I love Manchester. Being a Yorkshire girl though, I hate Manchester United – not because I am a football fan, but because it’s in our blood. It’s a rule you must follow – a rule written in small print on the back of the White Rose (plus my Dad was a Leeds fan – so any haters can see and understand the ridiculousness behind my reasoning!) BUT, I love Manchester City Centre. It was my university town and between the years of my being 18 and 21, it was my home. I’m not here to write about my university days as I fear the post will turn into one filled with regret as I clearly remember way too many times when I was more concerned about whether my Nike Air Max TNs matched the turns ups on my jeans than rather than analysing Blake’s ‘Mind forged manacles’. Or I was too busy reading Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ instead of following Dante on his descent into hell. No, university is long since over and even though I know I would do everything differently (like actually read the books I should have read), I can’t complain about my 2:1 degree. In fact – I owe a massive thank you to one lovely lady for allowing me to become her revision buddy during my third year. I honestly think she was the one who turned my 2:2 into a 2:1.After finishing university, I never saw any of my ‘uni’ friends again, which is such an epic shame as university buddies are meant to be mates for life aren’t they? I expected to make regular trips across the Pennines for reunions (I even expected that I would settle down in Manchester), alas that was not to be. However, over the years, Manchester became a regular shopping haunt for me and my mum and before the time stealing sleep bandit kids came along, my mum and I would take a monthly trip over the M62 and shop until we dropped.
That was, of course, before I had a mortgage.
And when I still had a waist.
Anyway, as always, I digress. It all began one rainy afternoon in Leeds.
“Guess what I’m thinking about getting done?” My Mum said.
“Your boobs?” Was my reply. It made her laugh – I like to make her laugh.
“That would have been my third guess after botox.”
I had my eyes lasered six years ago, just after we lost my Dad. Once, while I was at university, I was on a bus going to a lecture and as the bus jolted, my glasses fell off and I was on my hands and knees looking in the aisles. My sight was that bad, I could put my glasses on my bed and the paisley patterns were the perfect camouflage. Once the glasses were on the duvet, they were gone. I must have told my Dad this at some point and he always said he wished he could fix my eyes. So he did. Before he died, he gave me the money to get them lasered and I have seen clearly ever since.
After lots of umming and arrhing, my Mum made the decision to have lens replacement and the closest clinic that offered the treatment was Manchester. So off we went.
I was thoroughly excited about the trip to Manchester as I don’t venture out from behind my ironing board that often these days, but more importantly, the Other Half had happily agreed (if I do all the bed times for one whole week) to have both children all day. Not only was I going to my old university city for the first time in about five years, but I was going to be childless. I could look in shops without the ‘Oh my God, where is she?’ fear that I get every time my girl decides to annoyingly walk directly behind me. I would be able buy a frothy over priced Christmas themed coffee and drink it hot without having to prise my boy’s grubby fingers from my fringe, eyes and nostrils. Oh yes, this was going to be great. My Mum was, however,
sh*tting herself slightly nervous.
Sunday arrived and I pulled up onto her drive.
‘Have you not had your car fixed yet?’ Was her opening greeting. ‘It will go rusty.
It was going to be a long day.
We were approaching the M60 and decided to use the map app on the iPhone.
“Get the post code and put it in my phone,” I suggested.
“No, I have already done it in my phone. It’s set to go.”
The map app man told us to get off the motorway. Surprised by this sudden demand, I made a swift exit, but did not feel confident in my decision. The fact that all I saw were signs to Bury did not help shake the uneasiness, but the map app man could not be wrong could he?
As it turned out, the map app man was not wrong. He got us to our destination of a three bedrooms semi-detached house in Bury.
“This isn’t it!’ My Mum declared. ‘It’s on Deansgate.”
I am more than familiar with Deansgate so I thanked her for her observational skills. Maybe she didn’t need her eyes lasering after all.
‘You’ve dropped a pin.’ I said. ‘When you opened the map you have accidentally dropped a pin to this area.’
“A pin? I don’t have a pin.”
I grabbed my phone, input the postcode and twenty minutes later we were running late, but we had made it to a very busy Deansgate.
Once we were in the waiting room, I pulled out my Year 8 assessments and my current book: ‘The Girl on the Train’. I was going to be there waiting for four hours so I was going to be productive and mark and I was going to do what every good English Teacher should do – I was going to read.
Mum was shown upstairs and I started marking my first assessment.
