altrincham · Events · lifestyle · manchester · The Arts · Uncategorized · wellbeing

Life Drawing and Validation – Altrincham’s Open Studios

I think it may be something to do with approaching a milestone age but I have recently been living at an accelerated speed.

Not particularly hedonistic but in terms of adding to my repertoire of life experiences, things have stepped up a gear.

It’s as though I’m prepping for an ‘end of year’ review in my ‘real’ job (when not prattling on online), except this is an ‘end of decade’ review. Predictably I’m not divulging which particular decade I’m due to leave sometime this year.

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In a blind panic, I’m adding to the (imagined) section, ‘what in actual hell have you done with your life recently apart from developing an addiction to cheese, sparkling wine and watching ’90 Day Fiancé’ incessantly on the wonderful channel that is TLC’.

In order to validate my life (or position at the company who employs me, to further the analogy), I’ve taken on a number of new projects and interests. One of which is Life Drawing.

I’ve always had a keen interest in art, mainly fuelled by me achieving my highest module mark in The History and Theory of Art, during my three year not art degree. It was on that day that I vowed to bang on about this forever more.

I verge from an appreciation of the traditional, to the Warhols, to the sublime (I once found myself on my hands and knees, crawling through an installation (tunnel) of ‘something’ at the Tate Modern, only to find myself out the other end, having seen nothing but darkness.

Part of me added my own deep theory as to what the artist had in mind.

Part of me wondered if my confusion upon exiting was being filmed; my bewildered expression forming part of a bigger installation to be projected onto the Houses of Parliament at a later date, a’la Gail Porter, entitled ‘The gullible’.

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Back to the point, and the purpose of this blog post; that is, giving thanks and a shout out to the wonderful Open Studios in Altrincham, who both locals and not so locals, will know from the wonderful classes they put on, and the marvellous ‘Hidden Altrincham’ festival, showcasing art around the town.

As described on their website, Open Studios is where one goes

to be creative

even if you consider yourself not.

That non-consideration, will very quickly be discouraged through encouragement, by the lovely Jo Cushing who has not only shown me how to put up an easel without trapping everyone of my fingers (although I’m still unable to put it away without smashing it into the ceiling), but the rudimentaries in applying charcoal to paper, and drawing the wonderfully poised and, well, remarkably ‘still’ life models before me.

I have been to two classes so far and any nerves about picking up a piece of charcoal since I was in high school were quickly calmed by not only Tutor Jo, but by the other lovely artists (when I say ‘other’ I mean in addition to Jo, not myself) who have attended the class on a Wednesday at 7pm.

my first stab – apologies to the model

It is at this point I add my reason for this particularly timed post. Walk-ins are welcome to each and every class, and no sign-ups are required. This is particularly beneficial to people like me who may appear flaky but unable to go more than once every month of so. Such as being unable go again for a further two weeks…And so this blog post also forms part of a message to Jo…

I haven’t been for a few weeks, not because I’m sulking that I couldn’t draw that foot properly last time – I’m still keen to learn and have even done sketching homework (not life models, you understand).

Anyone and everyone is welcome, including beginners, and for only £13, receive two hours of tutorage. You even get to keep your drawings! And the smudges all over your face from incessantly touching your face with your charcoal fingers (I’m a face toucher, evidently).

And so in the absence of attending tonight (not that I’m suggesting I’ll be missed), I wanted to encourage others to, to keep my place warm so to speak.

With even a tea or coffee thrown in (I take my own diet coke, admittedly – I’m a strange non-brew drinker), add to your life-CV and list of anecdotes, by popping along to give it a go. And I’ll see you there (in a couple of weeks).

Life Drawing classes are every Wednesday 7pm-9pm, as well as Tuesdays 11am-1pm (when I’m unable to attend, as I’m trying to keep myself in employment during the week).

For details of these classes, all others and the Studio itself, please click through to the website here.

