My arrangements for these meet-ups are mostly lost in the mists of time. Back then, I think we still sometimes made social arrangements by picking up the telephone and talking to people – an archaic practice to say the least – certainly not Ogblog-friendly.
But a combination of the physical diary, some e-mails, travel records and some slightly surreal correspondence on the King Cricket website with King Cricket’s mum have helped me to piece the trip together.
My main day of meetings, for/with UNISON, was 7 October. But I saw some benefit in going up the night before and staying over that night to catch up with some other folk and have some leeway for the UNISON meetings too.
I booked into an apart-hotel on the edge of the Northern Quarter – well located for Arena Point and “Central Manchester proper”, relatively inexpensive and you get enough space to really be able to work as well as relax. I think it was this one; The Light Aparthotel. I remember being given a two-bedroom apartment rather than the one-bedroom place I had paid for, so I really was able to spread out and enjoy plenty of space.
I arranged to meet my cousin Mark Briegal (second cousin once removed, actually, since you ask) after work 6 October for a quick drink before he returned to the bosom of his family in Warrington. We met up in Sam’s Chop House, which was a very suitable venue. It was really nice to catch up, albeit briefly.
I then went on to meet Ashley Fletcher (a good friend from Keele) for dinner at Bem Brasil on Lever Street, quite near my hotel. I’m used to Manchester portions being big, but this was one huge meal, with people coming round with cuts of meat regularly. Good fun and ridiculously inexpensive by London standards. I had sent Ashley a copy of my draft play, Ranter, which he had discussed with a few friends who are familiar with the 17th century history involved. No issues with the history elements but Ashley had a very bright idea for a twist in the denouement. I still want to write one more new play before I give Ranter the edit/rewrite it deserves. Might be quite a wait.
After my swathe of business meetings on the Thursday, I met up with Alex Bowden, aka King Cricket, at Sam’s Chop House. I had assumed Alex was based in Manchester, as he supports Lancashire and had talked about Manchester a fair bit on his website. But it turned out he lives in Macclesfield, which made me feel bad that I had dragged him up to Manchester just to meet me! He didn’t seem to mind too much. It was a very pleasant evening. I do recall Alex telling me the time of the train he needed to catch back to Macclesfield and then having to gently remind him of the time, not to get rid of him, but to avoid the need for him to run or (worse) miss the train. I was, coincidentally, reminded of my evening with Alex quite recently when I had a very pleasant but slightly surreal dinner with Ant Clifford that ended similarly – click here – I remember thinking “what is it with people who live on the edge of the Peak District almost missing trains”?
What I cannot remember is who suggested Sam’s Chop House in the first place; Mark or Alex. Because my main arrangements with Alex are preserved on e-mail and are silent about the venue, whereas those with Mark must have all been phone/SMS, I am guessing that the original idea came from Mark and that I then suggested same to Alex by SMS on the day we met. It had several benefits; I knew where to find the place (as presumably did Alex), I liked the place, I knew it offered decent beer as well as decent wine and I quite fancied trying the food at Sam’s on the second night. So Alex and I ate as well as drank at Sam’s and jolly good it was too.
I did some work on the Friday – I think I might even have fitted in a follow-up meeting at Arena Point that morning, before (according to my travel records) taking the train to Banbury.
My physical diary says Hil and Chris for the weekend, but clearly we ended up cancelling that and going to see Phillie and Tony instead. I think this must have been the weekend that Janie and I stayed at Wild Thyme (which was lovely) – I think Tony joined us for dinner on the Friday evening – then the next day we took poor Phillie from the Katharine House Hospice to Stratford-Upon-Avon for the afternoon for the last time. Another story, I suppose.
But returning to the surreal correspondence on the King Cricket site with King Cricket’s mum regarding Sam’s Chop House, I think I realise what must have been going on. KC’s Mum writes kindly on the King Cricket website…
As KC hasn’t answered your question yet maybe I can Ged. I believe you met in Sam’s Chop House. Meeting you was obviously of sufficient import that KC mentioned it to me.
…but I think that KC was following that well-known protocol when meeting for the first time with people you know only through the internet, “make sure that at least one of your loved ones, e.g. your mum, knows exactly where you are going and why”. Very wise, although in my case I assure you not necessary, merely wise as a standard precaution.