Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Today's little book haul

I'm going to assume you're interested in knowing that today I bought 3 books at a little book fair at my workplace.

The first one is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. 

I know it's a classic and that's already a good reason for me to buy it.
However, even though it's a classic, I've absolutely no idea what it is about. And I LOVE that. Virgin reader.

The second one is Thomas Hardy's Far From The Madding Crowd.

Being completely honest, I had never heard of this book until I saw the ads of the film starring Carey Mulligan. I haven't seen the film and, again, I don't know much about the book. I can't wait to start reading it.

The third one is Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave

It looks like another post-apocalyptic young adult novel, and it has Chloe Moretz in the cover, what else could I possibly want? I had to buy it, I had no other option.
Problem: after buying it I realised it's the first book of a trilogy, which means if I like this one I'll have to spend more money.

Have you bought any books recently? Leave your comments!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Quick thoughts: THE HOST

Today I finished reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer and I want to share with you a few things.

This is not a review of the book or an in-depth opinion but it will probably contain spoilers so if you haven't read this book (and you want to), you might as well stop reading this right now.

Before I start, I want to make sure that you don't think I only read YA (Young Adult) novels. I'm always reading more than one book at a time but YA novels are very catchy, easy and quick to read so I always finish them first.

And now, let's go!

1. I never thought I'd read any other book by S. Meyer again. But a friend gave this one to me and I gave it a try. I don't regret reading it.

2. I must admit, though, it took me a couple of chapters to understand what was going on.

3. I don't know who said it wasn't, but this novel IS a YA novel.

4. The novel has about 600 pages, and there are only 3 action scenes. Taking into account that this novel is about aliens invading the Earth, you would expect some more action. But it's fine for me, I don't like too much action in a romantic YA novel and actually this lack of action scenes does work pretty well.

5. I know there's a film based on this book but I haven't seen it. Thinking of how angry I usually get at the poor adaptations of YA novels, and having seen the trailer... I've decided I don't want to see the film, for my own sanity.

6. Maybe it's a bit early to say that Meyer's formula of the love triangle is becoming a sort of trademark of hers. But I can't help comparing this love triangle to the one in her earlier saga: 2 boys (Darcy-like vs Heathcliff-like: Ian vs Jared in this particular case) fighting over the same girl. She's in love with both of them. Well, sort of. She ends up with Darcy. Of course. But Heathcliff won't be left alone because that wouldn't be fair.
In The Host, there are two girls but they share the same body so it adds more confusion to this love mess.

7. What's all about those lame names the aliens use to call their medicines and themselves? It's like a 3-year-old had named them!

8. Meyer is still good at giving different voices to her characters. You can easily tell whether it is Mel or Wanda speaking.

9. I don't really like this constant idea of Meyer's about being in love with 2 people at the same time, playing with their feelings, and choosing just one in the end. These are books and she compensates that by giving a new lover to the one that's left alone so everyone has a happy ending, but I'm worried teenage girls will do this to boys expecting it to be totally fine.

10. I didn't like the idea that the body chosen for Wanda at the end of the story is a little blonde, blue-eyed girl because "she looks like an angel and that's what Wanda kind of is as well". Wanda is fantastic, I agree. But why using this stereotype of the good person having to be pale, blonde and blue-eyed?

Have you read this novel? Do you agree with my opinions? Do you have any other opinion you'd like to share? All comments are very welcome!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Purple triangles in Nazi concentration camps

Much has been said about the horrors of the Holocaust, about what happened in the concentration camps, about what Hitler did to the Jews, Romani, and all sorts of ‘racially undesirably elements’ of German society. But still little is known about another group of people who Hitler also loathed and who were identified in the concentration camps with the purple triangle badge: Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I was privileged to interview Magdalene Kusserow in the summer of 2003, as part of a research project I carried out about the Bibelforscher (Bible students), as Jehovah’s Witnesses were known in Nazi Germany. Magdalene was born the 23rd of January of 1924 and was a survivor of the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

The Kusserow was a family of 13 members: Franz and Hilda, and their children - Annemarie, Wilhelm, Sigfried, Karl, Waltraud, Hildegard, Wolfgang, Magdalene, Elizabeth, Hans-Werner and Paul-Gerhard. They lived in a big house in Bad Lippspringe where there was a big banner with the words “The Golden Age”. This was so because their house was the main distributor of “The Golden Age” magazine. Because of this, the Gestapo searched their house 16 times. The house in Bad Lippspringe was very big. The family had animals and an orchard with fruit trees. The Kusserow´s were happy there and just as all Jehovah´s Witnesses, they studied the Bible and talked to other people about Jehovah, the Bible and God’s Kingdom. How?

