Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Out and about in the weather. Christmas cards - some not quite understanding the idea!

I admit to having been somewhat reluctant to leave my warm bed this morning to go for a run. But as it wasn’t raining or blowing a gale I decided to get up and go before the forecast Storm Barra should arrive. It was very quiet out - the calm before the storm? By midday the trees were blowing about a bit but it hadn’t reached storm proportions. We’ll see what the rest of the day brings. 

Yesterday I chickened out of running in the the rain. The weather was rather disgusting and besides, we were going out later in the morning to meet my Italian conversation class for lunch in Manchester. 

Travel was an interesting adventure, as ever. We had looked up on the internet times of buses to the tram stop in Oldham to make sure we didn’t miss a connection. When we got to the bus stop the timetable in the bus shelter gave a completely different time from the internet! Which was correct? No way of knowing. If the bus shelter timetable was correct, had we just missed one? Would we have a long wait for the next one?

As we debated this, a bus arrived at the other side of the crossroads, a bus going in the right direction for us. As the bus goes into the village and then comes back down to the crossroads again there are two bus stops, one on each side of the road. So we crossed over, deciding we would be warmer on the bus going through the village than waiting at the stop for it to come back down. But the bus remained stopped on the other side of the crossroads. Another quandary! Had it broken down? Was it in fact following the bus shelter timetable and killing time as it was ahead of schedule? Just as we had decided we would be better off at our original stop, where there was at least a shelter, the bus started to move in our direction and we were able to get on. It made another few minutes pause just outside the village centre, and again at our original bus stop, and yet again at a stop in the middle of nowhere on the road to Oldham, at a point where normally you have a fine view over the moors towards Derbyshire. Yesterday you could see nothing. The horizon had closed in on us.

In Oldham we transferred to the tram, which was fairly empty and where most people were wearing masks. A young man in the front corner seat was talking on his phone, getting gradually more and more agitated. The more agitated he became, the louder he spoke into his phone and the more “colourful” his language became. I briefly considered going to ask him please to moderate his language but from what we could hear of his side of the conversation, which was by far the greater part suggesting the other party was having trouble getting a word in, he might very well have responded with violence. So we let him be, waiting until he eventually got off the tram to comment on how disturbed he seemed to be. 

And so we arrived at Exchange Square in Manchester, a sort of open space between the Arndale Centre, Selfridge’s and the old Corn Exchange, a space that I swear had either no name or a different name before the tram stop appeared there. We had about 10 or 15 minutes to spare, which is just as well as we had to locate the restaurant, supposedly one of the many such establishments at the Corn Exchange. We walked all around the outside of the Corn Exchange. No sign of it. We looked it up on our phones. It was definitely there … somewhere … but where exactly. The little blobby flag they put on electronic maps did not really help. Neither did the weather; it was still raining which no doubt impeded our vision. Eventually we found it. Most of the establishments in the Corn Exchange have wide fronts and their names emblazoned across the top. Our restaurant, Salvi’s, when we located it, had a narrow doorway, garlanded with artificial greenery which hid the name!

But we found it, only two minutes late! The entrance was narrow, leading into a sort of shop or delicatessen selling all sorts or Italian delicacies. We went down some stairs into the basement where the restaurant opened out nicely. Very good food was served in very copious portions. We swopped tales of huge Italian meals we had eaten in the past - all pr almost all in Italian. A good time was had by all!

Our journey home was uneventful, despite the presence of large numbers of secondary school pupils, mostly maskless! 

I’ve started to write Christmas cards. My tree will be set up and decorated when my son and family arrive about a week before Christmas.  His daughter is 7, just old enough to leave him wondering if she still believes in Father Christmas or if she has reached the stage where she pretends to do so to keep Daddy and Mummy happy! She’s still into the magic, however, and will enjoy decorating the tree with me. 

As I write my cards, checking on my address list and keeping track, I reflect on the personalised cards some people make from photos. We have a collection of family photos from an old friend, charting the growing up of his children, adding the children’s partners and now the grandchildren. I”m never that organised. Mind you, neither is he; he just sends a photo with greetings, nothing so sophisticated as a card made from the photo. 

And then I came across this so-called Christmas photo posted by a US congressman. All the family sits in front of the tree, each member holding a huge gun. Even if you believe people should have the right to carry guns for their own protection, these guns are seriously over the top. These are automatic weapons of war, machine guns. Nobody needs such guns. 

I think the congressman has not quite understood the message about peace and goodwill to all men!

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone! 

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