Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A holiday at home

Me and Grandma
Me and Grandma
My amazing grandma turned 70 last Friday, and although she's not one to make a fuss, she'd planned a big party for months, and so I had to make the journey back up north. As I had quite a bit of holiday left to use (I'd saved a lot for Nepal in October, so when that got moved to May, I had a lot left over), and because I don't come back up very often, I decided to extend my stay for a week, rather than just a weekends as I normally do.

I love this little part of the world; when I'm in Brighton, the one thing I miss the most is the hills. I do like the coast, but the sea and I don't really get on (I get sea-sick, and the taste of the salt makes me sick). I've lived in the middle of the Pennines all my life, and find it very strange to not be surrounded by the countryside.

So where is home? I get asked this a lot down south, and most people have never heard of it. It's also quite tricky to explain, as a lot of the towns don't actually know where they are. I grew up in Littleborough, a quiet village that's part of Rochdale in Lancashire (or Greater Manchester - whatever it feels like at the time).

When I was 19, my Mum and Stepdad moved over the hill (about 15 minutes' drive) to Ripponden, a tiny village in the middle of the Pennines in West Yorkshire. My nan and brother are in Littleborough, my Dad and his fiancee are in Rochdale, and my grandparents are in Walsden, which can't decide whether it's in Lancashire or West Yorkshire. You see my dilemma.

Whatever you call it, this part of the world is stunning, and will always be home. There are hundreds of walks, right out of my door, and the views are beautiful. It's a pain in the backside to get anywhere (unless you have a car), but everywhere around here is worth a visit. It's full of quirky, independent shops, picturesque villages and amazing communities.

It's quite handy having a dog, as he makes me go out and explore, and no matter the weather I always love it. (I often wait for it to rain until I go out, as I love it and it means there will be fewer people around). There's nothing better for the soul, than walking through the woods, in the rain, in the autumn, with a dog. Perfect.                                                    

Countryside West Yorkshire

Littleborough isn't bad for walks either; I met my grandma for lunch the other day, and we walked to Hollingworth Lake along the canal, walked round it, then walked back to Littleborough through Ealees. Hollingworth Lake is a huge man-made body of water in Littleborough, built in Victorian times to supply water to the Rochdale Canal, and is used for a huge amount of watersports (I myself went rowing on there for around 5 years). It was a massive part of my childhood, as any walks usually meant a walk around the lake; it's not just been a part of my childhood, but also my parents' and grandparents'. My dad apparently swam across it when he was younger (mental!) and my grandad and uncle used to windsurf on it                        

Another of my favourite places is Hebden Bridge. Since I moved to Brighton, I can massively see the similarities between the two; both have a large LBGT community, are a bit odd and quirky, have a large concentration of independent shops (I think the only chain shops in Hebden are Boots and the Co-Op) and both have the same community feel.

This was particularly evident in Hebden Bridge during the Tour de France earlier this year; everywhere you went there were yellow bikes, bunting and decorations. A couple of years ago, Hebden experienced a particularly bad bout of flooding, on a few separate occasions. As it's a small town full of independent shops, it wasn't particularly well equipped for it, and more than a few were in danger of going out of business. Hebden rose to the occasion however, and with everyone helping each other, you wouldn't know now that it had happened.

So this is why I love to be home. I'd highly recommend anyone to visit the area, particularly if you like walking, watersports, climbing, and visiting lots of coffee shops! There are good transport links via train to either Leeds or Manchester, and lots of B&Bs, pubs and restaurants to make you feel at home!


Countryside West Yorkshire

Monday, 10 November 2014

Dream Dinner Party Guests

It's one of the age old questions, usually raised at dinner parties (so I believe, I haven't actually been to many (any) dinner parties!) - who would your dream guests be? It's something that I think about every so often, as I'm sure a lot of people do. If you had to have 10 people over for dinner, who would you choose?

Here are mine (in no particular order):

1. Professor Brian Cox
Picture from The Guardian

Yes, the charismatic physicist from Oldham. I don't know if it's his northern charm, his intelligence, his quirkiness, or his ability to laugh at himself, but he's very high up on my list. I think he'd bring high-brow conversation to the proceedings, but wouldn't bore us all to tears!

