22 Dec 07
Other than sleeping difficulties, I am having a great time. Last night, Hammy (who works for the post office as a mail-verification officer "making sure the figures add up") and Ian “Aza” Harry (a business manager at Ineos Chlorvinyls Limited and friend of mine from Saint Joseph’s High School twenty years ago) invited me to the Ring O’ Bells on Pit Lane.
“Don’t bring any money,” Aza said. “You don’t need any.”
“What do you drink at the Bells?” I asked.
“I’m a lager drinker, but I’m getting into wine now.”
“Red or white?”
“People keep warning me about the violence in pubs.”
“There’s never any argy-bargy in the Bells. It’s safe, but lively.”
The Ring O’ Bells was full. Aza, who’s never smoked or done drugs, had hardly aged. I shook hands with people I hadn’t seen for almost two decades. I drank two pints of Guinness to Hammy and Aza’s six pints of lager.
After The Bells, Hammy called a taxi and took me to a pub in Runcorn, before returning to the pubs in my hometown. At BB's, a bar that had music from the nineties playing, I tried hard not to stare at the women in glittery mini-skirts on the dance floor. The pub-crawl ended at the Upton Tavern by Hammy’s flat.
The next morning, I had a hangover. I ate some tangerines and cheese on toast, which made me feel better. In the afternoon I went to Aza’s semi-detached house on Pit Lane.
“How are you feeling after last night?” I asked Aza.
“I went for a two-and-a-half-mile walk just to refresh myself.”
Being used to prison Walkmans, I was fascinated by his iPod, the first I’d ever seen.
We travelled along the M62 to Liverpool, a city swarming with Christmas shoppers. I hadn’t seen so many beautiful women in one place in a long time - it made a pleasant change from being around hairy men. We went inside Alma De Cuba, where I sat in a chaise lounge by an altar, and drank orange juice.
“This bar and restaurant,” Aza said, “was Saint Peter’s, one of the oldest Catholic churches in England. It was derelict from - I think – 1984 to 2003, and then they made it into this. They had to exhume the bodies from the back.”
In the shopping centre, I heard East European accents.
“The Poles just started moving here,” Aza said. “Crewe’s got the largest Polish population in the UK. They work really hard. The Polish car wash on Deacon Road is the best ever.”
Aza tried on a pair of jeans. “These are seventy quid [pounds] and they’re crap.”
“Seventy bloody pounds! Do you think people can tell I’m wearing clothes from America?”
“Yeah, they can’t miss you in those blue pants.”
“These are all clothes my parents salvaged after the police raid.”
Aza bought me a black jumper from Burton for Christmas and some mixed nuts from Holland & Barrett.
Good lookin’ out, Aza!
At Next Aza bought some shoes. “Thirty-six quid. Not too bad.”
“I can’t believe how much prices have gone up. When I left England chips curry and rice were less than a quid. I got charged three quid the other day.”
“Yeah, just look at house prices.”
I was able to get Christmas presents for my dad and sister at Marks and Spencer. For Mum I went to The Body Shop.
We took a different route home, down by the Albert Dock, past one of the cathedrals. I enjoyed the view of the Liver Building, especially its twin clock towers below a pair of mythical Liver Birds. We listened to an eighties compilation on CD – "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" by Soft Cell, "Brilliant Mind" by Furniture, and so forth – which brought back memories of discos at high school, and the girls I had crushes on. We chatted about our school days. I learned that two of my friends had died, and so had my art teacher Mr. “Spud” Murphy, who didn’t like to be called Spud, and once caned me for it. “I’m the hardest caner in Saint Joe’s,” Spud said, before jumping off a chair and whacking my palm with a cane.
I’ve had enough excitement for the time being, so I’m back to writing again. Around New Year’s Eve, I’m staying with my sister in London for four days. That should be fun.
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