Thursday 14 February

On the way to the Badger's Skull and Large Intestine I notice several well-dressed single ladies crossing my mucky path, showing knee in February, something that cannot simply be attributed to the glorious sunshine that has hit Manchester this past week ('gentle global toasting' they call it). Naturally I peak the old eyes above the 'tach where they've been resting and give the smile gland some exercise (and unselfishly with it – such actions leave wrinkles these days) but instead of a shy sucking and biting of shapely lips, or even politely dismissive eye contact, I get nothing but bubbling bile and raw hatred in return. As I wait for the lights to change one of their number crosses a red candle and swears at a taxi carriage when its driver (male) dares to harangue her. It takes me almost to Bateman's leer to realize that these unfortunates must have been the victims of attempted knife crime, aborted cannibalism or, worse, dates that have ended in massive anticlimax. A glance at the calendar goes on to suggest that it is less of a coincidence and more of a sign that I have today been fitted with a shiny new mailbox and then given the wrong key by Dave Gorman, the caretaker. When a visiting Howler places a slab of hand into metalwork as thin and sharp as Sweeny Todd's razors he is surely risking his piano-playing days, not to mention other pleasures, for nothing. I will be surprised if there is a hint of post there beyond the latest correspondence from the Whig or Tory 'youthful city centre candidate' (pictured planting a tree wearing denim) and a hot-off-the-press menu from Urbane Waiter (a service that can deliver you food from any restaurant in any part of town at any time of night, all for the price of a minced-up thoroughbred). I will be surprised when there are no cards but those they give away for free; surprised but, crucially, not disappointed. The fates will not laugh long. Yet equally, eventually, a Batson has to love - something unavailable in any size at any price in Percy's.

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