Brief Encounter – The Story of Ann and Me

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Grand Hotel, Scarborough – “She once was a true love of mine

After my warm welcome chez Stuart and Rachel I headed north to Scarborough feeling much brighter.  I even murdered Are you Going to Scarborough Fair as I drove.  I like to sing and drive, and I like to improvise silly songs of my own… as you’ll see if you read on.

Made a bit of a balls of the parking issue – I remembered side streets where free parking was on offer but didn’t remember their being so far away from the sea front!  So I walked the mile or so to town, where I thought I’d treat myself to a bacon butty and a cup of coffee somewhere.

On the steep way down towards the Grand Hotel I encountered a lady who seemed to be struggling with her shopping.  It’s not so easy these days to be gentlemanly, it can be misconstrued as patronising or sexist (as once happened to me in WHSmiths when I held the door open for a woman… then wished I’d let it go in her face) but intuition told me this would be appropriate and not unwelcome.  So I offered to help with her bags.

The reaction took me quite by surprise.  No she didn’t call me patronising or sexist, she thanked me profusely and burst into tears.  Seeing she was distressed, I guided her to a seat where she sunk down with her hands over her face.  This would be where Trevor Howard would proffer Celia Johnson a kerchief, but I only had a clump of kitchen roll in my pocket and couldn’t guarantee it hadn’t been used.  I apologised for this but she wouldn’t hear of it, I’d been kind enough already to help.

“I haven’t done anything,” I protested.

“Yes you have,” she countered, “the very fact that you offered.”

As she rummaged in her bag for a tissue she began to shake with laughter, saying she was such a fool for crying, what must I think?

I make three admissions; 1) the mercenary in me felt this might be a story, 2) the suspicious in me thought she might be mad, and 3) how could I not have noticed till now that she was extremely attractive?

She had long, blonde, curly hair and pale complexion, a pert little nose and blue eyes.  She was tall and slim, and the tight maxi-dress she wore showed off her neat, elegant figure.  Over the dress she wore a trendy denim jacket and she sported matching beaded necklace and earrings.  It’s always the ears that get me and I loved the way she looped her hair back so I could get a glimpse (by the way, I’m not saying she did this deliberately, but wish I could!)

I said I didn’t think anything bad of her for crying, and added that I wouldn’t pry but I’m a good listener if she needed to get something off her chest… which she did, with only the slightest hint of a Geordie accent:

Ann was born in Newcastle and lived with her parents till aged 21 when she married Andrew, whom she’d met at college.  They were happily married and over the next twenty years they build up a waste-recycling business, he as director and she as company secretary.  The demands of business were harsh, especially as they produced six kids (which astonished me) along the way.  With the financial rewards for all the toil they enjoyed family holidays abroad, a luxury home in Dalton and a villa in Spain.  She had everything.  They had everything.

Three months ago she was about to celebrate her 50th and a big family party was organised; outside caterers, marquee, flowers, the works; no expense spared for the 100 guests.  It was going to be the happiest day of her life, but it was also going to be the day that Andrew told her he had someone else.

At first Ann thought he was kidding – “But who the fuck would joke about something like that?”  Then came the shock, the anger, the heartbreak, the massive row, the horrible questions: Who?  How long?  Did he love her?  Did she love him?  With the answer to these last two being “yes”, Ann knew (or at least would know in time) it was no use fighting, not for him, not for her and certainly not for the kids’ sakes, they deserved better.  The fallout would obviously be huge (both emotionally and materially) but for that day, Ann found the courage and the strength and the dignity to gain control:

“I remember saying ‘You’ve done this to me, you’ve broken my heart and you’ve ruined my big day.  You don’t get to ruin everyone else’s.  We’re having this fucking party Andrew, and you’re going to be the host and fucking well look like you’re enjoying it!'”

I only hope I’ve done justice to Ann’s tale, I mean obviously I wasn’t taking notes.  Frankly the scale of her heartbreak is massive and these words or any might not cut it.  I was a little embarrassed that she’d told me, a complete stranger, then touched when she apologised for doing so.  But I shrugged off her apology and repeated that I’m a good listener and I hope it helped to get it said.  I was sorry for her plight and wanted to say that Andrew’s an utter prick, but didn’t.  Instead I asked what now?

“Meeting an old friend for lunch,” she said, “and a good old chat.”

