Any Clown Can Win

I decided to tip the barista off. “There’s some right clowns in here today.”

Passing me my coffee in a takeaway cup, she looked puzzled, and so I inclined my head towards the entrance to this Costa coffee shop.

Her face dropped. “Oh no. Clowns! That’s my biggest fear in the whole world. Then, tentatively: “Maybe they won’t come in.”

They came in.

She stood there as they began to approach, preparing herself, stealing herself, to serve with a smile.

“They’re gonna be squirting water in your face from flowers in their lapels and everything,” I helpfully said. “Then stomping out in their size fifteen feet.”

“Don’t. I won’t be able to cope.”

“You’re going to go viral. Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, the works.”

I wished her good luck and found myself a table. (Yes, I know I had a takeaway cup but it’s a peculiarity I’ve inherited from my wife.)

Later, as the barista was cleaning a table, I asked her what the score was with the three clowns and I learned that they weren’t actually clowns.

“What, so they weren’t on their way to a clown convention then?” I asked.

“No, I’m not sure what they said now, they were either out last night or they’re on their way out from here today.”

“What, around town you mean? Like that?”

“Yes,” she laughed.

I stroked my chin, taking one of them off. “‘Out with the lads tonight. Hmm . . . what shall I wear?” Then: “NOT THAT!”

You’ve got to love Manchester, haven’t you? You see it all. Hen parties, stag dos, clowns, the lot.

Before I left I showed her a photograph that I’d just saved onto my phone from Facebook. “Is this what you in the business call a drive through?”

Later that day it was my son’s football team’s end of season presentation. Along with his regular team member trophy he also won Most Improved Player Of The Season. Then it was my turn!

I contribute to the club by taking action photographs of the players along with submitting match reports, recording Man of the Match awards etc.

Imagine my surprise when I was awarded ‘Reporter of the Year.’

To be honest, I don’t think there was anyone else in the running but it was nice to be recognised. On the way out of the building, James and I compared trophies.

“Is Reporter of the Year even a thing?” he asked me.

I gave him a bit of advice. “When you get home from here, Google ‘Watergate’.”

Sleep Is Overrated Anyway.

I can go asleep like *that*

(Visualise me clicking my fingers.)

Even in a strange bed, I have no problem. But if something wakes me once I’ve been asleep I find it difficult to get back off again. Which doesn’t work well with my wife liking to sleep with the window open, especially at this time of year. In the early hours of the morning someone was talking outside of our house before getting into a taxi. And that, my friends, was that.

Awake at 2.45am and immediately knowing that I was going to struggle, I got up at gone three, that wonderful blue hour where reality shifts into something else.

And that something else set the tone for the rest of the day.

When I first went downstairs my dog Bryn did his best to keep me company.

But he soon gave up the struggle.

Looking for positives, being up early gave me the opportunity to listen to the new Kula Shaker double-album that had dropped at midnight while I was still spending my brief sojourn in the underworld.

Still happily existing outside of the mainstream, there is a song on it called The Gingerbread Man.

And if you thought that was surreal enough, things turned even more so when I called into the local McDonald’s for a coffee.

Approaching the touchscreen order point, I was greeted with:

Start order to get deliciousness

Start order to get deliciousness. It sounded like one of those sentences that’s been passed several times through Google Translate but still doesn’t quite hit the mark.

I ordered my coffee (deliciousness), picked my coffee (deliciousness) and sat down. It was only after finishing my coffee (I’ll spare you) and walking towards the exit that I spotted the old man. He was sat at table, head down, scribbling away on a notepad. Around his neck he wore a cardboard sign which read:

Old man for sale. Make me an offer.

I know a woman who works in the restaurant who just happened to be stood by the door and so I enquired about him.

Oh him. He comes in most mornings, writing in his notebooks.”

Of course, as a writer, I was curious. Curious about his subject. Curious about that sign that hung ignominiously around his neck. Or maybe it was hanging there as an invitation to approach and start a conversation.

But in the end I decided not to interrupt him. He seemed in full flow, and when you’re hot you’re hot.

And perhaps I’d baulked because I feared that I’d caught a glimpse of myself, still the writer, slipped into eccentricity, two decades in the future.

Or maybe even just five years, depending on how much sleep I get.

The Cinderella Hours

I was casually, idly, scrolling through a community page on Facebook last night when a short comment tickled me. It doesn’t take much.

Daniel had, unbelievably, posted:

Disabled parking should only be valid during business hours 9 to 5 Monday to Friday.

I cannot see any reason why people with genuine disabilities would be out beyond these times.

