It wasn't the best of Valentine's Days. My beloved is languishing in a hospital bed being flushed out with clot busters and costing the tax-payer a fortune through her frivolous use of tobacco all those years ago (more of that soon when I've become fully vexed and especially in the light of vote last night and the wailing and gnashing of libertarian teeth).
Many months ago, beloved's daughter, LM, had booked to see popular US beat combo, "Simple (checks website for remainder of name as not that popular among 40 somethings) Plan" in Nottingham with Daft Laura from Bleuuuerghh in Anglesey. She booked it for Nottingham because the more proximate Manchester date clashed with the holiday we had planned. This has now been cancelled due to said hospitalisation. The centre of Nottingham is the most difficult place in the world to get to from Crewe, as it involves negotiating the roads through two of our largest cities and skirting a third. The AA reckoned 1 hour 40 minutes for 68 miles.
Sharon was also due to be transferred to another hospital today. But I got the inevitable call to say she was now staying put for a while because the vacating occupant of her destinatory bed decided to have a turn and didn't go home. So I arranged a hurried visit this afternoon because it is Valentine's Day and I want a kiss. LM says, can we get to Nottingham for 7? I said I'll try but it's the worst road in the world. We'll leave at 4.45. Make that 4.55 as I have to return for the AA printout I left on top of the laptop. This isn't boding well. We are also putting up Daft Laura from Bleuuurghh tonight because there aren't any trains back to Bangor at stupid o'clock in the morning (Anyone remember Fiddler's Dram and "Day Trip to Bangor?" I had their PA system in my living room once when I was a student. Don't ask. I did "a very studenty thing" and connected it all together and played a chord on a Gibson SG through it and almost blew the front window out. Folk rock, eh?).
Anyway, it took us an hour to get through Stoke. An auspicious start. Stoke is the devil's hairy arse of a town. It's a giant roadwork and the layout is only comprehensible to those who live there. Stoke itself is a pound shop off a roundabout. It's so insignificant that it's signed with a brown sign; the kind they use for lizard sanctuaries in Devon. Stoke city centre, on the other hand, is in Hanley, 3 miles from Stoke. Then there's Longton, Etruria, Burslem, Trentham and, befitting for a town without a town so to speak, a football team named after a non-existent place, Port Vale . Plus, it always rains when I go there. Without fail. The place terrifies may, midoock. Eventually we make it out onto the A50 and the first telephone call arrives from Daft Laura, who is already stationed outside Rock City. Where are you? Uttoxeter. That's a big help. An hour.
An hour later and we're edging into Nottingham, frantically ticking off the stages on the AA printout. Daft Laura is ringing every 5 minutes. The night before, a policewoman was shot in Nottingham and every two minutes a jumpy Ford Focus careers down the bus lane on blues and twos; Nottingham is Britain's gun city and I've only ever been there once before very briefly. I am pretty nervous myself as I don't want to be shot by gangstas and that's never happened before plus I haven't a clue where I'm going. Nottingham is solid and it's a crawl. The 7pm deadline passses. Towards 7.25 we are within a dodgy t-shirt seller's yell of the door and I eject LM onto the street. It takes me another half an hour to guess the geography of the town and I aim for what I think is the multi-story car park opposite the venue but whose entrance is tucked away on the other side of the block. I am wrong because I end up in a different multi-story, several hundred yards away. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Stoke may not be that bad after all.
I decide to work out the route on foot to and from the concert so I don't get lost later. On the way I see an Indian buffet, all you can eat for £9.90 which seems a fair deal as I'm famished. I decide to check that one out on the way back. It doesn't make up for the fact that Sharon and I were meant to be having a Valentine's Day Chinese in Beeston while we were waiting. While waiting to cross a road I hear the sound of running water. I turn around to see an elegantly dressed, but plainly somewhat vague, young gentleman waving his front member about in an abandoned manner and excusing himself. He walks up to a litter bin, the kind with a lid and a "mouth" and inserts said member therein until finished. Extraordinary; in Crewe this is an act reserved until the nether hours and then, only performed behind a tree. I repair to the Indian, partake of a fine repast and leave around 9.45 stuffed to the gills. To kill time I've even brought some "work" with me and make some frantic notes in the margins thereby looking very clever and important to the other punters. Not having a clue about the time the gig's due to finish I stroll leisurely back to the club.
