God Bless My Lorde and Saviour

I was actually in Croatia when tickets for Lorde’s European tour went up, and so my ticket purchasing moment saw me riding in the shotgun of our rented car, driving along the breathtakingly picturesque Croatian highway en route to Dubrovnik from Split, partially Google-maps-navigating, and partially buying tickets on Ticketmaster as quickly as possible before they were sold out.

Thus, with a click of the “Buy” button, Chong En and I were going to watch Lorde live in O2 Apollo on the 26th of September.

Pure Heroine was one of the albums consistently present in my 2014 college playlists, a particularly musically magnificent period of time for me, during which I weaved many tales through music together with my friends on road trips or chilling sessions, whilst Melodrama is such an aesthetically fulfilling album filled with both dance-worthy tunes and soul-crushing ballads. There wasn’t a single moment during her show where Ella did not give her hundred percent, and seeing her quirky but passionate dance moves contagiously hyped the hall’s atmosphere up throughout the entire night. Vocals, concepts, costumes, performance – and even merch; all of them were tens out of tens. It was an incredible night.

Despite being on the cusp of her twenties, Ella’s talents shine so brightly in the way she manages to encapsulate feelings and emotions that deeply resonate with those little dusty corners of our hearts that house loneliness and melancholic affection through her lyrics and music, making her songs anthems of the young and misunderstood.

Despite it being a rather solemn period of time for both artists and concertgoers following the recent attack, the spirit of appreciating live music with other similarly musically-inclined people lived on, something that I hold very dearly in my heart.

Khalid was the opening act

Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated:

Visiting Afflecks

I went clubbing for the first time last Friday night because winter break had started and I had nothing to do anyway so what the hell, I’m finally granted the opportunity to be reasonably reckless by my standards and agreed to it under Ernie’s invitation despite not knowing what to expect and having a strong dislike for crowds of strangers and physical contact with unfamiliar people.

In the end it wasn’t really my thing, but it was definitely An Experience ™, and I spent more time spectating than actually, I don’t know, dancing and gyrating with random people. All I could deduce at the end of the night was there was a lot of hair in my face, spit in my face, I’d lost count of how many times I’d stepped on shoes and had mine stepped on and all the jumping was such a workout for a leisure activity. The dancefloor was so crowded (obviously) that entering the room felt like I was stepping into a furnace. But still, I didn’t regret going because honestly I only went for the EXP points and that I did get.

The next night, a bunch of us gathered at Evelyn’s house to have dinner and handmade tang yuan for winter solstice, and after having a really warm and filling meal (with black sesame tang yuan of different shapes and sizes [mostly thanks to CC and Faris] as dessert), we sat around in a circle and played games that had eating lemons and drinking a whole cup of water in one go as punishments. I was already so full from the good food and the laughter made my stomach hurt even more. It was a really, really good night.

On Monday, after spending the whole of Sunday shut in my room in the dark watching the entire first season of Love Live, I decided to go to Northern Quarter for Christmas shopping. Forbidden Planet was the first place I headed to, and then after that I was struck by a sudden impulse to find Afflecks, a quirky shopping district Dan and Phil went to in their Day in the Life in Manchester video, despite my initial plan being just going to Arndale and then going home.

Google maps wasn’t being very helpful that day, and from Forbidden Planet, I somehow ended up at a deserted street and had to walk up and down different streets multiple times, although that in itself was a blessing in disguise because I chanced upon a shop called Travelling Man, its tagline on the signboard saying “comics, games, DVDs, manga, anime” and I was already sold. I will probably never be able to afford the luxury of a physical copy manga but I was still very excited when I saw One Punch Man and Shokugeki no Souma mangas on display.

