described as (drum roll) sloe valley (ta-dah!). Dozens of sloe bushes, easily accessible by the side of the path, just waiting to be picked. As we got closer to the gate that was leading back to the main path, the sloes got bigger and bigger, until we finally found one bush that kept us busy for almost an hour.

We returned home with scratched hands, muddy boots, black dirt under our nails and a small blue Ikea bag filled to the brim with big round sloes. Several hours of pricking and several bottles of booze later, we had these beauties in our kitchen:

So – if you fancy picking some sloes around South Manchester, Chorlton Water Park is the place to go! Don’t worry, there’s enough for everyone. Just make sure you’re careful and don’t trample down everything, yes?

* And I do apologize to Liam Frost for the sloe-pun in the title.

Minimize Me! Day 4 & 5

I’m still on the minifood! And still alive, obviously. I skipped breakfast on day 3 and had a random selection of mini foodstuff for lunch (mini sub with a tiny little sausage shaped smoked cheese, cherry tomatoes, a small can of lemonade…) – the real highlight of the day however was the afternoon which was filled with teeny tiny little mini versions of biscuits. Along with my mini cup of coffee, I had the smallest chocolate digestives and incredibly realistic mini jammie dodgers, which are just adorable. Mini biscuits = mega win.

My rather lovely dinner consisted of an omelette with mushrooms, (over)cooked in a ridiculously tiny frying pan, and a ramekin full of salad.

Danger Bear!!

Overcooked omelette on a saucer. I could probably call this art. The shot glass contains water, not vodka… just saying.

After dinner I decided to decorate the remaining cupcakes with butter cream frosting – can you possibly imagine how many mini cupcakes you have to eat to feel sick? Oh boy.

They did look pretty though – pink, green and peanut butter (yes, that’s a colour. Peanut butter.)

Unsurprisingly, my breakfast the next morning was nothing but a small pot of Petit Filous (pictured after I had eaten it… my blog is thrilling isn’t it!) and a mini cup of coffee.

Lunch was boring (tomato soup and a mini quorn sausage roll… or 2 mini quorn sausage rolls, if you cut them in half!), so we’re moving straight onto after work drinks – it’s Friday after all! I had (after a couple of real size pints I must admit) a tiny little half pint of Kronenbourg from a lovely little glass which tried to look just like its bigger brother. Aww.

Thanks to Josh’s left arm (pictured) and the fabtastic Clare (of Words & Fixtures-and-so-many-other-places-on-the-webs-where-people-write-things-fame… that’s what people actually call her!*) who I bumped into on my way home and provided rather marvelous company for the duration of this tiny drink. Seriously, you should go out and party with Josh’s left arm one day, he’s hilarious.

Eventually I made it back home and got ready to assemble not one, but TWO mini burgers. TWO EFFIN BURGERS. Complete with tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and gherkins. Mini gluttony strikes again.

And The Bear goes WHOOP WHOOP BURGERS!

I want a girl with big hands and a tiiiiiiny burger.

Tonight, The Bear will appear in your dreams.

* No it’s not.

Minimize Me! Day 2 & 3

Due to external circumstances, I wasn’t able to post day 2 and 3 of project Minimize Me earlier – apologies.

I have been eating almost exclusively mini-foods in the past few days, but I am nowhere near starving. The great thing about eating tiny things from tiny plates and tiny bowls is: you can always have seconds. And thirds. And fourths. The other day I ate FIVE CUPCAKES. Okay, they were about the size of my thumbnail each, but hey – five cupcakes! I’m wallowing in mini-gluttony! Also, I can eat so many different things in one meal, which is simply fantastic for someone like me who can’t make any decisions (I am overwhelmed by large supermarkets and could easily spend several hours trying to decide which yogurt I want to buy – too much choice really isn’t good for me).

I have been looking for something to put in the pictures to show the scale of my foods – and finally found The Bear. The Bear – the heraldic animal of Berlin – is about the size of a finger, as you can see in the pictures (modelled by my very own pink sausage hands). It usually resides next to our TV, but it will go on tour with me this week to pose with my meals – dream job.

The Bear.

