Friday 14th November
It's 6:30pm on a Friday evening, 6:30pm. I'm at a relatives' house in Cheshire. I'm going to meet Yani the French guy at 8pm in Manchester, so I've got to set off at 7pm to make sure I get a parking space and arrive early. Sometimes on a night out I like to get there 10 or 20 minutes early so it's not a last minute rush, then listen to music in the car with the windows down, or go outside and watch the evening starting up.
I turn on the mobile phone and there's a message.
Message: "Sorry, can we make it 9pm. I've been held up in traffic coming back from the shops."
It was sent at 6:18pm. This is a sign of someone who's unreliable. I'm going to cancel since we arranged this on Thursday so he had enough notice to make sure he's on time. He knows where the bar is and he's been there before.
Yani is the guy who was out last week on the 7th November.
No-one else was invited along because the aim of tonight is to visit lots of places and check them out. Tonight we were going to finalise the venues to meet up at every week. and where to go later in an evening - before we start inviting more people along. It was to have a really good night out planned out so next time things would run smoothly.
Also, I was looking forward to visiting various venues tonight.
Next week we'll definitely have to invite everyone who we've swapped numbers with or got to know over the past few months. It's because if you leave it too long between inviting people out, or telling them you'll invite them out, they start to lose the excitement and looking forward aspect to going out.
I phone Chris to see what he's doing. Chris is a friend who used to live in Didsbury but doesn't go out much now. He's got engaged, planning to get married, and bought his own flat.
I dial his number.
The phone rings.
Chris: "Hi." There's music in the background.
Me: "Hi. Where are you?"
Chris: "In a bar. I'm out with some people from work. Come along if you like."
Me: "Will you still be there at 8?"
Chris: "Yes. How did the Christmas lights go?"
Me: "They were good thanks. I'll speak to you later. Where will you be?"
Chris: "I don't know. The Northern Quarter probably. Give me a call when you get here. I'm meeting some people in a bit. I'll introduce you."
Me: "Ok. See you later."
I put the handset down and end the call.
I was going to cancel meeting Yani, but as I've got someone to meet in the city anyway, I won't cancel. I set off at 8:15pm which is not giving me much time, so I drive faster and make it to the city. It's now 8:45pm and as I'm driving along Oxford Road, traffic is busier than usual. I notice a convenient space not far from the bars. I park, get out of the car, lock it, and go over to Odder.
It's 10 minutes early, there's a few people standing outside the venue waiting for friends. I start chatting to a lady waiting outside.
Me: "How's it going?"
Her: "Ok thanks."
Me: "Are you waiting for a friend?"
Me: "Can I get your opinion on something?"
Her: "Yes, sure."
Me: "Ok. Me and my friend were having a debate. Is it better to go out dressed smart on a night out, or smart casual?"
Her: "It depends. Smart casual is ok."
Then she thinks about it for a few seconds
Her: "Actually. Smart is better, it makes the night out feel more special."
Me: "Thanks. I prefer smart too. What places do you go out to? I've only been going out here for a few months. We've been to Kro Bar in Piccadilly Gardens and checked out a number of places."
Her: "I don't really go to Kro Bar. I'm going to Odder tonight. I don't go out very much now, I'm a teacher."
Me: "What year do you teach?"
Her: "Primary, Year 5." she says smiling. She must enjoy her job which is nice.
Me: "Where are you from?"
Her: "I'm from Salford. I also teach in Salford. Where are you from?"
Me: "South Manchester. I live here but I haven't been out in the city for a while. I've mostly been going to the suburbs."
Her: "Manchester isn't as good as it used to be."
Me: "How come?"
Her: "It's not as busy. It used to be really busy." she says emphasising the word really. Then she says
Her: "People don't go out regularly anymore. So you don't see the same people every week at the same venue. Where did you used to go out in the suburbs?"
Me: "Didsbury, Sale, Altrincham sometimes. I started coming out to the city with friends a few months ago. It's good fun. We've been going around all the bars and finding places we like."
