It was late morning when I finally got going, having fiddled around at home so much I wondered if I really wanted to go at all. Up north that is. Of course I did - my spirit of adventure and sense of curiosity were just a bit sluggish on Thursday morning. The hardest bit of any journey I think is actually getting in the car and turning out of the drive.
Once on the road, on my own, on my own mini-break, euphoria set in. I was off, unencumbered, the world for 24 hours at least was my own personal oyster. No husband. No dogs. No hens. No garden. No blasted WI. No commitments. Don't get me wrong I love 'em all - it's just sometimes a gal needs time to breathe. Freeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Here are my snapshots:
The hills and fields of Wales slip away as I head north. Lanes become roads and roads become motorways. Traffic increases as I enter the suburbs and the once familiar landscape of south Manchester. I don't know why I have a feeling that everything will be different because I have not been here for a while. Things are essentially still the same.
John Lewis did not disappoint. How sad that what used to be (almost) my corner shop is now a treat. I stand and drool in front of the towel display. I touch and stroke fabrics. I try on extremely impractical clothes which mostly make me look like an overstuffed cushion or an old squishy sofa. I am amazed by all the 'stuff' - like a monkey with a piece of glass. The choice of 'stuff' is overwhelming and faced with such an array and the need for some credit card action, I eventually buy a pair of shoes and 3 lanterns for the nearly-finished 'hovel'.
My friend J, head of things artistic at a college in south Manchester, has invited me to her students' end of year show. It is most, most impressive. The work is technically accomplished and mature. Students are showing parents their displays and those parents are bursting with pride. The College has a new building which is also on display. It apparently cost £20 million and is superbly equipped; suites with banks of computers, a theatre, recording studios, dance studio, practice rooms and a library on the top floor with views across the city to the Pennines beyond. I do wonder how those of us educated in medieval gatehouses or Victorian mansions using only pen and paper ever made our way in the world.
After the exhibition when the last student, high on achievement, has been shooed out with its proud parent, and the doors locked we go off for a meal and a well deserved glass of wine. We go to Albert's - a big old Didsbury pub once known as the Barleycorn and now reincarnated as a hip and trendy eatery. Its insides have been gutted; lounge bars, snugs and vaults replaced by a vast open space filled with tables and chairs and lots of ambient light and sound. It's pretty busy too - those tables are mostly full inside and out. We opt to eat indoors. The food is good and arrives quickly. The wine is chilled and welcome. I notice that on our table at least the iPhone is very much in evidence. (They have been placed reverently on the table by their owners who caress them periodically.) It is very obviously the object de nos jours. There is much talk of Apps. I keep my crap-rubbish phone out of sight and secretly lust after a little Apple beauty. One of our number has an iPad which he ostentatiously flaunts, knowing, just knowing, that we all want one not-so-secretly. It is passed round the table for us, the Pad-less, to admire. I am reminded of back in the 80s how the early mobile phones - as big and heavy as car batteries - were also paraded as conspicuously; objects of one-up-manship.
I sleep in J's attic room, looking up at the stars through the skylight before I drop off. The night is not quiet and still. The traffic buzzes in the distance, a police car wails and there's one hell of a good party going on a couple of streets away.
The following morning after coffee and toast I take a nostalgic mooch around our old neighbourhood, resisting the temptation to knock on doors and do some catching up. I am a tad nostalgic for those good old days, sunny afternoons which won't come round again - especially now that Heaton Moor looks so much brighter and vibrant than when I arrived fresh from the country in 1971.
However, the future now calls and I have an appointment in the YFC marquee on the Shropshire County Showground in Shrewsbury. I must don my badge and judge class YF2 - the best mounted photograph of the County Chairman in Action. I hope I made the right choices - that phrase 'the judge's decision is final' has a wonderfully authoritative ring to it don't you think.
Did anyone click on my medieval link above? I knew I was going to see a picture of part of my old school but was quite surprised to see my form room when I was in VI b2 - looking considerably less shabby than it did when I was there. In retrospect I guess it was something of a privilege to be educated in such a quirky and historic building. I wonder if the winding stairway still pongs of the old lost property box which was always stuffed with grubby gym kit? I wonder if it found a buyer.