Dining · Events · Food and Drink · lifestyle · manchester · Preview/Review · Uncategorized · wine

An A in Fizzical Education – Altrincham Fizz Festival 

Last year I attended the Fizz Festival in Altrincham and had an absolute top drawer time of it. Read my account below and book your tickets for this year’s before they sell out! 🥂

Fizz Festival 2017 – Alty – 18/19 Nov

(Below originally published 17/11/2016)

Imagine a world where a whole festival of Fizz arrives on your doorstep. 

Run by Cracking Wine, last weekend was Altrincham’s 2nd Fizz Festival, Hale Geezer’s 1st attendance and 30 seconds in;  red-faced. Not the ‘glow’ of someone who likes their drink more than just a friend, but more the deep puce that bedecks only the foolish. 

I’m no stranger to wine, sparkling or otherwise. My drinking career now in double figures, two wine-tastings and a champagne masterclass under my belt, I hoped not to show myself up at the first stall. 

Hope springs eternal…

wrote Alexander Pope. 

And so it was only a matter of time before I made my first fizz faux pas.

This lovely lady looked at me as I awkwardly approached Fizz Guru

Hello!

Hello!

Awkward pause on my part as I read out the lady’s own flyer to her as she waits patiently for me to say something normal.

I don’t. Lady offers me prosecco, still stone cold sober and socially awkward, I make a kind of ‘mmmm’ noise. More of a still wine/champagne fan, I usually drink prosecco as a substitute for the latter, feeling hard done to, (please note I no longer hold that view) and so I’m ready to roll out my usual 

I drink prosecco but it’s actually a bit sweet for my taste

line when I clock the bottle from which I’ve just tasted and, noting the ‘extra dry’ on the label, gleefully add

Although this is lovely and dry and so really nice.

I’m pleased. I was too sober and awkward to even notice what it was but I’ve nailed it here. I’ve begun the tasting with not only a declaration but an intelligent one.

I wait for the lovely lady to place a crown on my head and pronounce me attendee of the weekend when she tells me sweetly (which as it goes is apt) that extra dry on prosecco bottles often means the opposite. The Fizz Guru proved her credentials in one sentence.

Pop, Fizz, Sip…Make a Right Tool of Yourself
It still doesn’t make sense to me but I had to go and didn’t wait for the explanation. I said thank you. And went to a second stall, far away from pitying eyes. 

My prosecco education only just beginning, I next meet this lovely man from Con Gusto. I look at him pleadingly, and his six open bottles of prosecco. Keen to erase the memory of the daftness surrounding my first Fizz of the Festival, I clutch my flute like a 21st century adult female version of Oliver Twist towards him. 

Please sir, can I have some more

No that would be mental and technically incorrect as I hadn’t yet tasted any of his wares. I just like an oft-used literary analogy.

No, he came to my rescue and  before I had chance to show myself and my co-taster up (yes there was a witness to my woe – my husband who is a kind of passive foot in mouther, such is the regularity to which he bears close witness to my acts of awkward), the lovely man started talking. He left no room for me to trip up. And so I learnt that prosecco should not just be treated as a substitute for when I tragically can’t have champagne, it should be tasted and treated with respect. As I’ve tarred all prosecco with the same rude brush, I missed an obvious clue as to why the ones I don’t like, I don’t like. For a start a good prosecco should have the name of the house/vineyard on the label, not just an Italian random word (Vaporetta a case in point). 

Speaking of labels, I truly was seduced by the first of the wines I tasted: 

The picture is of the house where the grower and his family live. This blog post won’t be me trying to impress you with my notes of notes of apples and hay, and so forth but know that I bought this lovely tipple as consider it a light aperitif and, dare I say it, a session prosecco.

Having tried another three we were swayed by this more flavoursome affair and when a Fizz preserver was thrown in, I was in love.