The Kusserow family

“How did you study the Bible at home?”
“Every day, our father would give us advice or would ask us questions or jokes. Sometimes he would ask ‘Are you a soul, or do you have a soul?’ We already knew but he would answer ‘There´s a difference between being a donkey and having a donkey’.”

“How did you preach other people?”
“Bad Lippspringe was a very beautiful and elegant town. ‘Bad’ means ‘bath’ and Bad Lippspringe had a spa where ill people used to go and spend there some time. During the banning, my mother would tell me to stay a few steps behind her with the publications. She would go first looking for people who could be interested and when she found one, I’d approach them. This one time, we were in the street and someone called the police. Whoever phoned was someone who had come to Bad Lippspringe specifically to go to the spa so we didn’t know them. The people we personally knew from the town would’ve never called the police because they were very nice. So the policemen arrived where we were, they searched my mother and they told her to go to their office on Tuesday. My mother went and the policeman told her ‘Mrs Kusserow! Go, go! I only told you to come so those men in the street could hear me. Go home!’ I must say our neighbours were lovely people who would have never reported us to the police, even though many of them were Nazis. About 200m from our house there lived a Nazi family with a 4-year-old boy who was friends with my youngest brother, Paul-Gerhard. There was a party one day and all the houses had their flags with the swastika. That boy asked my brother: ‘Paul-Gerhard, why don’t you have a flag?’ and my brother answered ‘you have two, that’s enough’.”

“How did you hide the publications the Gestapo looked for in your house several times?”
“Sometimes we would hide them in the garden under the bushes. I remember this one time when the Gestapo came home. Our house had two floors and my brother saw them coming from the window in the upper floor. They were easy to recognise because they dressed up well. We weren’t afraid of them. My brother ran down the stairs saying ‘the Gestapo! The Gestapo!’ and my younger brothers took the publications and left. My mother invited the Gestapo in and led them to the kitchen. There they talked while my mother saw my brothers in the garden leaving with the publications. But the officers could see nothing because the window was behind their back. Besides, in those days there was a travelling Jehovah´s Witness who was visiting the congregations and that night he stayed at ours, so he was upstairs. My mother kept talking to the Gestapo officers, distracting them, while my brother went upstairs and told him ‘Go! Go now! The Gestapo is here!’ Then he ran downstairs and my mother realised what was going on because she heard ‘BOOM! BOOM!’ but the officers seemed to hear nothing. The Jehovah’s Witness left the house running down the street and took the tram, and kept looking at the house checking out if the Gestapo had left so that he could come back. Every time the Gestapo came home they would search the whole house, they even look for the photos we had. They were looking for photos of our meetings.

In 1939, the police took Magdalene’s youngest brothers away to different reformatories. Hans-Werner was 9 years old and Paul-Gerhard was only 7. But one of her oldest brothers, Wilhelm, 25, refused to go to war and he was sentenced to death. Magdalene and her mother visited him a few days before he was shot. He had been offered to sign an abjuration letter three times but he refused. A few months after his death, on the 27th of April 1940, they received a letter in the house at Bad Lippspringe informing the family that Wilhelm had died as a hero fighting for Hitler and the Reich.

“What did you feel when you received that letter if you knew it was all lies?”
“We received that letter months later. We also received a letter that said Wilhelm was in a list of missing people. My mother would laugh at this. Some years ago, my younger brother wrote a book and he looked for documents about this. He wrote to all the offices which would have lists of soldiers who had died in the war and Wilhelm’s name was only in the list of Münster. It said he had died in the battle in Münster, but there was never a battle in Münster, there he was executed by a firing squad. Now, where he was shot, there’s a hospital with a beautiful garden and a plaque in his memory.”