Her: "I just meet up with friends nowadays. When are you meeting your friend?"
Me: "At 9 o'clock."
I check the time and it's now 9pm.
Her friend arrives. They hug each other. She says bye to me and goes into Odder.
It's just gone past 9pm. I've got the mobile phone with me to phone Chris and find out where he is later on.
I send a text to Yani saying
Message: "Are you coming or not?"
He replies right away with:
Message: "I am on the way. I will be there in 15 min. Sorry."
So I text him
Message: "Ok, see you in a bit."
Then I phone Chris to find out where he is.
His phone is ringing.
Chris: "Hi." shouts Chris.
Music is playing loudly in the background.
Chris: "I'm in a bar in the Northern Quarter. Wait a minute. I'll go outside……….. It's called the Northern. Are you coming over?"
Me: "How long will you be there?"
Chris: "I don't know. We'll be here a while. We're staying for a bit."
Me: "Will you still be there in 10 minutes?"
Chris: "Yes, we'll still be here."
Me: "Ok. See you in 10 minutes."
Chris: "See you in a bit."
Now it's past 9pm there are 4 people standing outside the venue phoning and texting friends who haven't turned up on time and wondering where they are. I realise every weekend groups of people must collect outside every hour at 8pm, 9pm, and so on. All these people waiting for people to turn up. It's not for me. I'm not going to join them. I set off towards the Northern Quarter.
What? Did you really think I was going to wait for Yani? If he can't make it on time I don't want to meet him. Also, I'll find out what time he really gets there when he texts me wondering where I am. If anyone rearranges by text it's best to cancel. I only didn't today because he's from a different country so might not know the city so well, and because I had someone else to meet there. Normally I'll only consider rearranging with the person if they phone me, there's a very good reason, and they're very apologetic, because rearranging is a sign of someone who'll always be a problem.
I go along Oxford Road, right at St. Peter's Square, alongside the tram lines, and across Piccadilly Gardens to Oldham Street. On Oldham Street I ask a group of people where the Northern is, they don't know, they say they're going to Matt and Phreds, it's a jazz bar. Oldham Street is quite busy, lots of people on their way to bars. It's warmer outside tonight than it has been for the past week. The ground is wet from the rain earlier. I go to the entrance of a place called Night and Day Café. I ask the doorman where The Northern is, he's helpful, he says left at the takeaway and first right.
I arrive outside the front of the venue and go in. There's a corridor for a few metres, then a doorway to a relatively small room on the right. I take a quick look inside the room, there are people standing chatting, the music is classic 80's and 90's Manchester music and the volume is just right. I go back to the corridor and continue along it another few metres, until it opens out into a large room with a bar in the middle, there's space on both sides of the bar where there are table and chairs. The place is busy. It's a Northern Quarter trendy bar. However, despite the trendiness everyone is dressed in mostly dark colours and their clothes don't look that flash. Maybe this is what is trendy here. An understated style. At least they're not wearing jeans. I'm wearing a black jacket, blue shirt, light coloured chinos and smart shoes so I stand out. If I wasn't wearing the black jacket I'd really stand out.
The Northern Quarter is reputed to be the trendy place to go out in Manchester. I was looking forward to coming out here because people are always telling me how good it is. That it's an individual, bohemian place with people with diverse tastes and styles. It's the place to meet artists, people who work in the media, television stars, and people with careers in fashion.
In the daytime there is a range of stores you wouldn't find anywhere else. There's a DJ shop where you can buy records, decks and speakers. There's also Afflecks Palace which teenagers like for buying fashion accessories. Affleck's Palace also popular amongst Goths. There's another building nearby which has lots of little shops with independent designers and artists – they make and sell jewellery, fashions, and homeware. Each shop is half retail environment and half workshop where they actually make the goods – you can watch people making the jewellery, cushions, and so on. Lots of people go there for gifts because it really has stuff you can't buy anywhere else.