Day 2 started with a healthy meal of mini-cornflakes (from the Kellog’s variety pack) and mini-chocolate soya milk, followed by a tiny apple. The apples were labelled ‘family apples’, which doesn’t really make any sense to me.

The lunch pictures didn’t turn out too well, so we’re skipping straight to dinner – mini casserole with mini dumplings (mini dumplings!!) and tiny beans lovingly cooked by the boyfriend, served on a saucer. His flatmate must have thought I was mental when she saw me eating from it. I have also noticed that it is extremely hard getting the right level of dilution for cordial if you drink it from a shotglass.

Brekkie time again – more super-strength cordial (it was vile.), coco pops (oooh!), mini strawberries and a tiny pot of fromage frais (The Bear decided to crash at the boyfriend’s last night and didn’t turn up again until lunch). Seriously, those pots of Petit Filous are so tiny, they only give the RDA values for TWO pots, as if no one was ever meant to eat only a single pot. Hint: making them twice the size might solve that problem.

Lunch for champions. A mini-breadroll with jumbo fake ham which makes it look like a flying saucer, cherry tomatoes, mini cheese from the mini cheese selection, a tiny little can of coke, an even smaller box of raisins for pudding, and the ironic star of the show – a quorn sausage roll.*

So here’s the deal with the sausage roll. The pack says: 12 mini sausage rolls*. I counted them – there were only 6. But it didn’t seem like anyway had taken any sausage rolls from the pack (hey, everything is possible at the Sainsbury’s in Fallowfield). The solution: the explanation to the * tells you that there are “12 sausage rolls when cut in half”. Excellent marketing!

Will we soon see “12 Mars bars (when cut in half)”, “2 loaves of bread (when cut in half)” and “12 bakewell slices (when cut in half)”? Wait…I think I’m onto something here.

* By the way: they taste awful. Don’t bother.

Minimize Me! Day 1.

Day 1 of the Minimize Me Madness. A healthy breakfast (not pictured) of a big (tiny) bowl (teacup) of porridge and a pot of Petit Filous is followed by a whole day of mini foods

The biggest tiny shopping I have ever done. Can you believe this cost me 45 pounds? How did I manage that!? Items purchased: mini cheddars, mini quorn sausage rolls, the tiniest tin of beans, a mini cheese selection, mini soup, mini ice cream, mini pots of hummous, mini bottles of wine and champagne (‘Freixenet – the magic of mini passion’), gherkins, button mushrooms, tiny cans of pop (the ones you get on flights!), cherry tomatoes, mini apples, mini samosas and onion bhajis, two very small courgettes, and a selection of mini biscuits (jammie dodgers, choc chip biscuits, chocolate digestives), a tiny pack of chocolate soy milk and a small carton of apple juice. 45 pounds well spent, right?

I already prepared the mini bread rolls and subs for my lunch yesterday, so I can enjoy my foot long (the foot of a 4 year old child) sub, the mini babybel and mini cheddars for lunch.

This is a mini cake fork.

Elevenses: my mini ‘I love NY’ mug full of coffee, made from a tiny little jar of instant coffee. It’s TINY.

Afternoon tea: a mini mug of tea and some mini cupcakes.

My amazing dinner. A jacket potato with mini beans (on a saucer), a shot glass of apple juice, and a lovely bowl of salad with cherry tomatoes and the teeny tiniest button mushrooms.

Mini dinner vs boyfriend dinner.

Mini ice cream for pudding!

Day 1 of project Minimize Me was a culinary success. I’m surprisingly un-hungry!

Young Hearts Spark Fire: a night out in Fallowfield

Due to my being in possession of a Unirider, some people with, GASP, jobs, believe I am an unworthy creature whose life consists of staying up all night partying, destroying my house and annoying my neighbours*. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the pleasure of being an undergraduate student in this country and therefore cannot live up to these expectations – being a student is a much less excessive affair in Germany than it seems to be here. I usually try to get past the smelly boozers and dirty takeaways of Fallowfield as quickly as possible, since even shopping at the Sainsbury’s on my way home can be painful at times (Now repeat after me: pyjamas were never meant to be worn anywhere outside my house. A supermarket is not my house.).

