Rain Stopped Play
Fact: I like to rant.
Fact: England makes me rant. A LOT
The fact is that by 9:25 this morning, I had ranted for about an hour. The weather was rubbish – not to mention having spent 2 hours waiting for Twenty20 cricket last night that never happened – the traffic was terrible. Everyone was wearing grey and black. I watched 75 cars go past (yes, I was in a traffic jam) and every single one of them was a shade of grey, dirty white, filthy black, navy or maroon. It was only when I got to a car sales place that I saw a flash of red cars, and they were all sitting on the forecourt, unsold. English life is dismal: it’s shades of grey we’ve renamed ‘silver’ and ‘dove’; it’s shades of ugly brown Accrington brick; it’s shades of pavement and road, tarmac and concrete, cement and sky.
I miss colour.
I spent a month in Morocco this year. It was a riot of colour. And having just got back from a blue-skied France, I miss the colour. I miss the pure whites and the blue shutters. I miss the vivid greens and the vibrant yellows of the sunflowers. I even miss the yellow Poste vans. Yes, I know France isn’t always like this, but we’ve been back for two weeks almost and it’s done nothing but piss it down.
To be fair, Manchester – where we live – grew strong on this rain and dragged the rest of the world through the Industrial Revolution. Blake was right about the dark, satanic mills, but they’ve brought us mechanisation, transportation by the bucket-load and a whole heap of scientific developments from the university. That’s the thing about Manchester – it grinds. It’s the beautiful beating heart, fed by the arterial Irwell and Medlock and the Irk, that pumped life into revolution. I do love Manchester. My sister’s nephew calls it ‘the gritty city’, and it certainly is that. And its history is curious and beautiful, though it’s no pretty city. Hatter Street where the Irish immigrants made hats with mercury, and generated the expression ‘mad as a hatter’ because it drove them all crazy. Angel Meadows where the original Ena Sharples was buried. The tenements gone by of Ancoats, now fashionably renamed ‘the Northern Quarter’ where immigrants were so numerous they were alleged to have slept standing up, to save space.
So I’ve got used to the rain. It’s not just the rain that makes me rant. But after 36 years of looking through grey-tinted spectacles at a gloomy world, it’s no wonder I’ve turned into Eeyore. And the other places I’ve been and stayed don’t make it any better. Havana, Rio, Tokyo, Fez – all of my escape cities have been full of colour and life and light. And, personally, I think the government should subsidise light-bulbs in this here part of the country. I think everyone’s chronically miserable because of the lack of good light. But I know that isn’t going to happen.
Steve misses the heat; personally, I’m not so bothered. I like winter clothes, and as long as I’m wrapped up, I’m fine. It’s the sun that I miss. Sure, heat and the sun often go together, but I’m as much a fan of the sunny winter morning as I am the hot summer’s day. Steve calls himself a lizard, and when he got up this morning, the first of September and I was wondering if he’d head for the long-john drawer, I realised just how bad it was.
Last night, I sat with some of my family on the cold terraces of a wet Old Trafford cricket ground. It had rained all day. I wasn’t too confident of the prospects of Aussie-beating in the scheduled Twenty20 match as it was, let alone whether we’d actually see any play at all, despite a late break of afternoon sun. It wasn’t warm. I was vested, cardiganned and kagouled up as it was. My sister and I huddled round some pints we’d queued up for twenty minutes to get, watching people poke the pitch, sprinkle it with sawdust, hmmm and pontificate and then decide, having kept the crowd there for an hour, that the match was abandoned before it even began. Not even a case of ‘rain stopped play’ – more a case of ‘rain prevented any sodding play at all and then the sun came out to gloat at the last minute’.
Of course, being from the gritty city, we still had a moan about it. It was everyone else’s fault. Who’d schedule a match in September?! Why wasn’t Old Trafford in better shape? Why hadn’t they got better drainage? Why do they insist on letting bands play there when it’s obviously no good for the pitch? Not to mention the rant we had about the regional politics of choosing Cardiff over Manchester, the lack of international cricket in Lancashire for the foreseeable future and the form of the English cricket team themselves.