Seeing animanga always makes me really happy because it’s just so familiar (and also I’m a nerd, I know)

After getting lost a few more times trying to locate where Afflecks actually was, I almost gave up until the blue dot on Google maps was finally on the Afflecks dot. I looked up and realised…I’d actually been here before. I’d actually been in Afflecks before. The anime shop I found when I was here with Rumin a week ago was in Afflecks. There were stairs leading upstairs that we noticed during our previous visit but it looked a bit shady so we didn’t go up. Armed with brand new information and realisation, I went upstairs and it was like a whole new world opened up right in front of me.

This place was like Sungei Wang, but even better. I’d never seen the likes of anything like it before in Manchester. The first floor sold mostly band T-shirts and posters and art prints and there was also a small shop that did tattoos and at first I thought this was it, oh, Afflecks is just these two floors but then I realised there were more stairs and got giddy with excitement.

Ghibli prints!!!!! They were so expensive though

At the second floor, I was greeted by a small café called Black Milk and after further observation, I got the idea that it was a café that served, uh, cereal.

The floor branched off into left and right and the entrance to the left premises was boasting accessories and clothing with really loud colours so that was my natural selection. It took me quite a while to figure out how the entire floor plan worked. There were no distinctive borders between shops and they were all connected so it was very easy to wander from shop to shop without even realising it. There were also doors where you wouldn’t have predicted them to be, and also narrow corridors filled with graffitied walls that led from one end of the floor to the other. So as you can see, I got lost way too many times for such a building of such miniature size.

There were a lot of shops which, after I set my foot in, realised I was entirely out of place and should probably leave but what the hell, I was a tourist that day and the place was so intriguing I had to explore every nook and cranny. It felt like I was in a maze of sorts.

There was quite a number of animanga shops inside as well and there was even a Ghibli shop and the shopkeeper was so friendly, too friendly in fact but surprisingly, I didn’t get intimidated like I normally would. Probably running on high fumes of excitement from this discovery of this place.

Alright heads up all my photos will be at really bad angles and poor quality because I didn’t want to look like a tourist taking photos of shops (even though I technically was)

As if it wasn’t already confusing enough, there were two stairwells in the freaking building

I stepped in here and immediately went “ah….time to leave”

me too

it’s my turf

There were also a bunch of cafés in Afflecks

A real, functioning 8-bit arcade machine!!!!!!!!!!

I literally got chased out (more specifically, asked to leave the building) by a guard when all the shops started closing at 6PM, but I still felt like I hadn’t visited everything Afflecks had to offer yet (how could I feel otherwise when the entire floor plan was a mess). I left the place feeling triumphant though, happy that I found somewhere so interesting and appealing. Interesting and appealing enough that I immediately started to formulate writing a blogpost in my mind on the way back.

I still went to Arndale after that to finish my Christmas shopping and the entire place was so packed with people whom I assumed were there for the same purpose as I was.

I didn’t even realise I’d spent four hours alone in the city until my limbs started aching and my stomach started growling. It was a great day spent with good company of myself.

Of Volleyball, Hangouts and High Pitch Screaming

One of these is not like the others.

When I started getting into Haikyuu five months ago, I never thought I’d live to see the day that my getting into this animanga/fandom would lead to me actually playing and considering committing to the actual sport of volleyball. It’s really funny how this animanga/webcomic-to-real-life-sport thing happened simultaneously to me, Effie and Ellie – Effie started investing in ice hockey tournaments after reading Check Please! and Ellie, like me, started going for basketball training sessions in her uni thanks to KNB. And then of course there was Bellyn, Taliza and Karu who were also in volleyball hell with me at one point or another.

As it is, on Saturday, I played volleyball again. The day before, I was excited to find out that there would be a free volleyball social play session at Sugden (which was only five minutes away from where I live) so despite sleeping at 3AM the previous night, I got Carmen to go for volleyball with me. And it was so much fun! This time around, compared to the previous UMVC team trials, there were coaches teaching us the very basics and the court wasn’t as crowded. We each got chances to toss, volley, dig and spike throughout the two-hour session and I might just be wholly syok sendiri but?? I think?? I might have improved quite a bit (just a bit though) at receiving and my arms don’t hurt so much anymore. I only got a spike over the net though so that’s predictably appalling. One of our coaches was a setter and I was mesmerized everytime he did a toss because his movements were so fluid and smooth and his toss quiet, bouncy and high in contrast with mine which were loud and always flew off in directions I didn’t want the ball to go to.

