Saturday, 10 December 2011


I had a bit of a strange turn last night. I was exhausted, but felt that, because it was a Friday night and I was in Manchester, I ought to go out. I made my way down to the hotel foyer but immediately began to feel agoraphobic. I sometimes get like that when I’ve spent a long period of time away from my close circle of friends and family. I could hear the hotel bar teeming with people, all screaming their heads off. A cover version of that terrible Shakin Steven’s Christmas song was playing. There’s only one thing worse than a bad Christmas song, and that’s a cheap cover version of a bad Christmas song. I started to panic, went to the reception, and immediately ordered room service. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve needed to order room service. It felt decadent and unnecessary, but I just wanted to hide.

This morning I was awoken by the sound of guests shouting at each other and slamming doors through the paper thin walls of the Days Hotel. I switched the television on, and watched in disbelief as the sports presenter on BBC Breakfast was asked to demonstrate an adult baby-grow. It wasn’t funny. It was emasculating and silly. I now know how my Grandad felt when he tried to stop us from watching playschool because there were men playing with dolls!
After a while, and seeing that there was a smudge of blue sky outside the window, I got dressed and took myself to the Arndale Centre, which is a dreadful, dreadful place! I was searching for a bowl of porridge for breakfast, but ended up having to make do with a Greg’s pasty. As soon as I’d entered the shopping centre, I knew I’d made a horrid mistake. The artificial lighting, the shiny decorations, the Santa hats, the nasty music, the ever-growing hoards of people. Within five minutes, I was in a panic, running about in ever-decreasing circles in an attempt to find the way out, which I reached just as the heavens opened and engulfed Manchester in another terrible hail storm. Hopeless.

I did, however, manage to buy myself a pair of shoes and a winter coat before the panic set in. I’ve started to grow weary of people telling me I look like a tramp, and thought I needed something that might make me look smart for a change.
I had lunch on Canal Street in the most deserted-looking pub I could find. I ordered a cranberry juice and was astonished to find it cost £2.15, and even more astonished to hand over £3 and get no change. “You haven’t given me change,” I said to the sour-faced Lesbian with a man’s voice behind the bar. “Actually you gave me £2.10,” she barked, with a frown I could have driven a train across. There was something of the Fat Pat about her and she was in no mood to back down, “there was a 5p on the bar, so I didn’t ask you for the rest.” It was a strange statement, which rather disarmed me, but I wasn't going to thank her, because I didn’t believe her for a moment. “I definitely gave you £3,” I said, “if I didn’t give you the right money, and you were doing me such an astonishing, and pointlessly alturistic favour, why on earth didn’t you say?” She looked at me blinkingly until I retired to my seat. I couldn’t wait to get out of the place, and scuttled back to my hotel room for some peace and quiet.

I’m now on the train back to London for a day in the big smoke. I return to Manchester first thing Monday morning and am going to watch the X Factor final at Brother Edward’s tonight, which I'm very much looking forward to.

It’s very claustrophobic on the train. I’m sitting next to a Grandmother and Grandchild. As an act of kindness to make space for other passengers, the Grannie’s put the child on her lap, but there’s now a tower of person between me and the train aisle. It’s very sweet, but it’s playing “peep-o”, it hasn’t stopped bouncing up and down and yabbering and it’s eating a chocolate ├ęclair, which I’m terrified is going to squirt all over me and force me to tell the Grandmother that I don’t mind because the jumper needed a wash anyway, and I’ve always loved the smell of fresh cream going rancid on my clothes. I’m hoping the inter-generational tower of person is not coming all the way to London with us.

350 years ago, and Pepys went to a formal dinner at Sir Thomas Crew’s house. He doesn’t say what was on the menu, or who he chatted to, simply that he ended up in a 45 minute traffic jam on the way there and nearly didn’t make it. How little London changes.

1 comment:

  1. Your totally random Canadian follower/Matt Lucas fan checking in here. I'm so amused every time I read about Manchester's Canal Street's street sign - because there's also a Canal Street here in Keswick, Ontario and it's often been subject to the exact same 'alterations'. Our sign has frequently been replaced, but surprisingly the current sign has now been up for over two months - untouched. I'm a bit disappointed! ;-) I just find it funny how people/vandals can be so similar/unoriginal the whole world over! ;-)