Saturday 20th September
It's Saturday night. I park my car on a sidestreet in Didsbury, then walk over to meet Alex K outside the bars in Didsbury centre.
Alex K: "Hi."
Me: "Are we going in your car?"
Alex K: "What, you want me to drive?" says Alex K as if surprised.
Me: "I thought you were ok with driving, since you don't drink anyway."
Alex K: "We'll have to go to my house and pick it up."
We walk from the bars just around the corner onto the sidestreet and the car is parked there.
Alex K was joking. He had the car here all along.
Alex K doesn't usually drink much alcohol, not on a night out in the city. Neither do I except for a half pint or two, the only place I drink is at special events and occasionally at the local pub. I used to go out every Friday night and drink 10 bottles of beer or whisky. When I started using the car more and began going out to different towns and cities I stopped drinking as much, I never really noticed the difference in enjoyment when not drinking alcohol.
It's a warm evening. We're now standing on the sidestreet where we've got the cars parked. I go over to my car which is parked half on the road and half on the pavement. I take my jacket off, put it in the boot, and lock the car. At the same time Alex K is starting his car, then turning it around in the road. He stops in the middle of the road, I get in, and we drive off towards the city.
We're driving around the city now, looking for a parking space. There's no spaces free in Chinatown. Galaxy 102 is playing dance music on the radio as we weave around the one way system, across the metrolink tram lines, and behind the shops.
Me: "There's a space."
Alex K: "Where?"
Me: "On the left."
He spots it at the last second and drives past it. He brakes and reverses into it quickly, as someone else is approaching from behind down the street.
We leave the car and walk over to the Printworks. We go to the doorway of Tiger Tiger and the doorman says
Doorman: "I don't think you'll get in with those shoes."
Alex K: "I wore them last week."
Doorman: "I'll find out."
Alex K is wearing the same trendy trainer style shoes as last week, when we were let in, but this time the doorman doesn't like them. Aside from this, the ladies out onhen nights, some wearing lingerie and all sorts, who congregate in the restaurant and nightclub area, have no problems getting in. The doorman goes and asks the chief doorman, who is standing talking with 2 other doorman 5 metres away, then comes back.
Doorman: "No, I can't let you in."
I decide to reason with the doorman
Me: "Ok, he wore them last week and got in no problem. Now we know your door policy, how about you let us in this time, and next time he'll come dressed smarter."
Doorman: "You what?"
The doorman doesn't understand. He starts talking in an aggressive voice and trying to look all tough. It's obvious he's not used to people reasoning with him and sees it as a threat. All the same there's two of us and one of him, and they don't want trouble so I reason with him again.
Me: "I'm being reasonable with you, we'll go in now and next time he'll wear smarter shoes."
Doorman: "You what? What are you saying!"
He doesn't understand reason. He's raising his voice and acting aggressive. Then chief doorman notices it, comes over and politely says:
Chief doorman: "What's going on?"
Doorman: "These guys want to get in with those shoes!"
Chief doorman: "Sorry we can't let you in tonight, it's the dress policy to wear shoes not trainers."
Alex K: "Ok. Let's go."
They weren't going to let us in now after the first doorman lost his cool. As we walk away the chief doorman looks like he's having words with the doorman we spoke to.
Tiger Tiger isn't that good. It's good, but not good enough to get concerned about. For such a quality venue, there's too much inconsistency with the entertainment on the night. We have such good conversation and meet so many people we have a good time most places we go. Although I'm not that pleased that Alex K isn't dressed as smart tonight as on the 6th September. It's good that venues have smart dress codes, as long as they announce them properly and they're not over the top, because it makes it a more special place.
Me: "I did tell you to wear smart clothes before."
Alex K: "Smart casual is the style nowadays. Everyone gets in with trainers. It's the doorman that was on tonight."
Me: "Just because everyone else dresses not smart, doesn't mean we have to. A night out is meant to be something special."