“I guess it’ll be one of those all-men-are-bastards chats?” I laughed.

She laughed too, and it made her face beautiful.  “I’ve bought her some presents and I’m going to give them to her.  I’m spending as much of the bastard’s money as I can.”

She apologised for swearing, saying she doesn’t much.  I said she should do it more often, it helps.  Not everybody likes swearing, but I do.  Some people have complained about swear words on my blog, I said, but I don’t give a shit.  Sometimes when I’m angry at people or the world I drive along and make up angry or stupid songs.  She asked what I sing and I very reluctantly told her that this one’s to the tune of These Are a Few of My Favourite Things:

“Arseholes and bastards and fuckwits and wankers

Dickheads and tossers and bent merchant bankers,

Tossers and fuckers and shit-heads and turds,

These are a few of my favourite words.”

She laughed and said she loved it, and I said I’d teach her the words.  We chatted for maybe forty-five minutes, an hour tops, and I filled her in on my journeys.  She said the idea was cool and she sometimes thinks about just getting into her car and driving…  I knew what she meant but said she’d be OK, she’s got her kids (who incidentally all agree that Andrew is a prick and his girlfriend is a tart) and she’s still got her parents.  Plus she’s got 100 friends.

“101,” she said, and I’ll never forget it.  But then it was time for her to go.  I didn’t want to let her go but of course I must; what kind of deluded idiot was I to think this was going to end any other way?  So I rose to help her gather her “retail therapy” and bid her goodbye and good luck, and she gave me a kiss on the cheek and thanked me for being such a kind man.

“One day you’ll be rewarded,” she said, “Don’t let the arseholes and bastards and fuckwits and tossers get you down.”

“Wankers,” I corrected.

I was going in the same direction as her, down the hill for my bacon butty, but felt reluctant to walk with her; I had to let her go.  So I hung back on the seat and rolled a cigarette.  When I finally ventured onto the prom I hoped to glimpse her again, with her friend, but I didn’t.

Many years ago we played a story on Coronation Street which was pitched as a “Brief Encounter” for Sally Webster.  I was in charge of that story and for research I watched the video, though I’d obviously seen it before a dozen times.  And loved it.  In the end of course, Sally Webster slept with her amour, because the soap gods say no subtlety!  The audience wants a shag and we shall deliver a shag.  Well personally I think we should be irreverent to the gods.

But anyway there was my real-life Brief Encounter.  I was Trevor Howard, Ann was Celia Johnson – for me at any rate a 60 minute romance.  With no exchange of numbers and no shag of course.  A shag would’ve made it 62, but I shouldn’t sully the memory.

Bet Lynch Lives in Bridlington

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In a Bridlington pub I settled with my Guardian and Gillette Soccer Saturday, knowing I had to make two pints last six hours.  Which is no mean feat.  Nursing a drink till the froth is dried on the inside of the glass is the pub equivalent of stealth-camping – you’re sitting quiet, hoping not to get noticed, while of course gazing upon the world as it goes by.  All fine, except that someone did notice – the barmaid, who bore an exciting resemblance to Bet Lynch.

Her name was in fact Lucy.  Somewhere between 50 and 60 and trying to knock ten years off, Lucy was blonde, busty, voluptuous, provocatively-cleavaged in red (not leopard-print) and done up to the nines.  Her towering locks were tied up and her ears were pierced with dangly numbers as big as windchimes.  In younger days she would’ve been beautiful and though three marriages, six kids, thirteen grandkids and a current torrid, door-slamming relationship with potential hubby number 4 have taken their toll, she still looks good.  And I imagine a throng of men loitering at the bar either staring at their pint or more likely her impressive chest.  I could be one of them, because I shouldn’t be a bit surprised if I fancied the woman.

I got her story when I went up for my second ale and she commented, not inaccurately or judgmentally, that I was a slow supper.  I laughed and corrected that if I had the money I’d be supping quicker and coming back more often.  I wasn’t looking for sympathy, just stating fact.  But anyway she seemingly felt sorry for me and put this one on the house.  If money didn’t change hands then life-stories did.  The bar was quiet at this point, early doors, so there was the freedom and privacy conducive to intimacy.  She’d noticed I’d been scribbling in my notebook so asked if I were a writer and as I described my project she seemed impressed, so I nervously dropped in that I’m searching human stories and characters and she reminded me of Bet Lynch.  She laughed and said she’d had that dozens of times, though in her game you don’t get much time for telly and anyway she’d prefer Eastenders.  Fair enough, I said, each to their own.

