Saturday Night Diary
The Saturday night thoughts of a night out, by Ray..
Written November 2006
Author's note: The plan was to make this a series of day by day diaries in terms of thoughts from the perspective of a fictional character who lives in the city centre and sees things as they are without any holds barred. I might resurrect this idea at some point.
I'm meeting up with a few friends for a meal. I've decided that I want to eat something different tonight, but I have to be careful when choosing places for people to eat. Mainly because it's nice to get something all five of us agree on - and so the choice is a compromise but a good one - and with good company and drinks that's a good chice all round. Of course if anyone actually wants to throw up because they've had too much to drink, well that is their choice and they can stick to it.
I've seen so many people in this city who've just gone over the edge and are having to drag themselves home at 2am and will take a lift off anybody. That scares me as an urbanite. It scares me because they might want you to be the next person to give them a lift, and even if you're not a taxi, there's the temptation to make a few quid on the side to recoup your losses at the expensive bar you've been to. But at the same time you could then be accused of all sorts, especially as there's been fake taxi drivers sexually assualting women. And no matter how drunk they are, or how short their skirt is, that shouldn't give anyone free licence to do what they want. The scariest thing is that you see so many people drunk at two in the morning that you really don't want to go over the edge yourself and realise there's a happier place out there.
I've got changed and ready. The meal's at nine at Felicini's, rather convenient as my flat's only around the corner so I can walk it around there. I don't know what the plan is afterwards, but my friend Sophia said that the five of us going should just wing it and see where it takes us. I quite like that actually - be spontaneous to a point and just head for whatever rather than being so military and having a plan to stick to. Much nicer.
I've just had a text from Carl. It turns out that the traffic is quite intense for him coming into Manchester and as such he may be a bit late. At the moment the M602 is down to one lane, and although he's made it on there fine, he's now in a trailing wake of traffic that can not move anywhere. As it stands he's not hit the Eccles junction as yet so I texted him back to say come off at Eccles and go straight down the A57 instead and he should make it in time without any problems.
Carl rings at the front of the block of flats so I can let him into the car park. It turns out that coming off the motorway was an inspired move, when he hit the roundabout at the end of the M602 there was also an accident which was blocking traffic completely so they just had to wait there till the accident was being cleared. As it turned out the roundabout was accessible from the other roads so he was able to get through in quite quick time. Considering he never breaks the speed limit he did pretty well.
Carl also mentions to me that there might be an increased activity of football fans in town because it's been the big early game between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford, and there might be a bit of trouble looming as Liverpool won 1-0. All this is news to me. I've been out for the whole day and not even switched the television on and so it was good of him to forewarn us. In any case it shouldn't affect where we're going, but I'll give a heads up to the others when we meet up.
Carl and I are outside Felicini's waiting for Sophia, Tom and Ursula to turn up. Sophia only lives in Withington so being able to get a bus up here isn't a problem for her as such but it just takes time to get through all the traffic at Rusholme. Tom's crashing at Ursula's tonight. I've always wondered whether they fancy each other because they're good friends, but I know that they're both genuine people and wouldn't want to harm their friendship either - especially as they grew up and went to University together and were the rocks for each other during their degree time many years ago. As it turns out, Tom lives a bit of a way out of Manchester now (okay, well albeit Hazel Grove, but that's far enough) and Ursula's a bit nearer - she has to mingle with all the current students in Fallowfield.
Although we know Tom could get the night bus back to Hazel Grove, he had an incident a couple of years ago on one of them where someone threw up all over him, and then he almost got involved in a fight through no fault of his own. As such he doesn't trust his safety and would rather crash somewhere and then go home in the morning on the train. As it is, he's taking the train into Piccadilly and then making the short hop to Oxford Road so he won't be far behind now.
We're all here bar Sophia. Ursula thought that they might have headed up on the same bus together but the stop at Fallowfield was rather busy and so there'd be no certainty of getting the same bus together. All of a suddden, up comes Sophia literally sprinting up Oxford Road from under the railway bridge. We yell at her to slow down but she ignores us and heads on up the road at full pelt, arriving with the four of us just as it turns 9pm.
I tell Sophia that she didn't have to run and that although she was a stickler for timekeeping, there's other factors which sometimes prevent you from being there on time. Nonetheless though, I know how much it means to her so I decided not to make a big issue of it. We head into Felicini's and thankfully I had the common sense to reserve a table. I have to say common sense because the whole place was very busy, and we'd been given a nice table by the canal side to relax and eat our food with. We order a bottle of red, a bottle of white and some mineral water for Tom as he doesn't drink anymore.
