A couple of years ago now, something happened to me that made me fall out with Manchester. In fact, there was a brief period when, had it been possible, I would have gladly moved to a small cave at the bottom of the sea and been happy never to lay eyes on the Kingdom of Mancunia ever again.
Things change though. Little by little, Manchester has wormed its way back into my good books, rather like the persistent ex-boyfriend who suddenly remembers how to treat you properly after he's messed up one too many times - Manchester knew it had overstepped the mark, and was determined to win back my affections. And win them back it has, in an all-out display of such towering loveliness that I may indeed never consider leaving ever again. In just one Bank Holiday weekend, I was able to do all of this, and the fact that I mostly had to do it all in the rain and cold is but the SMALLEST of niggles.
1. Heaton Moor Market. This super-cute little market has been running for over a year now, tucked away behind the estimable Kro Bar on Shaw Road, but had it not been for Twitter (the font of all knowledge) I would not have even known it existed. Here, I bought some lovely spicy chorizo from Spanish food importers Levanter (who softly strummed on a guitar whilst I browsed), some pork, Stilton and asparagus sausages, and also learned that I am incapable of walking, talking and eating meatballs all at the same time courtesy of Little Bird Catering's amazing travelling meatball stall. You can also buy coffee, cakes, crafts and (presumably) items that do NOT begin with a "c" (causages?); there is also normally a stall selling homemade scotch eggs that are apparently legendary, but - in a stroke of almost insufferable cruelty - he was unable to attend this month. Oh well - I shall just have to go again.
2. Just when you think the day can't get any better, it transpires that a friend (now even more beloved than previously) has won a bottle of El Jimador tequila with all the trimmings at The Yacht Club in a Facebook competition. So yes, the day bed that comes as part of the prize is cold, and drafty, but we are soon sporting luxuriously warm tequila coats, and dancing along with the Mexican band on the deck of this most elegant of bars. And - who knew? - it turns out that tequila slammers can be performed with virtually any fruit or vegetable item, providing one with a healthy, balanced diet even when half-cut.
3. And when your fingers have become so cold they can no longer grasp your cocktail, what better way to warm up than a short skip across Hardman Square to Southern Eleven, a cosy and welcoming place serving outrageously moreish American BBQ in hopelessly generous portions. I'm due to go again for a full review, but suffice to say that I have dreamt of the pulled pork every night ever since, and still regret the small piece of warm cornbread I was forced to leave lest the zip on my dress explode.
Another day, another winner - this time a lucky friend had won two tickets to the North West Spring Wine Festival at St. Peter's in Ancoats, and was looking for a wine-minded companion to accompany her *steps forward, bravely, nobly, tasting glass in hand*. Once over the initial childish thrill of drinking wine in a CHURCH, this was perfection all the way - lovely people, in a beautifully judged venue (not too many exhibitors, not too few - I was content but still standing by the end), and, most importantly, really great wine from a range of brilliant independents. AND Mr Liz picked me up afterwards, thereby saving me the indignity of being tipsy on public transport in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.
Now obviously, by this point, the thought of work was beginning to loom large; time for one last hurrah, however, as the award-winning Black Dog Ballroom's new sister bar on New Wakefield Street was offering a tempting 50% off food, and as it was becoming increasingly clear that I had no intention of cooking anything, Mr Liz cried to be allowed to go and was told YES. We perhaps didn't see it at its best - at 12.30 on a cold, wet Bank Holiday it was all but deserted - but this seems a really promising venue.
Tall and thin, the familiar Black Dog pool tables and booths line the lower floor, whilst a flight of stairs leads up to a lighter, airier top floor with a glass roof upon which the rain lashed furiously throughout our visit (indeed, the staff had to rush out and rescue the sofas from the roof terrace, so fierce was the deluge). Still, the food was decent (Mr Liz counted in sheer joy and disbelief the number of different meat items atop his Brucie Bonus pizza), the staff delightful, and the music suitably loud - nothing like a blast of the Foos to remove the last of the Wine Festival fug from your brain.
Would many other places have afforded all this in just one weekend? Manchester, you might just have convinced me to commit to you once again - as long as you keep up the good work, obviously....