Lucy didn’t hail from East Yorkshire, she was a Leodensian, a “Wessie” as they call them here (ie someone from West Yorkshire).  She hadn’t travelled much, too many kids and and too little money, though some years ago she flirted with the idea of emigrating to Australia with her first husband… but that didn’t happen because he turned out to be a “cock”.  As did husbands number 2 and 3, she added.

I could’ve chatted to Lucy for hours but there was football to watch and a crossword to do and the bar was getting busy.  And as I sipped my ale and watched my team go down to Everton, I pondered how ephemeral and loveless is this life; you flit from place to place where love is swift arrows.  Fleeting meetings and greetings, if you like shit poetry.

By 7pm I’m walking down the prom with my guitar and a bag of chips, thinking that like other places I’ve laid my hat, there’s so much beauty while the town itself is something they forgot to bomb.  And I think about Lucy and her cleavage, her windchimes and her door-slamming husband-to-be.  I wanted to get to know her more but clearly that was impossible – inviting Tony into my campervan the other day was one thing, but saying to a woman “Would you like to come back to my van?” is a far from impressive chat-up line.   And of course she was taken.  And of course I shouldn’t assume she fancied me.  So as I stealth-camp near Bempton Cliffs I say to myself, “You’re on your own again, cock.”

The Day I Met Jeff Stelling

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I love my Saturdays, especially in football season.  I buy the Guardian, I get me some nibbles and settle to watch Gillette Soccer Saturday and get drunk.  Once I got so drunk I fell asleep and nearly burnt down an entire apartment block in Salford Quays.  But that’s a diary entry for another once upon a time.

Jeff Stelling is my hero.  Part of me was uncomfortable with buying into Murdoch’s empire but the other part was addicted to Sky Sports’ hyperbole and garish colour.  The addiction to the show, and to the booze for that matter, wasn’t always conducive to relationships but selfishly I indulged knowing that with Jeff the black dog was locked in its kennel at least for the day.  But what will I do now I’m off-grid with no Sky dish or often no TV signal at all?  Nothing for it but to find a pub that’ll show it.

Gillette Soccer Saturday isn’t everyone’s bag (neither is football itself of course) but I can find myself transfixed.  Stelling is a brilliant wit, an intelligent brain and flawless anchorman.  Merse is hilariously malapropistic, Tommo is unfortunately Scouse, Champagne Charlie is cool as fuck and Tiss thinks he’s a saint, but all four are kept in line by the consummate Jeff.

About five years ago I was lucky enough to meet him.  I was working on Coronation Street at Granada (I miss that Quay Street oasis in the heart of Manchester – I had many happy days there) and the bosses offered staff a chance to cross-fertilise ie see what other TV practitioners got up to day-to-day.  I chose to spend a day on Countdown, shadowing a runner.  It was great fun; I got to sit in a contestant’s seat for a rehearsal, I got to play a game (but could only manage a five-letter word, much to my embarrassment and dismay).  And I finally got to meet my hero.  Jeff’s immediately likeable, affable, smart and handsome – he could play Bond… if he were a little taller maybe.  I told him I’d always been a fan and had written requesting a shout on Gillette Soccer Saturday for a throng of avid Stoke City fans – myself, Dom, Charlie and my muckers.  Apologetic, Jeff confessed he can’t always find time to give shouts but promised he’d try that coming weekend.

To my dying day I’ll regret that for some reason (must’ve been something dull and unavoidable like a wedding) I missed the show, so will never know if Jeff was true to his word.  I of course like to think he was.  But in some ways it doesn’t matter – I’d got to press the flesh of a “football legend”.

Talking of making good on promises, my welder showed up!

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The best result this Saturday!  Thank God for Steven and Yorkshire Mobile Welding Services!  Here’s a welder I must respect and here’s to getting back on the road to Scotland.  The Otter will soon be mobile again so lock up your rich Scottish widows!