(After the session, I asked him about this and it turns out the ball doesn’t touch our palms during a toss; only the finger bases.)

After that, Carmen and I walked to Chinatown and had Korean food for lunch. Even if we hadn’t been hungry and tired from the accumulated soreness of handball (which hadn’t faded away yet even after three days) and volleyball, the food would have still been pretty good so I knew it wasn’t just the growling stomach talking. We then spent the next few hours shopping at Primark and Aldi and despite returning home that evening extremely worn out, it was a very enjoyable and fulfilling Saturday.

That night, at 2AM GMT (8PM in Iowa, 9PM in NYC and 11AM the next day in Melbourne), I had a three-hour Google hangout with the gang (with a missing Zitian) and the familiarity and comfort of seeing and talking to old friends again felt so incredibly nice, even if I was struggling to stay awake most of the time. In the end, the hangout ended with Bellyn taking us on a short tour around NYC at night while on her way to the cinema and Taliza, Harris, Karu and I playing Sporcle until my eyes were watering and I finally went to bed at 5AM.

I love and miss my friends who are scattered all around different parts of the world very, very much and I am so proud of us for getting to where we are now. :’)

Understandably, I woke up at 1PM the next day and had an hour to get ready before I was to meet up with Carmen to head for Trafford Centre. I’d been there once with Ee Min, Yee Lin and the rest during Student Night but the place was just too huge to explore till the ends in one night. Carmen and I took the bus from Piccadilly Gardens and then it was a 30 minute ride to the outskirts of the city.

Trafford Centre was packed on a Sunday but we managed to brave through the outrageously long queue at Five Guys and had a very Western late lunch of cheese burger (Carmen), bacon and cheese dog (me) and Oreo vanilla milkshake (we both shared one).

Approaching 6PM, I was beginning to get very jumpy, out of nerves and excitement. We went to the Trafford Centre bus station to find out that great, Carmen and I could take the same X50 bus because it stopped at Salford and then Piccadilly Gardens after that.

When the bus driver told me that the bus stopped at “The Imperial War Museum, it’s near The Lowry”, I took that to mean that “near” was at the very most a 15-minute walk distance. So after I said goodbye to Carmen and asked the bus driver again for confirmation of directions to The Lowry (“Just go straight and turn left”) I alighted from the bus, a spring in my step from excitement to finally see Dan and Phil in person at their The Amazing Tour is Not On Fire (what a mouthful) show with tickets I’d bought back in March (before I even firmed my choice at Uni of Manchester lol) when the tour was very first announced.

But it wasn’t until the bus pulled away and silence settled in that I realise that I was completely alone on a dark street devoid of life or moving vehicles. Never mind. If The Lowry was where the bus driver said it was, it wouldn’t matter since I’d reach the place in a short while anyway. But after approximately five minutes of walking and no sign of a left turning at all, I started to feel nervous laughter bubbling in my throat as I whipped out my phone and with trembling fingers pulled up Google maps only to find out that The Lowry Theatre was 2.3km away from where I was standing.

And thus commenced the piercingly cold and harrowingly long journey by foot along deserted streets under a darkening evening sky to watch two giant nerds from the Internet that I’ve invested a good three years of my life in.

It felt endless. I was clothed in a sheer cardigan and a midi skirt and 20 minutes into the journey, I wasn’t sure if the ache in my legs were from sports or the lower half of my body turning numb from the cold. I was also getting increasingly worried when it was already 7PM and I still had more or less 1km to go. I was silently fuming at the bus driver but also wary that maybe I had indeed missed a left turning but decided I didn’t want to find out if the latter was true because I couldn’t handle any more additional stress before I actually reached The Lowry. The only thing keeping me going was the prospect of seeing the two tall nerds very soon and also that this would make a great story even though I felt like crying just then (but that would make things worse because it would just be cold tears and I couldn’t possibly get anything from that).

