Thursday 25th September
I'm standing on the corner somewhere on Oxford Road near a pub called the Footage and Firkin, promoting my book to students. It's freshers' week and I had a new idea for promoting it so I thought I'd give it a go. The whole of Oxford Road is very busy – it has been like this all week – from St. Peters' Square all the way to Whitworth Park. It's so busy and it's a weekday that traffic is heavy. I left my car in Fallowfield and took the bus down from Wilmslow Road. For anyone who happens to be in the area here's a quick rundown of the bus prices – Finglands is cheapest at 80p a journey, Magic Bus is £1 and Stagecoach is about £1.40. The fastest bus if you're ever late or in a rush is usually Stagecoach because they cost more so less people get on them, they are also the most comfortable so if you like luxury take Stagecoach. If you're taking the bus every day, using a weekly pass saves money. Most students choose Magic Bus because they're most frequent.
Every day this week, all day promoters are handing out flyers for nightclubs, bars, and takeaways – some with special offers. Walking down the street you can get Pizza Hut vouchers, McDonalds vouchers and lots of club night flyers. I've had some Dominos Pizza – not only are they handing out vouchers for a free personal pizza, they keep shipping more boxes every hour and have promoters giving out free slices to passers by in the street.
The reason for the free pizza is that there are so many things handed out that students are not taking notice of flyers, or even had enough of carrying them and are throwing them away. The pavement is so littered with them, in some areas you can't see the concrete for leaflets.
In response to this Tiger Tiger has hired a London Bus with open top. They're playing music from it, there's someone in a Gorilla suit dancing on the top deck, a few other people dancing, and someone with a loud hailer addressing the public on the streets about their new night on Thursday. It's driving up and down Oxford Road all week.
5th Avenue nightclub has a lorry with one side open, 4 people dancing, and music from massive speakers blasting out onto the street so everyone notices. It's also been driving up and down the street all week.
At the same time, every day this week Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University are having clubs and societies fairs. I thought I'd have 5 minute look inside to see what it's like – it's changed a bit. There's more eco friendly societies, but there's still a big range of fun societies for students to enjoy, join in, and have a good time all year round. It's all good fun and vibrant for students. I'm glad I went to Manchester University to study. It's a good place.
It's 4pm and by chance, while promoting my book, someone walking past says
Person: "Hi, how's it going?"
I notice it's Mike from university, who I haven't seen since 2004
Me: "Good to see you! What are you doing here?"
Mike: "I'm here for one night because I'm catching a plane from Manchester Airport tomorrow."
Me: "What are you doing now?"
Mike: "Having a look around. Do you want to go out somewhere?"
Me: "Yes. I'm meeting someone in a bit, at 4pm, but it's ok. We can go together."
We're happy to meet each other by chance, we chat for a while then I get a text from Paul – he's the person I'm meant to be meeting. The text says: Sorry, can we make it 4:30. I thought the union was in the centre.
Paul is new to the city so it's ok. He's a safe guy, from Ireland, decided to move here for a year then go travelling to Australia. We met through a friend of friend and I said he could meet me today and we'll go around Manchester.
Having been all around the city centre on nights out over the last few weeks, I'm getting to know all the best venues. To be fair, up until a few weeks ago I hadn't been out to the city for a couple of years, until it all started again when I went out and met Alex K in the street (see the article on 6th September).
Me, Mike and Paul go to the Hard Rock Café, we chat for a long time, and are having a really good afternoon. It turns out that the guy I know from university (Mike) had been made redundant from a good job, was living at home now to save money on rent, and decided to go travelling. In the last 3 months he's visited 16 countries! He showed pictures of his friend (someone off my course through who I met him), who he went to Iceland with climbing a glacier. He's been to the kind of places you wouldn't normally visit such as Russia, Estonia, and Sweden. He was staying in Manchester for one night before taking a plane from Manchester Airport to Oktoberfest – the beer festival in Munich.
We then go to Kro Bar in Piccadilly Gardens. I like the venue, we get good seats and talk about what we've done etc. It's all good. Tonight here are lots of businessmen in suits standing around and drinking after work. There are special offers on drinks from 5pm-8pm.
Then we go to the Printworks.
Mike: "Let's get some food."
Paul: "Where shall we go?"
Mike: "Let's go in there and get a proper meal. I don't want to go to a takeaway."