We go and get sandwiches from that place in the Printworks – like Subway but different. The staff are really polite in there and the service is good. We sit down at one of the tables next to the window, with a view of the inside of the Printworks. Hundreds of people walking past on their way to visit the bars and clubs here.
Me: "This sandwich is good."
Alex K: "Yes, it's good quality here."
Me: "I met a lady outside the library on Friday. She was stood there taking a break from work. Anyway. It turns out she runs a production company and they're doing showreels for actors and making films."
Alex K: "What did you say to her?"
Me: "She looked at me and made eye contact so I said Hi. And she replied by saying – I was thinking things over, I've got a lot on my mind – but she said it smiling. I said – You work in the library? – She said – I'm temping, I'll only be here for 4 weeks, I'm setting up a production company with a friend."
Alex K: "That's good."
Me: "Then I was like – my friend is an actor, he might be interested. So we went into the library, chatted, and she gave me the contact number. Here it is."
I give the piece of paper with the contact number written on it.
Alex K: "Black Cat Productions?"
Me: "That's the name of their company. Weren't you setting up a production company?"
Alex K: "Yes."
Me: "Maybe you could get together."
Alex K: "Thanks."
Me: "It's ok."
Alex K: "You know, everyone is setting up a production company nowadays."
Me: "It's like everyone is a screenwriter, an actor, and so on."
Alex K: "Everyone is in the media."
Me: "It's because so many people watch TV. They don't realise being an actor is hard work – it means learning lines, practising, filming. People think if they're an actor then they just say a few lines and that's it. Not that they'll have lots of auditions to get a part. To be an actor you have to be ok to do all that."
Alex K: "It's like writing your book."
Me: "Yes. It needs to be written well for the people that will read it. Also there's marketing, distribution and everything else. I enjoy it, but it's not a case of write a few pages and there's a book."
Alex Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens is next. We stay over an hour because a) we're having good conversation and a good night b) because Alex K knows the guy working on the door and we have a conversation with him. He's a good guy and we get on well. As we're talking to the doorman the women in the venue perk up and start showing us lots of attention. It's because we look like we know the guys who run the place, which in this case we do. It also happens if we generally have a good conversation with someone we just met. Then more people start noticing us because they notice other people checking us out. For a while we go out to the front of Kro Bar with a view of Piccadilly Gardens and the city streets off it. This is a nice setting.
Then we go towards a bar on Portland Street, taking a shortcut along canal street. Things are different this week because the students are now at university, so they are busy in student areas and canal street is of no interest to them anymore. The area around canal street is half empty, it's rough, we're offered drugs a couple of times. We reach the bar on Portland Street, it's called Tribeca.
It's reasonably busy, Me and Alex K have noticed two people who are seated near us:
Me: "Go and chat to those two ladies over there."
Alex K: "They're with some guys."
Me: "So what. They're probably friends."
I don't know if they're friends or boyfriends but there's only one way to find out.
Me: "Hi, can I get your opinion on something?"
Lady 1: "Yeah, sure."
Me: "Do you prefer to go out smart or smart casual. Because I was having a discussion earlier about it with my friend. I was saying it's better to go out smart because it's more of a special night out."
Lady 1: "It depends where you're going."
Lady 2: "If you're going on a night out it's better to be smart."
Lady 1: "Yes. But if it's just a few hours with friends."
Lady 2: "If it's a few hours it doesn't matter."
Me: "Thanks. That was good. Are you celebrating anything tonight?" I say this because they're with a group of 4 ladies and 4 guys, which wasn't apparent before, but they've all come over as we're talking to the ladies."
Lady 1: "We're out with people from our course."
Me: "Are you students?"
Lady 1: "Yes. I'm a PhD student studying Maths."
Me: "Where are you from?"
Lady 1: "Italy."
Me: "Where are you from?"
Lady 2: "I'm from Germany."
Lady 1: "She's doing a Masters in economics."
Alex K: "Sounds interesting."
Lady 1: "It is. What do you do?"
Me: "I've written a book for students, to make the most of university. Here, have a leaflet." After last week I make sure I've got promotional leaflets with me in case we meet any more students.
