Chasing The Kerstman: Christmas In The Netherlands, 2013

Simian Substitute Site For December 2014: MailChimp


Food and Drink: You'd have worked it out soon enough, but let's make this clear upfront: this edition of Month End Processing is going to be a Manchester special, inspired by a recent trip made by The Belated Birthday Girl and myself to celebrate the former's birthday. We've been there together a few times in the past, so some of the time was spent revisiting old favourite haunts, i.e. bars (BrewDog Manchester and Cloud 23 in particular). When it came to food, though, we sought out the unfamiliar. The best American-style breakfasts to be had in town are at Moose Coffee, huge affairs full of fried stuff and/or waffles according to your preference: you'll probably need to queue for at least half an hour to get in on a Saturday morning, but it's well worth it. More traditionally English breakfast fare is on offer at Superstore in the trendy Northern Quarter, with a supermarket in the basement whose astonishing range of beers matches the equally unexpected selection at Aberdeen's just-about-to-change-hands Thistle News. Later on in the day, afternoon tea appears to be a major thing in most parts of the UK now, but I don't think we'd appreciated just how true that was until we were given a gift voucher and had to choose somewhere to redeem it. Hey Little Cupcake!'s teas are a lovely mix of savoury sarnies and sweet nibbles, washed down with a big pot of the good stuff. But our best overall meal was the dinner we had at Opus One, situated in the Radisson hotel on the former site of the Free Trade Hall. It's only got a small number of tables, but everyone who's eaten there has gone on to start their own restaurant.

Music: Why were we in Manchester that weekend? Blame Everything Everything. A few months earlier, they'd announced their curation of a week-long festival to tie in with the re-opening of the newly refurbished Central Library. Entitled Chaos To Order, it would be a mixture of ticketed events, things you could drop into, and happenings that would just take place in the library when you least expected it. We turned up for the last day, and ended up seeing two of these - an enjoyable afternoon performance by a group of young musicians who'd been collaborating all week, followed by an evening event that took over the whole library. The Melodico Ensemble Choir greeted us in the foyer with a couple of pieces sung from the balcony: Jesca Hoop performed an astonishing solo set in the middle of the reading room: and then in the performance area we got to see Everything Everything themselves, presenting some tunes they'd been working up in full public view during the week of the festival. You can read a full official report of that final gig here: there's some bonus fun hidden inside for those of you who know us.

Travel: Actually, if you're visiting Manchester, Central Library is well worth a look even when there isn't a pop band kicking up a filthy racket in there. I haven't been inside it since I was a kid, when it was obviously all just books and no public IT worth speaking of. Nowadays, it's a full-blown information hub in the modern style, but areas like the ground floor Archives + have a wealth of data on the city and its inhabitants. The BBG challenged me to find some sort of reference to myself in there, and I eventually tracked down a 1960s street directory that mentioned my nan. Success! And if you've got the library bug at this stage, and have, say, an hour to kill before your afternoon tea in Spinningfields, then the old John Rylands Library is an astonishing building holding an equally astonishing collection of ancient volumes. Many of those are locked away for safe keeping, but it's delightful to go there on a Sunday and find students using the space to work, because Central Library isn't open that day. So yeah, it was a weekend almost entirely dedicated to libraries, food and drink. Thanks to the Ibis hotel for looking after us during the few hours in between all that.

In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for December 2014 is MailChimp. From MailChimp. Mail... Kimp? Shimp? More than seven million businesses around the world use a male chimp to send emails, newsletters and deliver high fives. MailChimp! Send better email. ("Very nice." "I use MailChimp." "You do?" "I love it.")

You're all listening to Serial, right? (If not, start here.)

Christmas is coming, and we may end up doing a little more Christmassy stuff on the site this year, partially to compensate for last year's lack of it. Or I'll screw up my timing and end up doing three years' worth of Christmas stuff at the end of 2015. Which will it be? Watch and find out, and then talk about it in the comments if you like.


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