Monday, 13 October 2008

Saddleworth Beer Walk

The truck had come to a standstill. The first sheep had started climb up onto the back, where the digger was placed. Then more sheep flocked on. The police didn’t even intervene- the ratio of sheep to policemen was about 10-1.

Then they started to baa. The rest of the sheep- 90 in total- followed suit. They were bleating en masse. It was the most Orwellian thing I had ever seen…

For the last 34 years Saddleworth has been home to the Round Table Beer Walk: a day-long country march-cum-piss-up, an opportunity for beer companies from across the world to sell their products, and an excuse for locals to wear the most random outfits. I didn’t even know it was happening until the day before. Colin and 89 other Ex Hulme Grammar pupils were dressing as sheep. They were the biggest crowd by far- more than the nurses, firemen, army guys, or any other group. I stuck the fireman’s outfit on and went out to meet them. The outfits were basic but effective- 2 cloud shaped foam pieces, one on either side of the body, with a curly blonde wig and black tights.

The walk was long and hard. For those of you who haven’t visited leafy Saddleworth: it’s in th’ hills. Lots of hills.

We marched from Greenfield to Uppermill, where sheep began to clamber on top of phone boxes and passing vehicles, including a truck carrying a digger. An impromptu game of cricket occurred where a local team fielded against the sheep batsmen. Some ten-year-old kid got backhanded in the face with an over-sized plywood cricket bat, causing self-conscious, guilty laughter from all the adults. Colin jumped into a nearby garden to sample the grass and scared the crap out of some old lady’s little dog. He sprung at it from a nearby trampoline (on second thoughts, maybe she wasn’t that old…). One of the sheep had brought their own wooden fence that all 98 would hurdle over. After a few pints it got smashed to smithereens- not unlike the sheep.

The 118-style 70’s porn stars behind us were washing car windows to raise money. They found a time-saving method of working- getting Colin to jump at the windscreen and sponge it in with his wool body suit. He did this with a bus at one point.

The route led us through Delph and Dobcross, 2 places where I relentlessly get lost ever time I go there. Ironically, this is where I bumped into some movie expert from Salford Uni. I’ve known him since about ‘02. I was talking to him for so long that Colin had walked on a fair way. I had to get a march on to catch him up.

At one point I queued for a burger, which took nearly half an hour. After eating this I’d dropped so far behind Colin that it took me a further half hour to catch him up. This involved getting a jog on, which amazed people considering part of the walk went up a dirt track over a hill. I felt like a Royal Marines Commando. It was quality.

There is even evidence (a business card) to suggest I met Pete Snow, Vice Chairman of Christies cancer charity. I just about remember it.

After this Col and me did a quick reconnaissance mission, dropped things off, got changed and prepared for a night out in Oldham. One minor problem- Colin was wearing trainers. One other minor problem: I am developing a serious cocky streak.

We’d managed to get into Walkabout once. Then we went over the road to Littern for one, then Cuba Cuba and Vogue. I was having scotch on the rocks in each of these bars. In the Hare and Hounds I taught some fit bird to salsa, then dished her my business card. Then we headed back to Walkabout. Giant doorman “T” spotted Colin’s trainers the second time around, and in my half cut state I snapped, “fine. We’ll take our money somewhere else then.” And we walked off. Col got a taxi and I checked out Cuba Cuba again, just because I’d seen Danielle in there. (Okay, you can stop doing the Psycho hand-gestures and high-pitched screeching-violin noises…) She’d moved on- I guessed Walkabout as she’s been going there every week for the past 3 years.

In this space of time, I’d forgot what had happened in the last half an hour. I was walking through Walkabout’s door when this other doorman put his hand on my chest, stopping me. I was none the wiser. He basically told me not to give him attitude. I was apologetically humbled. The events of the last couple of hours came crashing back at me. I felt like I’d robbed a bank and then gone back and tried to cash a cheque.

Amazingly he still let me in- I kept the drinks soft after that- and I found Danielle. She was a little reserved but told me she didn’t want me to think I was ignoring her. Paranoia started to set in as the music was typically dreadful and conversation wasn’t flowing. I left her to talk to Kelly for a bit and noticed that Danielle and Nicola were fast falling out. (This is starting to sound like a woman’s blog. Let’s keep this interesting.) I was wondering if I could go back to hers again (even though I was utterly fucked) but her argument got out of hand. Nicola stormed out and Danielle followed her. I thought, fuck you. Let’s stir this up.

Jekyll and Hyde syndrome kicked in as I hammered out the text message: “I’ll take that as a hint then…”

She said that it wasn’t like that. We apologised to each other. I guess we’ll try again next week.

My Salsa student from Hare and hounds is also called Danielle. I can see what kind of texting mistake I’m going to make soon…

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