I have to say Tom is very determined about giving up the alcohol, something that's impressed me no end. I think that incident has shook him more than he realises sometimes and that he's always very careful about what he does and where he goes. I can't blame him, and certainly in our company he knows that he feels safe and comfortable. Conversation is never a problem with him either - he has so many anecdotes from his job working in a secondary school that he has us all in stitches.
Knowing that the portions are massive here, we all decide to plump for a main course and a dessert. While the main course is being cooked, Tom tells us of this week's anecdote that he has for us: namely that one of the fellow teachers is concerned that some of the kids are taking the science experiments a little too seriously and wanting to do anything that causes explosions in class. Sophia reckons that it's from all of them watching Brainiac and seeing how often they destroy things with explosives, and although she sees that it's got the kids into science, she did wonder if that was a dangerous way or not.
We're munching the main courses and having some great conversation. Carl and I both went for the salmon calzone, knowing that he's greedier than me it means that if I don't finish mine that Carl will be able to eat it without any problems. His luck's also in food-wise because Ursula decided to go for a vegetarian calzone and that he'll be able to eat that. Mind you, Ursula enjoys her vegetarian cuisine and so I'm sure that she'll really enjoy it - and she did. Tom and Sophia went for the same thing - a very nice carbonara. Tom's mode of thinking was that if he doesn't get something too heavy for him then he'll be able to really go for the tiramisu for dessert. Now why didn't I think of that? I might be getting quite full after eating this.
We're relaxed with a coffee and a tiramisu (well, for some of us anyway) and the conversation ensues rather nicely. Ursula was telling us of the fact that there was definitely something going down near where she lived because the local pubs were more choc full than they usually are. She didn't know why but at the same time it looked pretty lively with a mix of students and locals. Mind you, on the other hand Sophia always tells us that the locals really hate a lot of the students because of the mess that some of them create and that the local area's just becoming one big rental pad with no sense of community and locality. I guess that's why I moved into the city centre because where I lived, all the houses were being knocked down, and replaced with new builds that were way out of the price range of the locals that lived there in the first place.
Mind you, as my friends tell me, I hit lucky for two reasons with my flat. I got five numbers and the bonus ball on the lottery and used that as a big deposit for the flat, meaning I could realistically afford it without that many problems (although of course there are down sides too - like the temptation to spend money every day!) and as such that gave me a good grounding. I'm also lucky that my friends value me so much, and I value them. We're a good crowd and have stimulating conversation.
We've just paid the bill and head out of Felicini's and go down Oxford Street. Of course what we didn't realise was that the Palace Theatre's play of the moment was finishing and so as such lots of people were there leaving the theatre in a state of euphoria and heading mostly back home. I still don't get this dressing up to the high heavens for the theatre thing though, and never will. Even Sophia, who's probably the most cultured theatrical person that I know, kind of sees that as a reinforcement of the class divide, something that she's now ranting about a little as we head down the street.
She tells us all that in reality that there has to be this divide so that people who want to get into theatre has to get pass this divide and so that it doesn't allow the local idiots in who'd just turn up in their tracksuits. Mind you, that's also generalising, I tell her, and remind her that my upbringing was from a council estate and that I've done okay for myself - and even with the flat I don't consider myself as upper class whatsoever.
We've gone round the corner into Ra!n Bar, mainly because we love the ambience and the fact that at weekends they play some pretty decent tunes. On the way we spot quite a few people in black t-shirts, and quite a few with Tenacious D on the front. Of course I then realise that because the movie's come out with them in, people will have gone up to the local AMC to see it and enjoy the experience. I must make a mental note to see if Ursula fancies it at some point - she's a bit of a rocker on the quiet.
Actually, didn't need to make a mental note. Ursula shouts in my ear that the band, in her view, "kicks some ass" and that she and Tom were thinking of going in the week if I wanted to come along. Sounds good to me, I thought, and something to look forward to. Mind you, that said, I'll have to check the diary. I do have a date with someone I've met at work this week and I don't want anything to clash with that. It's all exciting, and Sophia of all of us knows how excited I am. I don't know why. It's just something I'm feeling inside which is different for me. I'm not used to it and it scares me.
Only downer with Ra!n at the weekends - it can take a while to get served. I've got the pretty usual round in - pint of mild for me, mineral water for Tom, wine for Sophia and Ursula and a lager for Carl. We manage to grab a table by the fire and have a lengthy rant about the fact that there's so many of these reality shows on television with celebrities on them. Tom calls them Z-listers, he used to work at the BBC and met many much more famous and nice personalities than the ones you see on these shows. For Tom as well, he's seen both sides of the famous equation. One of his friends started a band many years ago and they never got the recognition they deserved, and yet some girl band have done a cover of one of their songs and now everyone likes their version instead, not respecting his friend's original handywork.