This, on its own, is perhaps not quite so bad. But we sat in traffic for an hour whilst our erstwhile friend stood outside the ground. Half the roads into Manchester from the north of the town are shut or undergoing roadworks. Heaton Park is a no-go, Bury Old Road is a no-go, Prestwich is a no-go. So we wove a convoluted meandering way through Radcliffe and Kearsley and Clifton and Swinton and Salford to get there, only to be sitting in standing traffic for an hour.
And it wasn’t much better on the way back, despite the absence of rush-hour traffic.
When I got back to Steve’s, I pretty much hated every single thing in England except for my family, my friends and my cat. I was pissed off, ranting, cold and miserable having spent the evening queuing in traffic, then to get in, then to get beer – only to get told to go home and spend even more time queuing in traffic because no-one seems to understand that if you put road works on the three major roads into the city from the North, it’s going to make it hard work to get anywhere at all. Bah.
It hasn’t made things easier that Steve and I had been pondering France in a semi-serious way since we got back off holiday at my dad’s pied-a-terre over there. We left with a feeling of sadness and regret, and a souring taste of jealousy as we left the happy little place behind, and we’d begun thinking about what we both wanted out of a place in France, coupled with a little resistance from the other major stake-holder, Jake. Jake has become known as Little Lord Fauntleroy on account of his desire to work the household system in the Feudal way with Steve and I as harried dogsbodies. The name has subsequently been abbreviated to ‘Faunters’ on account of my inability to pronounce Fauntleroy (which comes out, bizarrely, as Faultenroy, no matter how hard I concentrate on saying it) and Faunters has been a little less happy about any potential move.
I asked him what he’d miss. “My friends.” he said. Bless. However, with a bit of discussion yesterday, a tree-house was mentioned, alongside some home tuition, and that seemed to swing the deal. Seems that what he wants out of France is very similar to what he wants out of England. Lots of living outside and messing about in trees, and not to go to school. You can’t argue with nine-year-old boys. They’re always right.
Anyway, Jake was still up when I got back.
“Get any good pictures?” he asked. He likes to look at my photos. Strange boy. I take a lot of them and he’s invariably patient when looking through them all.
“No.” I said. “It was rained off.” and then began the hard sell about France, so much so that by the time he got up this morning he seemed to be positively enthusiastic about any future move. A long way from his “Not Happy!” when we first broached the topic.
But the traffic, the weather, the bureaucracy and the frustration of the night gave way to one major decision.
“I’m going to sell my house.” I told Steve. It was the one unspoken topic. We have two houses, currently. I have a mortgage on a tiny semi-detached in Bolton, he rents in Bury. I’ve been in long enough that I’d make a tidy profit on the house and we could move there without paying much. And that was that.
Truthfully, I had thought about a lot since we’d been discussing the move. It was my biggest decision to make. Honestly, my best solution would be to keep it, buy a house in France and not care about money, but I can’t do that. I’ve lived here 12 years. I’ve worked on it. I’ve loved it. I’ve treasured it. I have beautiful built-in wardrobes full of expensive shoes and bags and suits. I have a beautiful garden which I’ve spent a lot of time, money and effort on. It was my fortress when I had difficult times. Once, it had been all I had. Even the thought of selling it made me feel a bit sick.
Turns out a rained-off cricket match was exactly what I needed to seal the deal.
By the morning I knew I’d made the right decision. The prospect of waking ‘the beast’ that is Morning Jake for the first day of school, watching Steve hunt for warm clothes after peering out of the window to make sure no-one had nicked his motorbike and seeing even Molly Dog staying in bed trembling at the thought of getting up all justified it. No more endlessly-foul mornings. No more dog furrowing under the covers. No more having to check on what’s been nicked.
And just for the record, I’m keeping a count of how many miserable days we get here in Manchester. From last Sunday, we’re up at ten. Not so good going. And just for the record, just to make us feel worse, it was 33 degrees in Angouleme on Monday. It’s not making me feel any better, this daily looking at other people’s weather. I’m sure the Ten Commandments don’t specifically mention ‘thou shalt not covet other people’s weather’ but I’m pretty sure that it would be frowned upon. But then again, Moses didn’t live in Manchester. If he did, coveting might have been acceptable, as long as it was related to weather and warmth.