To which Jennifer replied:

We’re disabled, Daniel, we’re not werewolves.

Perhaps Daniel thinks that the Blue Badge should be replaced by a silver one.

Sign Of The Times

I was on a bus, coming from Manchester, which arrived at the bus station of my hometown of Middleton. A woman got on it with her friend and two young children in tow, saying that they were going to Langley which is, at the most, a ten minute journey.

Watching her friend shepherding the children to take their seats, she used her card to pay and then joined them. At that point she studied her ticket and within seconds had marched back to the front of the bus, kicking off with the driver.

“Sixteen pounds and forty-four pence! For two adults and two children? Going to Langley? That’s a piss take, an absolute piss take! Sixteen forty-four?!”

The driver looked at her ticket and then explained that the 16.44 was actually the time at which she’d bought the ticket.

I really wish that she’d have caught the last bus at 23.59.

Celebrating The Big Five-O #3: Edinburgh

After my last two posts recounting my Liverpool jaunt on the cusp of my fiftieth birthday, I’d intended to do this final, third post concerning my follow-up trip to the Scottish capital. But (how dare it), life got in the way!

I wanted the trilogy of Big Five-O posts shared before the turn of this year, and so to meet that deadline I’ve decided to do the final one this way: a pictorial guide to my three night stay. It obviously won’t contain the usual eccentric conversations that seem to plague me wherever I go, but at least it will give you a little flavour of my time there.

My first night on the Royal Mile, looking all Christmassy. The lights draw you up towards the castle.

Dramatic, eh?
Its ghosts shut away behind those walls.

From the cold and the bustle, I took some welcome respite inside St.Giles’ Cathedral, movingly regaled by a practising choir.

The castle was that impressive I decided to do it again, the next day, in daylight. Not because of ghosts or anything . . .

Down the barrel of a gun
From the inside out

I might have been in Scotland, but I turned down the chance to hold a Golden Eagle to instead give my change to an American busker who was covering the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman.

Then, after that bird of prey, I saw another Scottish symbol.

Not sure what he was playing, but it wasn’t the Stones.

I hope he made it back.

I had a spare twenty minutes so I thought about nipping in here to become a wizard.

On one of the Christmas market stalls:

Obviously I had no money left after that busker.

When I’d been up at Edinburgh Castle I’d spotted this extinct volcano, known as Arthur’s Seat, in the distance, and decided the next morning that I’d climb it. Like you do.

Problem was, Storm Barra was forecast to hit that very day. What could possibly go wrong?

So I decided to take another path. In a storm. How Radical is that?

It wasn’t too bad when I set out. A little breezy. It got breezier as time went on.

The cap was swapped for a woolly hat. The zip of my waterproof coat went higher as I did. The view was worth it, though.

Any which way but down.

I spent twenty minutes or so up there, offering to take a few photographs of couples and groups who’d likewise risked the weather.

There was a larger group, a Spanish class, who made the summit a little after I did. I offered to take a photograph of them all for posterity. One of the students was a girl with an expensive looking camera around her neck. I’m not sure exactly what was being said between her and the teacher, but she seemed very reluctant to hand her camera over to me.

Eventually she did do, motioning me to ensure the strap was around my neck as we took position on the summit edge. “Back a bit . . . “

Of course, the damn thing wouldn’t work, or I wouldn’t. After a couple of attempts, handing the coveted camera back and forth, the teacher handed me his phone instead. “These I can work!” I said. Thankfully it did.

The clay-coloured rain pools at the top.

With the weather worsening, my eyes streaming in the wind, I decided to begin my descent. After around ten minutes I noticed that corvids were gathered on both sides of me, maybe amazed at my foolhardiness.

Were they a bad omen? Nah, they might be carrion crows but I’m Jackdaw, don’t forget. I see my feathered totems wherever I go.

Shit! I’m outta here!!

I made it down okay, which you know, because, well, this post that’s been written . . .

(Oh yes – I stopped by the ruin of St.Anthony’s Chapel along the way.)

I even had time to visit Easter Road, home of Scottish football club Hibernian, which I’d spotted from my vantage point.

And that was about it, my friends. A brief summary of my stay in Edinburgh. There was more to it, of course, but hampered by both space and time I’ve given you the bare bones.

Heading back to the Royal Mile from Easter Road the storm finally unleashed some of its fury and I had to make my way through a snowstorm. I think I’d got my timing spot on.

I dried out in a Starbucks, passing the time writing a poem and talking to a couple from Yorkshire. I also kept an eye on travel disruption updates and was able to journey home the next day.

Fifty. Let’s do it all again.

Yes, it’s Manchester, alright.