I read in the papers today that there's been a riot in a 99p shop in Wrecsam! Apparently, the shop staged some sort of closing down sale whereby everything on the shelves was lowered in price to 50p. Unfortunately, and rather inexplicably, the people in the queues, no doubt holding huge quantities of cleaning products and out of date Jaffa cakes, were suddenly told that prices had returned to 99p. They became so distressed that the police were called.
The story makes me feel rather sad. It feels so trivial and almost comic, but tells you all you need to know about this recession and the way that it's still affecting people; still making people behave in an undignified manner. I'm sure these people wouldn't have rioted for the sake of rioting.
I found myself in Manchester again today for the second time in a week. It's a funny old city, which I'm yet to fall in love with. There's something about it which feels a little phoney, a little pleased with itself, and I don't think I've ever been there when it's done anything but rain in a miserable sort of way.
I had a meeting at the BBC in Salford with the charming Tommy Nagra, who's been tasked with putting the Brum back into Birmingham (from the BBC's perspective in any case.) I'm not sure anything will immediately come of our chat, but I liked him enormously, and it was fabulous to meet another person who feels as passionately about the Midlands as I do.
On my way to the BBC, I stopped for lunch in Canal Street, which, for the uninitiated, is the gay bit of Manchester. I sat in a lovely bar called Via and had a vegetarian club sandwich.
Two proper Manky scallies in the bar were behaving rather strangely, ducking and bobbing around the place, with their hands thrust deep into track suit pockets which were bulging with coins. It transpired that they were expert slot machine players and were making huge sums of money out of the two machines in the bar. Scores of coins were flying out and they seemed to be taking it all in their strides.
I left the bar and immediately became obsessed with recording the unique sound of Manchester, which, I decided today, is the beeping of the tram horns. Every Mancunian tram horn sounds the same pitch - an open fifth on a D and an A. When you tune into the sound, you can hear it echoing all over the city. I'm sure Mancunians get very used to it, but for a visitor like me, it's a fascinating sound; a sort of urban minimalist symphony.
From central Manchester, I took the tram to Salford, and, because I had an hour to kill, found myself drifting towards the Lowry Theatre. Someone told me recently that they have a gallery upstairs which displays loads of original paintings by Mr J S himself.
I've always had a bit of a penchant for Lowry, but don't believe I've ever seen one of his paintings in the flesh. I thought I'd be impressed. I wasn't expecting to be so profoundly moved. As I stared at the images; the misty factories, the smoky football stadia, the dirty fish and chip shops and washed-out brick walls, I was transported somewhere very familiar. Maybe a different life, or a world I once knew. Perhaps I simply recognised the love that Lowrie painted into his pictures. He painted with profound love for his subjects and his locations. All of the famous images have a wonderful flow to them. Most of the people seem to be heading in the same direction, sweeping into buildings. Your eyes are drawn to the destination, as though a wave could simply scoop you up and transport you into that foggy, primitive world.
My train home left Manchester at 9.15pm and I sat in various cafés writing music, and slowly reaching a place where I feel I might be winning the war with Brass. There's so much music to write, but I'll only feel I have permission to work in glorious detail when I have completed the broad strokes, which means that every bar needs to be at least sketched out.
I got on the train and sat down opposite a grotesque-looking slaggy girl with makeup like a drag queen, who refused to move her bag from my seat when I tried to sit down. Her boyfriend, sitting next to her, was Asian, (she could well have been Asian as well, underneath the troweled-on make-up.) Anyway, there was a really violent energy between them. She goaded him really quietly, and he kept grabbing her by the neck, subtly, but with enough force for her to know he wasn't joking. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. It seemed such strange behaviour for a train.