I’m learning how to plan my travel. To make it as painless as possible. Which is important when you travel as much as I do.
We’re staying opposite Piccadilly Station. Dead handy for a couple of reasons. It’s in the centre of the city. The train from the airport goes there. And the trains to Macclesfield leave from it. I make that several wins.
The event in Macclesfield doesn’t start until 13:00. Leaving plenty of time for a few cups of tea and a Greggs bacon sandwich before jumping on the train. We drop down in the nearest carriage, but soon move on. It’s a bit smelly. And not totally clean. Not good, as it’s going all the way to the South coast. We move on to a different carriage that’s slightly less stinky. God knows what state it will be in by the time it reaches its final destination.
The journey gives Dolores a chance to see how big a built-up area Manchester is. It’s solid until past Stockport. Then we pop out into a countryside of steep, dark green hills, the distance misted through rain. It looks lovely. If a bit soggy. I’ve a very soft spot for the northern landscape. Especially when it starts getting a bit wild.
We’ve deliberately arrived a little early to give us a chance to look around the town a little. I’m dead impressed by the view that greets us as we leave the station: a square blackened church atop a hill. Below it a broad landscape of pubs. My sort of town.
“We could go for a drink, Dolores. Except none of the pubs are open.” I’d already noted that all had their doors closed. “Since they let pubs open all afternoon, they’ve started opening later. I bet they all open in five minutes.” It’s 11:55.
Sure enough the red doors of the Nags Head open up at noon. Our choice of pub is made.
There are a surprising number of people inside, including several small children. It soon becomes obvious that these are various generations of the landlord’s family. It’s a Robinsons pub.
“It’s ages since I’ve drunk any of their beer. What do you want, Dolores?”
“Just get me a nice Bitter.”
No surprises there. Dolores loves her cask Bitter. We have different Bitters, but both are pretty good. Served through a sparkler, the mouthfeel is soft and tender, like a loving kiss.
A group of men drinking Carling assembles on the table next to hours. They’re in their forties and fifties. It soon becomes obvious that they’re a group of Man United fans warming up for the afternoon’s game.
We only stay for the one. To give us time to give the town the once over. Just one problem: it’s up a dirty great hill.
Hills have played a minor role in my life. Newark, where I grew up, has one token hill. But it’s on the edge of town. No need to climb it. Mablethorpe, where I spent most summer weekends in my youth, is even flatter. Literally as flat as Holland, being Dutch-built polder. The last thirty years of living in Holland has left me totally out of tune with hills. It’s a struggle climbing up it.
“At least it’ll be downhill on the way back.” I say.
It’s worth the climb, just about. A typical smallish English town, without too many jarring modern intrusions into the townscape. The grand neoclassical town hall is a demonstration of past civic pride.
We potter around the shops for a little. Until it’s just about showtime.
Next: the debut gig of my year-long international Macbeth tour.
Buy my new Scottish book.
Charabanc Fever - Main image above: ‘Sebastopol Inn, Ladies Outing, Preston’, from Preston Digital Archive on Flickr. A few weeks ago Doreen (@londondear) made us pause an...
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