PEOPLES. After 5 1/2 years in Manchester, a few weeks in Barcelona, and four months in Germany (living with my parents… oh the glamour!) I’ve somehow ended up working in New York. Yes, I have a job. I pay taxes. I’ve signed a lease for an apartment. I pay bills. I tried to apply for a credit card and got rejected. I’m a proper adult now, me. Life has been pretty crazy as you can possibly imagine, but here’s some pictures to keep you entertained while I’m gearing up for another round of mightaswell.
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.
Playhouse: a year at (some of) Manchester’s theatres
I never realised I actually enjoyed going to the theatre. To be completely honest, I think I watched not more than four or five plays while I was living in Germany, including the two I actually acted in.* And all of a sudden, as soon as I had moved to Manchester, this just rocketed: maybe thanks to the cheap tickets for young people, maybe because I’m getting older, soon too old to classify as a young person anymore. Now that’s what I call a dilemma.
My theatrical excursions began early in 2010 with a trip to the Library Theatre to see Grimm Tales, a performance piece with music and dance, but far from being a musical. I loved the Library Theatre, the fact that you had to go down the stairs just right after the library entrance hall to end up in this subterranean playhouse, the red seats, the tiny little bar, and the ice cream vendors during the interval. Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation was a dark and fascinating interpretation of the Brother Grimm’s tales, the performance was thoroughly enjoyable, and the set design had been crafted with love for detail. Solid.
My next trip was an introduction into the wonderful world of Gilbert & Sullivan, two names I had never heard of before witnessing the beginning of a rehearsal of the University’s G&S society. Lacking chairs in the rehearsal room, one of the members dramatically exclaimed ‘No more chairs! NO more CHAIRS!!’ which prompted an even more dramatical performance from the other actors. I kind of new what to expect then when buying tickets for The Pirates of Penzance: over-the-top singing from a 40 piece choir, dance choreographies, meticulous costumes and an enormously huge set. It was the night of the elections, and it seemed to me that – in preparation for the grim days to come – the troupe was singing for their lives, one last time. Impressive.
Shortly before or after that I saw The Comedy of Errors at the Royal Exchange Theatre, the theatre I seem to visit fairly frequently. My first ever live Shakespeare, and, as expected, I had serious trouble understanding the words – it didn’t help that one of the main characters was Scottish. I get modern day northern accents, and that’s about it. Don’t understand southerners, let alone any kind of old-fashioned English. Fortunately, I was at least vaguely familiar with the story and could follow to an extent that made it not completely unpleasant. Call me uneducated, but I still don’t find Shakespeare’s comedies particularly appealing. Unsurprising.
In June I saw one of my favourite plays – Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, again at the Library Theatre. My non-existing knowledge of English literature borders onto embarrassing, but I had neither read nor seen the play before. I spent the next two hours giggling in my chair, marveling at the costumes, getting excited about every single one of Lady Bracknell’s appearances on stage, and shaking my head at the characters’ stupidity – oh how I loved it! I really enjoyed watching this lovely ‘making of’ Earnest and a review of 60 years of Library Theatre. Marvellous.
It being summer, we engaged in the Great British tradition of outdoors theatre and picnic, as we went to see yet another Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – at Heaton Park. While our rug and M&S nibbles combo seemed satisfying at first, it looked rather pale compared to our neighbours’ picnic table, chairs, cutlery, wine glasses(!) and home made delicacies. You people know how to do a picnic. The weather was surprisingly nice, you could even say mild and sunny, the play was just as, well, mild, spiked with the ever present sexual innuendos, but enjoyable. The audience got involved to some extent, as we had our grapes stolen by an actor, while Puck – played by a young lady in a sequined showgirl-outfit – made herself comfortable on a gentleman’s lap. Summery.