The Land of a Thousand Hills – A Story of Genocide, Love and Human Strength

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I’ve come to the point in my novel where I retrace my tentative footsteps through Rwanda and the African Great Lakes Region.  And the story goes like this:

I first saw Aline Aimee when she came to me for a job on the radio soap opera Urunana (Hand in Hand).  She was tall, elegant and beautiful, with the kind of smile that only a Rwandese woman could have.  She spoke Kinyarwandan, English and French.  I wanted to give her a job but the vacancies were filled (I could’ve filled them 100 times over) so with a heavy heart I had to turn her away.

I saw her again in the Ramera Market and she smiled that smile.  I bought her a soda, over which she told me her story – both her mother and father were lured to the Nyamata Church on the outskirts of Kigali, believing they’d find refuge, only to be slain by machete-wielding Hutu Militia (Interahamwe – we kill together).  In hiding back in Kigali, Aline was left to look after her younger siblings and with the help of neighbours she made the long escape to Uganda.

After the war she made the 100-day trek back to her roots, carrying her little brother and sister and everything else she owned… a can for water and the clothes they stood up in.  Taken in once again by kindly neighbours she began to eke out a living by selling cobs of corn at the roadside so she could feed her family and buy herself an education.  Now, her siblings are six and eight and she wants to make sure their future would be better than hers.

Over the coming weeks Aline and I became friends and she like the team on Urunana would call me Mutijima (kind heart).  It transpired she had family in America and she dreamed of travelling to see them.  She also dreamed of saying her goodbyes to her dead parents, so I took her to the church near Bugesera where they rested…

Here, many hundreds of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were brutally murdered and their bones are piled like a skeletal monument to the dead, and their skulls are racked like hundreds of ostrich eggs, many bearing cracks where the machetes and clubs had met their target.  I wanted to stand back and allow Aline to pick over the bones but she took my hand, begging me to go with her.  We entered the church where layer upon layer of bones, clothes, children’s books and other worldly possessions were matted between the pews, and we had no choice but to walk on them.  It felt disrespectful to trample over the dead but Aline said we must, to get to where she needed.  At the altar, a bible lay open and a skull had been carefully placed on top.  Beyond this, in what I supposed was the bombed-out chancel, were the skulls.  I noticed nothing except stillness; no smell of death now, and no sound except for monarch birds tweeting in the eucalyptus trees.  Aline looked over the skulls, tears in her eyes, then reached out and touched one of them.

“C’est mon pere,” she said, “Et a cote de lui c’est ma mere.”

I’ll never know how she knew it was them, or even IF she knew it, but I couldn’t question.  Who could?  She was saying her goodbyes and that was that.  She asked me to touch her parents too, and so I did, running my finger along the crack where the machete had fatally fallen.  This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a dead body but it was the first I’d touched; two people I’d never known but I’d never forget.

As Aline then knelt to pray I stood back to leave her in the moment, and choking my own tears I could only write something probably insignificant in the book of condolence – what words are there to amply embrace the horror felt at the sight of such murderous meaningless?

“Merci,” she said, “Merci de m’avoir permis de les voir.”

In the days and weeks that followed, Aline would visit me in the house in Kigali, where my night-guard called Joseph lived up a tree and Gysenge my day-guard tended the garden with his machete.  I hadn’t been able to give her work but I always made sure Aline had food in her belly and something to take home to her brother and sister.  One night I played guitar for her and sang (something to remind her of her family in America I think) and she told me she loved me but I said I couldn’t love her back.  I kissed her on the cheek and tasted her tears.

I visited her too, in her little hut in Ramera, and met her brother and sister.  And one day out of the blue she said,

“Je veux voir l’homme qui a tue mes parents.”  (I want to see the man who killed my parents).

So I took her to Gitarama Prison, a hell-hole where it was said that inmates stood up in their own shit, while ones more privileged for whatever reason would be tasked with making furniture, dressed in pink to tell the world who they were.  As we sat outside the gates, peering in, I wanted to know if Aline was sure.

“Oui je suis sur,” she replied, “Et je suis sur qu’il est le seul.”

As she pointed to one of the prisoners in pink, again I could only take her at face value.  I saw this time she didn’t cry.  There was sadness in her eyes but nothing fell from them.

“How does it make you feel?” I asked.

“Rien,” she said, “Je ne sens rien.  Maintenant je veux aller a la maison.”  She’d seen all she wanted to see.  She’d looked into the eyes of her parents’ killer, and now wanted to go home.

