Remember when I was British?

Screenshot of the podcast page with a photo of Sam holding a cup saying "geekgirl"

In case you missed it, I lived in Manchester for 5 years and somehow developed a proper Mancunian accent. Somehow I ended up on Nathan Rae’s podcast “Northology” in 2013, talking about Manchester Girl Geeks, a not-for-profit community group I co-founded a few years prior (they’re still going strong, 10 years later!). If you want to listen to 30 minutes of me being proper Northern, the recording is still online.


With the completion of my PhD in September, my time in Manchester has most likely come to an end. While I’m still officially a resident, I’ve been moving around Germany (with a quick stint in Barcelona) for the past couple of months, visiting friends and family, and there’s some more holidays planned. I’m not quite certain what my next stop will be, and whether I’ll be continuing to write on mightaswell, start a new blog, or leave the writing and ranting to others.

For now, I’ll leave this site up as an archive of my five years in Mancland (I keep referring people to blog posts… quite handy!) and then I’ll see what I’ll do with it once I’ve got a fixed address again. Exciting times.

Chorlton Water Park to Dunham Massey along the Bridgewater Canal

“We were lucky this year – summer fell on a bank holiday”.

(someone on Twitter)

I was going to write an elaborate blog post about how we cycled down to Dunham Massey (a large country park south of Manchester) where we had a picnic in the gardens and saw deer and baby rabbits, but all you need to know is this: Start at Chorlton Water Park, carry on to Sale Water Park, keep going until you’re at the point where it says “Overflow River Channel” on the map snippet below. You’ll be going under a bridge, follow the bend of the path just up onto the “bridge” which turns out to be the canal. Then follow along the canal for about an hour or so until you get to the exit off the tow path that’s closest to Dunham Massey (GPS/Google Maps is your friend). The surface is quite good in most places except for some bumpy bits when you get closer to Dunham Massey, but I managed well with my fairly thin hybrid wheels. If you get off at the right spot, you’ll go under a bridge again and end up almost outside the park. Say hi to the baby rabbits.

[Photo by David Jones]

Upcoming exhibition: Typographic, Urban and Americana Art by Patrick Macauly

I don’t usually announce events on this blog, but I would like to recommend this exhibition to all of you:

Typographic, Urban and Americana Art by Patrick Macauly
Exhibition at 2022NQ, Manchester October 4th – 10th 2013. Opening night on 4th October by invitation only.

Patrick’s art combines typography, colour, and wood such as reclaimed timber into pieces which remind of deserted houses and factories and… tumbleweeds. Besides the beautiful art, Patrick and his wife Linda are also rather awesome people: I’ve known them since we did the “Beards of Manchester” calendar (Pat was our “Mr December”), and Linda has been a core member of Manchester Girl Geeks for quite a while – I can’t thank her enough for the time she dedicated to helping out at our workshops and “Digital Skills for Women” IT courses.

So, if you want to see lovely art and meet lovely people, get down to 2022NQ in October!

South Manchester to Macclesfield cycle, via Lyme Park and the Middlewood Way

Middlewood Way

Awesome weather = time to get on yer bikes! I’ve been meaning to visit Lyme Park for ages, so we used the opportunity last weekend and set off south towards the park. From our front door to the station in Macclesfield the ride took us about 6 hours, which included quite a few stops for map reading and route changes, and a couple of longer breaks for food and drinks. The route is mostly flat, with very few hills. Regarding the road surface, I managed well with my 7 gear hybrid bike with tyres that are on the thin side, although I did push on some paths that might be manageable with mountain bike tyres. We used a Cycle GM cycle map number 7 (Stockport).

We started our trip in South Manchester and followed the 62 cycle route down to Stockport. This part is a bit tricky and depending on where you’re coming from, it’s probably best to just read the map and aim for Vernon Park to get through Stockport city centre.

Our initial plan was to simply follow New Bridge Lane/Stockport Road/Osborne Street until we got to the 55 cycle route, but when we cycled past Vernon Park we decided to have a quick wander round the park (which is lovely, by the way!). We had a look at the park map and figured we could hit the 55 if we just went along the footpath by the River Goyt until we got to Jim Fearnley bridge which is marked on the cycle map. This plan turned out to be rather adventurous, as for the first stretch along the river we had to carry our bikes up and down steps, planks, and over a few fallen trees. However, once the initial climbing was done, the footpath along the river was wide and suitable for cycling, and the views were marvellous.

