Farewell, Odeon


This is the Manchester Odeon, a lovely and possibly listed building where I went to spend many happy hours watching mainstream Hollywood movies.

Journal Entries, June 1996:
Sat 15: Last night went to Metro Cinema to see ‘Richard III’. Today – eye test at 10.30. Wrote to Di and Ade.
Mon 17: Yesterday went to Darley Park, got sunburnt. Tonight went to Duncan in Nott’m.
In years to come, every time I read ‘The Secret History’ it will remind me of this shabby house and my big room, and the kitchen with drawers that don’t fit, and my alcoholic landlord who believes that eating grapefruit will fend off cancer, and the kleptomaniac lodger Iona who always acts stoned but isn’t. 

Tue 18: Typed out car receipt for Peter (in the end he decided not to buy my car from me). At work they’ve recruited some dizzy bitch who says ‘Surely with a PhD you can easily get a job anywhere.’
Wed 19: Guess what? I’m drunk! Wheee! On Sunday went jogging for 20 mins, last night 25 mins, tonight the same. Tonight I ran round Darley Park and then went to the Queen’s Centre for karate lesson. Then I came home and shaved everything off with my electric trimmer.
Thu 20: Spent today looking frail. Everyone noticed that the beard had gone except for Barry Windsor, who said ‘Couldn’t you bother shaving this morning then?’

Wed 26: So far have spent every morning in my room drinking Bovril or Earl Grey. The alcoholic landlord John is always boasting about the cheap tat he has managed to pick up at car-boot sales.
Tonight is the England-Germany UEFA semi-final, and John has been wandering, pissed, around the house blowing his bugle and singing ‘two world wars and one world cup, doo-dah, doo-dah-day.’ Excruciating. I ended up driving to Nott’m where I watched the match in the Duncan, including dramatic penalty shoot-out. When I got back it turned out John had collapsed unconscious on the sofa in front of the TV and missed the whole thing.

July 1996, Tues 2: Last week John gave us all an extra key and said that sometime soon the front door lock was going to be changed to stop Iona the klepto from getting in. So I left the key in my room, expecting to be given a day’s warning when the when the great changeover took place.
Last night went to the flix to see ‘The Rock’ (James Bond meets Delta force meets Indiana Jones) and when I got back the door wouldn’t accept my key.  Rang John on his mobile, arranged to meet, went to wrong pub, ended up sleeping in my car.

Tue 9: Went to view a microscopic one-bed flat on the Drewry Court complex. Went to see a bedsit in Harrison Rd. Talk about rough – barbed wire and broken glass on top of walls. Went to pics to see ‘Mission Amposseeeeble’. V dull and v exciting.
Fri 19: Last night went to see ‘The Cable Guy’, a Jim Carrey film. Awkward but entertaining – a lurid meditation on themes of loneliness, identity, and trust.
Sun 21: Went to see ‘Beautiful Thing’.
Sun 28: Last Wednesday went up Duffield Road and saw the perfect bedsit. Paid deposit.

Last night went to Freddie’s and saw the lovely Steven again, but never spoke. Came home early.
Some yobs were wandering round and smashed the windows next door at 3.45 this morning. Today called into CSM Nott’m and left my address. (CSM was a nation-wide chain of bike training schools. The B’ham branch was hopeless, but the Nott’m one had some great tutors).

Richard and Cheryl have moved out, Mitch is moving out soon, Laura goes in two weeks, I’m off in four weeks. Our beloved landlord has found a good way to save money – he’s dismantled the control panel and removed the ‘on’ button from the immersion heater. He’s also charged R and C money for electricity, which is strange cos they’ve been away on honeymoon for a week. Anyway, it’s his printing business on the ground floor which is using up all the electric.

Wed 31: Tonight got keys to new flat.  Last night put radio on and found myself in middle of ‘Mastersingers’ suite. Marvellous performance, agile, crisp, dynamic. Watched a flock of pigeons wheeling around the cathedral tower (or was it the library?) and every few seconds they all turned sideways so the entire flock seemed to vanish and reappear.

Tropical Paradise, Deansgate


homeless poster

Tropical Paradise, Deansgate, June 2017

The seven-twelve to Manchester is always late. I stand among
The other passengers, some of whom I recognise. We board the train and
Sit in silence, reading Patrick White or Susan Hill.

Shot through with defects,
The carriage window brings the passing scenery
Alive with seismic energy.

Meanwhile I arrive in town and make my way to work, passing
Underneath a bridge; a poster advertising beer
Depicts a perfect Caribbean beach where turquoise waves
Deposit their reluctant foam while palm trees elegantly interrupt
The blue horizon.

In bold white letters four feet high
The ad proclaims that “This is Living.” Beneath the poster
Lies a homeless man; we have to wonder how he ended up
Like this, with just a sleeping bag, a barrow
Full of random stuff

And a dog for company. For once he must have been
A boy, whose parents watched him grow and heard him laugh and
Dreamed about the path his life would take. But here
He lies beneath an endless artificial sky; perhaps his career
Included a number of small wrong turns, or maybe
Fell victim to a single bold mistake that cost him
All the happiness that lay in store.

The Virus-Coloured Journey, April 2020

The seven-twelve to Manchester no longer runs; instead
There may or may not arrive a train of length k,
Designed to carry n citizen-units
Distributed randomly between (2n plus 5) carriage seats
To maintain a social antisocial distance p between themselves.

Passengers with nervous gloves decide to prod the carriage doors awake;
We step on board. That’s it, we’re trapped. I try
Not to breathe, or even catch a stranger’s glance, ‘cos everybody knows
Eye contact helps to spread this vile disease.

And, looking down between the trees
We witness empty roads, deserted schools,
The pulsing stream of wagons just a memory. Perhaps

The lack of daily airborne diesel fumes
Allows the silver cannons, as they greet the climbing sun
To sharpen up the sky they hold in place.