May 10, 2019

Learning vocabulary and rhyming off declensions are linguistic gymnastics which many would perhaps gladly leave in secondary school. After all, weekly pop quizzes and writing to European penpals is all very teenage, and once we’re able to drive, go to clubs and, yes, join the WI, what else does learning languages really hold for us?

Well, for those of us who love languages, the urge to conjugate never really goes away.

I studied German at school – as well as French, Spanish, Latin, and a brief flirtation with Italian, although the less said about the sultry Romantic languages the better. And German always held my heart. So the chance to go back to it a massive two decades after I left a full-time classroom is something I can only thank the WI for.

The Aquinas College adult learning course is once a week. There is homework, and extra worksheets are often floating around. But thanks to a small class of around 14 and a really friendly, approachable teacher, it’s been like I never left my ‘de...

May 9, 2019

I’ve long since marvelled at the dizzy heights scaled by my fellow WI members in life and work, but it wasn’t until a special bouldering session that I realised it’s a literal skill as well as figurative. Rock Over Climbing was the venue where a group of Manchester WI members took to the walls and left the ground behind - well, some of us did. Led by member Charlotte Stoneley, a boulderer of 18 months, and our Rock Over Climbing guide Mel, we gathered at the venue in Manchester’s Julia Street - near Strangeways Prison - on a dark, damp October night.

For the uninitiated, bouldering is rock climbing - but at Rock Over Climbing, instead of dangling off ragged precipices a la Touching The Void, it’s performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls.

Donning leggings or trackie bottoms, we were kitted out with neat-fitting - and let’s face it, pretty uncomfortable - rock climbing shoes which are neat around the toes to offer greater stability on the wall. And that was all the equip...

June 30, 2017

Manchester, so much to answer for

Manchester was always a place of my schoolgirl dreams, even though I lived hundreds of miles away.

The dreary northern streets might as well have been paved with gold for me, a fan of The Smiths, who swore one day to make a pilgrimage here. To walk in the footsteps of Morrissey and Johnny Marr, to see the old mills and canals and know what Ancoats and Hulme and Salford were really like - all the places that were referenced in Smiths’ lyrics and artwork, and which seemed so far away and exotic.

My first trip to the city was in 2001, and it wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind - the tired buildings of Didsbury serving as a weekend bolthole as I visited a university friend and did little other than sit in an Irish pub and dodge the typical torrents. But by the time I ventured back here in 2014, it felt so different - and on that occasion, it was to make it my permanent home.

Nowadays, I walk those self-same roads that my musical heroes did, and none of it gets t...

May 17, 2017

I had lived with a long-term partner, had my first credit card bill demand and even knew how to poach an egg successfully. Well, most of the time.  But I know now that I was never truly an adult until the day I leaned over my mum’s head at the kitchen sink and shaved it with a disposable Bic razor.

It was November 2014, halfway through, when I got a call from her, 250 miles away, less giddy and herself than I have ever heard her. She explained that she had found a lump that summer and had been to the doctor about it. Unconvinced by the first diagnosis - “it’s nothing” - she pushed with a different GP, and was referred. Screening told her it was stage three breast cancer.

This all came out like word vomit to me. Despite our closeness - emotionally, not geographically - she had kept the doctor’s appointments, the concern and the medical parlance to herself - until now. My sister knew and so did my dad - but I was hearing these details for the first time. Chemotherapy was mentioned followin...

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