I was driven from Deb's to a train station during the mid-morning and bought my ticket to Manchester from a kindly ticket inspector. Train rides in England are incredibly exciting to me. They're just so exotic! But no, the countryside is gorgeous and I was passing snow-topped hills which was incredible to me. It was making the freezing cold day (did I mention I didn't pack a coat?) totally worth it just for the promise of a possible snow fall closer. I changed trains at Sheffield and almost froze to death on the platform (and thoroughly enjoyed the experience). I ended up walking out into Manchester in the mid-afternoon and getting incredibly lost on my way to the bus stop. Lost in Manchester though, is the best kind of lost. I found my way eventually, got the bus and found myself standing in Rawtentstall at 4 in the afternoon waiting to be walked to the next home I would be staying at. I met two really friendly teenagers with completely terrific accents who took me up several winding hills, across cobbled streets and past yet more old-style pubs (gawd, there are so many in this country) and into the warmth of their living room. In that room, I cannot say I have ever been so relieved to be without boots, backpack or frostbite. And almost all of a sudden, it was snowing outside the window. In an English village. In the afternoon. Curled up on a couch. I was watching it snow softly.
When the whole family had arrived home,they were awfully polite to me and endured my ugly Aussie twang while we ate dinner, watched Happy-Go-Lucky- cutest movie evar, I think- and played board games (I love that they play board games after dinner here!) and I constantly had to ask about the rules and make embarrassing tactical mistakes. Needless to say, despite my obvious skill, I went to bed a distant runner-up.
Though it had snowed on Wednesday, the snow didn't stick to the wet ground so it was not idiotic for me to walk out, once again without a coat, to go shopping in the morning;dressed as I was in just a familiar colourful jumper and weathered boots. I wandered the little market and bought a men's jacket that would be warm and not too cumbersome from a charity shop. When I got back, the Mister of the house figured out how excited I was at the prospect of the moors nearby and offered to take me on a guided tour. I enthusiastically accepted and a group of us set out to wander an environment not dissimilar to one in a certain girl's favourite Bronte novel (Oh, Heathcliff!). There are photos of that experience that will be coming very soon but, wow, it was amazing. I like snow, guys. I like how it feels under my feet and in my hands and how it looks and everything. Everything. It's pretty and the stuff on the moors was a huge novelty. These poor British kids just smiled obligingly while I ran around, ecstatic about a weather event they have witnessed all their lives and resented when it gets in the way of their weekend plans. Very patient people, they were.
We came home and eventually I began work on dinner which was a far more vegetarian affair than I had originally envisaged. Story of this trip, really. I have gotten back together with my old lover, cheese, and am kind of rather happy about it, despite the Carrie-level guilt about cheating on veganism, my Aidan. The dinner was, eventually, well received and dessert was Nigella-style honey cupcakes (yes, Kat, she is the Queen. I will kiss her ring or smell her glove or whatever, the cakes were a massive hit). I don't know what was more damaging; the food that probably enlarged my waist exponentially or the British shows we watched, including an addictive soap called Hollyoaks and a disturbing adolescent game turned "must see" television (Snog Marry Avoid). What can I say? It was awesome.
I was able to play Geeky Tourist Hiker Girl on Friday (a role I quite enjoy) when I went on long walks and drives with the Mother and Father of the clan. I saw the remains of a stone mill at the top of the world's longest and steepest hill- I may just have used hyperbole for dramatic or comedic effect. So sue me.- and the view from the top, as such, of the area I had been staying in. It was quite spectacular. And cold. But mainly the former. I witnessed Pendle Hill and was exceedingly glad I was not encouraged to be its latest enthused climber. I also visited the "Singing Ringing Tree"; made of pipes and less musical than, apparently, normal.
And then there was the evening meal; my discovery of Indian take-away in England. All I can say is "wow". I must have eaten my weight in greasy but delicious food from plastic containers. But that's hardly behaviour I reserve for coming to England and trying their food so I don't know why I reported that here as though it was newsworthy. Apologies, really.
Unlike Wednesday's day of travelling, my journey from Rawtenstall back to Manchester was forty minutes. I discovered my new hostesses, a wonderfully friendly mother and University-aged daughter and talked for hours with the latter while the former went to a rehearsal for her gospel choir's performance. I attended it that night and was incredibly impressed. There must be similar groups in Melbourne, but I never went to any performances like that before. I wonder why that is, because I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Speaking of thoroughly enjoying myself, I was taken for a night out with the younger hostess in Manchester. Despite being dressed like a lesbian high school Art teacher from inner city Melbourne, I was treated like every other glammed up, beautiful girl I was with and had a genuinely fun night.
Wow, nachos are good after a night that ends at 3am. Hostess the Younger took me out to see the quirky side of Manchester (think Brunswick/Chapel/Smith/etc Street spread over several streets) at this great little bar in the city. We just chatted to her friend for hours and went home to a- gratefully received- home cooked meal.
Hostess the Elder took me on a tour of iconic Manchester today. United Stadium and the Cricket Ground. The Imperial War Museum blew my mind, so powerful and such an amazing message in some of the exhibitions. Oh, and I was taken to see the most humungous shopping centre I have ever seen. It made Chadstone look tasteful and tiny. A sort of wonderful experience that made me re-appraise my description of my Mum's penchant for retail therapy; seriously, Mother, even this place is out of your league. You ain't even imagined consumerism like this. The place was jaw-dropping though and I am at least happy I saw it. Once again,pictures soon.
Ironically, the movie I was taken to see at a local artsy theatre that night was Samson and Delilah. I hadn't seen it before- I am a bad Arts student, I know- but I really loved it. Just as powerful, if not more, than I had been told it would be. And then we came home, discussed it for ages and discussed it some more. Hostess the younger had joined us and our conversation evolved and continued until 2:30am.
I really have been talking a lot to people since I got here, all sorts, and I really enjoy it. Time is slipping away from me in the long conversations I'm loving. Some, like in the movie I saw last night, are not with words or even with people. I feel really, really blessed to be experiencing all this and I hope this entry explained that even minorly effectively.
It's not a perfect metaphor.