Wilhelm was not the only martyr in the family. Wolfgang, 20, was beheaded on the 28th of March 1942. While all this happened, other members of the family were arrested. On 1941, Magdalene was arrested, but her parents had been arrested before her.

“They first arrested my father and my mother, but they let her go because she had many children to look after. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison. After that, once again, they looked for my mother and sentenced her to 2 years in prison. She was all alone. Then my father came out of prison without signing the resignation document and thought the Gestapo would come for him but no one came, so he started visiting the congregations. A few months later, my father, my mother, my sister Hildegard and I were arrested. They said I was too young for prison but too old for the reformatory. My youngest brothers were taken straight from the school to the reformatory. So I was home, alone, crying with my little dog. I had to pay the bills and I didn´t know how or where I had to do that. So I took the tram and went to Bonn to visit my parents. The police said I couldn’t see them but I told them I had to pay some bills so they let me talk to my father. He gave me some signed checks and explained to me what I had to do. I went back home with red eyes and the sisters from the congregation were there to help me out. Two days after that, I was arrested, but I was happy because I wouldn’t be alone anymore. They took me to the prison were my parents and sister were. They took me to a basement and my father was taken there as well, and since I was so happy to be with him again, I smiled. An officer saw me and turned me around and shouted ‘Against the wall!’ The four of us were held in preventive detention until the trial at the Bielefeld prison but in different cells. I still have a letter my dad sent me from his cell to mine where he wrote:
‘Dear Magdalene, even though you are young, you are standing firm and this is encouraging us. Ask if you can visit me.’ This was because from Monday to Thursday, from 10 to 12, visits were allowed. I asked for it through a letter, and I was allowed to visit my father in the same prison I was held. I saw my father through bars and with two guards by my side. I talked to him for 10 minutes and he encouraged me. He said ‘Be strong because you are young and you’ll probably be sentenced to 6 moths, but I’m old and you must understand I’ll be sentenced to death.’ When I was arrested, I was 17 and I was sentenced to 6 months in the prison for young people. After those 6 months, the prison supervisor called me and told me ‘You can go tomorrow but I have a document from the Gestapo. You need to sign it and renounce your faith.’ I didn’t sign it and I told her why. She was very nice but she said then that she was sorry but she had to hand me over to the Gestapo. The next day they handed me over to the Gestapo, 500km away, and I was shown the document again. I stayed 4 more months at the prison because I wasn’t 18 yet. I was a total of 10 months in different prisons until I turned 18 and I was taken to the Ravensbrück concentration camp.”

“How did you go to the camp and what happened when you arrived?”
“First I was alone but then, as a prisoner, I was taken to a train, to a special coach that was attached to other coaches with more prisoners. We were taken to a town, I can´t remember which one, but we spent the night there. The next day, we got on to another train and after 3 days we arrived to Ravensbrück. In the train, I was with other women. None of them were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many of them were prostitutes and they would make jokes with the SS officers. When we got to the camp, the SS of the camp came with their dogs and all the women went silent and started to cry. I was a little happy because at last there was a bit of order. Then we were taken to the register. Taking the register would take the whole day long: first, they would take off your clothes, made you take a shower, and write your name down. I could only think of the time I’d find my sisters in the faith because I didn’t know where or how they were, and I had been the only one in the train. After that, we were searched for lice and the woman who was searching my head asked me ‘Why are you here?’ and I answered ‘Bibelforscher’, and she replied straightaway ‘Ah! Welcome, my sister!’ and soon came another sister whom I knew because she was from my congregation and she was now working at the camp’s infirmary. Later they took me to the barrack where Gertrud Pötzinger (another Bibelforscher) was. She took my hand, and because she was old and I was only 18, she told me ‘Come next to me, there’s an empty bed here.’ She showed me around and she wanted to protect me. All the Bibelforscher were in the same barrack. It was divided in 2 big rooms, A and B. 150 on the right and 150 on the left. We were around 300 there. And right after that I was given the purple triangle and a number.”

