Saturday I get off the train and walk speedily through the barrier, the guard failing as usual to take time to check my ticket. I try to ring Chris. He still isn’t answering his phone. I’m not sure why I’m ringing, habit I suppose. I always ring home when I get into Liverpool, so I suppose I’m calling him for the same reason. I’m home.

Whenever I go out straight from my commuter train, I know I’ll have to decide upon where to have tea, and again I eye the Burger King in the station. Then I think about the other evening meals I’ve had that week. They all seem to involve meat and some sort of frying or grilling. I’d had a Whopper Meal in Southend of Tuesday. I couldn’t do it again. I walk gingerly passed and get money from the nearby cash machine.

I’m supposed to be meeting Chris at ‘The Pilgrim’ off Hardman Street. I play the road through my head (like Acacia Road at the beginning of an episode of Mr. Benn) thinking of all the eateries. All I can think of are the chip shop, the ‘Hot ‘n Tender’ chicken place opposite and the Hardman Pizza Place just up the way. I catch a bus. Of course there are more places to eat, but I just kept looking at my watch. 7:15. Damn. I’m supposed to be meeting him a 7:30. Not going to make that. Better ring him.

As I stride up the street (which amounts to being a hill which someone has decided to run a road down -- think San Francisco). I pass a French Restaurant which has recently closed, and a Greek Restaurant. Then I realise the Everyman Bistro is around the corner.

The Everyman is a regional theatre which happens to have a great bar in its basement. One of Liverpool’s little secrets, where the intelligencia and various hangers on go to eat. Willy Russell probably came here for dinner when he was writing ‘Educating Rita’. I manage to get through to Chris. He agrees to meet me here (having not left the house yet).

I stand at the food kitchen, looking over the menu blackboards; the specials board is seriously depleted, some sort of salad being the only thing left. I notoriously can never make a decision in these situations. I never know what I want because I’ve never had any of these before. In Starbucks it’s easy. I just ask the clerk what their favourite is and have that. I decide to try the same tactic here. The waitress looks like a young Courtney Love.

“What would you like.”

“I don’t know … erm …” I say unimpressively. “What would you have.”

“I ate before I came out.” She says. Equally unimpressive I suppose.

What’s wrong the food she’s actually serving?

“Well, what would you have?”

“I like the tagliatelli.”

“I’ll have that.”

“You will.”

“Uh-huh.”

”Ok.”

She goes away and spoons some of the pasta into a bowl and throws it into the microwave for re-heating/warming up.
“Lot of responsibility.” She smiles as approaches again, “Anything else?”

”Bread and butter and a glass of water.”

“You can get water from the end of the bar …” She cocks her head towards the next room. She turns and turns again, placing a bread roll and butter on the counter.

I pay. She brings the pasta. There are whole mushrooms about the edges.

I go to the bar, and realise I can balance a bottle of Rolling Rock on the tray I’m carrying now. I take a glass with it.

‘The Everyman Bistro’ infamously has ‘The Third Room’, a space for functions and concert. Open Mike Poetry, Jazz and Beat nights have all crowded into this space. It was the place an infamous meeting happened when I was taking acting classes. I’ll tell that story at a later date. It wasn’t pretty.

Nothing tonight. As usual in comparison to ‘The First Room’ and ‘The Second Room’ it’s quite empty. It still takes me a while to choose a table to sit at. I’m very choosy. I’m also trying to avoid the updraft from the tables with smokers on. For some reason I don’t feel the rotten loneliness I usually have if I eat in a fast food restaurant. Perhaps it’s the music, or that I can still here constant chatter. It could be ‘The Guide’ I’ve saved all say from the morning newspaper. Charlie Booker is still riffing about ‘24’.

The pasta is gorgeous as expected. That taste which only wine bar food has – sophisticated, but not as nice as you have at home. Food is always nicer when you cook it yourself (or your Mum or Dad does). The whole mushrooms are perfect.

I notice that someone I used to work with has entered on the other side of the room. I like Joseph. He’s shy but not quiet, intelligent without arrogance. He’s also with someone and I’m not in the mood for the awkward conversation (“How are you? Where are you going? Why haven’t you been in touch?).

Chris arrives as I finish my pasta. I take the tray with the dirty plates back to the food kitchen. I tell the waitress that it was a good choice. She still looks burmused that anyone would trust her to order for them. I order a scone. There is no cream, but strawberry jam.

Back at the table I tell Chris all about my trip to Southend, all of the things I’m afraid to write here. He tells me about his band’s search for a new drummer, and good story I might pass on if he give me permission. Time marches on, and I’ve taken half and hour to eat my scone.