Following a summer break, I went to see my last play of 2010 at the Royal Exchange, something I had been looking forward to for quite a while: Dr Faustus, a play by Christopher Marlowe, based on a German folk tale, which, pretty much exactly 200 years later, had been adapted by the greatest of our writers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was great to look at indeed, the devil’s little monsters were pretty scary in all their dancing and fighting, the acrobatic acts impressive, but it just lacked… something. The tragical side of the story seemed somewhat neglected in favour of effects, and I actually think I did a little power nap at some point. Epic.
What was your favourite play last year? Which one is your favourite theatre in Manchester?
* As a servant and a poet if you’re interested. One of the best things I’ve ever done, and I still find it astonishing what human beings are capable of when it comes to learning text. I can’t even remember other people’s names, but I easily memorized a one page monologue and recited it without errors over the course of several weeks.
A Different City: My favourite places in Berlin (Pt 2)
There you go, part 2 of Sam’s patchy and highly subjective guide to “Things you shouldn’t miss when in the German capital. Part 1 (art & culture) can be found here.
- Transit – Asian fusion cuisine in Mitte (U Rosenthaler Str.) and Friedrichshain. The menu comprises an array of small dishes for 3 Euros that you can mix and match – all dishes are available in veggie versions, too. The tasty food is served quickly, the waiters are lovely and the atmosphere is buzzing.
- Luigi Zuckermann – Almost right next to Transit in Mitte is Luigi Zuckermann, a New York style sandwich shop and deli that’s open 24hrs on weekends. The guys who work there don’t speak German, which isn’t really a big deal in Berlin, keep themselves awake by blasting obscure music, and serve you rather expensive but rather delicious coffee and apple pie at 4am. Win.
- Noodles & Figli – I have no idea what the name is about, but this inconspicuous restaurant in Kreuzberg is as simple as it is excellent. 3 courses form its Italian cuisine inspired and very seasonal menu are somewhere around 25 Euros, the open kitchen heats up the place to sauna-like conditions in cold weather, and the waiter is happy to sit down and have a chat with you.
- Cookies Cream – A veggie fine dining dream come true. Located literally in the back entrance to the opera house near Französische Straße, you have to make your way past bins and discarded chandeliers to find the entrance of Cookies Cream. The food is both interesting and tasty, staff keep the wine coming (oh dear…), and the big “Ficken” print on the wall reminds you that you are in one of the craziest capitals of Europe.
- Schneeweiss – Nice restaurant in Friedrichshain that serves modernised Austrian cuisine and looks incredibly pretty. Being extraordinarily attractive and looking good in a plain white t-shirt seems to be an important requirement to become a member of staff. Not that I would mind.
- Burgermeister, Marienburger, Burgers Berlin and all the other independent burger places – Oh yes. The city has seen a massive rise in independent snack bars in the past few years, and they all offer tasty homemade burgers, almost always with one or several veggie options, home made french fries and sometimes organic. Have yours with a “Bionade” (hipster lemonade) and munch your hangover away.
- Salon Schmueck – Lovely cafe that must have been teleported from the enchanted part of the Black Forest right into the heart of Kreuzberg. The breakfast here is colourful and filling, and there are blankets to keep you warm outside. The vintage clothes shop in the back is a quirky addition, but not really worth mentioning.
- Tacheles – Somehow this place reminds me of Islington Mill; there’s gigs, art, food, and other stuff going on. Worth a visit, for an event or just for hanging out.
- Michelberger Hotel – Yes, this hotel IS pricey for Berlin standards. It’s pretty though, perfectly located for public transport, offers amazing “luxury” rooms, the staff are international, confused and lovely, the bar is open til 6am, the cocktails are ridiculously strong and the instruments (including a grand piano!) in the “living room” make for great entertainment including the odd Ryan Adams performance by drunk Danes. Excellent.
- West Germany – If you manage to find this old dentists practice on the top floor of an apartment block in Kreuzberg, you can call yourself lucky. The small gig venue is as run down as it gets, but the balcony offers exciting views over the area and a feel of big city life.