“What sort of jobs did you have to do in the camp?”
“First I had to work at the gardens of a big house which belonged to the SS. We worked there in the morning, we had to get up at 4:30am, and we were given a little bit of coffee and a loaf of black bread. Then we would divide the bread in 10 parts and we would keep the ends of the loaf for a sister who was needier, because the ends of the German black bread are usually a bit bigger. That bit of bread had to last all day and I used to keep it until night time because my mother had told me that if I had nothing to eat, I had to chew a lot whatever I had because that produced sugar. I would eat the bread at night and it would take me an hour to eat it. That kept me alive. After the breakfast, they would count the prisoners. We were around 20000, but if the count was wrong, they would start counting all over again. Sometimes the counting could take 5 hours, it was outside, in the cold, standing up, and we weren’t allowed to put our hands in the pockets. I got chilblains because of this. After the counting, we had to go to our workplace, in my case it was the garden and it would take me 20 minutes to walk there. After that, I worked at a kindergarten with the children of the single female guards. They were very naughty children. We had to get up even earlier, skip the counting, and walk through a forest to the kindergarten where the children were sleeping. There were also babies. 3 Bibelforscher and I would cook and wash there. Here you see a very big contradiction: My younger brothers were taken to a reformatory so they wouldn’t have any contact with other Bibelforscher. However, we were assigned to look after the children of the SS along with other women who weren’t Bibleforscher but who would leave us alone with the children. On the weekends, the children’s mothers would come to pick them up and used to complain: ‘What’s going on? My girl only talks about these Bibelforscher! Don’t you do anything at all? Do they do everything?’ The truth is they trusted us more than the SS.
Here I have the card that allowed me to go to work and leave the camp without a guard. It says prisoner Magdalene Kusserow is working with the family of the SS-Gruf Lörner, a high ranked officer in Ravensbrück, and can be in zones E and F without supervision. I worked as a housewife for this family during my last months in the camp, when the war finished.”

“What helped you endure in the camp?”
“I was 4 years and a half in prisons and the camp. To endure there you had to have a big faith in God and when you have parents that lay on you a good foundation… Look, my father used to say ‘Jehovah is happy if you are loyal as Proverbs 27:11 says ‘Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, So that I can make a reply to him who taunts me.’ You must make Jehovah happy and then we’ll prove Satan a liar.’ And then when you go to the camp and you see the big difference between that and what my home used to be like… How nice it was to be home with my parents! Because we used to make music concerts at home at night since we all learned to play an instrument. And then you see the difference between that and the SS home and it can’t be compared. In the concentration camp you could easily tell who was a Bibelforscher and who wasn’t. I haven’t seen the love among the brotherhood of Witnesses anywhere else, and I’m happy to belong to it.”

In 1942, Magdalene’s mother and sister Hildegard also arrived in Ravensbrück. In 1944, only Annemarie was free and working in Berlin.

“Did you have any news from Annemarie?”
“Annemarie was the last one to be arrested and was the link to all the members of the family because we were all in different places and could only write 6 lines a month. All of us would write to Annemarie, who worked as a secretary in Berlin. She would copy our letters and send them to the other members of the family. She just turned 90, she’s the oldest. She phoned me a few days ago and told me she’s putting the letters in chronological order. She has 150 letters,
but I have 2 here she hasn’t counted in. I have a postcard with the stamp of the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women and it says it’s not allowed to send parcels or… anything. Nothing is allowed. It also says I’ve been there since the 25th of February 1942, and it has my ‘address’: Magdalene Kusserow, Ravensbrück, number 9591, block 17. This is Adolf Hitler’s stamp.
In the back it says ‘The prisoner remains a stubborn Bible Student. For this reason only, the privilege of otherwise permissible correspondence is taken from him.’ The Bibelforscher were only allowed to write 6 lines, while the rest of prisoners could write 4 pages. This is why our handwriting was tiny.”