The whole area is called the Northern Quarter. Like a lot of towns and cities they're giving names to shopping areas like ‘Northern Quarter' and ‘Historic Quarter'. The Northern Quarter used to be known to locals as ‘Oldham Street' so if people were going to this area they'd say ‘I'm going Oldham Street'. Maybe the idea was taken from America where the cities are in blocks and you really can have a quarter of the city region.
I'm inside the Northern walking around. I notice Chris sitting at a table talking with friends. There's a free seat so I join them.
Chris: "Hey. How's it going? Good to see you."
Chris's friend: "Hey. I know you already. I recognise you. You were out in that pub in Didsbury one time."
Me: "Yes. That was a good night."
A guy in his twenties with the group says:
Chris's friend: "Good to meet you. How's it going?"
Me: "Good thanks."
Chris: "This is Rachel"
Chris: "Rachel, meet Alex."
Altogether there is Chris, Chris's friend, a guy wearing a suit, a guy dressed in indie clothes, and 2 ladies. I'm introduced to them all but I don't hear their names since they're all sitting at this table with speakers directly above, the volume is a lot louder in this room. I'm sitting next to Rachel so I chat to her.
Me: "Hi. Do you work with Chris?"
Rachel: "Yes. I'm training to be a reporter. I'm on a one year placement, then I'm going to London."
Me: "Where are you from?"
Rachel: "Surrey. I went to university then got a placement here. What do you do?"
Me: "I'm running my own business. I've written a book and I do a few other things."
We talk a while. We get on well. The people who work at the newspaper with Chris are generally friendly. It could be because they're always doing interviews so newspapers attract sociable people.
Then I talk to the guy in the suit.
Me: "Hi, do you work with Chris?"
Suit: "Yes. We all work at the same company. I'm doing a training placement then going to London."
Me: "How come you all go to London?"
Suit: "If you want to work on a national newspaper you've got to move to London. That's the way it is. Do you like London?"
Me: "It's ok. I wouldn't live there myself because it suits me here. I can get more done in Manchester and it's easy to drive around."
We chat a while longer about what we do and the newspaper business.
Then Chris says
Chris: "It's too loud."
Me: "I'm alright, I'm wearing earplugs. I'm surprised you can even make out what I'm saying."
Chris: "Are you? I didn't notice. I'll have to get some too."
Chris's friend: "What's he saying?"
Me: "It's too loud in here."
Chris's friend: "You just get used to the loud music."
Rachel: "What's that?"
Chris: "He's wearing earplugs."
Rachel: "Really? I can't see them."
I wear earplugs because they quieten the music and make it easier to hear what people are saying. It also prevents the ringing or loss of hearing the next day. Many people take a whole day to recover. I'm often busy on Saturday so I want to be able to do things and be able to hear.
I get talking to the guy wearing indie clothes – a check shirt, t-shirt, jeans and trainers. He's got the indie style so right it looks quite good.
Me: "Let's go over there, to the other room where we can talk."
Him: "Good idea."
This isn't sensible. Is it the booze or what? Why do people go out to places that are too loud. They pay money to go to places they don't enjoy.
Me and the indie guy go over to the quieter room.
Him: "That's much better
Him: "How come you're out tonight?"
Me: "I was meeting up with someone earlier but he was late, so I left. I was coming here anyway though."
Him: "That's cool."
Me: "What do you do?"
Him: "I work at the same place as Chris. I've been here over a year. I work 3 days a week, not specific days though. They call me in when they need me."
Me: "Sounds ok, you get days off."
Him: "Yes. But I want to make a film, create something really good. Working 3 days a week I'm not reaching my full potential."
Me: "I get what you're saying. So do something in your spare time."
Him: "I am going to. I was trying to get some people involved but no-one gets anything done. So I'm doing it myself."
Me: "That's good."
Him: "Yes. I'm going to make what I want and it's going to be really good. Not what's dictated by current trends. What kind of films do you like?"
Me: "I don't watch much TV. I used to watch some action films. I also liked Lovejoy and Minder."
Him: "Minder! they show that on digital at the moment."
