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 éclair, 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.