 We even managed to throw in some knowledge of Italian sparkling wine – we knew from experience that the Italians do not consider the flute necessary and that the Italian’s version of champagne was not prosecco but in fact one that I had been introduced to in Northern Italy a couple of years ago. Yes reader, I cannot remember what it is called. 

A google later – Franciacorta.

Buoyed, we visit Hush Heath and I fully admit to being one of those heathens scared of the prospect of English Sparkling Wine. In fact as with prosecco, I have been educated and have a new found respect. Attending the festival, I was accompanied not only by my husband but an attitude of ‘I am looking forward to the champagne, not so much its fellow fizzes.’

Silly me.

The lovely lady (I know: I do know other adjectives but they were! They were all lovely!) grabbed us immediately with her enthusiasm and passion for the Kent based producer and family who run Hush Heath, that interest was piqued even prior to anything being popped.

Reader, I walked away with two bottles, one of which is served in 1st class on British Airways and on the Orient Express. How quintessentially English. And what a lovely drop!

By now I was feeling very happy and very confident (read pleasantly…tipsy) and headed over to the Champagne Thienot stand. 

A wonderful gentleman regaled us with tales of this champagne house which, for 30 years, is fast building a reputation for modern luxury. Not a mass producer, the champagne is reassuring difficult to come by and the chosen house Hollywood opted for at the Oscars.

Thienot we liked you, we really liked you!

(if just one person gets this reference, I’ll be ever so pleased)

Red Squirrel really opened up our eyes (and wallets) with its sparkling Chardonnay where the wine is bottled before fermenting is finished, leaving the fizz to happen inside the glass. As our (yes) lovely teacher taught us, that means each bottle is unique.

After trying a Canadian sparkling wine and revisiting an Austrian sparkling wine last tasted on a trip to Salzburg almost 10 years ago, we took away with us this lovely NV:

Finest Fizz flashed its fairylights our way and we enjoyed a journey  which began with Skinny Rose (275 calls a bottle if you’re wondering) and lovely. As well as bringing with me a bias against prosecco and English sparkling, I’d never rated Rose but in a Fizz form it’s generally delightful.

From this lovely fellow in the checked shirt, we took away a Fizz stopper accompanied by this fantastic Lopez-Martin Carte D’Or Premier Cru NV:


Anyone still reading may have noticed that this post has gone from being quite text heavy to decidedly image led. This may or may not directly correlate with my levels of sobriety by the time I’d reached the latter stands. 

may or may not 

Over at Laurent-Perrier, we joined a great family with whom we enjoyed a talk from a gentleman who took us through his famous wares, providing a great context to each bottle – which champagne was the polite gathering, which was more Christmas morning, which was the more heady New Year’s Eve. After the funny anecdote about the Frenchman and the scotch egg…

I’ll just leave that there

We all needed a break. We needed a Kit Kat and so we all took our fingers and our fizz and tasted the Demi Sec which was perfect for dessert; the Kit Kat proving a superb substitute for a chocolate fondant.

With wobbly legs and a fuzzy head, I took respite from the fizz and headed over to Booze and Burn and their amazing array of candles.


In the absence of smelling salts, this was just what I needed to reawaken my senses and separate brain from booze. 

Recycling at its best, they use eco soya wax and recycled wine bottles and their heady scents are sensational. I also learnt a none Fizz fact  too – soya wax also burns evenly and so you don’t get that wasteful ring when the wick has burnt down.

The two lovely (yes) ladies s(c)net (sorrynotsorry) me on my way with a beautiful Pomegranate Noir:

Last and not least (really not) was the friendly fizz purveyor of Oddbins (Chorlton)

His stand was pretty and I drank my first (and admittedly) not my last, sparkling red, the beguiling yet ominously titled Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz.

Cold, red and sparkling, your senses don’t know what to do. Thankfully (for my diginity) my brain did and, reactivating, told me that after upwards of 30 tastings, it was time to collect my purchases and leave this fantastic scene.