Lady 1: "Wow. I'll have a look. But I'm not here for long. I'm going back to Italy in October."
Me: "How come?"
Lady 1: "I want to go back home."
Lady 2: "What do you do?"
Alex K: "I'm an actor. I'm doing a short film at the moment."
Lady 2: "Good. What films do you like?"
Alex K: "Have you seen the new Batman movie?"
Lady 1: "Yes. I've seen it, we enjoyed it."
We get some more drinks and continue talking with them. After half an hour the other members of their group are going, so the two we're talking to have to go with them. We don't bother swapping numbers because they're going back to their own countries next month.
Lady 1: "It was nice meeting you. Good luck with your book, and your acting."
Alex K: "See you later."
It's turning out to be a good night. It was nice being in Tribeca. I've been working all week on my book until 7 or 8 at night and Alex K has been working on a film he's about to start shooting in a couple a weeks, so we're enjoying the weekend entertainments. The city has a different atmosphere tonight. The nightlife varies from week to week. Two Saturdays in a row might be friendly, then two might be cliquey or uneventful. if you keep going out, keep visiting places, meeting people, you will have good times. Too many people have one not so good night out and give up, they stay at home and wonder why they never have the enjoyable ones.
By now we're thinking of going to Fallowfield. We've had a good night and now it's 1am. The city isn't as busy or vibrant as last week, although we might try one more place. After all, it's important to keep the commitment to stay out and get the experience. A night out can be 6 hours so there will be quieter periods. We'll try one more venue then we'll go to Fallowfield.
Fab Café, we went last week and met a nice person we got on with really well. So we go there. As we walk down the steps into the venue and see people in the venue, we realise that last week was probably just good luck. This week it isn't as good – lots of alcohol, drowning sorrows, drunk people getting in the way and pushing each other on the dancefloor.
At the bar I notice the lady I met outside the library whose contact details I'd given to Alex K earlier in the night (when we were at the sandwich place).
Me: "It's the lady with the production company."
Alex K: "Who?"
Me: "The one whose contact details I gave you earlier."
It's a coincidence we've met each other again. I go up to the bar where she's sorting out glasses and putting them into the washer.
Her: "Hi." she says smiling and looking surprised."
Me: "So you work here too?"
Her: "Yes. It's to earn extra money, y'know how it is."
Me: "That friend I was talking to you about the other day. Here he is."
Her: "Oh right! Hi!" She smiles and looks happy. She's generally a happy person. She's also pleased to see that it was for real. A lot of people claim to know someone who could be useful to know but never comes through. She has a conversation with Alex K for about 10 minutes. Then she has to get back to work because there's a build-up of glasses to wash.
Her: "I'd better get back to work. Do you want anything to drink?"
Alex K: "Yes. Two half pints of Carlsberg."
She goes away to the other side of the bar and comes back with the drinks.
Alex K: "Thanks."
Her: "Nice meeting you."
Me: "See you later."
We go to the other side of the dancefloor to listen to the music for 20 minutes. As I look around the room there's a woman standing a metre away, she's in her 20's, as she is also looking around the room we both end up making eye contact. I smile to acknowledge her and am about to look away when she says with attitude
Her: "You so wish!"
Me: "You know what."
Her: "What?" she says waiting for me to say something so she can make another comeback
Me: "I'm not interested. Actually I don't like you at all. I've got good friends, a good lifestyle, I meet lots of people."
She starts shouting and gets aggressive – first the doorman at Tiger Tiger and now her. She's shouting at the top of her voice "You don't *!!! with me." over and over, and "I'll get you.." but not throwing any punches. She's standing really close to me waving her arms and shouting, I'm standing there, then I hold her wrists to calm her down and stop her picking anything up and using it as a weapon, as there's a shelf with bottles nearby and it looks like she's thinking about using them. I take a glance at the doorman behind me guarding an open back door to the venue, he's sitting on a chair watching the fiasco looking none too concerned. By now I'm not really bothered about the lady shouting, it's all front, when she notices this she backs off.
