Review 2005

Me

It is 4:30 in the morning on September 30th 2005 and I'm sitting on platform 13 of Manchester Piccadilly railway station waiting for the first train back home to Liverpool. It is cold and whatever skeleton staff are manning the station are pumping music through the annoucement speakers to keep everyone awake. I'm reminded of the scene from Ang Lee's film The Ice Storm were Tobey Maguire is sitting on the iced up morning train reading a Fantastic Four comic. I have a book, but I'm so tired I can't see the words, let alone understand their meaning.

The point about being so cold that you can't move is that it gives you time to think. Not necessarily about the revelation at the end of this paragraph but just about how, for some reason I've waited years for a moment like this. I've always been someone who doesn't so much want to tick experiences off a list as feelings. It's not about being at the top of the Eiffel Tower, for example, but how I felt when I got there. There are some feelings I've never had and at this moment I don't know that I will ever have. Being in love with someone and them knowingly love me back. One day, perhaps.

So back to the platform. When I was an undergraduate in Leeds, I commuted there across the pennines every week for a four hours shift at my Saturday job. Being my only income I didn't mind the trip and it gave me something to think about. On the early shift I would have get the first train out, 7 am, and every time there would be a group of students who had been to the Cream superclub the night before, had stayed up all night and were just getting the train home. I'm not sure where too although they were still there chatting away when I stepped off in Leeds. I was actually very envious of them. It seemed like a very exciting thing to do. Although I tried whilst I was studying then, it never seemed to happen to me.

So September 29th, Wednesday night, I helped talk some people into staying out for a late drink and I actually decided that I would miss the train. On purpose. And once 11:20 pm passed by, time of the last train, there would be no going back. Sifting through a whats on guide to Manchester we began chasing the closing times - as one place shut its doors we'd chase off to somewhere. Then at 2 am, everything closed. I think there was some swanky place still letting people in, but were weren't really dressed for it and the music sounded as though someone was getting their head banged against a bar repeatedly. Or someone actually was getting their head banged against the bar repeatedly in which case it was a good job we didn't go in.

We caught a taxi back to the student hall for pool and laughs. Although everyone else was drinking, by this time I was ... incoherent. Not because I was drunk (really) just because I was so tired. I'd been up since early the morning before and had been at university all day. I felt very old. I turned into the quiet man. By half three I knew it was time to go. Actually I knew I'd be leaving at half three and hour before but stuck it out until then. I said my goodbyes and started to walk.

And I walked. If you know Manchester, I walked from somewhere just behind the curry mile to Piccadilly Station. It is really just one long road and goes on forever and it's deceptive - in some places you seem to have taken no time at all in others the buildings only come into your field of view after much effort. Eventually, and unexpectedly, the station hoved into view.

At that time of the night the concourse is filled with cleaning staff, homeless people and as I said the loudest music I'd ever heard - at least as loud as Dexy's Midnight Runners can be at that time of night. I'm not sure if it's there to entertain the cleaners or keep the homeless from sleeping, but it doesn't appear to be doing anything but break the silence. With the escalators switched off it took a bit longer than normal to drag myself up to the platform and even longer to find somewhere to sit since the usual seating has been locked away overnight. I'd thought they were concreted to the floor. I pondered this at the other end of the platform were I was due to be for the next half and hour waiting for the train.

I felt happy. And tired. And as I might have mentioned cold. It was another of those moments from the beginning of the university year when the weight of what I'd achieved actually being back there was on my shoulder, the elation and also the pressure of failure. I have that every day actually, wondering when the dream will drift into nightmare. I hope that's not spoiling things. I'd hate that. But I supposed I would notice.

There isn't really an end to this story, not yet. The train inevitably came, on time, presumably because there wasn't anything else on the rails at that time of the morning. I helped an elderly couple who had been on holiday off the train with their cases before I got on, then found a seat with a table and slept. I caught a taxi home at the other and it took me three days to catch up on the sleep, and I decided I was too old and I wouldn't ever do it again.

Until the next time.

For an introduction and list of contributors to Review 2005, follow this link.

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