But hey, this wouldn’t be mightaswell if I was just accepting the facts and avoiding Fallowfield by all means. Why not just go and live the student lifestyle myself – with a particularly classy night out in Fallowfield. The task: drink only the most fluorescent or silliest sounding drinks, eat stuff that doesn’t usually classify as edible in your life, stumble around in heels, make use of cheap booze offers, and spend not more than £20.

Having invested a considerate amount of time on my make-up and hair (you gotta do what you gotta do) I even decided to wear heels, which happens about twice a year and makes me regret every time that I wasn’t wearing ‘shoes for people with flat feet’, as I was told to. The night started with a romantic three course meal at McDonalds, yet another place which, as a vegetarian / part time vegan, secret hippie and general chain-refusenik, I have probably visited as many times as I have been seen wearing heels in my life. After some difficulties identifying the one vegetarian option on the menu, I settled for a ‘spicy veggie deli sandwich’ with fries and a banana milkshake. That’s three courses, right? (To anticipate the result, my night ended with a cup of peppermint tea and a hot water bottle on my belly.)

Feeling a little dirty and very disappointed with the semi-cold fries, we made our way into Fallowfieldia, the first stop being the local Wetherspoons. The pub was fairly unspectacular even for Wetherspoons standards, and after a pitcher of Woo Woo (silly name: tick!) which is basically just cranberry juice++, we moved on to Baa Bar. Here’s a confession: I don’t actually mind Baa Bar when it’s not busy. The drinks prices are fair, they’ve got German beer in bottles (makes me feel like home…), the insane shooter menu is fun, and the music is generally very quiet. I even suggested they could advertise with something like “Baa Bar – not shit until 9pm!”, but I’m not sure that was convincing enough. In the style of Baa Bar, I went for a bright green apple flavoured fizzy alcopop (fluorescent drink: tick!) and a few shooters with names like ‘Sassy Bitch’, ‘Dave’ (eh?), ‘Twilight’ and ‘Pinky Winky’ (silly names: tick! tick! tick! tick!). Our visit to the rather quiet Baa Bar was followed by a quick stop at the Tesco’s next door to buy a box of Rennie. You gotta do etc.

Moving further up Wilmslow Road, we headed for a quick drink and a game of pool at the Cheshire Cat, where we encountered a person sleeping on the sofa, the bar staff playing ‘catch the peanut with your mouth’, drinks smashing on the floor, and someone being sick all over the sinks in the gents toilets. (I’ve got pictures of the toilet incident, but I think posting these would be one step too far, even for me.) It was also the first time I heard Bjork’s ‘I miss you’ in a bar. Lovely place.

A fairly recent but very clever addition to the watering holes in Fallowfield is the second branch of the beloved cheap as chips cocktail (””cocktail””) bar Font. Sticky tables and unnecessarily loud music are as much a part of Font, as are huge queues at the bar and toilets that were obviously bought from the hellhole store (ok, I stole that one from Das Racist). Nonetheless, we decided to savour some of their delicacies on the cocktail (””cocktail””) menu and ended up bumping into someone we least expected there: people my age. My mates were probably as surprised as I was to meet them there, but the instant ‘we’re in this together now’ feeling convinced us to stay, despite the painfully loud music that reduced my vocal chords to shrivelled up parcel twine.

After only two cocktails (””cocktails””) however, the accumulation of fluorescent drinks, greasy junk food and shooters with silly names cut a hole in my stomach and therefore the evening fairly short. All my plans to end the night with a little dance at Robinskis or the Revolution’s UV party of the year were annihilated. I admitted defeat and went home.

So, how was it? Well. Fallowfield was rather quiet due to it being the end of term time, and therefore rather uninteresting. I got away spending a minimum on drinks, I saw some appalling toilets and got stuck on dirty tables a few times. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected, but hey, I’ll be back in Fresher’s Week to get the full Fallowfield experience.

Did I just write a 900 word blog post about going out for drinks? Hell yes I did.

* Hint: Having a 9-5 job doesn’t make you a better person.