With 300m left on Google maps, I decided I still had time to spare before the show started at 7.30PM so I entered a mini supermarket at The Lowry Outlet to massage some senses back into my frozen fingers that were spewing typos all over the place as I livetexted my journey to Ming. And then finally, finally when The Lowry Theatre finally came into view, it was like a beacon of holy light dawning around me and honestly? D&P were left forgotten because I was just glad to have reached my destination alive and breathing.

Still incredulous of my wintery walk for 40 minutes, I stupidly asked two girls with cat whiskers drawn on their faces if this was the line for Dan and Phil and then proceeded to invalidate my own question with “of course it is what am I saying” before blabbering about my getting lost and having to walk for about an hour (exaggeration for maximum effect) to get here and I was expecting them to turn away in fear (I would’ve) but they were so nice and even looked at my ticket to help me figure out which door I was supposed to go through.

A couple of observations made prior to the commencement of the show: 1) there were a lot of parents (and even grandparents) around 2) pretty much everyone had Sharpie cat whiskers on their faces and/or llama hats on their heads 3) I felt like the oldest person in the room (excluding parents and grandparents) 4) everyone was really excited!!! I was excited too, but these people were really excited, like screaming excited. I guess I probably would’ve been the same level of excited seven months ago but that’s alright because I didn’t exactly have anyone to scream with in real life at that moment anyway. Still, it was really entertaining to take in the shenanigans of the IRL Phandom (oh my god this is actually terrifying now that I think about it in more detail) around me and realise how popular and huge D&P have truly gotten over the past few years. They are practically full-blown celebrities. This was nothing different from a One Direction concert.

And then the show started and I don’t think I’m allowed to comment much about it because #spoilers (no one was allowed to take photos or videos throughout the entire show because they will be releasing videos of the show online after the tour or something) but it was a really, really fun and enjoyable 1.5 hours and I think I was more entranced by the fact that I was looking at Dan and Phil with my own two eyes after years of looking at them move and talk in the small Youtube frame and they were real people holy shit and they were so? beautiful? Now it just sounds like I’m describing sculptures in an art gallery but for all it’s worth, they might as well be on par with that.

The show ended on a high note (haha, #pun) which made their departure from stage even sadder (I was half expecting people to chant encore) because it was back to staring at them on screens again. What would’ve made the night perfect was an actual meeting with them but who am I but a mere simpleton who can’t afford to fork out £80 for a VIP ticket good god

cannot take pic with real dan and phil so take pic with building only lo

look what came in the mail today
look what came in the mail today

My ride back was in my first Uber, and after being traumatized by walking alone in the cold, sitting comfortably in a warm car back to Weston for free was breathtakingly incredible and my driver was so friendly – he mistook me for an American (“I thought you’re from America! You have an American accent!” “???!!!!”) and lamented about drunk football fans in his car that threatened to smash his windows when he said he wasn’t a supporter of Manchester United. I didn’t mind the small talk one bit, being in such high spirits from D&P, coming back with stories and actually surviving the night in one piece. And that was all I could really feel, really, when I reached Weston and thanked the driver profusely, that after all that I went through that night, I was back in my room safe and sound. Life is so exhilaratingly amazing sometimes.

And now as I am sat before my desk tired after a full day of lectures but insisting that I write this anyway before I forget all the little details that are as if not more important than the general content itself, the previous night feels so far away but then I remember that it was actually a thing I did and by myself at that and it gives me great encouragement that I am capable of many things and adventures in spite of my fears and anxieties (I feel like the moral lesson at the end of each blogpost is basically pretty much the same but that’s okay because I need the reminder always).