Wednesday 27 August
A visit from Barton and his fiancé Marny – soon returning to North West territories even more remote, and possibly wilder than Wigan – do well to calm me before my interview for the controversial course of study I wish to partake of. While many Britons still feel the foreigner is doing little more than feigning ignorance of God’s own Queen’s English, I believe the savage requires some gentle persuasion towards the universal tongue, especially if he will cough up some shiny stones in exchange for native tuition. And so it is relief that after an improvised lesson to my equally embarrassed future classmates I gain a starting spot on the intensive TMPUEBN (Teaching Manners to People Unfortunate Enough to be Born Non-British) Certificate beginning late September.
Saturday 23 August
The annual ‘Modesty’ festival passes just outside the warehouse so I have no excuse not to view the outrageously tame floats and marchers who pass by, embracing the mute applause, paranoid glances and below-the-knee miniature flag waving of the heavily-disguised crowd (is that not Patty Persil, my first Manchester love, laughing heartily beneath an unconvincing beard?) The steps of my building are populated by a rum tribe of teenage girls, all holding aloft their modern little lithograph machines while liberally-greased, gripping it hard, I fire mine off at anyone worth blackmailing. Sadly it proves to be the Mayor in suspension belt and southbound platform shoes, not Byron Badger; nor could my nemesis do a better Queen Vic than Dempson Makepeace, plastered with slap but unmistakably himself, waving feyly from a clip-clopping carriage. I divert my gaze, blush for England and pretend to play with my telescopic tool as the Fire Brigade parades past in trousers a full half-inch above the ankle. It seems to do the job for Doris and Danielle, both of whom ‘Hoorah!’ with delight until their false moustaches fall off. Meanwhile the entrance to the warehouse itself is looking scruffier than during Scarface Jones and Shifty McQuiggins’ most recent sit down protest (‘less soap, more beans’ I think it was) as half-a-dozen strangers smoke black cigars and heavy shag upon the sacred stone.
It is time for some air. Or at least that is the old excuse. I crane my neck to see what remains of the cavalcade – Mad Richard and his snarling pack of pint-sized doggy war veterans – but, I must confess, I’m more-than-half looking for Sally Pepper who less-than-half-promised to join me here. With the efficiency we expect with a sigh from modern society, the bin men have soon moved in to clear up the abandoned facial hair, lippy and ripped military uniforms that are all that remain of the day. I troop up to the flat alone and discouraged and sit on the roof with a glass of wine, hoping the street cleaners can somehow summon Sally’s tidy figure. Then suddenly, with silent violence I am reaching for my rod. Down below: a straggler – clearly drunk I recognize him as a ‘hooray horseman’ of the Peterloo type. He barely notices as I fish a flowing blonde wig from atop his port-red dome. And all-at-once I have the prop required to enter Byron’s citadel of chaos.