Christmas markets a la Moston: The Christmas Event

I’m a Christmas humbug at heart. A bespectacled ‘Grinch’. Winter’s for hibernating, staying in and keeping warm.  So I ask you: Christmas markets? What the hell are they all about? I don’t get it, never have.

To be fair it’s been a while since I went to one but this sums up my memory – drizzle, standing in muddy sludge, overpriced overheated wine, over loud people with overcoats on and over large feet, shoving and pushing, and me, tip-toeing away when everyone had their backs turned.I tried to swerve neatly past the Moston version. Maybe it’s not as busy or as much of a phaf to get to but you can’t turn up to these things in your PJ’s, slippers and fluffy dressing gown and expect to stay warm.

But the adverts kept coming. They looked really bright and colourful. “Mmmm, maybe.” I thought. “If I go to Asda I’ll just drop by for half an hour on my way back. Maybe.” At worst I could write a blog.

So, this is it….and never mind half an hour, I stayed half a day.

The weather was dull and overcast. It could have been brighter but at least it was fairly dry. Parking was easy, just over the road off Kenyon Lane. So far, so good.

There was plenty of food on offer, hot drinks, various stalls selling Christmassy things like cakes, home-made sweets, scented candles and other gifts, a tombola, a DJ and Father Christmas in a grotto. You get the picture.The hot chocolate was wonderful, not like the magma they serve in some well-known establishments. My dad will adore his rum truffles and I might just keep the vanilla scented soap for myself.

I didn’t win the raffle because I didn’t buy a ticket. Not on purpose, I’m just a bit dozy and missed them. I didn’t miss the glass of mulled wine and mince pie however. I was first in the queue for those. The children were giddy and polite; all the rubbish went in the bin and if there was any queuing to be done it was without everyone jostling for position.The singing group, or to be more accurate, young vocalists from North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) were absolutely brilliant. The DJ picked just the right stuff and everyone was in a good mood.What was lovely about it all, more to the point what kept me there so long, was the atmosphere. It was delightful. I spotted a few faces I knew and chatted to a few people I didn’t.

We all cheered when the tree lights came on. We cheered louder when the organisers stood together and we raised our glasses to them. They’d worked hard for months to make it happen and well deserved the applause.It was dark when I tip-toed away. The volunteers were working hard taking all the gazebos down and packing equipment up. If they’d turned and looked towards Kenyon Lane they might have seen a bespectacled Grinch grinning, clutching a bag of Christmas goodies and a free mince pie.

TRENCH – A North West Theatre Arts Company Production

I’d never heard of North West Theatre Arts Company until a few weeks ago. Didn’t know a theatre even existed this close to home. I decided to see Trench, an original World War 1 musical. Written and directed by Prab Singh, it’s based on a story told by Prab’s wife’s Grandmother and on true accounts in letters and journals. It’s a love story and you know from the start how it’s going to end.When you go to a theatre, watch a performance and feel like you’re the only person in the audience it’s not because the performance is good – it’s because it’s VERY good. Trench is VERY good. There are several reasons why it makes you feel this way.

The set’s not elaborate. It doesn’t have to be but it is convincing. We’ve seen enough WW1 films to know what the trenches looked like, barbed wire and sandbags need no explanation. The production is ‘stripped back’ to basics and the imagery is enough for you to know that those are guns, tin hats and bandages. What you are left to concentrate on is the performance of the young actors playing the parts of soldiers, wives, girlfriends, children and friends.

You hear their words, listen to beautifully sung lyrics and feel their emotions.

In the back-ground a few realistic sound effects, clever lighting and the odd drift of smoke allows you to ‘sense’ the horrific reality of the battlefield scenes and the noisy atmosphere of the mill floor back home. The attention to detail is subtle and convincing.

This sensitivity in the production allows the performers to take full control of the stage. They grab your attention from the start and don’t let it go again until the finish. The only break from this is the interval when you look around and realise you’re not the only person there after all.

I take my chance to read through the programme while the lights are up. There’s a piece by Mark Beaumont (Production Designer) about how the army and Manchester Pals were formed, as well as photographs of the cast. I was struck by the fresh young faces and chilled to think that they would be similar in age to the soldiers, wives and girlfriends they were portraying. In WW1 an estimated 250,000 British soldiers were teenagers.

I buy a poppy every year. I’ve watched the remembrance service and laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on TV countless times. Don’t think I’ve ever felt, really felt what it might have been like. Having no choice but go over the wall when the whistle blew or wait for that telegram or pick up the pieces and get on with life afterwards.

These young people made me cry. I was just glad the lights were back down…and I knew from the start how it was going to end!

From fair weather walking to bum shuffling

You can’t beat getting outdoors for a bit of fair weather walking. I like canal paths. They’re mostly flat, easy to access and you can walk for miles. Don’t launch yourself down any slopes though. I tried it already.At least A&E wasn’t too busy.  I swapped jokes with my buddy and we passed the time between triage, blood tests and x-rays. The nurse dropped her bombshell but the news didn’t really sink in. Words like “immobilisation” “back-cast” and “anti-coagulation injections” left me blank so I just listened politely.

Before long I was hopping off on my new set of crutches with “… whatever you do, don’t put that foot on the ground” ringing in my ears. I was baffled, bewildered and wobbling about all over the place.

Breaking your leg just above the ankle hurts. It hurts a lot. I’ve left out the bit between the ‘gravel slope’ and getting to A&E on purpose.

Home alone with my phone, a bottle of water, the TV controls, painkillers and my foot stuck out front on a cushion, the words “what the hell am I going to do?” rattled through my brain.

Well, two months on and I’m back on two feet. So here are some tips in case the same thing happens to you.Bum shuffling: Get used to it. Crutches are down-right dangerous even on the flat. You’ll get to a step or flight of stairs and be stumped. My ace husband made tray for my pot leg to help the shuffle go even smoother – like it?

Knicker flicking: There’s a knack to getting dressed and undressed that involves flicking your smalls into the air and catching them before they hit the floor. You have to avoid dropping anything on the floor because you can’t reach it without tongs. Tongs, the sort you flick bacon over with, are essential.Wine capping: Carrying stuff, especially drinks is really tricky. Find a plastic lid that fits your wine glass early on – it’s very important. You don’t want to drink your wine stuck in the kitchen because that’s just weird, unless you’re at a party. If you can’t find a lid that fits, the hell with it, just drink the bottle.Toe flossing: Not being smelly is a challenge when you can’t have a bath or shower so work out how to stay clean. Make sure what you need is within reach. If you need help, ask for it because no-one can read your mind, even if you think they can.Wheelchair ironing!?: I was lucky; we got one second hand (a wheelchair not an iron) and it was brilliant. Also, the big supermarkets have battery powered scooters. Just bear in mind that some go faster than others and don’t always stop just when you want them to. Take it from me.Toe warming: Wriggle your toes. They get cold though when you’re watching watch TV so warm them up. My mother-in-law will knit you a bobby hat for them or you can borrow mine.

Do whatever it takes to feel better; sleep, catch up with friends, read, listen to the radio, watch cricket. Your broken bone won’t stay broken but, when it all gets too much…

…swear loudly and launch your crutches across the room –  you’ll definitely feel better then!