If religious literature was completely forbidden outside the camps, obviously it was even more inside them. However, that literature made its way inside the camps. Magdalene told me a case she knew:

“This morning, Louis [Piechóta] told us that when he was in the camp, they read Bible-based literature every night that they used to receive and one day he asked where it came from. He was told he’d better not know. In 1974, in the Yearbook of the Jehovah’s Witnesses it was explained where it came from: One of Himmler’s masseuses would look for trustworthy prisoners for his big estate. He took one of the Bibelforscher as a housewife to his house in Switzerland. He was a good man and he told her all that happened in the camps. When Himler had very bad pains and he had to massage him, he would ask Himmler for more prisoners for his estate and so he managed to have 25 Bibelforscher working for him, men and women who were almost free. A Bibelforscher who worked as a seamstress at the estate would give the doctor publications for the other Bibelforscher in the camps. He would take them in his briefcase, and since he was an important man, he was never searched and so he managed to introduce many publications in the camps.”

Magdalene, her sister and their mother left Ravensbrück in April 1945. 

While interviewing Magdalene, I also met the following survivors:

Max Liebster
Arrested because he was Jewish, he was deported to several concentration camps: Sachsenhausen, Neuengamme, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. While in the camps, he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945.

Max Liebster & Simone Arnold
Simone Arnold-Liebster
Simone and her family were arrested for being Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was taken away from her parents and sent to a reform school. Her father was sent to the Dachau concentration camp where he suffered ‘scientific’ experiments daily.

Louis Piechóta in the background
Louis Piechóta
He was a prisoner at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for being a Bibelforscher. He survived the evacuation of the camp, also called the Death March were most prisoners died of exhaustion or shot by the SS.

Ruth Danner
She was taken away from her parents when she was 9 and sent to several working camps were she suffered so much her organs aged too early and her health was forever affected.

Monday, 4 April 2016

"Merendanding" in Manchester

One of the things I enjoy doing the most is eating cakes, sweet things in general and drinking tea. For this very reason I like exploring my surroundings in search of nice cafés.

It doesn´t matter where you are in the UK, you´ll find hundreds of Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero in every street of every village, town and city of the country. I´m not saying they are bad options, but if you are looking for independent cafés or someplace unique, then probably these are not the cafés you want to walk in to.

Fortunately for us – people who love having a merienda (i.e. the Spanish word for the meal between lunch and dinner. Have you noticed I'm trying to introduce this wonderful word and concept of the merienda to the non-Spanish world?)-, we live in a time when Nordic-inspired-hipster-like cafés are trendy and in some areas, like the Northern Quarter in Manchester, there are as many as drunk people on a Friday night.

Today I´m bringing you 2 lists of nice cafés (I must admit I found most of them in search of free WiFi). They’re not rankings but just lists with no particular order of some of the cafés I´ve been to (also their address and twitter) and my personal opinion on them based solely on my experience there. I promise I´ll keep on researching and bringing more lists to you in the future.

Some nice cafés in Stockport:

The Funky Monkey Coffee Company
175-177 Bramhall Ln

For me, the Funky Monkey is an institution, it´s the centre of Davenport. If you want to know what´s going on in that area of Stockport, go to the Funky Monkey. I love how people of all ages go there and everybody knows each other. The staff is incredibly nice and the food is gorgeous. Try the mango smoothie, delicious!

Tandem Coffee House
47 Lower Hillgate

I´ve only been to this café in the early morning because they close at 3pm which is a bit early for a merienda. The breakfasts I´ve had there have been absolutely beautiful. Besides, when my teapot got cold, they replaced it for a hot one so I could keep on drinking tea till the end of time. This is a theme café, the theme is bikes and cycling so the decoration makes this café very unique. Also, it´s very quiet due to its location.

After Eight hot chocolate

59 St Petersgate

If you like mint chocolate, you will adore the After Eight hot chocolate here. I do. This is a big café and for some reason I don´t know (yet), they often have Spanish food and not only serve it in the café but also at the Foodie Friday events at the Stockport Market. I’ll keep on investigating.

cinnamon waffle + house blend tea
Rhode Island Coffee
2 Little Underbank

This is a big and beautiful café. I especially like seating in the large sofa next to the window in the upper floor. I used to go a lot to this café to use their WiFi to Skype with my family, and also to treat myself every now and then. My favourite is the cinnamon waffle with a cup of the house blend tea.

