Another Friday, another trip to Schiphol. Not something I look forward to with any great enthusiasm.
The airport is ridiculously overcrowded, though not quite as bad as in May. When it took me two hours to drop off my bag and get through security. But, I now realise that I don’t have to queue with the plebs. My silver status in KLM’s frequent flyer programme means I can go through the Sky Priority lane, which has far shorter queues. Hooray!
I’m through all the irritating formalities in less than 20 minutes. Which is a miracle.
Having plenty of time – I got here two hours before departure, as advised - I’ve time for a beer. It might only be 8:30, but different rules apply in airports. My flight departs from pier D. Which just happens to be where the Murphy’s Irish pub is located. On the way I eat the egg and bacon sandwich I picked up in the landside Albert Heijn. It cost less than half than what the robbing bastards charge airside.
I settle into a seat at the bar. I’ve been through here so often that I recognise half the bar staff. How sad is that. Soon a blandish pint of Murphy’s Stout is settling itself slowly into my stomach. I have a read of the paper while I sip.
I’m one of the three people who still subscribe to a printed daily newspaper. Mine, NRC Next, is pretty decent. Not rabidly biased like most of the UK press and with articles written by proper, named journalists. It’s also good camouflage. Who would suspect that I’m English? With all the Brexit shit, I’m not particularly proud of my nationality. Don’t want to be mocked or pitied. Not sure which of those is worse.
Half way down my pint, I get this sudden urge. “Double Jamesons, please.” It’s going to be a long day. I need some fire in my belly.
I bought that breakfast sarnie for a reason. KLM’s food service on their morning flights isn’t inspiring: a piece of cake and a little tub of water. I don’t eat the cake, as I don’t eat refined sugar. Haven’t since I was fourteen. Luckily I get a little bottle of red wine to keep up my spirits.
Last time we came to Manchester we flew with Easyjet. Whose flights arrive at Terminal 1. Which is about five miles closer to the airport’s railway station.
I’m staying at the Doubletree, handily directly opposite Piccadilly Station. But I don’t head directly there. I have a few errands. First, and most important: collecting my train ticket for tomorrow’s journey to Sheffield. Then WH Smiths to pick up a copy of Viz, a bottle of water and a bag of crisps. The essentials for a night in Girlchester.
It’s only 11:30 and my room isn’t ready. “When will it be ready?” I ask. “About one o’ clock.”
Now there’s a dilemma. I’ve a visit booked to the archives at Manchester Central Library. Should I try to fit it in before or after checking in? I inadvertently make the decision for myself. I’ve left my cameras in the luggage I’ve left at the hotel. I can’t be arsed to ask them to pull it out again, so I do the only logical thing. I head for the nearest Wetherspoons.
It’s on Piccadilly. Not one I’ve been too before. The young barmaid who serves me is obviously new. Asking colleagues a few times about how to ring stuff up on the till. But she’s friendly enough. We all have to start sometime.
It’s a bit dark inside which makes reading my Viz tricky. I change seats to somewhere with slightly more light. It helps. A bit.
Thankfully my room is ready when I return. I go up to it to quickly dump my stuff. Inside there’s a tray of Partizan beers and some chocolates. I’m a bit puzzled at first. Then remember I’d given the brewery the hotel’s address when they offered to send me some beer. And not just any beer. Most of it is their version of 1945 Tetley Mild. I’m looking forward to trying that later.
Luckily the library isn’t far and I’m there well before 2 PM. Leaving me more than three hours of frantic snapping. Should be plenty of time. I’ve only ordered a dozen or so documents.
I’ve come to love the calm inside archive reading rooms. Something very soothing about them. Though I’m anything but calm, really, as I take photo after photo, limited only by how quickly my camera resets.
“Is this the last?” I ask the nice lady who’s ladling out the brewing logs to me. “Yes, that’s it” So that’s me done. An odd anti-climax. Stupidly, I didn’t bring the list of documents I’d requested. I have a nagging feeling that I’ve missed something. Still, I’m finished more than half an hour before the archives close. And I’ve only taken 800 photos. I’m such a lightweight.
No time to rest, mind. I’ve an appointment with John Clarke at the Marble Arch pub at 5:30. It’s over the other side of town and by the time I’ve dumped my posh camera at the hotel – not taking that on a pub crawl with me – I’m running a bit late.
Funnily enough, I’ve never been to the Marble Arch before. Not sure why. The interior is impressive. And it’s pretty crowded. Though I suppose it is Friday night. I eventually manage to spot John. Then I spot something else. On the bar. A pumpclip announcing Imperial Stout. I can’t pass that up.
“A pint of Imperial Stout, please.”
“Are you sure you want a full pint?” Of course I do. I don’t do halves.
John introduces me to Jan, the owner. We chat a while and I suggest she gets her brewer to make a good old-fashioned Manchester beer. Like a C Ale. She seems quite keen.
After a second pint of Imperial Stout, me and John head over to the Hare and Hounds for a pint of Holts. It’s a gorgeous, unspoilt pub with an intact pre-war interior.
I have to admit that the evening is getting a bit hazy. Can’t think why. I’ve only had a couple of pints.
+44 161 236 9206
The Marble Arch
73 Rochdale Rd,
Manchester M4 4HY.
Tel: +44 161 832 5914
Hare & Hounds
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