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Friday, October 10, 2014

Blogging the North & the Blog North Awards 2014

This week I've felt a bit like a nomad, hot-tailing around the North of England.  

My adventure started on Monday night, with Naomi and I going over to Cocked Hat farm (great name, eh?) for Sof's birthday. It's been bloody ages since I've seen Sof, what with her living in Wales and working in Manchester, and me having had quite the hectic nomadic summer. It's always lovely when you haven't seen certain friends in a while to know that everything's always exactly the same when you do. And that's what was so nice about Monday. Just like the old days: old friends convening to drink wine, eat cake, laugh, and reminisce -- but this time also with boyfriends and family and little ones (not ours by the way, still a bit young for motherhood).

Cocked Hat looks a lot different from when we were sixteen, six years ago, drinking beer and getting ready for the year 11 prom. I wore a rather slinky blue dress (which makes me cringe now!) that I ended up having to get sewn into by Sof's lovely Mum because the cheap zip broke. Now, they've extended the house and there's a massive dining room/ lounge snuggled on the back of it. Out of the windows you can see the horses and sheep, the green of the fields that surround this haven of memories. 

Christina (Sof's Mum) made her speciality lasagne, an Italian recipe passed down to her, with a kooky concoction of ham, meatballs, other ingredients, but no bechamel sauce. It was very different from the kind I'm used to - the kind that comes in a plastic tray and takes 2 minutes to microwave. But, it was delicious!

 And that wasn't all. The cakes! Oh, the cakes. Hazelnut meringue with homemade lemon curd and cream inside, and a homemade strawberry cheesecake. Both D-I-V-I-N-E. I ate far too much. And drank far too much. And had some lovely jubbly bedtime heartburn to contend with. 

Then on Tuesday, Naomi and I woke up bright and early (feeling a little bit rotund) ready for a hefty day of house viewings . . .

...that were bloody cancelled. Such a pleasure to be called half an hour before, when you're obviously en route, to be informed it'll have to be rescheduled to 7pm. Then to another day. So we decided to blow everything off, go have a nice lunch and go to the cinema. Somewhere to kill time until our one remaining viewing at 4pm. 

We went to see Map to the Stars - have you seen it? It's the new David Cronenberg (of Cosmopolis fame) film and is a pretty scathing satire of the fickle world of Hollywood. Julianne Moore is INCREDIBLE as Havana Segrand, an aging actress who resembles a freckled, see-through-dress-wearing, even more warped, older incarnation of Lindsay Lohan. The plot is a little unwieldy, with many ends left untied, and also features a much too short --in my opinion-- cameo by Robert Pattinson (he so dreamy). His character lacked any sense of depth, really, but maybe that was the point?

We left the cinema feeling weird and trotted off to see the potential flat of our dreams. Ten minutes from town, it was in quite a good location but not quite right for us, and definitely not the right price. Alas, not the dream.  I think we've decided we're going to wait a little bit - keep looking, but wait for the quiet period to fully begin, and hopefully bag ourselves a really good deal, instead of an overpriced abode in a grotty neighbourhood. 

I don't really mind waiting that much because I've been staying in Ilkley with Granny & Grandad in their beautiful house. Ilkley is especially gorgeous in all it's Autumnal glory. Above is a picture of the Ilkley Betty's October window display; if you've never heard of Betty's, it's THE place for a Yorkshire dining experience, and the perfect venue for afternoon tea. 

Oh, and the Ilkley Literature Festival is on at the moment! I'm hoping to get myself to a few events, so watch this space.

When Wednesday rolled around it was time for Manchester and ... *drum roll* the Blog North Awards 2014. I spent the day with my pa, who was in West Yorkshire to visit the dentist (poor guy), then plonked myself on a train headed South. 

Recently, I feel like I spend my life on trains. But, I can't really complain. For some reason as soon as I'm aboard I seem to well with inspiration. There's something about sitting still, looking out the window, and taking in the vast countryside that especially makes the brain juices flow. I wrote Find Your Best Self on this train to Manchester, while nursing a 4 quid mini (and I mean, MINI) bottle of rose wine to calm my bloggy nerves. Maybe it wasn't the scenery but the booze that was the source of that post?

Arriving among the Mancunions, I looked out for 'a big wheel,' where I'd been instructed to take the bus from to the Deaf Institute, the setting of the bloggers' coronation -- part of Manchester Literature Festival . Hmmmm, I thought, if I were a big wheel where would I be? And then, a few steps later... aha!

 Shining in front of me like a circle of burning magnesium.

I clambered on the bus, and quickly scrambled off at my destination, ready to meet my poor poorly friend Anna who had valiantly agreed to still accompany me. And then, quite suddenly, I (quite literally) bumped into Stevie. 

Stevie is Nanon's (more on her later) mate from uni, and runs the fabulous Discotheque Confusion, which is an all-time favourite blog of mine, and definitely an inspiration for my own. Stevie's a very cool girl, with her finger held tightly on the Manchester cultural pulse. Anyways, we all headed into the ceremony, surrounded by gleaming colourful wallpaper, and to the bar where I bought some more wine (I had a v nervous, fluttery stomach).  Say hello to Dolly...

What an amazing ceremony it was! Flashtag (slam short stories instead of poetry) were fantastic, as were the bloggers nominated for Best Writing and Best Personal Blog who voiced snippets of their work. Mollie Simpson was my personal favourite, reading cringey preteen/tween diary entries to the cackling crowd. 

Kate Feld of Manchizzle was a wonderful host! In case you didn't know already, I was shortlisted for Best Young Blogger. Sadly I didn't win, but it's okay because the lovely Lauren Vevers of  did. Well done, Lauren! All in all, I'm so glad I went. It was fab to catch up with Anna and Stevie, and to meet some incredibly talented bloggers. There was a sweeping, warming feel of community blanketing the room, amplified by the serious wine flush that had turned my cheeks into beacons of beetroot. 

After the awards, I bid farewell to Anna, and headed into Manchester city centre with Stevie to meet Nanon. We went to a variety of different bars with her friends to celebrate a birthday, and I had one of the best evenings I'd had in a very long time. 

The next day, feeling hungover, we left Nanon's SWANKY new pad in the Northern Quarter and headed down the road to Koffee Pot, an American diner meets greasy spoon cafe with an urban Mancunion twist, for.. what else? A fry up! Beautiful and revitilising hash browns in tow.

Fat bastard brekky for me!

Above are pictures of Nanon's flat, of the wide all-encompassing windows, each fitted with individual temperamental blinds. 

It's weird, for some reason I've always written off living in Manchester - I've always only ever considered Leeds. But now, after perusing the perks of the Northern Quarter and seeing a glimpse of the cultural capital of the North, I'm.. well, CONVERTED. NQ, you'll definitely see me again soon. I need to give Leeds a shot first, though.

And so, now it's Friday. 

This morning I boarded another train and headed from Ilkley into the city for opportunites, and to find a place to curl up and think about the week I've had.

TRIVIA --- does anyone know where this is? It's a secret.

I've had a wonderful week, and I can't wait to get more and more involved in the northern blogging community. I also can't wait for the Blog North Awards 2015

This Northern nomad wishes you all a lovely weekend. 

PS: If you're a Leeds blogger or business, please say hello! I'd love to hear from you where your favourite spots in West Yorkshire are. I'm still looking for a personal landmark coffee shop - my own Leeds based Central Perk, if you will.

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