I ask Tom about the royalty battle that his friend's having with the record company and artists at the moment - and he has some good news for us. He tells us that not only had his friend won the legal battle, but he now stands to make a higher percentage than he first thought. Turns out the artist and record label were only going to pay the small indie label and the original artist a one off payment. Thankfully his friend held out (Tom gave him some good advice after consulting me and Carl - we know our law) and he's reaping the benefits.
Tom says that his friend wants to take me, him and Carl out to lunch one day just as a small thank you. That's such a nice gesture and Carl said to Tom to make sure that his friend knows that he'd be welcome to drop by to see us any time - he's a good guy and now things are on the up for him which is so lovely to see.
We've spent a couple of hours in Ra!n and now it's time to head towards Piccadilly before heading home. Over the years we've worked out that it's easier for people to get on the night buses at Piccadilly before they hit Oxford Road and as such be able to get a seat and relax (well, if that's possible) on the journey home. Although Tom does inevitably worry, he has Ursula with him and I know that in her four inch stilletto heels, no man would dare mess with her. She just so happens to be a green belt in jujitsu (her way of keeping fit) so it's quite nice how she makes sure Tom is well looked after and feels safe. I mean, we all do, but that but I know they have that special bond, so it's good for them both to be honest.
As we walk down Portland Street we pass one of the clubs along there and see the usual Saturday night sights - so many women in outfits that beggar the belief of the winter cold. And staggeringly drunk. One of them tries to flirt with Carl, but he's having none of it. He had a fling once with someone that he met whilst drunk and it turned out to be a big mistake - she ended up trying to dominate him and ended up stalking him when he rightly told her it was all over because she was being such a cow.
I have noticed something else though: Sophia and Carl are looking at me with a worried expression on their faces. They ask me if I'm okay, and I tell them that in reality I'm not, and ask if Sophia wants to crash on the sofa at my place tonight. I need someone to talk to and it'll be good to get some balance in the equation. I don't know what's come over me but I just feel so alone, so blanked by the whole midnight in Manchester experience at the moment. I don't feel like it's the place I grew up in. There's too many drunk people with broken bottles wanting to cause a fight and an argument - and there's too little being done about it. I'm just so thankful my flat isn't on the ground floor to be honest.
We've got to Piccadilly and make sure that Tom and Ursula get on their bus home. Tom sits by the window, staring into space, and Ursula next to him, shielding him as she often does. We see a few drunken idiots around Piccadilly using those spare urinals that they bring out, and completely missing, which has to be rather embarrassing to say the least. However some of them try to get on the night bus as it sets off, but the driver has other ideas and shoots off before letting them on. Cue a torrent of abuse from the drunken hoards, so we make out exit quickly and start walking back down Portland Street.
We spot Tom and Ursula's bus as it heads down the road stuck at traffic lights. Tom just looks so vulnerable, I hope he's going to be okay tonight. I can tell that although he's on a high from his friend's legal stuff being sorted out, he feels a little alone and I know that Ursula and him will be talking most of the night to each other and just being the good friends that they are. However, Ursula told me earlier tonight that she really wanted to have sex with him just to relieve the tension and whether I thought it was a good idea. I told her that she shouldn't, because she shouldn't take advantage of his good nature, and maybe just give him a long hug to reassure him that stuff's going to be okay.
I get a text as I'm on the loo. It's from Ursula. Carl, Sophia and I are back at the flat having a well earned coffee. She tells me that she and Tom have just held each other and that he cried a lot, saying how much he felt upset. It told me all I needed to know - that she listened to me and made the right decision. Tom's apparently now asleep soundly and Ursula was going to bed, but she wanted to let me know because I know that she values my opinion - especially where Tom is concerned.
The three of us have a coffee and then head to sleep. I'm in my bed, Carl's in the spare bed (even though he offered Sophia it she politely refused, as she said that it had been planned and he should have first pick) and Sophia's nice and comfortable on the sofa. All of a sudden we hear a crash of glass in the background. It's the fire alarm. Turns out that someone drunk has got into the building and smashed the main alarm and so it's ringing in our ears as we escape the building in our nightwear.
We're allowed back in and so we can sleep. However the drunken girl from before has spotted Carl and wants to have it out with him. Sensibly he walks off and doesn't say a word. She tries to break ranks but our big burly security guards from the flats are having none of it and tell her either to get a taxi home or to sober up. I wouldn't want to be doing one of their jobs for love or money to be honest.
And so endeth the day. It feels longer than it did tonight, but that's because despite us having good conversation and a meal etc, there's some personal stuff going on for us, and it feels a little in a state of flux at the moment. I'l just have to see what tomorrow and the week will bring..