Do The Bots Have No Sense Of Humour? Free The Manchester One!

Well it had to happen sometime, didn’t it? I mean I must have been on Facebook, what? Ten years maybe?

I woke up this morning to discover I’d been slung into Facebook jail for twenty-four hours without parole, unable to post or comment or like anything.

Why? I was informed that it was for a comment in reply to a friend’s joke post making a request.

I can’t even remember which friend it was now, nor exactly what his/her post was, but it was done with humour and went something like: ‘Has anyone got any (something)? Asking for a friend’.

So I’d commented ‘Has anyone got any crack cocaine? Asking for my Nanna’.

It seemed that the Facebook Police really thought that I was trying to procure some crack cocaine for my Nanna. I was given the right to appeal and so I did – under their criteria that Facebook didn’t understand the context of my comment. There was no place that I could add that, not only was I joking, my Nanna had been dead for 31 years. And no, it wasn’t by overdose.

I failed my appeal in five minutes flat. I wish that our justice system was that fast.

They also cited a previous comment of mine from back in January. It was in a Jack the Ripper group. I’m in some groups you wouldn’t believe. My wife Jen says “You know, on paper, you sound a right boring bastard.” 😂

Anyway, this was a Ripper group, and a researcher was trying to access records that had been denied him on the grounds of the Official Secrets Act. So all I’d commented was: ‘They’d let you have them but then they’d have to kill you and hide the body. That’s how Jack the Ripper started out’.

It now appeared that the Facebook Police believed that I was 1, trying to score some crack cocaine and 2, inciting a murder.

Not only do they not have a sense of humour, I don’t think I’ll ever be free again.

I wonder now why some of my earlier posts haven’t been flagged. Like the Jenisms my wife comes out with. I posted one once when she had a heavy cold, and wanted me to get some menthol crystals to help with her breathing, but instead asked “Will you go over to the chemist and get me some crystal meths.” Up here on Langley there very well could be chemists that sell that kind of thing.

But anyway, for future reference, I’ve now learnt that the Facebook Police allow crystal meths but not crack cocaine. Life’s a learning curve.

Free the Manchester One.

The Generational Shift

I’d been in Leeds for three nights. Catching a train, I was leaving behind a patchwork of blue sky and white cloud. The people I was destined to meet were warning me about the typical Manchester weather that lay in wait for me.

Sitting there, seeing the world rapidly passing by my window, it was hard to fathom. After all, Leeds isn’t that far away from Manchester, is it? They’re both northern cities.

It was a concern too, for the people I was to meet were fellow Prestwich Heys fans at a home game for us, and a lot of rain normally meant that the game would be off due to a waterlogged pitch.

I was meeting my wife and children there, too, for our football games are a family affair. I sent a text to Jen, enquiring about the state of weather, and her discouraging reply prompted my own: I’m in light trainers, bring my boots with you.

They’re walking boots, I should add, not football boots. God forbid that I was intending to play!

We hit the rain just before Stalybridge, and the skies got darker and the deluge heavier the closer I got to Manchester, a familiar, dispiriting dark pall hanging over the place I call home.

We arrived and I donned a waterproof jacket before alighting the train. Immediately on leaving Piccadilly Station I stepped into a large puddle, almost strategically placed to snag the unwary. I’d been in Manchester thirty seconds and my foot was soaked. It truly felt like home.

We have one large golfing umbrella which Jen was going to bring with her, and now back on home turf I planned to get another so all four of us would be covered. That’s if the game went ahead.

The game will go ahead, was the welcome comment added to our supporters’ messenger group. With the new drainage the pitch is holding up well.

With time on my side I took brief shelter in a Starbucks close to Piccadilly, sitting with my latte at a bar situated against the large front window of the shop, perfect to watch this wet world go briefly by.

And that world going by appeared serenely oblivious to the weather we were experiencing. Girls in short skirts and crop tops, guys in shirts and summer shorts, hailing each other and hopping between bars. I watched them as I drank.

The generational shift. Sometimes I think I’m still cool, but I’m not. I’m getting old. This world is yours. This wonderful, swarming, metropolis is yours. And you won’t realise it until you are sat here one day, like me, maybe disapproving, maybe in relief, passing the baton on yourselves.

I could wile away the time here, people watching, being all philosophical and a touch fatalistic, but I had somewhere to be. I calculated what time I’d need to leave to make the match, finished my drink and set off. The heavy rain had thankfully subsided into a light drizzle, and, as if the city wasn’t wet enough, I paused briefly to watch the fountains in the grassless Gardens.

Sports Direct. That’s where I’d get my umbrella from. It was just five minutes away so I headed in the direction of the store. Again oblivious to the current conditions, I encountered along the way a man with bleached blonde hair and high heels, further enhanced by blue cut-off denim shorts and a black net stocking top that showed off his nipple piercings, singing loudly “I know he loves me . . . “

Yep. I was back in Manchester.

I got my umbrella and I got the bus, meeting the family in time to make the match with half an hour to spare. We filed through the turnstile, the kids talking football and my wife talking catch-up.

It was great, I thought, after being away for a few days, to return to a place I love doing what I love with the people I love.

In the midst of this sentimental reverie, standing pitch side, the clouds opened up again. But my umbrella didn’t.

No wonder those bastards wouldn’t let me try it by opening it up in the shop! Bad luck my arse!