Me: "Modern TV is too flicky. They're always flashing clips. It's like an episode of Top Gear with a guy that had a jet pack and was on rollerskates. They show a bit of his rollerskate, a bit of his helmet, a bit of the rocket, there's a whooshing sound and drums, and background music. But they didn't show a picture of the whole guy with the rocket pack!"
Him: "I know exactly what you mean."
Me: "I enjoy a TV series like Minder. A lot of thought goes into the story line. Each episode is like a mini film in itself."
Him: "What other TV series are there?"
Me: "Magnum, Spender."
Him: "I know Magnum. Spender, I don't know that one."
Me: "It's the one that had Jimmy Nail in it."
Him: "Oh yes. Jimmy Nail. He was in that other series where he plays guitar. I wonder why they flick TV so much nowadays."
Me: "I thought you guys in the media would know this. It's because cutting the roll of film was expensive. So they'd plan a shot carefully and get it all in. Now it's digital they can cut as many times without any extra cost."
Him: "Of course. That's interesting." He says looking surprised.
Me: "It's like digital cameras. People get 20 rubbish photos instead of planning it properly and getting one good one!"
Him: "It's right."
Me: "And the TV programme making people probably get bored so they put more clips in."
Him: "It doesn't really add anything to the programme either."
Me: "Maybe I should be doing some filming."
Him: "We should get together. Creative people doing stuff. I'm not reaching my potential. I spend too much time at home on the internet."
Me: "The reason I get stuff done is because I don't use the internet, or email. I don't send things off and get an opinion in a few days. I need an opinion now. I show someone something and they tell me with their tone of voice and facial expressions. Right there and then."
Him: "Yes. It's right!"
Then he says
Him: " What's your number. I'll put it in my phone now."
Me: "Here's my card."
Him: "I'll contact you during the week."
I printed some business cards, it makes swapping numbers better and it's nice to have trendy business cards to hand out.
On my phone I've received a few texts from Yani. One telling me he's at Odder which was sent at 9:45. That's 45 minutes late! It wouldn't have been nice to stand outside Odder for 45 minutes. He also sent a few others saying "I'm very sorry" and "Let's meet up next week". I won't be inviting him out again.
I go over to the table where everyone is sitting. A lady from the group is leaving and says goodbye since she's got to catch the last train to Huddersfield. She asks if I ever went there. I tell her I have because a friend from school went to university there and I visited him. The indie guy and the guy in the suit also leave.
I say let's get going and Chris agrees. We put our jackets on and leave the venue. It was ok in there. If you sit in the right place the Northern is a bar worth visiting for the atmosphere. The two people left in the group other than me and Chris need more money so we go to the cash machine in Piccadilly Gardens.
We're standing near the cash machine as Chris queues to get money. There's me, Chris, Chris's friend who I saw once in Didsbury, and Rachel with us.
Rachel: "Where are we going next?"
I check the time. It's 11:30, too late to go to King Street as most places there shut at 12.
Didsbury Guy (previously known as Chris's friend): "We'll go back to the Northern Quarter."
Chris comes back from the cash machine
Chris: "What are you doing?"
Me: "I might get going."
Didsbury guy: "Come to the northern quarter."
Me: "Where are you going?"
Didsbury Guy: "We can go to Trof or Socio Rehab."
Me: "Is there a Trof here? I thought there was one in Fallowfield."
Didsbury Guy: "In the Northern Quarter. It's the same company."
Me: "I read a review about Socio Rehab, I wouldn't mind checking it out."
We go along a road called Tib Street to the Northern Quarter
Chris: "This is Socio Rehab."
We go to the door and the doorman says
Doorman: "£2 in."
Didsbury Guy: "We won't bother then."
As we walk past Socio Rehab there are two ladies smoking outside a different entrance to it. I decide to find out more about the venue.
Me: "Hi, do you go in there?"
Lady 1: "Socio Rehab, yes."
Me: "Is it any good?"
Lady 1: "Yes, it's ok."
Me: "What type of people go there?"