Soon my work in Rwanda was done and I was heading home to Manchester via Paris, eager to be reunited with my own family.

“Thank you Mutijima,” she said, in English this time, “thank you for everything you’ve done for me.  And for everything you’ve done for my country.”

But on the plane I knew I’d done very little.  Yes I’d done my best to create a project to help bring some sustainable stability to a troubled but beautiful country, and yes I was proud of my achievements.  I still am.  But what was this compared to the super-strength of a young orphan forced to mother her baby siblings, and her determination to make a better life after Genocide had taken nearly everything?

Now, more than twenty years on, when the black dog comes barking and I feel sorry for myself, I often think of Aline.  I wonder if she lived?  If she managed to get her siblings into school?  Did she save enough to get to America and reunite with her uncles?  Somehow I think she probably did all those things.  She’d lived through a horror and a sadness I could only imagine, yet I never once saw her feel sorry for herself.  She just got on with life.  I should never forget that.

Camper-vanity

wool exchange

Having been postponed twice, the day has finally arrived for the Ottermobile to have its service and MoT.

When I bought the van I took it to a garage in Bradford to see if they’d weld on an A-frame for the spare wheel.  The man took one look at the bodywork and said “Fuckin’ ‘ell that needs a lot of work!”  I know in Yorkshire they call a spade a fucking shovel – you can always tell a Yorkshireman but you can’t tell him much – but I was more than mildly offended.  This is my house, my first ever vehicle owned outright.  It’s like your kids or your parents; it’s OK for you to criticise them but woe-betide the outsider who dares to do so!

I realise the van is past its best, like I am past mine (the great Coronation Street writer John Stevenson once said of me “he’s a national treasure, he just needs a bit of pointing”) but it goes, and that’s all I need.

Talking of things past their best – Bradford.  Among the beautiful buildings – the picture is of the Wool Exchange and its brilliant Gothic Revivalism – there are plonked a good many carbuncles of 60s ugliness.  This used to be one of the most (if not the most) opulent cities in Britain but I can’t help feeling it needs more than “a bit of pointing” here and there.

Nevertheless, this is where I chose to give the Ottermobile its MoT and I have everything crossed that it will pass – I have wanderlust and need to get back on the road.  And however clapped-out we look from the outside, we’re proud of what we are, me and my beloved home.

A to Z of Soap Opera Cliches – (And you’re telling me this becoZ)

I’m proud to say I’ve made a living for over 20 years from soap operas, TV and Radio.  But I’ve always viewed fondly the cliches they contain.  At best they make me laugh and they’re partly the reason I love soaps.  At worst they make me angry because it’s just shockingly lazy writing, costing Producers dearly.  Nonetheless I hate it when people disparage soap operas as “populist nonsense” or even “shit”.  In its defence I’ve always said it’s very difficult to write decent “shit”.  Some of these examples are living proof, and I hereby offer the (less than definitive) A to Z of soap opera chiches.

A – “And you’re telling me this because?”  This has crept into most soaps, meant to be an aggressive version of why are you telling me this?  I’ve never in my life had someone say this to me.  There are many versions of this sentence-structure, including “And you’re still here why?”

B – Betty’s Hotpot.  Admittedly I struggled with this one, but offer Betty’s Hotpot because it’s a nostalgic slice of Coronation Street.  I worked with a producer who banned hotpot stories, and I understood why.  I’ve spent half my life in pubs and have never seen an offering on the menu named after a long-dead barmaid.

C – Cat ie “Look what the Cat’s dragged in”.  Lame and hackneyed.

D – Do, eg “he doesn’t DO happy.”  A mainstay of Eastenders and I hate it.

E – Tempted to just put Eastenders (see Q) but I’ll go for “End of”.  Ugh.

F – “Fess up”.  Probably found in all soaps.  Don’t like it.

G – “Grow a pair”.  Commonly found in Emmerdale and it offends me.  It obviously means grow a pair of bollocks, and it’s said even to women.  As a father I imagine my child asking what does this mean?  I’m broad-minded and certainly no prude, but I’d struggle with this one.  Needs to be outlawed.

H – Hedge, ie “he looks like he’s been dragged through a hedge backwards.”  Lazy.

I – “It’s family innit?”  Eastenders, and horrible.