While waiting outside the palace of modern-day varieties (the Rock City has an adjoining club, with a large hoarding denoting the fact that it was voted Kerrranggg! magazine's top club of 1999. Have they not "moved on" in 7 years? Isn't that like your local bingo hall saying they used to be "The Odeon, Kidderminster's Top Attraction, 1957, 58 & 59"?) I am struck by the vast number of people and traffic milling about. Somebody throws a champagne bottle out of a car and it rolls across the road to me. I pick it up and place it behind something. Lanson should be proud, their bottle survived being ejected from a car at speed and it only lost part of its neck. I hope this is the nearest I get to being caught in a drive-by. A gentleman checks with the bouncer and says it'll be another hour and he offers me a seat in his car to kill the time. It turns out he lived not far from my parents in Kent for several years and has come from Lincoln for the event. To kill time he took his wife for their first ever visit to Ikea. What joy!
Teenagers start disgorging from the club. They all look identical, long lank hair and dressed in black. Some are limping. I get out of the car and stand next to a lady and say that it's come full circle, us doing what our parents used to. She has come from Walsall, about the same distance as me. Seemingly nobody here from Nottingham. She also offers reasons why Nottingham is packed to the gunwhales. Apart from it being full of gushing romantics for the evening, Oasis were playing at the Ice stadium; County were at home and to cap it all, Little Britain were on at the Theatre down the road. Now if I'd known that...
I start trying to phone LM as she's not yet appeared. I finally get through at 11.20 and she says she's lost Daft Laura. Ten minutes later I text and I get a reply about Daft Laura having done something...daft. I meet up in the entrance to be told Daft Laura had given her phone to someone to look after. Not LM, who she's known for two years, somebody "she travelled down with." This wasn't a person she'd known for any sensible length of time, or even somebody who had travelled down from Bangor with her, it was somebody who got on the train at Sheffield, about half an hour from Nottingham. Maybe that's considered commitment in Bleuuuerghh. What's more, she's turned the bloody thing off so any calls go straight to her voicemail. It is now raining heavily. The tail end of the American storm has hit the country and I'm getting tired, wet and impatient so as we're now the last people around I insist we go and hope that Daft Laura's "friends" have the presence of mind to eventually switch the phone on and read the texts waiting for them. I am cold and wet and want to go home. We do the 68 miles back in 75 minutes. I want to go to bed but I'm too buzzed to sleep and end up collapsing into bed at 3.15
I tell Daft Laura on the way back that I will phone her mother the next day to say that she is on the train home but apparently this is taboo as her mother too has had enough of her daftness and has demanded she seek alternative accommodation. Last year, DL accompanied us on holiday to Weymouth. She managed to get heroically inebriated one evening and heaved up over the caravan floor by way of thanks. She also managed to badly infect a piercing in her hand but instead of heeding our advice to seek professional help at the local hospital, she left it to go a dangerous looking heliotrope. She has since had the offending piercing replaced and several others rather alarmingly inserted. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that 17 year olds with scrap metal hanging from their lips and other bits of face and body are rather unattractive but apparently this is quite normal nowadays.
I am awoken by crashing doors and flushing toilets at 6.45 am. I deposit DL at the station at 7.45 and wait for LM in the short stay, maximum wait 20 mins, car park for the next 35 mins. DL's train delayed. I stop off at the Co-op on the way back and when I return to the car I see it's got a flat. Ah...maybe the swerving on the A50 wasn't the wind after all. And the sodding NCP car park in Nottingham cost me £8 for 4 hours! Never again.
Bugger. I'm going back to bed.