With 5 bottles, two fizz stoppers, a candle and a wealth of fizzical education, I cannot wait to attend next year’s – if only to redeem myself with the Fizz Guru.

The Fizz Festival Cheshire

cheshire · Dining · Events · Food and Drink · hale · lifestyle · manchester · Popular Culture · Uncategorized · wine

Drink alone? You’re having a giraffe

Every few weeks, I get to sit upstairs at Hale institution, Danilo’s, and taste fine sparkling wines under the guise of education..


From the people who also bring us Altrincham’s Fizz Festival, I learnt three things at this month’s Fizz Club:

  • I am incapable of turning down a top up (I knew that really);
  • Brimoncourt Champagne is mighty fine; and
  • Giraffes would rather die of thirst than drink alone.

It’s true.

I imagine you’re exclaiming 

Awwwwwwww…

in a high-pitched way, like I did. However. it’s not completely about friendship and social loveliness.

As giraffes are made up of long things, including eyelashes, this can leave them particularly vulnerable to approaching predators, when bending down to drink. They need a drinking buddy. A watchman. Not a drop shall pass their lips without company.

I like this. Although the only thing which has ever prevented me from drinking alone is social awkwardness, rather than lions or something.

Why the odd, slightly depressing giraffe tangent?!…

I hear you cry (one person).

Why I’m glad you asked mum reader.

Before I even go into the champagne itself, I want to talk about the packaging. 

Brimoncourt not only bring fantastic champagne to our tables, but do so in only the most beautiful way.


From the elegant website to the corks in the bottles, the brand exudes elegance and art, much of this down to its CEO, Alexandre. 

Our charming host for the evening, Diogo,  

took us through the history of the house, which included Alexandre’s background of a paratrooper and art collector, evident not least in the design of the box for the first champagne tasted:


See I got to it. 

The ethos of Brimoncourt’s first champagne tasted, the Brut Regence, is ‘the wine of sharing, the wine of friends’.

And so the giraffe (forgetting the dark undertone of just why they share).

Lovely, isn’t it?

Finally to the champagne itself. 

Brut Regence, NV 2013, is 80% chardonnay, 20% pinot noir, and *spoiler alert* my favourite of all tasted.

We tried this champagne twice; once from a 750ml bottle, the second from a magnum. 


Having actually paid attention at previous tastings, I was able to nod sagely as we were told that champagne was best served (and tasted) from a magnum. In the latter there is a greater proportion of liquid to air and aged for an extra two years.
It was at this point I again pointed out to my partner in wine how much better my life would be were I to drink champagne from magnums from a huge new fridge in which they would be housed. 

I don’t think he heard me.


It was a lovely, light, bubbly affair which might be described as a high quality session champagne, to be enjoyed with friends, high spirits and laughter.  It’s got the happy factor and so I can do no more to recommend it than advise that I ordered two bottles immediately (alas only the standard 750ml – stupid regular sized fridge).

We went on to try the Blanc de blanc – 100% chardonnay and yes it’s slowly dawning on me that a chardonnay is not a chardonnay is not a chardonnay. 

This was more complex, aged for 4-5 years and delightful but more suited to drinking with dinner.

Indeed Diogo described it to us as a gastronomic wine – a feature of which is it makes you salivate and want to eat. 

But what is the ideal food to eat with this particular champagne?

Well, funny you should ask (gets out notes), sushi and indeed seafood in general.

The packaging is again so pretty and stylish. 


This, design depicts a poem about the Champagne region, as written in chalk on blackboard – a nod to the earth’s minerals and the growing of the grapes. Just lovely.

The Brut Rose was presented next and a deeper colour than perhaps some I’ve tasted. Diogo explained that that there are two methods to making a sparkling Rose; the blend or the bleeding method. 

The Champagne region is the only place where the blending method is legally allowed and, indeed, this is a champagne made of a blend of white and red grapes.  

