Sunday, 31 October 2010

Trof - The Deaf Institute, Manchester

J, Z, W and I went to Trof to have a big Sunday lunch together. As most of us hadn't had breakfast, we were ready to eat like kings. The Deaf Institute is Trof's "Cafe, Bar and Music Hall" and there are a whole list of performances and open mic events running most evenings throughout the week. However, on Sundays it's a good old mixtape of mostly British artists played in the background. A friend Ed (a musician himself) once joked that "you need a beard to work in Trof" - referring to a lovely member of staff who works here. I love Trof's large varnished wooden tables and big bottles of sauces passed from table to table as they are needed. It sure beats the Wetherspoon chain of pubs' packet sauces which ends up leaving a huge mess on the table. Not very environmentally friendly either!

I ordered the Roast Pork (£7.95), a Sunday roast special. I've only ever eaten in Trof on Sundays! I was instantly disappointed when my plate arrived because It Wasn't Crispy :( The only reason I ordered this was my assumption that roast porks will have a top layer of fat blitzed to a lovely crackling. As you can see, the top layer was a gelatinous piece of skin. To be fair to Trof, this still tasted good. The meat was amazingly tender, they were generous with the gravy and  the roast potatoes were perfect, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I love that they served this with deep green vegetables and leaves as I much prefer those to carrots and root vegetables. There was an interesting (slightly watery) sweet potato mash which I neither liked nor disliked. If the top layer of skin was done to a crackling, this would have been my favourite roast pork dinner!*

Z ordered the Crispy Bacon, Brie and Cranberry melt. (£5.95) This was served with a side of fresh hot chips and spinach leaves. I didn't try it but Z said he really enjoyed it.

J and W both ordered the Mozzarella, Chicken and Pesto sandwiches each (£5.95) again served with chips and spinach leaves. They both really liked this as well.

I felt slightly embarrassed that on that table, my plate was significantly larger than the other three! Oh well, I don't like ordering sandwiches when I eat out because I always feel like sandwiches are something I can make at home. When I eat out, I tend to order things I would never bother to make at home, either because they're too time consuming or made of unusual ingredients.

As always, we were too full to order dessert. One of these days, we need to skip the main and go straight for dessert!

*I know as Malaysians we call something a "dinner" when it's eaten after 6pm. Sunday dinners start at 12 noon here!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Autumn Leaves (actual ones, not the song)

This shot was taken on my phone as I was walking down Mosley Street off St Peter's Square. A phone photo really doesn't do this justice and it's Autumn/Winter time when I most long for a DSLR. The colours in my surroundings start to become very muted due to the reduction in light. They look like similar species of trees that just happen to be in different phases. Perhaps they each want to make their own fashion statement! 

Jesus said to us: "...and why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin" (Matthew 6:28)

Jesus didn't ask us not to work. What he means is that as we work, we should enjoy the peace and joy that comes through faith in Him. I actually took this shot on my way to the bus stop from work after spending my Saturday alone in the office, working through my ever increasing to-do list. My hours at work can be crazy but I love that God tells me not to be anxious as He is always in control. 

Incidentally, I'm slightly concerned that the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the trees was Neopolitan Ice Cream! Yum.. Chocolate Strawberry and Vanilla. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Goodbye summer

Autumn and winter is now well and truly upon us, so I say farewell to summer. Thank you Jesus for an amazing summer, a time for glossy fruit tarts in an open air picnic...

...and excitable dogs playing fetch in the summer fields

I love these two little rascals we met on a walk in the Yorkshire Dales. They were super friendly and were chasing a squidgy orange toy-on-a-string. I liked their scrunched up scruffy faces which made them look like they'd run head first into a brick wall and got smushed. What do you call this breed?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

My Funny Valentine

I've never heard this old classic played like this before! I've always thought this song was tacky and cheesy but he turns it into a very pretty song.. Enjoy

He makes it look easy, no? I've practised the main "rigid" song but need to learn some running notes skillzzzz

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Ivory tears

My friends may be surprised to know that I started playing the piano at the age of four. Surprised because I don't play very much now, and don't talk about it very much either. My first piano was a black, upright Petrof. My parents had very little money back then but they saved all they could to buy me a proper piano (were there digital keyboards back in 1989? I don't know...). My eyes lit up at the beautiful shiny ivory and black keys, and with legs not quite long enough to reach the sustain pedal, I began taking weekly lessons. I didn't know very much about pianos back then, only that my Petrof piano was painfully heavy for a child's fingers compared to my tutor's Yamaha. Years later, I learnt that Petrofs are Czech, and that it was founded by a man who studied piano making in Vienna in the 1800s.

My piano lessons over the many years were, in short, the bane of my life. What started out as something fun soon became a chore. I begged my parents to let me quit but they felt that I was at an age where I didn't know what was best for me. And so began the ivory tears, the few hours before my piano lessons with a very strict classical piano teacher were moments of panic and dismay. I begrudgingly and soullessly trundled my way through hours of Bach, Cramer and Hadyn. Oh, and 10 minutes of Hanon exercises daily.

Fast forward 10 years, I left my home country Malaysia to study in Singapore. By then, I could sight read classical pieces in the three most popular clefs (treble, bass, who-uses-it-anymore-C-clef), tell you the intervals of most musical instruments and identify when a note was a quarter-tone flat/sharp. My music training was militant and I was glad to be rid of it. I never believed I had real talent - what I achieved was just a result of hours of practising and memorising a piece. My piano was too big to travel with me and so it was goodbye piano.

One day, I was in a hotel and the pianist was playing the most beautiful jazz improv, something which I could never dream of doing. As I mentioned before, I don't think I'm a talented musician - just a girl who kept playing set pieces over and over again until she got it right. This man was playing from the soul, his fingers speaking so naturally that I was instantly envious - it was something I've never unlocked. I'm not a "creative" spirit, and whilst I could have a song in my head, I don't know how to create it naturally with my hands on the keys. I am no improv jazz pianist. Instead of your usual Autumn Leaves or Night & Day, Mr Hotel Pianist was playing Cramer's Les suivantes No.2 in his own interpretation. It was beautiful.

I have a love-hate relationship with the piano. After years of scoldings and disappointment (my ABRSM piano exams were my worst fears, next was the loss of my parents and the dentist), my confidence wilts when I'm asked to play. My pulse quickens with nerves even before I set my hands on ivory. I played regularly for worship in Sunday meetings in Malaysia at one point but stopped when I was told off by a lady at church for being fidgety. The only time I can play is when nobody is listening but God and I.

One day, I was in the music room in my halls of residence with D, my now fiance. He knew I played the piano once upon a time and asked casually if I would play something. Immediately, the feeling of panic struck and I adamantly refused and changed the subject. I'd shelved piano playing in my past. For Christmas that year, he bought me a little Yamaha 66-key keyboard. This is a photo of the said keyboard:

I'm pleased to say that I started learning to play the piano again today, and will be practising on my Christmas present. This time it's because I want to do it. My piano playing past has been peppered with doubt, criticism and self-consciousness: all things which are lies and not of God. Instead, I choose to be God-conscious and and apply my hands to an instrument to create songs of worship. I choose to think and live in a way which glorifies Him, not myself. I lift my eyes beyond my little world and my little past and see Him. The best way of getting over yourself is to know that it's all about Jesus.