"We are the cosmos made conscious, and life is the means by which the universe understands itself."

2. J. K. Rowling
Picture from Hello Giggles
I absolutely idolise Jo Rowling. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I really do think she's fantastic. She's an intelligent woman who has gone from having absolutely nothing, to having everything, but she hasn't forgotten her beginnings.

I was of the generation that grew up with Harry Potter; I was 9 when I was given the first book, and I've been obsessed ever since. I loved the anticipation of waiting for the next book, of speculating with my friends about what might happen (I was TOTALLY right about Snape, incidentally), and the whole series has given me so much joy throughout the years. I'd love to question (interrogate?) her about her motives behind certain things, but also just to speak to her as an intelligent, successful woman.

3. Stephen Fry
Picture from The Telegraph
Intelligence seems to feature quite highly on my list of guests - I know some may claim he's a pseudo-intellectual, but the fact is that he got into Cambridge, and if nothing else has a phenomenal memory, and comedic intelligence.

I'd love to have a conversation with him; to hear firsthand some of the stories he tells, and of course for the random facts and Melchett impressions!

4. Jon Richardson
Picture from
I love British stand-up, and I like pretty much all comedy. I had to choose Jon though, because he's my 'weird crush.' For those who haven't heard of him, he's a quirky, effeminate comedian who's a captain on '8 Out of 10 Cats,' and also does stand-up shows. He's quite OCD (likes things to be in the proper place, likes cleaning), and is quite anxious about a lot of things, so identify with him quite a bit, and again he does intelligent comedy. He's also trained to be a chef, so maybe he could do the food. ;)

5. Helena Bonham-Carter
Picture from Wikipedia

Bit of an odd choice, this one, but I love her. I've seen her in a few films (Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, Harry Potter, Kings Speech, Les Miserables etc.) and I think she's a phenomenal actress (HOW has she not won an Oscar?!) but more than anything, I love how she's not afraid to be herself.

She's married to Tim Burton, and they make a very interesting, quirky couple, and they're very good friends with Johnny Depp, so I bet she'd have some stories to tell!

6. Graham Norton
Picture from The Mirror

Another odd choice; I love his chat show, and I think he's really funny. I like him for himself, but he'd mainly be there to put everyone else at ease, help everyone mix, and of course ask the intrusive questions. ;)

7. Jason Orange
Picture from

Well there had to be a member of Take That in here somewhere! I'm very grumpy about the fact that he's actually now left the band (although I think it's been coming for a while), but I'll still let him come ;) Not only is he incredibly hot, he's also quite intelligent, and I bet he'd have some amazing stories to tell!

He could definitely be the musical entertainment as well - get the rest of the band around for a sing-song.

8. David Mitchell
Picture from The Guardian
Yet another intelligent comedian - you detecting a theme here? David Mitchell's all about the panel shows and sketches though, and I quite enjoy his YouTube rants as well! I'd love to hear more about his work with Robert Webb, to try and persuade him to do another series of 'Ambassadors' and generally have him around for conversation!

I also feel an affinity with him, as he got a 2:2 in history too! Reassures me that it's not such a bad thing.

9. Chris Bonington
Picture from The Telegraph
I was a bit stuck as to who to have here - it had to be an Everest summiteer, but I was struggling to decide which one, as there are so many that inspire me! On my list were Kenton Cool, Jon Krakauer, Reinhold Messner, Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay; the list goes on. I had to go with Chris Bonington because a) he's alive and b) he seems quite genuine and down to earth, so I think he'd be easy to talk to.

10. Zooey Deschanel
Picture from Hello Giggles
I love Zooey. I want to be Zooey. Another strong woman who's not afraid to be herself, who's quirky and has a great sense of humour. I love New Girl, I love Hello Giggles, I love her films; I think she's awesome, and I think she'd make everything very cool and fun!

People who nearly made the cut:

Caitlin Moran, Emma Freud, Ben Fogle, Russell Brand, Taylor Swift, Russell Howard....

I love reading these lists, and think they reveal a lot about the authors (eep!). Who would your ideal guests be?