Sunday is a funny old day, isn't it. Not in the sense of its impeccable comic timing, but more in the sense that no-one really quite knows whether they like it or not: on the face of it, it has so much going for it (lie-in, Sunday papers, leisurely breakfast etc etc), and yet it can never quite shake off its association with the dreaded Monday, which looms ever more ominously the later it gets in the day. And if you're foolish enough to be a teacher, you compound your woes for all eternity, essentially ensuring that you will NEVER again be free of that hideous Sunday-night-back-to-school feeling - just the very sound of the music for Antiques Roadshow or Songs of Praise is enough to give me palpitations.
That's why that rare Sunday that falls before a Bank Holiday Monday should be celebrated with such enthusiasm by cramming in as many nice things as possible. This was my tactic yesterday, and although not all the things were as nice as they should have been, here they all are anyway:
1. Castlefield Market. Been meaning to go to this for ages, hearing great things about its mix of artisan foods, vintage clothing, gifts and crafts; sadly, though, it was all a bit of a damp squib. There weren't many stalls there at all, perhaps reflecting the pressure of the market now being a weekly event, or perhaps just the fact that people are away on holiday at the moment. Either way, a disappointing start.
2. Lunch at 3 Twenty One, Deansgate. I like it here - they do great cocktails, the staff are lovely, and I had an excellent value Sunday lunch here a month or so ago. This time, though, I had my head turned by the Chicken Shack - a mighty tower of three crispy breaded chicken burgers served with bacon and cheese as well as various sundries. It looked great, albeit slightly intimidating, and an initial foray uncovered some very good sweet potato fries and nicely crunchy batter on the chicken - a little like a posh KFC, which in my book is no bad thing. However, the chicken inside was a strange beast - thin and on the slimy side, mostly due to the fact that the skin had been left on the meat. It also arrived without the promised onion rings and chicken gravy; I didn't ask for them as I couldn't have eaten them, but still - all a bit disappointing again.
3. Cocktails at The Whim Wham Cafe. When you need to get things back on track, the Whim Wham will never let you down. Two cheeky gin beauties (The Whim Wham Martini and a Jealous Frenzy) with a friend who had thoughtfully come equipped with a buy-one-get-one-free voucher, and my mood had soared. Said friend did then have to abandon me to take part in something called a gay tombola (no - me either), but the day was up and running again and I went off to its main event with joy in my heart.
4. Pop-up bar at Black Jack Brewery. Ideally what you need on a sunny Sunday with no work the next day is some kind of beer festival, and this one may have been small but it was perfectly formed. I'd never heard of Black Jack Brewery before, but they're on Gould Street, just a stone's throw from the venerable Marble Arch pub, and had set up a lovely beery tent in their yard and filled it with furniture largely fashioned from reclaimed brewery equipment. We sat here with the ever lovely Jules and Bailey from Good Gobble blog, and drank beer, and ate pizza from Honest Crust's wood-fired oven, and listened to music, and observed people almost coming to blows over some very competitive table football. In short, it was the kind of thing that Manchester does best - nice people drinking great local beer in a tent and arguing over the shortcomings of some plastic men impaled upon metal rods. I have also developed a worrying fondness for Black Jack lager, suggesting that visits to this part of Manchester may well become more frequent in future.
So after an average start, a lovely day and a worthy part of my new campaign to reclaim Sundays. And at least Countryfile isn't on tonight, so we can all pretend NOT to have work tomorrow either...