Once we got closer to the bridge, there were a few more steps up and down, but again nothing too bad. We went past a cricket club (which appeared to be in the middle of the woods, with no access roads…), crossed over the bridge (dodging the kids racing their bmx bikes down the steep hill) and turned left onto the path to finally get onto the 55. Just shortly after that the 55 leads to a main road, where we did not follow the 55 signs pointing to the left but took a short cut, turning right onto the main road which wasn’t too busy and had a off-road cycle path for a short bit as well. The road took us directly to the Railway pub in Marple, where we had a short pit stop before getting back onto our bikes.

The 55 cycle route starts again just next to the Railway pub, so from there on it was plain sailing/cycling, as we only had to follow the path and signposts down the Middlewood Way. We left the path when we got to the “Nelson Pit Visitor Centre” signs, crossed over the cycle path and the canal, down Lyme Road (a private road that is marked as a public footpath) which took us up a bumpy hill (more pushing) to the gates of Lyme Park. A little further up the hill (past some overheated sheep) the views were brilliant, as we could see all the way down to Manchester. We followed down the path to get onto a paved road, which took us directly to the Lyme Park car park. The hall and gardens close quite early, so we decided to save the visit for another day and have lunch/tea at the pond instead.

The White Nancy near Bollington

Originally, our plan was a round trip to Lyme Park and back up to Manchester, but since it was already quite late and the sun had worn us out, we decided to cycle on down to Macclesfield and take the train back instead. We left Lyme Park the same way we came and went back onto the Middlewood Way (55) cycle path. The ride to Macclesfield was easygoing, taking us past the White Nancy near Bollington and some rather interesting solutions for bridging height differences. The Middlewood Way seems to lead directly to Macclesfield train station, although I think we took the wrong turn somewhere and had to do a few right-left combos past a Tesco’s to get to the station. The trains to Manchester run every 15 to 20 minutes, and finding a train that would take our bikes wasn’t a problem.

The trip was absolutely brilliant, and there’s plenty to see – lush woodland, a river, wild flowers, old mills, a cricket club in the middle of the woods, quite a few pubs… Get on your bikes!

[Photos: Middlewood Way by Terry Wha. White Nancy by Alice Rosen]

Donkeys in Debdale

Does anyone remember I mean, it still exists, but I just assume that, like myself, most people must have stopped hanging out there to make way for a new generation of kids who were into photoshopping puns and making Buffy swear. Oh man. I miss the noughties.

AnywhatdidIwanttosayagainway, once had a photoshopping misheard lyrics contest and one of the entries that really stuck with me (along with the aforementioned Buffy swear keyboard which taught me the correct – albeit Southern – pronunciation of the word cunt, the zebras in Kenya song, and badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom… Oh man, I MISS the noughties) was an animation of the famous Beatles lyrics

“She’s got a chicken to ride, she’s got a chicken to ri-hi-hide, she’s got a chicken to ride, but she donkey”

Next thing I remember is going on a trip to Debdale Park and the nearby donkey sanctuary, cycling down the Fallowfield Loop (we all agreed on calling it the floop right?) and singing this song. The donkey sanctuary is located close to the reservoir and Debdale Park where we happened to gatecrash some local parade (that for some reason reminded me of The Prisoner). It currently houses around 20 or so rescue-donkeys (there’s a list with photos and names of all donkeys along a wall inside) and a couple of rabbits. If you ask nicely (or if you’re a kid) the volunteers even bring out a donkey for close up donkey viewing and maybe even a donkey nose rub. So you’ve got water at the reservoir, donkey noses, and dozens of blackberry bushes on the sides of the floop, which results in a pretty good day out. Go!

Kids and donkeys welcome.

Things I’ve lost on buses in Manchester

In the light of current events, I think I should start keeping track of things I’ve lost on buses in my 4 years in Manchester. In chronological order:

  • Student ID. Received email from finder and got it back. Magic Bus.
  • Bus pass. Handed in to the driver. Magic Bus.
  • Rail card in my favourite pouch. Gone forever. Stagecoach.
  • Added: My lunch bag. With some lovely home made bean soup. Gone forever. Stagecoach.
  • Bus pass. Handed in to the driver. Guys at Stagecoach depot know me by name now. Stagecoach.
  • Bus pass + student ID. Gone. Magic Bus.
  • Keys + bird whistle. Gone. Finglands.
  • and the latest addition: iPod nano + headphones. Handed in to the driver. Finglands.

Yeah, I know. I KNOW.

[Image cc-licensed by Kevin Boyd]

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 – 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

 * 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.