A Day Out (Clutching At Straws)

I been there.
I been there.

This was not, technically, A Day Out, not in the tradition of this year’s Museum Trips to That London or the Annual Birthday Week Visit to the Lakes, but after the last couple of days I’ll take anything I can get. Trains were involved, I visited somewhere I haven’t been in years and I got myself out of this pokey little flat for the first time since work on Wednesday, so as far as I am concerned, it counts.

Since reporting on my sore throat the other day, I have actually been proper unwell. Two days of going into work, unable to speak because of how painful it was for my throat, restricted to mind-numbingly repetitive, essential but wearying back office housekeeping tasks, were bad enough but Wednesday night was when the sore throat started to develop into a wet cough and from there into industrial-scale runny nose. In the interests of decency, I will not detail how many hankies now need wringing out.

Put on top of this that Tuesday night was one of those nights where, having failed to tire the mind during the day, it retaliated by refusing to switch off. If I did sleep more than a couple of minutes at a time, it wasn’t before 4.15am.

So that put paid to going into work for the last couple of days, especially Friday when I was so woolly-headed, I couldn’t keep my mind on anything for more than a few minutes and was a positive danger to shipping.

But I had to go out on Saturday. I’d returned home Wednesday night to one of those familiar cards from Royal Mail, informing me they’d tried to deliver my latest modest capture of Eagles through eBay and inviting me to collect it from the Sorting Office. Only it wasn’t the familiar address at Green Lane in Stockport, this time it was in Wilmslow.

Ok, it’s not that far and it’s not that inconvenient to reach, but if they’d shut the Stockport one down for some reason, having to go there every time would be a major bugger.

Still, it’s a nice enough place and I used to know it well over many years, from visits and stuff and having an old friend that lived there, though I’ve had no contact with her in nearly twenty years now, so I could make a bit of a trip out of it, look round the place, have something to eat. You know where my instincts take me in such circumstances, but unfortunately Wilmslow had nothing so downmarket as a Pizza Hut.

Never mind, I would improvise, and as you know me as a fellow of almost infinite resource (except when it comes to money and sexual allure), I would find a way. If nothing else, I could always come back to Stockport.

Besides, the worst was over. Friday had been a quite crappy day in all respects, and I’d shut down fairly early: laptop off, tablets taken, lights out, head down and wondering what sort of night I was going to have, when I could feel everything start to go clear in my head. The worst was over: all I had left was physical symptoms that would fade away in their own time.

I even put the light back on, fired up the laptop and found myself adding a few paragraphs to the novel, although only a few before real, honest-to-goodness tiredness overwhelmed me. I slept properly.

I was still snuffly, but the cough wasn’t anything like so bad (mind you, my stomach muscles have been wracked enough that it hurts them more than my throat.) Though my physical urge to get up and go was a bit lacking, I pushed myself into a healthy and cleansing shower and out into a crisp but sunny morning. Deadlines are good for one thing at least.

There was no need to rush that much, and even less capability for it, as I was moving somewhat like a brontosaurus who was past its best days. Bus to Stockport, Free Bus to the Railway Station, Day Return (under a fiver) and immediately onto a three quarter empty train for Crewe.

I’ve never before gotten off (or on) at Wilmslow Station, but I knew its whereabouts and was pretty confident I’d measured the inadequate map of the Sorting Office onto its streets. The Town Centre was immediately familiar, though I’d have been pushed to find where Linda and Ray’s house used to be, even if I could summon up the energy to walk there.

Thankfully, I didn’t leave it too long before asking for directions to the Sorting Office. A pleasantly blonde and healthy-looking blonde lady in boots and a sleeveless red quilted jacket told me I was nowhere near, but directed me simply down the pedestrianised street, bear left at the pedestrian crossing. I reset off.

It was a busy mid-morning and Wilmslow was full of Wilmslowites. I was as out of place as a Hottentot at a formal dinner, simply from the lack of value of my clothes. To be truthful, I’ve never really been ‘in’ place in Wilmslow, and not all of it was down to the lifelong lack of self-confidence that I’ve mostly managed to dispense with this last decade. I worked in a very respectable middle-class profession for thirty years, lived a respectable middle-class life, but I was born and brought up in a working-class street, at a working-class school, and whilst there were many ways in which I didn’t fit into that environment, and I don’t share much of its ways, it’s never left me and I’ve rarely felt truly comfortable, underneath, in the environment my parents aspired to for me.

Wilmslow-ladies, with their polished and powdered faces, their make-up imacculate, their clothes quietly, off-handedly, speaking of quality, talking and thinking in codes I cannot begin to want to decipher.

So I’m already starting to wonder just how long this day out is going to last when I get to the Sorting Office and it all falls into place. The man behind the counter is puzzled. Then he’s apologetic. Yes, the card says Wilmslow, and he doesn’t know how it’s happened and it shouldn’t have but one of their cards has gotten onto a Stockport van, and I’ve drawn it (because if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen to me, I know this). He’s really sorry, but I need to go to Stockport.

There’s no point in getting worked up about it, even if I had the energy with which to get worked up. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s me for accepting that card at face value. If only I hadn’t been so unfocused…

It’s 11.45am. If I’m lucky with transitions, I can get to Green Lane before 1.00pm, when it closes until next week. But it doesn’t look like I’m going to be lucky. It takes me about ten minutes to tramp back to the station but there’s fifteen minutes to wait for the next train, which is full of light-blue shirts, Bitters going to the game. The journey is only made bearable by a beatifically beautiful blonde ticket inspector who takes at least ten minutes less time over my return ticket than I consider to be the proper application of her duties.

I’m back at Stockport Station for 12.30pm. I can still do it with a pretty damned immediate appearance from the Free Bus and the same from the bus to take me to Green Lane, and that’s just not happening. It’s testament to my still fuzzy perspicacity that it takes me five minutes to work out that Green Lane isn’t that far from here as the roads lie and there are taxis over there…

Mission is therefore accomplished and I take possession of a box-shaped brown paper parcel. Unfortunately, I cannot pop my parcel into the Bag-for-Life I carry around in my shoulder bag. On the way through, a couple of hours earlier, I bought and partly consumed a small bottle of Diet Coke. Unfortunately, I failed to tighten the cap properly. It has run out all over said Bag, which is too soggy inside and out for such precious cargo. The bottom of the shoulder bag is also somewhat wet, which has already transferred itself from there into the thighs of both legs of my jeans.

Where’s the bus to Pizza Hut?

For once, there’s a substantial amount of tuna on an individual Pan Margarita with Tuna and Onion, enough to enable me to turn an indulgent ear to the birthday party nearby, to which every eight year old girl in Stockport has been invited, or so it seems. ‘Happy Birthday’ is sung with such gusto and enthusiasm that they relight the candles and do it again. Several times, in fact. If they burn through birthdays that quickly, Donald Trump will start perving over them before we even reach the Election.

I’m low on food but it’s only a five minute walk to Tesco‘s, but this is where the the Wall interpolates itself very firmly in my way. I stagger to the bus stop where, thankfully, I am able to get a seat on the bench, for it is half an hour until the bus home, and when I do get in, I haven’t the energy to unpack my pathetic shopping before I hit the bed, drifting in and out of sleep.

As I said, not what you’d really call a day out, but at least it proves that I don’t have to go all the way to London to create a shambles of a day.


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