Note This is a first draft, but I’ve decided to share my NaNoWriMo progress as I go along. We’ll see how I get on. The idea is to write a travelogue of the narrator’s return home after being far too close to some momentous events. How his old home has changed whilst he’s been away, and what kept him away so long, will be revealed as he feels like making it known. Any comments are welcome. There are bound to be loads of continuity errors before I go through and do the second draft, but it’ll help to have them pointed out.
My taxi is powered by a well known local kebab chain. In fact all the motorised cabs in the taxi rank had a rosette around the filler cap championing their source of biodiesel. I’d have taken one of the pedal rickshaws, but my baggage is heavy and I doubt they would have been able to haul it.
“Are you up from London then?” the taxi driver asks.
“No. I’ve come over from Europe.” This surprises him, I see the twitch of his head as he looks at me in the rear view mirror.
“Were you there long?”
I used to say I never planned to leave Manchester- until I went travelling for a month that turned into five years. A lot has happened in those years, a lot that has kept me away from home. Which is a shame, because a lot of interesting and important stuff has happened here whilst I’ve been away. Less spectacular, but arguably more important, than the stuff I was nearly part of. I’ve made a living covering the events in France and elsewhere, but I want to write about something positive for a while. And I want to meet all my old friends, and find out whether they’ve still got any of my stuff.
There aren’t many vehicles on the road. Buses, other biodiesel or ethanol powered vehicles, some electric cars and bikes. Lots and lots of bikes. Some sections look like old snapshots from India or China, the two wheeled masses blocking much of the road. I can’t help wondering where my bikes are, this would be so much more relaxing to ride through than the old days of constantly dodging motorised road users.
Most of the cycles flocking around the taxi are quite basic, old school even. Lugged and brazed steel tube frames in the traditional sit up and beg arrangement, quite a few of them single speeds. I get the feeling there’s a factory, or at least a workshop, somewhere nearby turning these things out. I shall have to investigate.
We move out of the centre at pedal pace, which isn’t much slower than the old motorised pace. I’ve booked into a hotel in Rusholme, not that far from one of the branches of the kebab chain that powers my taxi. So that’s dinner sorted. Through snail mail and email I have told people I’m on my way, but you don’t just turn up on someone’s doorstep after five years away. So I’ll set up camp in the hotel and then go visiting.
The taxi driver accepts Euros, and offers change in a variety of currencies. “What’s a Levy?”
“It’s Levenshulme money. One of those LETS things? Local shops and people take them instead of real money.”
The list gives exchange rates. This is a taxi, so I expect them to be somewhat less than I’d get elsewhere. And we’re not in Levenshulme, so I should go for an even more local currency. I’ll take it in Curry Mile dollars please.”
Tipping generously gets me some help carrying my bags up to my room. They’re heavy because everything I want to keep from the last five years is in them. Turmoil has done wonders to cut down my hoarding instinct, but I’m still a sucker for comics and books. Most of one bag is made up of mensuels and samizdat one sheets I haven’t got round to reading yet. I have a week’s worth of clothes, two very small laptops, a number of peripherals, some very clever cabling and a few mementoes. Everything I left in Manchester, if it hasn’t been further dispersed, is spread around the homes of friends or in a self storage container I arranged remotely and don’t really know the location of.
The hotel is actually three terraced houses, and the rooms are more like bedsits. My room is the top floor of the middle house, a bedroom, bathroom and storage room. I share a hallway and the front door with the two rooms downstairs. I plug the laptops in to charge and head out for food.
The Curry Mile isn’t as gaudy as it used to be, there’s a distinct lack of neon. It’s still nowhere near a mile long either but it doesn’t really have anywhere to expand into. The menus have some interesting additions. “Rabbit kebab?” The man behind the counter gives me a look like I’m from outer space. Evidently they’ve been selling Thumper in a naan for a while now and only an idiot wouldn’t know about it.
“Yes? You want one?”
“Sure, why not.”
The rabbit chunks on the skewer look like darker chicken meat. It sizzles satisfyingly when he puts it onto the coals. “Where do you get rabbit meat from?”
“Local grown. A farm in Cheshire.”
I want to ask more, but he goes back to kneading dough into naan. So I stare out of the window at the stream of cycles, chip fat taxis and electric cars that are passing by. It’s odd to be back.
The rabbit is tough, but very tasty. It’s not as if I’ve never eaten it before, it was just a surprise to find it in a kebab shop.
Now I want to sleep. It’s been nearly four day’s journey to get here from the south of France and I have that wiped out but not really tired lethargy of sitting around for extended periods. GMT is only seven o’clock. I could go out or I could go to sleep, but I don’t really want to do either. So I decide to do some wireless sniffing.
I’ve accumulated a bag of kit that’s larger than both laptops combined, just for the finding of and connection to wireless nodes. But I don’t really need any of it, because the lights on my little keychain sniffer are all green. Urban networks always have better coverage, but too much time spent in valleys and small towns have left me paranoid. There are more than enough open nodes, so I pick one and I’m away.
It turns out Manchester, and the Northwest in general, has a good wired and unwired network. Connections to the rest of the world are spotty as always but they’re getting better slowly. I’ve even had a few emails from the Divided States, where I seem to be getting ever more readers. I fire off a few replies and tell Manchester in general that I am here, then start on my notes for the day.
I don’t know when I fell asleep, but when I roused it was dark outside and the computer screen was filled with 3s where I’d slumped against the keyboard.