Then a guy comes into view, I didn't notice him earlier but she must be with him, he walks towards and pushes me. He's bigger and heavier but not that fast. He's not that fast. I feel the adrenaline.
Do you remember how only last week (13th September) I was saying how dangerous street fighting is, and how it's best not to get involved. And now – how easy things have escalated to violence within about 30 seconds.
It's a good job I've been working out for the past 4 months. My goals had been toning and strength. In the past I did martial arts training – I know I know, everyone claims to be a martial artist nowadays. In fact I think a lot of martial arts makes people worse in fights because real fights are close – more like wrestling and boxing. But I was fortunate to have done lots of sparring in a decent type of Karate, I also tried kickboxing and freestyle martial arts, but never stuck with them. I wish I had now. The martial arts gives me an edge because I have hundreds of hours of practice to dodge at least 5 punches and get out of there.
So this guy pushed me, I was already alert and ready for a battle from the woman shouting. He doesn't push me very far at all although he pushed hard. The fact that he pushed me and I didn't fall back gives me an edge, it's subtle but it's important. He knows it's not going to be easy, his body language shows he's doubting, he'd leave it, but there's a woman involved so I still think he'll go for it.
To my right is another guy, possibly with them. The woman is still there but backing off waiting for the guy to take over her battle. Alex K is to my left, he's done boxing at a Moss Side gym, he might even try to break it up, but everything is moving so fast he doesn't have time. I couldn't get to the exit if I wanted to because they're all in the way – I'm cornered.
He's not going to back off. Ok, here goes. I waste a split second deciding whether to punch him, or to do a textbook Karate move and knock him slowly to the ground with a sweep, carrying him through so he doesn't hit his head badly or anything stupid. I'll still beat him but without causing him injury. Then I think what am I thinking, I could be underestimating him, after all he made the first move. Even if I get him to the ground, he might come back so I might as well punch him and it'll all be over.
You don't get slogging matches in nightclubs. Most fights are over in about 15 seconds. It's not like on the TV or in films. It takes only one light punch for a black eye or a medium one for a very painful nose. Whoever throws the first punch usually wins – it's because when you get hit hard, you get disorientation and ringing in the ears, which unless you're used to it means they can easily follow up with another and another before you've collected yourself again.
I don't have anymore time to think. The guy is going to try to punch me. My posture changes, it's a kind of feeling you get in a situation like this when there's only one thing left to do. Making decisions is over. It's all speed and reactions now. I'm going forward, and the other guy knows it.
Then a doorman who usually mans the front door of the club comes out of nowhere and stands between us saying "what's going on". He's seen the other guy push me, probably. So rightly thinks they're the trouble. I realise the doorman behind me must have radioed for help. Me and Alex K go to the front of the venue and decide to leave, unbothered by door staff.
We're now outside on the city streets. It's a contrast to the dark bar with heavy air and loud music. Everything is back to normal again.
Me: "Let's go to the casino."
Alex K: "I don't know, shall we go to Fallowfield?"
Me: "No, let's go to the casino for a few minutes, we can get a drink and relax there, then go to Fallowfield."
Alex K: "Ok."
We go inside the casino, down the stairs, walk across the gaming area past the roulette tables and stand near the cash point.
Me: "I felt the adrenaline."
Alex K: "You were getting in a fight."
Me: "I know, but I didn't used to feel the adrenaline at all. It was only a little bit, I felt it in my chest. It must be because I haven't been in a ruck for so long."
Alex K: "Yeah."
We go over to the drinks area, I get a soft drink and K gets a coffee. We go and sit at an empty table usually used for card games."
Me: "Did you come to that poker game here?" There was a game on last week Alex K was planning on playing in.
Alex K: "Yes."
Me: "Did you win?"
Alex K: "No. I played a hand badly."
Me: "How much did it cost to enter?"
Alex K: "£25. I should have won."
Me: "Did you get the free buffet?"
