Sunday, October 14, 2012

A night out in Manchester

Bradley came up from London to spend the weekend with us. Usually when we have a night out with Bradley it contains a healthy mix of fun and adventure and he certainly brought that with him.

The weekends plans were the perfect way for Pip to spend her two days between finishing at Lindsell Marketing and starting at Comic Relief. I joined them back at our apartment after I was done with work and we all had a catch up and a Vegetarian Lasagna which Pip had done an amazing job cooking.

The band 'Hot Chip' were playing at the Manchester Academy so we had worked out Bradley's visit around the gig and as 8 O'clock rolled around, the bottle of vodka had run dry and so we ordered a private taxi and headed off.

The gig was amazing, we arrived with only about 20 minutes to wait until they took to the stage. We'd never been to that area of Manchester before so we didn't know what to expect of the venue. I think the crowd was one of the best that I've been in. No beer or human waste was thrown about, no violence, no pushing, just dancing and general good times. The inevitable conversations about peoples weeks still ensued by the people around us, I don't understand why people pay to see a band when they are more interested in having a social catch up.

Hot Chip is not a band I know much about. In fact I can't sing more than a few lines from one or two songs, not that it mattered as I was blown away by how original and good they were. The musicianship was excellent, they ran most of the set like a bunch of DJ's running linking songs together to create a good flow but still allowing plenty of dynamics. Their songs are catchy but not too poppy and they really seemed at home in front of the small but packed out venue.

After the gig, we spilled out into the street with the intention of heading into Manchester city centre. Booking a taxi proved rather difficult with the company unable to find us. We eventually gave up and jumped into a black cab once the cold air had become too much for us.

We'd never been out in Manchester for many reasons so this was a good night to see what it is like. The first stop was the much talked about "Printworks", a huge building which houses many nightclubs. I'm not sure if we had picked the worst one or whether all of the clubs in that area were like it but the 'Norwegian Blue' club was more like an awkward 21st birthday party, split over two over lit floors which failed to create any mood while it teamed with segregated boys and girls who we all too shy to mix and seemed to only be there because it is the "socially acceptable" thing to do. One we'd had enough of a laugh about the strange choices of evening wear which the ladies sported, we headed off in search of something a bit better.

Next up was 'Prohibition' which I can describe as middle class people trying to be rich. It was almost as awkward as the previous place but it did have a bit more class. We hung out there for a while, dared each other to go and talk to random people, posed for photos with them and eventually decided that it was time to grab some more vodka and finish the night at home. Unfortunately there were no off-licenses open at 3:30am so we ended up going home to bed.

Good night.

The next morning we had some scrambled eggs, went to town for a coffee at North Tea Power and then saw Bradley off back to London. We had a great weekend and it was the perfect way to spend it celebrating Pip's new job transition and although we had a great time, I'm not too sure we'll be rushing back out the Manchester nightclub scene. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

York

It has been over two months now since we came to Manchester, Pip is finishing up at Linsell Marketing in a couple of weeks and looking forward to her new job at Comic Relief, while I'm settled into my job making coffee at the busiest Caffe Nero I have ever set foot in (let alone worked in). Our paychecks have finally come in and although we are not rich, we can now breath a bit eaisier about all things financial.

It was this new found relief which got Pip's feet itchy. I came home from work one day and she explained that we would be going to visit the city of 'York' next Sunday. We left Manchester Victoria station just after nine in the morning and headed for York through the overcast and gloomy towns and countryside of northern England. Along for the ride was a short drunk old man who'd had a good night of drinking and was now heading home. He liked to think he was both wise and a fantastic singer, despite falling short of achieving either. We first met him at the ticket machine when he told Pip and I not to worry about the world ending in December. Fair enough we though as we are used to old drunk people telling us the opposite.

On the train we found that our seats were a bit to close to him so we moved down a bit. He was with us on the journey for two stops (almost an hour) which he made the most of by treating us to a set of karaoke numbers from Neil Diamond to Elton John, often pausing to tell a yarn to those sitting near him. As you can imagine, this annoyed quite a few of the passengers, some of whom either yelled out for him to "shut up" or went up for a polite word with him, both methods proved ineffective. The ticket lady had frequent chats with him to try and get him to have a sleep but even her extreme saint-like patience had no effect. When he did finally depart the train we were relieved and when the ticket lady thanked passengers for their patience and "sense of humor", we found ourself engaged with at least four different people on the carriage about the incident.

While the whole ordeal was initially very annoying, it demonstrated the difference between Londoners and the rest of England as we'd mostly only heard of and not actually experienced. People, strangers, passengers, they just started talking to us, you don't do that in London. Everybody seemed united by this incident and it didn't matter about their age, steriotypical apperience or even location (as the lady behind us stuck her head through the gap in the seat to appear between Pip and I), they just wanted to share in the conversation, you don't do that in London.

We did eventually arrive in York and after departing the train we decided coffee would be our first order of business. Crossing the bridge into the town centre we noticed the unusually high level of the river but at that point didn't give it a second thought. York is beautiful even when it's overcast and miserable, it was supposed to rain but it only resulted in a minor passing shower later in the day. We had a coffee at Starbucks and then wandered though the town. The high streets in York look like botiques which is a nice change as usually every towns high street seems very uniform. We found the famous little street called 'The Shambles' which was packed with tourists trying to take photos, we joined them of course and had a look in some neat art shops. Next was York Minster which was very hard to capture on camera up close as it sits very close to the surrounding buildings and today there was a police cordoned memorial going on which made it even harder.

From there we wandered a bit more and walked along some of the wall that surrounds the central city. We happened to time our visit to the York annual food market which had local growers, bakers, brewers and artisans all whipping up their specialities to try. Here I had a apple and pork pie and Pip and I shared a huge Yorkshire Puddling which was an oversized pud with a sort of casorole filling and chips on the top, heaven.

Next we checked out the tower on the hill which William tbe Conquorer had built and then did the big city wall walk which took us right around the city and it some places seemed. dangerously high without railings.

As we headed back to the centre of town again we noticed an area which was hit very badly by the recent weather which flooded the river. Most businesses were closed and in the process or pumping water out and drying their shops. As we crossed one of the city bridges it sort of took on the look of an accidental Venice. We took lots of photos and saw how serious the storm actually was. We felt lucky to have visited at this unique time but we did feel for those who found themselves under water.

We hit the usual high street shops and Pip finally found a really nice jacket from Zara which was great value and looked far better than all the others she's tried on over the last few weeks.

Before we got back on the train we popped into 'Spring Espresso' because it wouldn't be a compete trip without seeking an indie coffee shop. We had amazing flat whites which were made by one of the UKs top baristas. The blend was from Ethiopia which keeps that country as still my current favourite taste of coffee. The decor was a bit hit and miss with the usual indie style wood interior confusing filled with colourful 'smoothie bar' style furniture.

Tired and back in rainy Manchester, where they seemed to have all the rain that York was supposed to get, we settled in with some fish n chips and relived the day through the photos we'd taken.