- Photo booths – Ooooh no, you can’t leave Berlin without having your picture taken at one of the oldfashioned photo booths placed all over town. For a mere 2 Euros you get a strip of fantastic b/w photos that also make for great souvenirs. If you live in Berlin, you’re required by law to have at least one shot of yourself and friends squeezing into the tiny photo booth after a bit of a heavy night out stuck to your wall. The ones I know about are on Kastanienallee and two near Warschauer Strasse.
[Photos: Luigi Zuckermann – kygp, Salon Schmueck – Kristina M, Schneeweiss – Sang-hee, Michelberger Hotel – Matt Biddulph]
A Different City: My favourite places in Berlin (Pt 1)
Hello, Happy New Year, welcome back, etc etc. I hope you’ve all managed to get rid of your hangovers by now and are looking forward to a promising and eventful new year. I’m not, but that’s a whole different story.
Since Berlin is probably my 2nd favourite place in Germany (after my hometown and only slightly before Leipzig; I love Leipzig and the three years I lived there were amazing, but in terms of things to do, Berlin just trumps any other place really), and every single Mancunian seems to have been to Berlin in the past year / has plans to go soon, I thought I might as well share my patchy inside knowledge with you lot. Due to the size of the post, I’ve split it up in two parts – food & other will follow in the next couple of days! And here we go, Sam’s patchy and highly subjective guide to “Things you shouldn’t miss when in the German capital – Part 1″. Part 2 – Food and other stuff – can be found here.
Art & culture
- Schloss Charlottenburg – I do love them castles. Schloss Charlottenburg is a particularly lovely one in the western part of Berlin, and what makes it even better is the fantastic garden/park with a boating lake that reminds of Versailles. Well, a mini version of it.
- Hamburger Bahnhof – This place used to be a train station (Bahnhof) and is now a huge gallery for modern and contemporary art. Unlike the UK, German art galleries and museums are usually not free, and this one in fact quite expensive. Totally worth it though.
- Zoo (West Berlin) – One word: animals. Thanks to many glass windows rather than fences you can get incredibly close to some of the animals. There is also a panda, which seems to be asleep most of the time. For good panda views, go on a weekday when the weather is bad and check the feeding times when the carers trick the panda into sitting really close to the glass by putting his food right it front of it. Not that he’d be particularly bothered. Bless.
- Bauhaus Archiv – Cause we’re all, like, totally arty and stuff. The Bauhaus Archive includes a nice little collection of Bauhaus related design, furniture and architecture, a gallery for temporary exhibitions (which are a bit hit and miss), and a shop with many pretty things that cost you many pretty Euros.
- Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, Bernauer Str. – This museum and memorial for the German division is a good place to learn about German history without the silly “Ostalgie” (East German nostalgia) that is inherent in so many places in Berlin. I grew up in West Germany, I learned about the German division in my history A-Levels, then lived in East Germany for a while, where my friends’ parents told me about their lives, how they had to fight for their beliefs, how they claimed access to their Stasi-files after the DDR had collapsed*. And trust me, there is no room for nostalgia.
- 100 Bus service – The 100 bus is almost like one of those hop on/off city tour coaches, but cheap. It takes you all around the city, along the most important sights like the Friedenssäule, Unter den Linden, the Reichstag…
- Boat tour – They’re ace. Touristy, but ace. Seriously, you’re sat on a boat for an hour, someone tells you about the history of the city, and if you’re lucky, they even sell drinks on board. Order a “Berliner Weisse grün” (white beer with sweet woodruff syrup – bright green!) or a cup of coffee (don’t bother with tea. Germans don’t know how to do proper tea) and relax your feet. You can get on at the bridges near Alexanderplatz/Berliner Dom.
- Film museum – A brilliant little museum in the Sony Centre (yawn) at Potsdamer Platz (YAWN). Not much hands on stuff, but props, scripts, models and costumes from some amazing films, alongside background information. Featuring a life size Darth Vader!
