The home computer has come up this afternoon with the novel ruse of refusing to type just the letter 'e'. Now if it had chosen something a little more sporting- the 'q' perhaps, or the 'z'- I might have taken it up on its sadistic little challenge and attempted to bang you out 600 words with just twenty-five/ twenty-sixths of the everyday alphabet at my disposal. Instead I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and contented myself with swearing at the screen loudly for several minutes (using the full complement of letters) before heading out to Stockport Road to renew my acquaintance with the nearest of its many internet cafes.
Actually I quite like writing in the internet cafes and perhaps should do so more often. This one doubles as a Kodak photo development shop, specialising for some reason in Dutch passport ID snaps. There is a studio out the back adorned with white curtains and a single bored-looking employee attending to computerised instruments behind an imposing neck-high desk. Out front, one wall is covered in photo frames which are for sale but I've never seen anyone buy one, ever. Four monitors are lined up in tiny cubby holes against the opposite wall. The first is out of order, and the third and fourth are each occupied by pairs of people engaged in urgent business (long haul coach travel, the purchase and delivery of a cut-price settee, plane tickets from Glasgow to Delhi, if you don't mind) and conversing with each other in Arabic or other non-European languages I don't understand, a sound which is oddly comforting.
So comforting in fact that I could spend the whole afternoon here clocking up internet time at £1 an hour, but I probably shouldn't as I've got a whole precious day of annual leave booked and given that we are going away tomorrow there is a troublingly long list of things to do in my head, and a rapidly decreasing amount of hours and for that matter daylight in which to do them. The sadistic home computer is partly to blame for this, also the fact that I spent large swathes of the morning playing table football with Frankie (whose Manchester City team beat my Liverpool 6-5 on penalties, extra-time having ended with the teams sharing 3 goals apiece).
So- what to tell you before my £1 runs out? October seems to have come and gone and I seem to have spent most of it on the X41 bus to the Westside, or waiting for the X41 bus to the Westside protected from the elements by a massive, luminous and slightly expensive blue skijacket (the jury is still out on that- it's very, very warm but I'm not completely sure that bespoke features such as an elasticated string to attach your skipass to are going to see a lot of use in suburban South Manchester), or wrangling with surly X41 bus drivers over the acceptability or otherwise of folding bikes aboard public transport (one last week produced 'The Stagecoach Driver's Operational Handbook' from under his seat and started quoting passages from it in the manner of a particularly deranged street-preacher, an experience which left me traumatized enough to go online and order a specialised bike-cover for £25 the instant I got to the office). Oh, and very nearly missing my stop and staying on the X41 as far as Altrincham due to being immersed in David Mitchell (no not that one)'s astonishing novel 'Black Swan Green', which tells in alternately heartbreaking and hilarious first person detail the coming of age tale of Jason, a Holden Caulfieldesque 13-year old beset with a debilitating stammer, warring parents, schoolgirl crushes and playground bullies against a pitch perfect 1982 backdrop featuring Margaret Thatcher, the Falklands War, Peter Shilton, the Two Ronnies Christmas Special, life-threatening travelling funfair rides and a single non-functioning Ferguson Black and White bedroom TV acting as a metaphor for the terminal decline of British manufacturing industry. I can't recommend it highly enough, and not only if you were a 13 year old boy in suburban UK 1982 yourself and can remember all of those details only too well.
With which literary recommendation I will leave you, as my time in the cubby hole is about to run out and if I stay in this internet cafe for 10 more minutes I'm absolutely certainly going to be forcibly persuaded by the bored employee behind the neck-high counter either to purchase a discount shop-soiled wallnut photo-frame or take out Dutch Citizenship. Neither of which were on that to-do list, (although if I can remember what actually was, we might start to get somewhere).