This afternoon in scenes slightly reminiscent of Withnail and I me and Frankie went to a carnival by mistake. What happened was that we emerged from Manchester Museum (where we had been paying a visit on our favourites the monitor lizards who we have secretly named Zillard and Lilleth, respectively after Frankie's pronunciation of the word 'lizard' and a bit-part character in a once-popular high-brow US sitcom) to find Oxford Road unusually quiet. Putting this down to the student exodus which transforms that that part of south Manchester into a ghost-town for three months annually, we settled down to wait for a 197 bus. Half an hour and an interminable (is there any other sort?) game of I-spy later, I realised that not only had our bus not passed, but neither had anything else whatsoever. This should probably have struck me as a little odd, but it was only when a Police saloon car outrider came crawling up the deserted thoroughfare with all lights flashing that I remembered seeing an A4 size notice pasted to one of the bus stops we had passed on the way to this one. Something about a 'Caribbean Procession', which might cause disruption to services on Saturday afternoon, apologies for any inconvenience, etc.
Sure enough within two minutes the silence was broken by a succession of articulated lorries, each of them opened on the side to reveal either a professional steel band in full swing or a dishevilled collection of revellers swigging from cans of Red Stripe to the accompaniment of dance music emanating from an industrial-sized ghetto-blaster. Every second lorry was trailed by a troupe of dancing girls aged 10-80-some dressed in full carnival costume complete with sequins and featherboas, others in the sort of skimpy swimwear about which my mother's mother might have archly said 'now that'll be nice when it's finished'.
Twenty lorries and ten troupes of scantily-clad dancing girls later I was more or less convinced the 197 wasn't going to come any time soon, so we set off on an unscheduled nostalgic hike along Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, passing the spot where on my first day in Manchester 17 years ago the black taxicab from Oxford Road station dropped me off in return for the first fiver of a soon-to-be-frittered-away teaching student grant. For old times' sake (and also because I think it is the law) I picked up a vegetable samosa from one of the takeaways, which came microwaved to within an inch of its life and nearly didn't survive long enough to be eaten, as a sudden gust of high wind (which must have been playing havoc with the dancing girls' costumes back at the Moss Side junction) sent it shooting out of its plastic plate while we waited for the green man to come on at the corner by the Hardys Well pub.
Thirty minutes later- or a mere two and a half hours after the time we were due back home- we boarded a cross-town 168 at the Queen of Hearts (where if we are going to continue in the vein of Wilmslow Road reminiscence, was where I used to watch Keegan's great Newcastle team take on allcomers back in the 90s, and where our last gasp failure to bring home the Premiership in 95 saw me sink to my knees in emotional exhaustion, well that and the effects of seven pints of strong European lager on an empty stomach). By teatime we were at home.
All of which would be all very well, except we are going on holiday- holiday!- tomorrow, and the afternoon was the time I had set aside to do all my packing. There was nothing for it but to write out one of those neurotic lists that you do when you're going on holiday, with items such as 'remember passport', 'book taxi for 3:30AM' and 'wear trousers'.
It's now 21:44- in other words well past my bedtime considering I've got to get up at an hour of the night my brain actually refuses to contemplate- so I'll be off. Sweet dreams everyone- next time, tales of our French adventure (Frankie's first trip abroad) featuring my no-doubt vain attempts to impress the locals with my rusty command of the past subjunctive and hastily-revised vocabulary gleaned entirely from a twenty-minute perusal of the website of FC Red Star Paris 93 (which is a minor league football team from the working-class northern suburbs of the capital which I have developed a fascination for, which I cannot really explain except for saying they were founded by Jules Rimet and play in the same strip as Blyth Spartans).
Right- it's 21:50 and I really must get some sleep. Bonne Nuit Tout Le Monde et Au Revoir.