Jaffa-cake cake + carrot cake
30 Great Underbank

I´m not sure what is prettier in this café, the inside or the outside? Whatever the case, this place is perfect for a late merienda because they close quite late since it is also a restaurant. The cake and hot drink deal is fantastic here. Try the Jaffa-cake cake or the carrot cake, they´re simply superb.

French toasts with Nutella and strawberries + brownie
Rosie’s coffee house and kitchen
95 Prince´s st

This place opened quite recently but it is already a classic. The decoration is simple and delicate; just perfect. And the food is good quality. Besides my sweet treat, I also had the eggs benedict and they were delicious. They also have a wide selection of drinks but I can´t tell you much about them because I always go for the Moroccan tea.

Some nice cafés in Manchester:

North Tea Power
36 Tib st

I feel a special connection to this place because it’s the first café I went to in Manchester. When I had my first job interview, even though I didn’t get the job, I had been so nervous that I wanted to treat myself for having survived the interview. I walked into this café and… what a glad surprise! They had Oolong tea! It´s a nice place but at certain times can get too busy so if you´re looking for a place where you can chill, maybe this is not always the best place to go.

cream tea
Café at the Ryland
150 Deansgate

This is not exactly a beautiful café BUT it´s inside the John Ryland’s library, which is beautiful enough to compensate the looks of the café. It’s closed quite early because the library closes at 4 and, ironically, it can be quite noisy, especially if you are expecting it to be as quiet as the library itself.

Proper Tea
10 Cateaton st

This is one of the most beautiful cafés tearooms in the list. The decoration of the place is exquisite and the views to the cathedral make it even prettier. The tea here, as the name of the tearoom implies, is proper tea. It´s served with a timer, and you have to serve it onto a different teapot before serving it into the cup. Don´t worry if you don´t know what to do, the staff will take care of explaining it to you in detail. It can be quite pricey, to be honest, but it´s definitely worth it. Just for fun, try to find the toilets and go back to the tearoom without getting lost at least once.

23 Edge st

This is a VERY unique café. The quality of the products is not exactly like that of the other cafés in the list, so if you’re looking for high quality, this is not your place. The interesting thing about Ziferblat is the concept: you don´t pay for what you eat/drink, but for the minutes you spend there. First of all, you need to find the café, which is not very easy if you haven´t been there before. You access it through a lift, so it seems you’re going to an office instead of a café. But once you walk in, you can´t help but to be impressed by how big and beautiful the place is. Once you register the time of your arrival at the counter next to the entrance, YOU make whatever you want to drink: there’s a kitchen with all the products and utensils you might need. Also, there’s a piano you can play if you want, books you can take and read, board games, etc. When you are finished, before leaving, you must take your cups and plates to the kitchen and either wash them or put them in the washing machine. Then you tell the boy at the counter your name, and he’ll tell you how much you have to pay for the minutes you’ve been there. Best of all: it’s very cheap. I’m afraid I don’t have any photos of this place.

chocolate + banana + peanut butter + salted caramel milkshake
Black Milk Cereal Dive
52 Church st (Affleck’s Palace, 2nd floor)

This café is in a tiny corner at the Affleck’s Palace and has had an amazing success in a very short period of time. I found out about them, funny enough, because they followed me on Twitter. They specialise in cereal. They have lots of different types of cereals, sometimes from around the world, sometimes special editions. You can mix different types in a bowl with milk or flavoured milk. You can even order it in an edible bowl – there are 3 different edible bowls: dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate.  Just let your imagination decide what to put in the bowl or the jar and give it a try. As I said, they’ve had such a success that they’re extending the café and making it bigger.

the best banoffee cupcake ever
Hey Little Cupcake!
Little Quay st

I found out about this café cupcakery when I won one of their cupcakes for retweeting something in Twitter. I’ve only been there the time I went to collect the cupcake I had won. The place looked beautiful and I was impressed by the fact that they organise classes where you can learn to make your own cupcakes. The cupcake I won was not a specific one, I could choose one from a selection. I chose the banoffee one. I’m not exaggerating: it was the best cupcake I have ever had. My next sweet goal is to try the afternoon tea there.