Alex K: "Yeah, it was so busy you could barely get into the restaurant."
Me: "It was really going to kick off in there."
Alex K: "I know, I could see you were going forward."
Me: "What else could I do, I was cornered. I couldn't have just walked out of there. I don't know what her problem was. She shouldn't give attitude if she doesn't like it back. What does she expect?"
Alex K: "You could have just said – whatever – and ignored her."
Me: "You know, you're right. Although I'd normally say that in that kind of situation."
Alex K: "Just don't even bother with them, let some other guy date them. Maybe you were so nice to everyone today doing business you had to even things out."
I start laughing.
Me: "Even things out! I don't know about that."
Alex K: "You were facing me so at first you had your back to them. But the group of them were giving us looks for a while. Probably because they thought we were on their patch."
Alex K: "Yeah. You handled yourself well."
Me: "Thanks. But this isn't a Karate competition or even Boxing in a ring. This is dangerous. People can have weapons."
I pause for a few seconds then say
Me: "Besides, going out is meant to be fun. We compete all day in our careers so go out to have a good time and make friends, not to get in fights."
We go to the car, drive to Fallowfield and laugh about it. We park behind the takeaways on one of the terraced streets and go to Sangam – a new takeaway that's just opened a few weeks ago.
Alex K: "Hi, is this place new?"
Takeaway person: "Yes. It's going to be the best takeaway in Fallowfield." he says smiling.
Alex K: "Good luck."
Me: "Yes, hope it goes well."
Takeaway person: "Thank you. What would you like?"
Alex K: "A large chips."
Takeaway person: "That's £1.75"
Alex K hands him the money.
Takeaway person: "Thank you. It will be 5 minutes. Take a seat."
The service is fast, the décor is the nicest I've seen of any takeaway. The seats and tables are well made, we notice the seats have metal plaques on them with the name of the takeaway engraved into it.
As we leave the takeaway the streets of Fallowfield are quiet, except for the odd student and a group of guys standing outside a fried chicken takeaway on the corner of Wilbraham Road and Wilmslow Road.
Alex K recognises one of the guys and we go over to chat. The guy Alex K knows is called Maz who's with a group of friends visiting from various universities around the country. They're good guys. One of them is wearing a trendy Grand Theft Auto T-shirt, it looks colourful and good. One of them tells me he wants to work in companies all over the world, so one year he'll work in America, another year in Europe for example Sweden, and so on, which I think is a really good idea. At the moment he's getting qualifications in IT to allow him to do this.
We talk so long outside the takeaway one of the guys starts saying "hey, are we advertising this takeaway or what! Let's go somewhere else!" so we go for a walk on Wilmslow Road, then it's late – we must have been here for well over an hour, it was a lot of laughs talking with them. Me and Alex K say bye and go back to the car. It was an eventful and good night, a bit of trouble but otherwise entertaining.
Summary and venue reviews: Saturday 20th September
Click here for Season 1 Index
Sandwich shop in the Printworks
Not very busy. Décor: 6/10.
Notes: polite service and useful for a snack in between going to bars and nightclubs.
Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens
Very busy. Clientele: smart casual, smart. Décor: 6/10. Music: R&B, pop.
Notes: Has a nice outdoor seating area.
Kro Bar Piccadilly Gardens
Notes: This week it attracted thugs and drug dealers.
Medium busy. Clientele: students, smart casual. Décor: 7/10. Music: chart, R&B.
Notes: Popular among students at the UMIST campus of Manchester University.
Tribeca Bar Manchester
Very busy. Clientele: indie, smart casual. Décor: 8/10.
Notes: Lots of troublemakers tonight. Door staff deal with trouble quickly.
Notes: A place to chill out from the bars, nightclubs and city streets.
Circus Casino Manchester
Sangam takeaway in Fallowfield
Not busy. Clientele: students. Decor:10/10.
Notes: Polite staff, good value and a pleasant eating environment.
Not busy at 3am.
Notes: An area popular among students as a place to live and go out.