I won’t be going to one today, unfortunately, as I’ll be in St Albans making cards instead. However, I went to a Christmas market (where crafts were sold) in Manchester on the 1st December. I also met up with some lovely ladies from Any Other Woman. So I’ll be talking about that instead.
A few months ago, AOW posted an invitation to a Christmas party on the 1st December. I have never managed to get to the London events that they’ve held, and this was during one of my braver moments, so I emailed and said I’d love to come. The closer it came to the time, though, my self-esteem levels weren’t particularly high and I was debating not doing. I spoke to someone on twitter and she reminded me that the worst that can happen is that I don’t have a good time, but that the chances are I’ll enjoy myself. So I booked my tickets.
Getting up rather early on a Saturday wasn’t too difficult, as my body seems programmed to wake me up at 8:30 generally, anyway. I felt alright on the train, but the closer I came to Manchester, the more nervous I got. I usually don’t come across very well when I first meet people. I tend to be quiet, reserved and can come across the complete opposite to how I actually am (loud, bubbly and friendly).
There really wasn’t any need for me to feel that way. Walking into the gift shop at John Rylands Library, I think I walked past Anna K, Mahj and Bella in my rush to find a toilet. Once I’d come back up the stairs, I noticed a group of women standing in a huddle. Unsure about how to greet them, I tentatively walked up. The welcome I got was an indication as to how the day was going to go: each one grabbed me in a hug and said hello. We wondered around the library for a while, before meeting Zan outside.
I feel I should say something about the library itself. In between two modern buildings is this Gothic style building that looks a bit cathedral like. It appears to have sprung up from the ground, and made me think of all those stories of magical buildings that appear from nowhere. Buildings that only special people can see and enter. Inside the stunning architecture continues. Swans are carved into the ceiling, and arch after arch stretches down the corridors. It reminded me of Harry Potter, of Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, of the Unseen University. And the books. The books! Row upon row of old texts spread before me, for my eyes to feast on. There was a display based around A Clockwork Orange (the author is a Manchurian), which seemed surreal and out of place in this old building. If you ever go to Manchester, you should visit there. It’s a treat for the senses. I ached for my camera in a way I hadn’t for a long time.
Once we emerged from the library, we went off in search of items of food. The Manchester Christmas markets are immense. They are stunning, with lovely lights above your head, and German style stalls selling wonders and delights, with food and drink to keep you going. And obviously very popular as they were packed. I’ve never been to a market that busy. As we wondered around, sampling it’s various delights (mostly food and drink based), I slowly emerged from my shell. I had expected there to be more people, and was initially nervous at being the new girl amongst friends. But never once was I left out. Every time a story was told that the others knew and I didn’t, I was included, even if it meant retelling the back story all over again. I drank wine and cider. I never drink alcohol around people I don’t know. I came out of my shell far quicker than I normally do. And got a little bit tiddly.
I had such a great time that I was reluctant to leave until the last possible moment. And so I did. Which led to me missing my train. The last train back to Leicester. Normally I’d be 15 minutes early for the train. Normally I’d be in a complete panic if I’d missed it. But somehow, in the 7 hours I’d spend around these ladies, I’d gone into holiday mode. Holiday mode Crysta doesn’t panic. She realises something will work out. I knew I’d be helped, whether it was to point me to the nearest hotel, or the offer of a room. Mahj automatically responded to my tweet about my dilemma with the offer of her spare bedroom. I let Corey know I wouldn’t be back until the next day. Back I went to the restaurant.
I learnt so much that day. I learnt that I could listen to Anna talk for hours. She has this wonderfully expressive way of talking, of telling a story. I found Bella absolutely amazing. I turn 27 in less than a month, and I want to be her when I do. I was told before I went that Mahj was lovely, and I learnt that that was true. She’s not only lovely, but she’s generous and kind. And Zan is just like her sister. She is going to make a stunning bride next year. All of these women are intelligent, funny and generous. They are welcoming and accepting.
And Lara was right. I enjoyed myself immensely. I am so very glad I bought those tickets.