J – “Just couldn’t find the right moment.”  Ubiquitous line, explaining the delay for one character telling another a stupendous plot development.  It’s unbelievable, and more to do with the storyliners finding the right moment.

K – This one was tricky but I’ll go for “Kicking off” ie one character starting a fight.  Travelled down from the football terraces.

L – “Loved-up”.  Horrid.  “Life’s not fair.”  True.  “Leave it!”

M – “My wife’s in there!”  There’s a burning building and a distraught husband tries to break through the police cordon, uttering this pointless line.  His wife will probably be OK, and in five episodes’ time he’ll be shagging her best mate or sister.  Also “My bad” which is a grotesque invader from the United States.

N – “None of your business.”  I’ll demonstrate this horrendous one with a passage of diaglogue:

Character 1 – “It’s probably none of my business but you should treat your daughter better.”

Character 2 – “You’re right.  It IS none of your business.”

O – Out, as in “I’ll see myself out”.  Normally when a character wants to leave on a parting shot.  Also because they don’t have the set for the hallway.

P – “Please tell me…”.  “Please tell me you haven’t been taking drugs.”  He or she probably has.

Q – Queen Vic.  A tricky one but I’ve gone for the pub itself, because there’s a cliche served with every pint of Churchill’s.  “Get outa my pub!”

R – Rocking, as in “You’re rocking the biker look.”  Yuk.

S – “Something smells good.”  Every single time a character cooks, another character comes in and says this pathetic line.

T – “Taxi for so-and-so.”  I wish this taxi service would go under.

U – Underworld.  Couldn’t think of a line, but have gone for the factory, which is brilliant and hilarious in its toy town portrayal.  The machines never work, the workers never work but complain about workers’ rights, the machine operators come to gossip with coiffured hair and dangerous acrylic nails and made up like they’re off to a wedding rather than a day’s piece-work in a sweatshop.  Also the writers think it’s hilariously witty and risque to mention the word “gusset”.  The toffee factory in Emmerdale is no realer.

V – Vera Duckworth.  No wordy cliche to offer, but I just wanted to say bring her back.  Characters like Vera and her perm, Hilda Ogden in her rollers, battle-axe Ena Sharples in her hairnet, are priceless.  Where are they now?  Gone is the backstreet reality and in is the skin-deep beautiful to grace the glossy soap magazines.

W – “What’s going on?”  Watched an episode of Eastenders once and I’m damned sure every scene began with that line.

X – A struggle but I’ve gone for “x-rated”.  “He’s an x-rated villain/philanderer…”.

Y – “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”  Fucking awful.

Z – Ideas welcome, but I’ll go for “zip it!” meaning shut the fuck up.  Which I probably should, because “I’ve told you this because?”

John Noakes, Roy Barraclough and me

Saddened to hear of these deaths.  Not me, I’m not dead yet, lest the title misleads.  I mean Mr Noakes and Mr Barraclough, and what they meant to me.  I grew up with John Noakes, I was a Blue Peter boy and not Magpie.  In his hapless and amusing way he entertained and cheered me up after miserable days at school – getting his words mixed up, showing bravery in his intrepid way, climbing Nelson’s Column and the like, and of course treading in elephant shit.  I never met him, I didn’t know him, but felt I did, and since he left the BBC he, like me, kind of opted out.  Who could blame him?

I was lucky enough to storyline Roy Barraclough as Alec Gilroy in Coronation Street, where his relationship with Bet was amazingly rich to write for.  Much later I was even luckier to write for Roy as he played Lou Darlington in The Colcloughs.  Lou was a character I invented; a seen-better-days, blue-nosed thespian who once trod the boards for ENSA – “My name is Lou Darlington, friends call me Darling.”  I got to know Roy in rehearsal and he told me they were nice scripts.  I’ll never forget that.  Roy’s comic timing was incredible, and who can forget his hilarious sketches with Les Dawson?  I’m sure Cissy’s in heaven, leaning over a fence and gossiping away to Ada while lifting up his voluminous left tit.

On the theme of death I want to return to Manchester today and pay my respects in St Ann’s Square to those who were brutally murdered at the MEN.  It’s my last day in this area and I feel a sense of wanting a bookend to this leg of my journey.  RIP Mr Noakes, RIP Mr Barraclough, RIP those who were slain by the Poundland Terrorists.