‘The writer uses a powerful adjective to show humour in the extract…’
No he didn’t, he used a verb…
I stopped reading and asked the receptionist if she would mind looking after my folder – she put it in the contact lens cupboard. I was going shopping.
It always rains in Manchester and Sunday was no different. Umbrellaless, coatless and without a hood, I ploughed onwards and faced the adverse weather.
By the time I arrived at The Arndale Centre, I resembled a drowned rat. I headed inside, was swept away be a sea of manic shoppers and found myself washed up outside a nail salon.
“Do I need an appointment?”
A perfectly groomed, courageously coiffed young Asian man looked me up and down.
“No lovey. What do you want doing?”
I wiggled my stumpy nails at him that had the remnants of three week old purple gel on them.
“Shellac. Take a seat.”
I picked a lovely glittery red and off we went. I never get my nails done so couldn’t hide my surprise when he pulled out device that was not disimilar to the device that dentists use to buffer your teeth. In an instant, the top layer of my nails had been buzzed off and he began. I mourned the loss of my once strong nails but, hey, at least they would look pretty. And glittery!
The perfectly groomed young man placed the UV light in front of me and directed me to place my hand inside. After forty-five seconds, it became hotter than the sun and my fingers began to burn.
“It’s burning,” I said.
“Yes, it does that.”
Only then did I notice that there was not a single hair on his forearms. Perfectly groomed indeed. Either that, or he had shoved his arms into the UV light once too often and singed his hairs right off. I began to ponder whether it would work as a hair remover on my fuzzy legs but then I smelt burning flesh and realised my little finger was melting into the metal; I needed to leave.
It was time for a coffee.
For once, I bypassed Greggs and decided that I was going to go independent all the way. I found an independent delicatessen, went in, saw the prices, pretended to read the specials board and side stepped back out into the rain again. Popular high street brand it was then. I found a Starbucks, went in, queued at the wrong end, ordered a festive toffee nut latte, looked and pondered over the overly priced sandwiches, side stepped out of the door once again and wondered into the adjacent Tesco Express.
Being the good daughter that I am and knowing that my mum has a tendency to faint whenever she is scared, nervous or has sun stroke, I decided to buy her a sandwich. Thinking that I was only nipping in to buy one item, I didn’t get a basket and held tightly onto my latte. Balancing the latte in one hand, I then proceeded to buy a sandwich and sushi and was beginning to run out of suitable gripping digits. While attempting to pick up a bottle of Evian with the only finger I had spare (my little melted one seeing as you asked), I dropped it on the floor as a hot young couple walked into the store. The bottle landed at the girl’s feet. She kicked it down the aisle, looked at me blankly, looked back at the bottle and walked off. Her boyfriend did notice that I wasn’t the owner of a third hand that could retrieve the bottle and offered to help. However, after a glance at his girlfriend and on the receiving end of a death stare, he too walked off. Just to add insult to injury and to add to my own torture, I spotted some McCoy Salt and Vinegar crisps and tried to grab a packet from the shelf. Alas, it was not meant to be because like the water, the packet ended up on the floor. I sighed loudly.
“Oh no, I have done the same with the crisps now!”
Unfortunately, the boy had learnt from his mistake and failed to turn around. I followed them to the till leaving a trail of food on the floor behind me. After paying for the sandwich and sushi, I left. Back in the drizzle outside, I realised I had left my latte in the bagging area at Tesco. Returning to the shop and following the trail of food that some genius had left for lost shoppers to follow, I retrieved the coffee purely because I had gone all out and bought a venti.
It was 2pm when I returned to the eye clinic. I collected my marking from the contact lens cupboard and started to mark. Surely Mum would be almost done by now.
Two hours later, Pirate Pam emerged from her operation sporting an eye patch and a Penguin biscuit.
“I bought you a sandwich in case you felt faint,” I said with the halo lit above my head.
“I’ve had a penguin.”
She then pulled out a pair of Rayban sunglasses she had bought just to cover the eye patch and we got ready to leave.
The journey home wasn’t quite as eventful as the journey there, it was however, more perilous. With the driving rain beating down on the car, the fog slowly descending and at least 1000 cars trying to get on the M62, I struggled to read the road signs.
“I think you need to be in this lane,” my Mum kept saying.
“Which one? Which one?” I asked swerving in and out of lanes.
“I don’t know,”, she said. “I can’t see.”
Any that, ladies and gentlemen, is irony.
We return next Sunday for the other eye doing!