Lady 1 looks at her friend
Lady 2: "All sorts. I don't know really."
Me: "What do you do?"
Lady 1: "We work at Selfridges."
Me: "Who do you go out with?"
Lady 1: "Two people who work in an office and two students."
Lady 2: "Are you doing a survey or something?"
Me: "I wanted to find out what kind of place it is, I might come back here in future. Me: "Do you go here every week?"
Lady 1: "No, we go all over."
Me: "Thanks. See you later."
We go along the street to another venue. I don't know what it's called, a lot of the bars around here don't have big signs with their names. We go inside and I leave the group and take a look around. There are two rooms to this place. The first room has one has a bar on the right and seating on the left, with a space in the middle that could be used for dancing. At the moment there's a queue 3 deep at the bar. This room has tables and chairs. I walk to the end of this room through a doorway into a second room. In the second room there's a big U shaped sofa and other sofa type seating and barstools. On the back wall is some graffiti art.
Something I notice in here is that in the groups of friends scattered around the venue, not many are talking to each other much. They just sit there opposite or next to each other drinking but not saying anything. Maybe they're being cool and enjoying each others' company.
I go back into the first room and Chris is still queueing at the bar.
Then I notice Didsbury Guy.
Didsbury Guy: "The service is really slow here. They make cocktails so slowly it takes about 2 to 3 minutes to make a drink."
I glance over to the bar and a member of staff is pouring something light green extremely slowly over some crushed ice in a glass. Another has half a pineapple. It's ok, most people here don't seem to mind waiting, if they don't like it they don't have to come here. It's good to see the bar staff making the drinks, they've turned it into a kind of show.
15 minutes later Chris comes over with drinks. There aren't any free seats in here so we go to the second room.
Chris: "There's some space on the sofa."
Chris, followed by the other two in the group go to sit down but a lady puts her arm on the sofa saying
Sofa lady: "People are going to sit here."
So the group don't sit down. I say to Chris
Me: "That sofa is so long we could sit on it and there'd be room for a few of her friends."
Chris: "She's messing about."
Me: "You go and sit down."
Chris: "I don't want trouble."
Chris is right, this is how trouble starts in a bar. But she's with 2 guys at the moment and they don't look like troublemakers.
Me: "You go and sit down. If she says anything let me deal with it."
Chris: "Ok. She can't take up all that sofa. If no-one is sitting there no-one's sitting there."
Everyone goes and sits down. I sit on the end near the sofa lady.
Sofa lady: "You can't sit here. People are coming in a bit."
Me: "If anyone comes we'll go."
Sofa lady: "Well they'll be here in a minute."
Now we're sitting down it's obvious there's enough room for 2 people to sit next to her.
Sofa lady: "That's not nice."
She tried the ‘be a a nice guy' card but it doesn't work with me.
Me and the Didsbury Guy talk a while. The Sofa Lady's friend comes over and sits down, and there's enough room for them.
Then 5 minutes later the music turns up a notch. It's the same again. This is just too rubbish. Everyone is shouting to each other.
Me: "It was good seeing you. I'm going to get going."
Rachel: "Are you going already?"
Chris: "Ok, good to see you. Laters."
Didsbury Guy: "See you later."
We shake hands. They're good people. I leave the venue.
Ok. So I'm out on the street. I haven't been around this area of the Northern Quarter before. I thought I'd covered it all with Alex K but we missed a bit. It's only 12:15 so I'll check out one bar that looks reasonable called Odd. Inside it's busy. I go downstairs. Ok. This is different. It's a small basement room with a film showing on a projector. There are a few sofas. I'm standing in the room. Opposite me on a sofa are 2 ladies and a guy.
Me: "Hi, how's it going?"
Lady 1: "Ok."
It's those cliquey types again. I could use the can I ask your opinion routine because that brings people around, but then again I won't bother.
Me: "What's the film?"
Lady 1: "I don't know."
Me: "I was upstairs and I thought I'd check the room out down here. It's good. What do you guys do?"