We head across Harman Street to ‘The Pilgrim’, which is full as usual. It isn’t a large space and yet there is room for a ‘big screen’ showing boxing, perhaps in keeping, the jukebox a blearing out dance music. I decide to calm the mood:

‘I Love Your Smile’ – Shanice

‘Wonderful World’ – Louise Armstrong

‘Song for Whoever’ – The Beautiful South

Chris choosing something metal with features Marianne Faithful on guest vocals. He could probably tell you what this was if you asked him.

We gossip about friends, about relationships. Time passes. I watch a forgone conclusion as the man who now has a fruit bowl for a face loses to a man you hasn’t broken into a sweat in the boxing. I remind myself for a moment that this is one of the sports I’ll be covering at The Commonwealth Games. I wince.

We leave there and head on into town. Chris tells me it’s my turn to choose where we could be going. I decide on ‘The Swan’ (more of which later) but find myself distracted by somewhere else in a basement, ‘Fresa’, which on the site of the never fable Olivia’s Wine Bar, where Chris and I memorably visited late one night only to find ourselves witness the club DJ being given the kind of massage you would usually find on ‘Men and Motors’ late at night.

I gingerly step down into the depths, Chris close behind. I nearly slip on the step.

As we enter, the place hasn’t changed. Chris doesn’t want to stay but I’m in an ironic mood and talk him around, and besides it’s my round. He creeps off to the toilet.

When he returns I’m sitting gingerly in the corner of the very small dance floor. The seats seem to have been designed with very small people in mind. We perch.

Its 10pm and the place is empty. We look about furtively, nervously as geometric shapes are projected onto the walls and the worst dance music known to man. This was not our place.

This was not anyone’s place.

Chris breaks the ice. He says it reminds him of the club in Brookside. We laugh for the next twenty minutes until we know we have to leave.

The DJ enters carrying his turntables. He looks depressed. This was not the man who conducted relations with his girlfriend here not that long ago.

We leave.

We go to ‘The Swan’. Nowhere is more different. This is a biker bar. It’s the sort of place which everyone has been to once. We used to be regulars. Things have changed. The crappy old bacolite TV with the bad reception in the corner has been replaced with a widescreen model playing ‘Kerrang TV’ which as usual in these situations is playing videos which don’t match the music in the pub.

Startling moment as Marilyn Manson’s new video plays on the television, whilst underneath a lookalike sits chatting to a computer scientist (I decide).

By now, Chris and I are talking about previous nights we’ve been out and Star Wars. Chris decides he wants to go to ‘The Krazy House’ after all.

Chris hasn’t been back here for some time. This is a momentous occasion.

He joins the queue. I go to the nearest cash machine to get the obvious. I wonder why a hundred people are lining up at the ATM outside when I just slide my card in the front door and walk through to the machines inside. It’s warmer, but there are cameras. Are they trying to hide something?

I’d forgotten how different Saturday night in Liverpool is. How even though there is a chill so many people are wearing very few clothes. How the girls seem as tough as the lads. I shiver, and not because of the cold.

For the first time ever, we’re searched as we go in and told we can’t use our mobile phones. We can’t work out why but obey the house rules.

The club has three floors. The first, the original club plays extremely heavy metal/grindcore/goth music. Loud enough to make your eardrums pop. The second floor has become a nostalgia floor, a free for all for anything before last year some time. The third floor’s appetite is for nu-punk and nu-metal. We end up here.

Everything is 2 for 1 and the weekend. I manage to muddle through at the bar. How do you order two bottles of Rolling Rock without ending up with four?

We sit on the edge of the floor. Oddly for 11pm, the place is empty. I come here to dance but the floor is empty. I don’t want to go there and feel self-conscious.

Chris is unimpressed by this new floor. He is slightly more impressed by the second which is playing all the music we used to hear when we came originally. Yes much of it is crap (‘Smooth Criminal’ Alien Ant Farm) but at least it’s music we’ve heard of. It’s busy here so we dance some.

It’s only then as I look around I realise that for the first time here I feel a bit out of place. Whenever I looked around before I saw my fellow music fans out for a could time. This time I saw teenagers. Lots of them. Wearing hipper clothes than me. Who knew all of the music being played. I suddenly felt, very, very old.

I didn’t tell Chris that then. He knows now, I suspect.

We leave at about 12:30. I’ve reached the point were I can no longer sustain more beer. I haven’t drunk that much.

The taxi home took a long detour out of town. We curse at the price. I found out later it was because a horrific crash had happened on Hardman Street.

I sleep soundly.

To follow in my busiest weekend in ages: The hangover, British Film, The Commonwealth Games Volunteer Party.

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