There’s a legend that it always rains in Manchester. The city didn’t disappoint. My umbrella was the most useful item I had with me. I travelled up on the train and, for once, it was a blissful journey. There were no loud mobile phone conversations or tinny headphone reverberations, just a peaceful journey through the dramatic Peak District in low wintery sunlight.
I have an amazing capacity for getting lost and this time I was to excel myself. I managed to get lost the minute I arrived in Manchester Piccadilly railway station. I needed the loo and somehow managed to circle the station five times following the signs but always somehow missing the destination. I asked a cleaner in the end.
The city was beautiful and as usual filled me with awe at the grand architecture and historical oddities which still remain so prevalent in the city. Paul, knowing me well by now, had advised me to pace myself and not to overexert. I’m sure he also knew that I wouldn’t listen.
I trailed round back streets, avoiding the Christmas-screaming large shops with their glitter, bad music and twinkling lights, and found the things I like. I eventually staggered back to the hotel carrying my purchases and rubbed the newly formed blisters that I’d acquired.
I’ve gained the ability to haggle, thanks to emulating Paul, and managed to knock £40 off a suit and tie-pin. I’m surprised how simple it is and regret not doing it before in my life. I came away with a suit which is definitely fit for a Queen, whether regal or just plain queenly camp. It’s made by Hardy Amies, the Queen of England’s dress maker, and is a sight to behold. Its classic three-piece from the late 1950s in dark green tweedy wool. It fits perfectly, although I could perhaps do with removing a rib or two to make breathing easier in the waistcoat. It makes my torso look very svelte though.
I flopped down, exhausted, on the bed in the hotel which had a lift like one from a black and white film. I actually went up to the top floor in the lift, a caged affair with brass buttons, just to play. My room was actually on the first floor but it was worth the pointless journey.
I got lost looking for the theatre but managed to interpret the map I’d printed. I’m not good with maps. Their intricate folding methods vex me and I tend to get them the wrong way up. I then got lost looking for the art gallery and asked a man sitting on some steps. Maybe the two empty cider bottles by his side should have alerted me to the fact that his directions were less than reliable, if not the slurring of his words and blank eyed stare. I gave him a cigarette for his trouble anyway.
I was lost again and had strayed fatally off the map. Luckily the people of Manchester seemed happy to give directions. I asked a young couple who pointed and happily explained. I got lost again and an elderly man helped. I walked round the gallery (tentatively on my blisters) and then got lost looking for the theatre. I asked a car park attendant. I saw the play, which was amazing, and had sensibly memorised the route from the theatre to the hotel. My memory failed though. It was now dark, blowing a gale and there was torrential rain. Everything looked different and my Google map was getting soggy. I asked a postal worker who was sheltering in a doorway.
I got lost again (his directions were confusing and I was momentarily distracted by an interesting shop window). I asked a woman in a raincoat. Finally I reached the hotel and felt like I’d completed a marathon. I think my ineptitude at finding my way around had added an hour of walking and the impressive gallery and play had left me cultured out. I needed to collapse into bed.
I walked along the corridor and tried my key in the hotel door. It didn’t fir. Squinting, as vanity precludes wearing my glasses all the time, I realised that I’d taken a wrong turn. I was actually lost in the hotel too now. This had to be a record.
Maybe now I have a suit fit for royalty I need a maid of some kind, if not a Sherpa, to navigate me. I may put out an advert.