Phew. That’s it with art and cultchah from me for now. Check out part 2 – food and other stuff.
[Photos: Hamburger Bahnhof – Regine Debatty]
* I’m getting well emo here.
Shining Light: Christmas WTF.
Spotted near Platt Fields park the other night. Hello electricity bill!
We are nowhere, and it’s now: a trip to Urmston
Urmston. I mean, seriously. Just say it out loud a few times. Uuuurrrrmston. Apart from the general directon (Trafford-ish – which doesn’t mean that I have an idea where Trafford really is), sort of bottom left on my map of Manchester, I didn’t know much about Urmston. Having accidentally stumbled upon Beards of Manchester, Peter and Frances* asked us to deliver some calendars to their bookshop in Urmston – the perfect occasion for a little day trip!
The 23 Stagecoach took us from Chorlton to Stretford, down the seemingly never ending Urmston Lane which is lined with houses, houses, and some more houses. We passed the “Welcome to Urmston” sign which told us that it was not just a part of Manchester but an actual town, and when the bus dropped us off outside the library I said, to my own surprise, “it’s actually not as horrible as I thought it was!”
We didn’t have much time to explore the place, but came across a particularly classy furniture shop (see “shoe chair” photo above), “Isinglass” – voted one of Manchester’s best restaurants, Peter’s and Frances’ lovely little bookshop on Flixton Road, the Tim Bobbin – a very art deco-ish Wetherspoons, and the Green Room, a sports bar that also functions as the local meeting place for people with skinheads.
The tracksuits and shaved head-combo seems to be the latest fashion trend amongst the youth of Urmston – walking down Flixton Road, we saw dozens of teens in said attire, some of them suddenly running off in all directions. The police van and high-vis jacket wearing officers on the next junction who were talking to a similar looking group of kids and the proximity to a shopping centre didn’t leave too many questions unanswered.
The Steamhouse, a pub on the platform of Urmston rail station with the possibly weirdest table layout I’ve ever seen, was our last stop before boarding the train back into Manchester. Since it’s only a 10 minute train ride to Urmston, we’ll hopefully be back soon, with more time to explore the town (and by “town” I mean “the menu at Isinglass”).
* That is, Frances. She seemed genuinely excited by the Beards of Manchester calendar, while Peter only gave it, then us, a quick look that said something like ‘Ooookay. You two are clearly kray-zeeeh.’
Northern Lights: The great(ish) West Didsbury switch on
Y’alright tree! Boon army!
This wasn’t always the case, but I DO. LOVE. CHRISTMAS. Massively. Mainly because, since I have moved out from home, it means receiving a parcel with an advent calendar from my mum at the end of November, opening tiny numbered stockings every morning, going home shortly before Christmas, lots of snow, visiting the traditional Christmas markets in my home town, and finally sitting through a 5 hour food and presents marathon that is guaranteed to involve my family shouting (no concept of volume, none of them), me sneakily drinking one “special Christmas edition” beer after another, and the annual discussion “shall we go to church or stay in and have our pudding instead” with my uncle. Pudding always wins. Good Catholics wouldn’t let food go to waste, right?
Living in Manchester has added mince pies (yay), Christmas puddings (ok…), the Manchester Christmas markets (great if you enjoy full-on body contact with strangers and faux “authentic German Gluehwien”) and my flatmate making rather tasty mulled wine with Sainsbury’s own brand red (good Lord).
Thanks to the early snow and the Co-op’s 10 page leaflet with booze offers I was already feeling the “festive spirit”, and so I was delighted to hear about the Christmas tree switch on in West Didsbury*, which was organised by Didsbury Life and the West Didsbury Residents’ Association. I remembered that I had even donated some money for the tree in the form of a raffle ticket at this year’s West Fest!