Pot Kettle Black

14 Barton Arcade, Deansgate

This café is in the stunning Barton Arcade. Every time I have to go from Market st to Deansgate, I try to go through the Barton Arcade (unless I have to go to Paperchase, of course) because if the Titanic was a building, it would be something like this. I’ve only been to this café once but it’s so pretty and comfortable, and the staff is so kind, I’m definitely going back. I had a pot of Darjeeling tea and it was served with a thin wafer tube. More than correct.

Ibérica Spinningfields
14-15 The Avenue

This one is not a café, it´s a restaurant, a very good one, actually. Ibérica is a chain of restaurants that belong to Spanish chef Nacho Manzano, who has 3 Michelin Stars, so yes, food in this restaurant is of the finest quality but, at the same time, it’s not as expensive as one would expect. Anyway, today I’m not talking about that (maybe in another post I will talk about restaurants). Today I’m only focusing on what I had for desert: a chocolate mousse with berries, which was from out of this planet. Although this desert is quite international, in this restaurant they offer a selection of typical deserts from around Spain. If you want to get a glimpse of typical Spanish deserts, try going to this restaurant.

I think 14 are more than enough for my first post about nice cafés in the Greater Manchester. Have you been to any of these? What is your opinion about them? Have you been to any other café in Manchester or Stockport? As usual, all comments are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Let me recommend you a book and... come fly with me!

Today I’d like to introduce to you one of my favourite books ever. This is not one of the best ones I’ve ever read but it means a lot to me. My father gave me this book when I was about 15 years old and I’ve loved it ever since. It opened a whole universe where to escape to in those strange teen years. The book is The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi

The title of the book is pretty self-explanatory: it is a dictionary of imaginary places. Just as a dictionary has a number of entries in alphabetical order with a definition of that entry, this Dictionary contains a long list of places and a description of the place, the people living there (in case somebody lives there), how to get there, the costumes, the traditions, maps, etc., any information that can be retrieved from the sources. Let me explain.

The authors of the Dictionary, Gianni Guadalupi (an Italian historian who has written, mainly, books about travelling and exploring) and Alberto Manguel (a Canadian-Argentinian editor, novelist, essayist, anthologist, translator and author of many non-fiction books) explain in the beautiful foreword why they decided to write this book: one afternoon in 1977, Guadalupi proposed Manguel to write a travel guide for the explorer who wants to visit the ancient (and imaginary) city of Selene, invented by Paul Féval in his novel La Ville Vampire. This idea developed into creating a guide for the explorers interested in other imaginary places. It took them years to gather a list of places and all the existing information about them. The first edition was published in 1980, followed by an extended second edition published in 1987, and an even more extended third edition in 1999 (the version I have, translated into Spanish). 


At the end of every description - which is addressed to the explorer, just as if it was a real travel guide, - you can read the name of the creator of that place, the name of all the books you can find that place in, and where/when those books were published (see the photos Leonia vs Leuké). 


Also, at the end of the book, there is an index of all the places mentioned in the Dictionary classified by their authors, so you can easily find authors such as
 Hans Christian Andersen, Sir James Matthew Barrie, L. Frank Baum, Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, Jorge Luis Borges, Charlotte Brontë, John Bunyan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Étienne Cabet, Italo Calvino, Lewis Carroll, Chrétien de Troyes, to mention just a few.

I loved this book when I was a teen because I love travelling; I think I’ve always done so. As a little girl, I would take an atlas and spend hours looking at the maps. But after some time, the world was not big enough and I needed a bigger universe to explore, and this Dictionary was the perfect solution because it gave me a glimpse of all this imaginary places I could visit.

I really hope there is going to be a new extended edition because in the last one, and just to mention a few examples, not a single place imagined by G.R.R. Martin can be found (even though A Game of Thrones was published in 1996 and A Clash of Kings in 1998), and having a detailed description of Westeros and Essos would be absolutely wonderful.  Anselm Audley’s Aquasilva Trilogy - Heresy (2001), Inquisition (2002) and Crusade (2003) – is obviously not included in the Dictionary either; and from all of J.K. Rowling’s imagined places, only Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest are included, while I’d personally love to read about Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley or the Ministry of Magic as well. 

What about you? Have you read this book? If not, would you like to? What are your favourite imaginary places? Thanks for reading! And remember: Leave a comment and share!