But it couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm. The match started and we cheered on our team. The pitch was perfect and so was the moment, the one working umbrella covering our children and my son’s friend. And once more I thought of the generational shift, of these young supporters, just beginning, perhaps, a lifelong association. The lifeblood and the future of this, our adopted club.

Time For Truth, Truth In Time

I was reading Stephen King’s Joyland, which I’d picked up in a charity shop, over my morning coffee when I encountered the following line:

When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction

Is this fact or fiction, so to speak? This line was unearthed in a work of fiction. And, to further blur the lines, truth can be found in fiction and fiction hidden in truth. But what about what it refers to, in regards to history? Our own history?

Revisionism. I’ve known people alter the facts to suit and justify their own particular narrative. Events recounted that don’t quite match up with our own recollection of things. I guess we all know someone like that.

But what about me? Do I ‘write’ fiction about my past?

I think I’m mostly the opposite. At the time, wherever along my timeline that ‘time’ was, I’d sometimes put a spin on things. Make myself appear more favourable and, forever the storyteller, embellish things for entertainment purposes, playing to the audience.

And of course obscure things I’d prefer not see the light of day. We’re all human and life is a learning curve.

Now, further down the line and removed by years and even decades, I recount how things really were back then from my own perspective (and it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?), with an insight I didn’t possess at the time.

Maybe age brings with it, along with wisdom, a certain candour. A candour maybe recognised by encountering an alternate version of truth in the midst of a work of fiction.

Hopefully Not Hung Out To Dry

So, we are well into the Euros. A year late because of Covid. Everything is late because of Covid. But it’s an ideal boon for a country needing lifting-because of Covid.

But anyway, that’s enough of the ‘C’ word.

I walked the dog yesterday and saw some Langley washing lines put to good use.

And then we returned home to watch England beat Germany, our long-time nemesis and hoodoo team. (I was wearing a Sweden shirt at the time, but I’m peculiar like that.)

And so-we are still in it. Our therapy continues.

Keep the washing lines clear of washing! Keep the flags flying!

A beleaguered nation needs it.

Standing Proud In Resilient Red

On this day in 1996, around 9.20 in the morning, a 3,330 lbs device was detonated in the heart of Manchester, the biggest bomb explosion in Britain since the Second World War.

While it devastated the city centre and injured 200, with an estimated 75,000 people present at the time it was both incredible and a miracle that nobody was killed. That was down to the bravery and rapid response of the emergency services, shop management teams and security guards who, acting on a coded warning from the IRA, had just an hour to evacuate everyone while stopping all transport heading into the city.

The last shoppers and staff were still running for their lives when the bomb went off.

I was working that morning on the outskirts of the centre, and in those days before mobile phones or internet, had no idea of the drama unfolding. I remember hearing the explosion and all conversation suddenly ceasing as we all looked at each other before heading to the windows to see the pall of smoke rising above the familiar landscape. Everyone of us knew people working in or visiting our city centre that morning, and in our silence were turning unspeakable fears around in our heads.

It wasn’t the first time, and God knows we now know it wasn’t to be the last, that our home city would suffer this way. But it could have been worse, much worse, the death toll could have been horrific.

And Manchester did what Manchester always does-it came back. It rebuilt. It regenerated.

Despite all of that devastation, the Phoenix of the modern Manchester that we know today arose from the ashes of that morning.

And, as a reminder to me whenever I see it, nothing stands more as a symbol of Mancunian strength, of Mancunian resilience, than that surviving red post box that can still be seen there today.

Rosemary’s Bay Bees

What a beautiful day it was today.

In fact, do you know what kind of day it was today? It was a Rosemary’s Baby and Fosters kind of day today.

So much so that I felt that I had to share with everyone on Facebook just how I’d passed the afternoon.

Why have you poured Fosters into a glass?! my daughter Courtney commented.

Because the glass wouldn’t fit into the can, I replied.

Obvious, isn’t it?

One pay-off to be made for the good weather at this time of year is that we have to share it with others. Other creatures, that is. A few days ago I noticed some bees flying around the end of the guttering at the front of our house, guttering that is close to both Courtney’s bedroom window and also her sister Millie’s bedroom window. Courtney and Millie are not the most bug-friendly girls you’re ever likely to meet.

When one of the bees turned up in our living room today I thought, while catching it to release outside, I’d take the opportunity to photograph it in an effort to identify the species. As it dropped onto the window ledge, I placed a glass over it (yes, the Fosters glass) and took a snap of it.

That’s right-the bee was doing what bees do and wouldn’t keep still, flying to the top of the glass. Eventually though, I got a close up.

From this, and from what I’d read when scientifically googling bee nests in gutters I deduced that the bees were most likely to be Tree Bumblebees. Eat your heart out Attenborough.

(Though don’t ask where the tree comes into play.)

And from what I’ve learnt I’ve decided not to take any action and leave them bee (😀) as it’s likely that they will leave the nest by the end of July anyway.

That’s only two months away. Eight weeks. Ish.

You can imagine how thrilled my daughters are by this decision.

Just wait until that sun is out again tomorrow, and the temperature rises, and how those windows should be opened to admit some fresh air.

I’m thinking now that tomorrow could be a Cool Hand Luke in the sweatbox kind of day.