Lady 2: "We work in Selfridges."
I don't care to get to know them better. Not because they work at Selfridges, it's because the way they're all cliquey. I could use the can I ask your opinion line but it's late, and what's the point.
I go upstairs and I consider how I go to the Northern Quarter and the 5 people I randomly spoke to tonight worked in Selfridges. And come to think of it, when me and Alex K were in the Northern Quarter we met 4 random people, of who two were office workers and 2 worked in Selfridges.
So what I found tonight is the Northern Quarter has some aspiring media types and people who work in Selfridges.
I leave that bar. I'm on the street again and now I'm going towards Piccadilly Gardens. I'm walking past a traditional pub and decide to take a look inside. I go through the door and there's a group of 6 big guys standing in a circle boozing and laughing. One of the guys says "Hello" in a happy mood, I say "Hi." The guy on my left is wearing a white and green smart rugby top , trousers and shoes. They're all dressed in a similar style that you don't usually see. The guy on the left says "How are you?" He speaks with a foreign accent.
Me: "Good. How are you?"
Him: "Good! I am from Norway. I am with a group of friends. We all come to Manchester 2 days ago."
Me: "Oh right! How are you finding it?"
Him: "Yesterday the 4 of us"
He points to four guys in the group
Him: "We went to Old Trafford yesterday. We went on the tour. We saw the trophies, the memorabilia, the ground. It was very emotional. We are United supporters, but we have never been to Manchester before!"
Him: "That man there."
He points to a guy in his group.
Him: "He supports Stoke. So yesterday he took the coach all the way to Stoke and went to the ground."
Me: "That's great."
This is brilliant. This is what going out is supposed to be about. Having a good time. Talking about things with enthusiasm. And so on.
Him: "I like England. Do you like Manchester?"
Me: "Yes, it's good."
Him: "Norwegians have a reputation for being, how do you say. Look down."
He makes an expression with his face and hands.
Me: "You mean not talkative, not sociable?"
Him: "Yes. Exactly. I notice it here too walking around shops. But in the pub it is very friendly."
A guy to my right who is all happy, laughing and drunk says:
Other guy: "Do you want this beer?"
Me: "No, thanks."
Other guy: "Are you sure? It's my birthday, someone just bought it for me but I've had enough already!"
Me: "Thanks a lot but I'm driving."
Him: "We met him in here." says the Norwegian guy referring to the guy whose birthday it is, meaning that it's great to meet the locals.
Then we chat a while about Manchester United footballers. His favourite is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. My favourite United player is Roy Keane
Him: "In England the ladies dress very smart. In the shopping, we went to the Arndale, they look very attractive." he says this also referring to a lady in the pub.
Him: "In Norway they mostly wear trousers. It's nice they dress smart here. It's good."
He says it in a way with gestures to show he doesn't mean it in a sleazy way, he appreciates their style.
We talk a while longer, then they get going. I say bye. They're very polite. They head over to their hotel. I leave the pub at the same time.
Summary and venue reviews: Friday 14th November
Click here for Season 2 Index
Medium busy. Clientele: students, casual and smart casual, a teacher I met outside the venue.
Busy. Clientele: dressed down trendies, bohemian types. Décor: 7/10. Music: classic hits, indie.
Notes: A comfortable venue that is all round ok.
A Bar in the Northern Quarter with cocktails, 2 rooms and graffiti art on the back wall
Busy. Clientele: trendies, dressed down trendies, arty, bohemian. Décor: 6/10. Music: Far too loud for a bar.
Notes: cocktails made with fresh fruit.
Busy. Clientele: dressed down trendies, trendies, people who work in Selfridges. Décor: 8/10.
Notes: An all round ok venue with a room downstairs with a projector that shows films.
Notes: Lots of people who work in Selfridges go out to the Northern Quarter.
Pub in the Northern Quarter
Medium busy. Clientele: locals and a group of Norwegians on holiday. Décor: 5/10.
Notes: A venue where you could become a regular and get to know the locals.