When we arrived at 7pm, there were, well, us, two of the organisers, and 5 police officers, obviously waiting for ‘the great West Didsbury Christmas riots of 2010′ to kick off. Some fantastically tasty mini mince pies (from the Dish and Spoon cake shop. CAKE. SHOP.) and a cup of hot spiced cider later, a surprisingly large group of people had gathered on the other side of the road opposite the Christmas tree to listen to the carol singers. The fact that the traffic on the road hadn’t been stopped made for a hilarious and mildly bizarre experience – the children singing Christmas carols, with the odd noisy car going past, drowning out the (highly enthusiastic) singers and blocking the view every so often. Being the evil person I am, I had trouble not to die laughing as a double-deck Stagecoach went past.
Then, the great moment had finally arrived: Mr Clint Boon appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the megaphone and shouted his signature “Boon Army!” at the crowd. Through the power of the megaphone, he got the police to – finally – stop the traffic for his speech, which included gems such as
“Manchester is a suburb of West Didsbury” (whooping from the audience)
“…West Didsbury is a proper community…”
“…and our fantastic tree…where is it…ah here, on this side!”
“We’re going to count down from 10 and switch on the light now… where is the switch?”
“Have fun drinking, but don’t get drunk!” (more whooping from the audience)
And then the tree was lit. After seeing a bus driven by Father Christmas and covered in tinsels the other day, the minimalist decoration (lights and… well, that’s it.) of the tree was a tiny bit disappointing – can we all chip in for some shiny baubles and glittery tinsels next year please?
That was fun. Of course, it was a bit chaotic. Of course, you can’t expect to hand a megaphone to Clint Boon and have him deliver a grand speech. And of course, our West Didsbury Christmas tree is more “tree” than “Christmas”. But after the bonfire night at Platt Fields I have come to realise: things just are a little bit different here in Manchester – and everyone involved gets full marks for effort. As odd an event as it was, I loved it!
* YAWN! Another West Didsbury post. Promise, for the next posts I’ll move a little further than 5 steps outside my front door, yes?
[Photo by that hairy dude from Hey! Manchester]
The Fresh Queen of West Diddy
Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
I’d like to take a minute flowin fresher than Fiddy*
I’ll tell you how I became the queen of a place called West Diddy
In Southwest Germany, born and raised
on the school bench where I spent most of my days,
doing my homework, mathematics all cool
And all coding some websites outside of the school
When that one massive uni that looked pretty good
Made me an offer I could not refuse
I sent them one little letter and my mum was proud
She said ‘have a great time in Manchester, now get out!’
I whistled for a black cab and left in a hurry
The licenceplate said ‘MCR’ and it smelled of curry
If anything I could say this town was quite gritty
But I thought mightaswell stay here, welcome to West Diddy!
I pulled up to a house that was made from red bricks
And yelled to the cabby ‘I’m sorry, no tips’
Looked at my kingdom and it was rather pretty
So I settled my throne as the queen of West Diddy
I couldn’t resist. It was a particularly long bus journey. People of West Didsbury forgive me. You may now officially declare the end of the blogging world as we know it.
* That’s cool speak for Fifty Cent. Yo.
[Photo by blitzi]
Streamside: A trip to Hebden Bridge
I’ve been babbling enough in the past couple of weeks, so I’ll give you a break with a few lovely photos from my daytrip to Hebden Bridge, a small town in West Yorkshire – time for a photo post! While everyone was gushing how quaint and lovely the town is, I was more impressed by the surrounding landscape; even the train journey from Manchester into the hills is fantastic!
I also discovered one of my now favourite pubs, the Fox and Goose – a quirky* little pub right at the end of the town, with an open fireplace and hundreds of beer clips all over the ceiling.
Hebden Bridge from above.
Trees n stuff.
We met a painter on the path!
Stone circles. Possibly ancient. Probably not.
Yorkshire Soap Co. – I couldn’t resist and had to buy cupcake shaped strawberry scented bubble bath.
* Interior, barman and patrons alike.
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