You can tell you’re personally developing when someone actually rings you for moral support. They trust you to enough of a degree to call you, over everyone else, in order for them to sort their head out. I don’t think that had ever happened before yesterday.
John’s ex is pregnant with his baby. I offered him my congratulations but he did not want to hear it.
I was shattered from too many late nights and early mornings, but I couldn’t have stayed in at a time like this- we needed to go out and let John take his mind off things. Oldham, on a Monday night though, can be best described in one word- dull. Walkabout was pretty much empty. Except for me, John and Chantelle- a girl that John knows who looked vaguely familiar, the place was bereft of entertainment. Chantelle -damn good-looking but gets ID’d a lot- told me she’s an art student. I asked if she’d heard of a painter called Malevich, someone I’d studied at GCSE level. She hadn’t.
So after wondering around a few bars, and him relentlessly kicking my ass at pool, and playing air guitar to Thin Lizzy’s Whisky in the Jar, we decided to go on a mission. This was not least because the pub seemed to be fragranced with eau de OAP home.
First stop- my house. I caned Mum’s Nissan Micra down Lees road to the “temporary” traffic lights. These lights and road works have been there so long that 2 businesses in Lees have had to close down because nobody can be arsed fighting through the traffic to shop there. John taught me a trick- flash the main beam lights in two short bursts. Leave a second’s gap. Flash it again. The traffic light thinks your car is an emergency services vehicle with the lights on, and swaps red to green. Genius!
Not many of my mates have seen the inside of my house, and I’ve not had anyone round since I dated some randomer from Walkabout over a year ago. We had sat drinking tea in the lounge, desperately tying to string an uncomfortable conversation together. This time, it was around quarter to midnight on a Monday and Mum and Dad were asleep upstairs. The booze was still in the garage from Emma’s party, so I dished some of that out. Being designated driver, as usual, I absconded.
John reminded me I was allowed one. I don’t normally go into detail about this with people, but as he’d been pretty open with me before I found it only fair to explain why, if I’m driving, I do not touch alcohol.
Martin Johnston was a friend of mine from college who died in a drink drive incident just before Christmas in 2001. He got in a car with someone who’d been drinking. He was driven into a wall between Mossley and Stalybridge. He was 18. At this time I was about halfway through my 14- month long, 100+ hours of driving lessons. I’m a slow learner.
This incident had somewhat of an effect on me and after the funeral I made a conscious decision to keep alcohol and driving in two separate worlds, never bringing the two together.
We loaded the car with beer and cider and aimed for Uppermill, a quaint village in Saddleworth. I drove insanely fast down country roads in the dark, like a responsible adult, while John acted rally instructor in the passenger seat. He even told me when to change gear to maximise speed on hills. How immoral. All the while, we blasted out whatever was half decent on the radio. Every time I hear The Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani, I will forever think of that night. We almost went to Huddersfield to the sound of “’Cause I’ve been actinglikesourmilkpouredonthefloorandthenIdidn’tshuttherefrigeratormaybethat’sthereasonI’vebeenactingso co-old…” Dance Nation’s Move Your Love also punctuated the night. You can find them in my Myspace friends space. It was around this time I learned that trying to dance whilst driving at high speeds in the dark is dangerous. I frequently came close to losing control of the car, not to mention my colon.
We also visited Delph, one of Oldham’s most difficult places to find. It just isn’t next to anywhere that anyone would know. I was totally in John’s hands (figuratively), as without him I’d have been stuck out there. I couldn’t have got out. Delph is like a dull version of Narnia, only painfully real.
There is an eighties song with the lyrics, “there’s a tree by a river near a hole in the ground…” I think that song was written about Saddleworth Tops. All of the characteristics mentioned were present. There was nothing going “round and around”, though. It was the most serene, silent place in Oldham. The view was good and the air was clean, which we noticed straight away.
It occurred to me and John, while on the tops of Saddleworth moors, that we needed a piss. We found a lay-by somewhere near a stream. It was pretty much pitch black and somewhat edgy, given that Moira Hindley murdered numerous children and buried them somewhere out there forty years ago. Some bodies were apparently never discovered, which added to the chill.
We couldn’t encourage Chantelle to urinate in a farmer’s driveway while we leaned on the bonnet out of eyeshot, so John came up with a plan. He called one of his many associates in Oldham and we made a beeline for Sholver- the “South Central” of Oldham, you could say. Chantelle was at breaking point. I told her to picture a huge concrete dam, and I did more obscenely fast driving. John’s short-cut plan fell through when we ended up on a country road that turned into a flagged path that turned into a rocky carving in the hillside, so I had to reverse down this narrow gap in between two fields. Rear lights on a Nissan Micra aren’t as illuminative as the front lights. With every bump Chantelle got more nervous, and so did John and me.
We made a quick stop at John’s mate’s house for Chantelle and then we called it a night. We dropped Chantelle off- I’ve already totally forgotten where she lives- and me and John agreed to do this again. Only next time we’re picking a different town. John told me he appreciated the opportunity to take his mind off things: I realised I’d completely forgot, by this time, why he’d rang me in the first place. I also realised that Nissan Micras don’t have the world’s best mileage. I used up a good portion of the tank that night. It will be interesting to see what Mum says.