40% pinot noir (an unusually high ratio), 35% chardonnay (which brings in the freshness) and 25% pinot meunier. 


A more complex rose champagne than perhap most, this would definitely hold its own beyond a toast or aperitif before dinner. Again, a gastronomic wine, our host recommended cheese and cold cuts. Oh to be able to sip on this beautiful fizz each time I indulged myself in my frenzied cheese habit, sat in my pyjamas in front of Eastenders (other good soap operas are available).

Oh but the box. It’s pink, poppies and feminine. Perhaps my least favourite, to be honest, as whilst aesthetically pretty, maybe hammering home a misconception that rose champagne is for ‘the ladies’. But lovely all the same:


Finally, we were treated to the Extra Brut, a vintage from 2010.

80% pinot noir, 20% chardonnay, this champagne is aged for 6 years.

Lovely and perhaps the champagne most likely to stand upto being served at dinner: seafood, oysters, lamb, korean…any of your Monday teatime staples.

I jest (more Tuesday), but an opulent champagne perhaps for a special occasion. And so the final box is befitting of its standing: 


With its design based on the gardens of Versaille, it is the epitome of how Brimoncourt positions its champagne – elegant with many layers and surprises.

Whilst I look forward to sharing my Brut Regence, in the spirit intended, I might just lock all the doors to predators and have it all to myself.

Cheers!

All the deets:

The Fizz Festival and Club

Cracking Wine

Brimoncourt Champagne 

Danilo’s

Events · lifestyle · manchester · Marathon · Popular Culture · Running · Sport

Alty welcomes Greater Manchester Marathon 2017 – aka live-blogging is a logistical nightmare

1000 – it’s that time again when we all feel proud/full of admiration/sick when watching all the runners taking to the streets of Greater Manchester and, more importantly, our lovely streets of Altrincham at the halfway point.

Carting my other half’s rucksack, bagged a seat at the totem, ready to cheer, wave and all other weird spasms as the plucky athletes pound past

1006 first runners pass through. I can’t find camera icon quick enough

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1007 tram arrives bringing more supporters. I continue to struggle operating iPad

1017 runners coming thick and fast, entertained by Loose Change

1018 I start to realise the logistical nightmare that is live blogging

1038 turns out you can’t clap and film simultaneously

1050 service resumes after sees husband run past – missed him previous two times so big moment – actually smiling

1050 fabulous Loose Change still going strong



1053 I see good friend Stu unexpectedly and shout in daft voice  to good friend Stu to 

go on…


1057 runners coming over Moss Lane – for those with a very keen eye, you might spot shy and unassuming Tesco…

​​

1100 fantastic support from the people of Altrincham et al – fuming I didn’t think of bagsying the totem pole

1105 time to leave the streets of Alty and head to the finish line. Tram full of supporters doing same. I want a bangy thing.


Just realised I don’t have a pic of a bangy thing on tram. Poor show from me

1130 for once in my life I get to the point…


…at Old Trafford cricket ground (how hilarious).

Disappointed that it’s not open for supporters but need to keep remembering it’s not about me. Not just about me.

1135 finish line in sight 



1145 found nice spot in gardens with fellow supporters and lots of children having fun 😃

1230 half an hour spent recovering version of blog post I’d deleted by mistake 👍🏻
2112 epilogue will follow tomorrow. I think I’m better at epilogues. Thank you for reading 😊😊

the following day (just)

2309 in summary, 10/10 to all those running in yesterday’s Greater Manchester Marathon. Special mention to all those who came out in support in Altrincham and all those towns along the route. 

4/10 to me for my shaky, wobbly, haphazard live blogging performance – it would have been 3/10 but I’m proud that I didn’t drop either my iPad or iPhone or both on Station Road. Or cry. Or get sweary in front of families when I temporarily lost a whole hour of blog updates 

Fin 😀

Ps, he got a personal best ☺️