Mike points to Waxy O'Conners. We don't know what it's like in there but it's the first place we come across and it seems ok. We go to the bar to order, the guy can barely speak English, he understands our order we think – we can't understand what he says but takes the right amount of money, he must be from Eastern Europe, he's polite and gives good service at first. Then he forgets to bring the bottle of Corona one of us orders, then gives it us and apologises. I hope the food is going to be ok.
It turns out to be very good and the service excellent, then we sit in the bar and relax after our meals, having an altogether enjoyable time.
We go down Oxford Road, heading towards the University area to a party I'd heard about that was going on tonight. It was being organised by a few people I used to know years ago, who I'd also by chance met on Tuesday. I get us in for free and it's busy, but it's more of a social gathering which is nice for a bit, but we're looking for more entertainment as it's turning into a special night out, a reunion. So we leave and we're back on Oxford Road, there are a bunch of people walking around in Fancy Dress, and Paul – the guy who is new to Manchester – goes and asks them where the party is. It turns out it's at the Footage and Firkin, which is not far from where we are, so we go there.
Inside the place is full of about 150 people all wearing nightwear – pyjamas, slippers, dressing gowns, and so on. It's the freshers week pub crawl for students studying medicine – but it's got a lot bigger and the fancy dress more outrageous than it used to be.
Mike: "Some of the students are dressed so gay! I can't believe it." he says laughing at some of the very dodgy outfits they're doing a pub crawl in.
We chat to a few people there, a few other societies from the university joined up with the event too. And it's not only 1st years, people from every year have come along to join in. The party is vibrant, it's a good atmosphere. Paul is getting into it more than me and Mike(my friend from university). We're kind of like:
Mike: We went to Manchester University and got out degrees. That was being at university and we had a good time. Now we're doing other things. I don't want to be a student again because I've done it and want to do other things."
Me: "You're right. The whole point of university was to get an education to do what we're doing now. I like my lifestyle now."
Mike: "Me too. It's fun travelling and having a career."
Despite not wanting to be students again like Paul does, we're still having a good time. It's a positive thing to see the students, and be pleased to have done our degrees and doing our own thing now.
We leave and take a bus down Oxford Road, through Rusholme to Fallowfield. On the bus the three of us can't sit next to each other because many of the seats are taken. Paul sits behind me next to a lady in her 20's who is writing in a notebook. She's writing so much ,that in between having a conversation with Paul, I say to her "Are you writing an essay?" She laughs and we end up in a conversation about how she'd just been to a talk about society and religion, she's from Sale, and we get on so well She gives me her number to meet up in future.
We get off the bus at Fallowfield and it becomes a nostalgia trip for me and Mike about university days, but at the same time, like we mentioned earlier, we've been there and are doing our own thing now – be it writing books (me), travelling the world (Mike), and living in a new city (Paul). We visit Oak House bar where we used to go when we I lived at Oak House halls of residence an Mike lived in Owens Park. Paul says he's going home – we've been out for 7 hours by now – and he lives in Fallowfield which is where we are now anyway. We think he's also feeling a bit left out on me and Mike's nostalgia trip. We're encouraging him to join in though.
"Let's go for a Kebab" says Mike. So I take us to a place I know is ok and gives reasonable service. Then, since I have the car in Fallowfield, I give Mike a lift to his hotel in the city centre. I drop him off, turn around, and drive out of the city.
It was a good night that happened all by chance of meeting someone I knew from university.
Reviews: Thursday 25th September
Click here for Season 1 Index
Oxford Road near the universities
Notes: During freshers week the streets are full of students and promoters trying to attract people to visit their clubnights and shop at their stores.
Oxford Road Manchester
Hard Rock Café
Medium busy. Décor: 9/10. Clientele: Smart casual. Music: Rock and classic hits.
Notes: A nice venue to be with friends. Polite staff and a pleasant atmosphere.
Hard Rock Cafe
Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens
Medium busy. Décor: 6/10. Clientele: Office workers.
Notes: Lots of office workers come here on Thursday after work.
Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens
Medium busy. Décor: 7/10. Clientele: People out for meals and drinks after work, some Irish people.
Footage and Firkin
Very busy. Décor: 4/10. Clientele: students.
Notes: A large venue which is popular among students.
Footage and Firkin
Abduls in Fallowfield
Quiet. Décor: 5/10. Clientele: students.
Notes: Serves kebabs with good quality salad.