Notes I’m world building as I go along here. The result may not be a very coherent tale, but will probably serve as the basis for a fully realised project after the month is over. It’s going to get even more jumbled as I start jumping about and covering subjects as they occur to me, no matter where they end up in the timeline or finished tale. My apologies to City fans for what I’ve done to Maine Road.
I had wondered at the heavy tog duvet in my room, but I’d forgotten I was back in Britain. Years in the south of France have left me a little nesh and used to the warmth. An arm that sneaked out in the night whipped right back in, recoiling from the cold. I love this town, and it’s not really that chilly, but I wonder if I can get used to the weather again.
Other things interrupt my sleep, dreams of a forest and guns- the very moment I decided to come home. I wrap the duvet around myself to form a coccoon and sleep nearly to noon when I finally drift off.
I’m going to need more warm clothes until I get used to the lower temperature. I feel like such a wuss, where’s my Northern hardiness? For now I put on some extra layers and a heavy leather jacket I picked up on the way through London.
It’s not raining. I’d psyched myself up to expect constant precipitation, so that’s a pleasant surprise. I step out into a bright, crisp autumn day and go hunting for food and money.
There are a lot of vegetarian options everywhere. Meat is a lot more expensive nowadays, or maybe priced a lot more realistically, and local, seasonal veg is filling the gap. I go for roast, curried squash and potatoes, warming and filling, with big chunks of bread instead of rice to soak up the sauce.
My wallet has several partitions in it, but still not enough to separate the many different currencies I’ve picked up on my travels. There are a few French local currencies that I didn’t manage to get rid of, some London chits, Euros- which remain the most stable and most acceptable currency in the world, even some pounds, and my Curry Mile dollars. I lay them out on the counter to see what’s acceptable currency in the local fast food outlets. The owner tuts, but slides the London currencies into the acceptable pile beside the Euros and pounds. “Where are these from?” he points at the various French chits.
“France? You been to France?”
“Just got back.”
“They had it hard over there. Harder than here.”
“I was in Paris when it kicked off.”
He shakes his head in shame. “I always wanted to go to Paris.”
“You’d be surprised what’s still there. But give it a couple more years before checking it out.”
“Can I keep one of these? The French ones? For my wall?” he gestures to a pin board on the back wall, decorated with postcards and multi coloured currencies.
“Can I have some bhajis to go?”
As a bonus, the bhajis are straight out of the fryer and almost too hot to hold in their waxed paper envelope. I stand in the middle of the road, watching the cyclists go past from a traffic island. I’m looking for a shop with the double plus sign outside, showing it’s part of the trust network of international exchange.
I’ve got money in recognised and accredited banks but that’s got to be vetted and work its way through various levels of bureaucracy before it can be accessed from a British bank. There’s not a lot of trust for large international transfers at the moment, so they’re monitored closely. And, before I can even start that process, I’ll have to get a new British account or find out what state the old one is in. Luckily a secondary network of exchange has developed. Its legality is dubious, but it’s tolerated because of the problems that shutting it down would cause. I’ve got some data stashed on a thumb drive that basically guarantees that I have deposited cash and goods to the value of several thousand Euros with another double plus trader in Apt. My Mancunian double plus trader will give me Euros or local currency to the same value (minus fee, of course), safe in the knowledge that the money will be transferred to them by the slow official route on production of the encrypted key.
I was looking for a pawn shop, but found my double plus trader in a jewellery shop. The thumb drive goes into a battered old PC nestled beside the cash till and Pretty Good Protection matches the code and spits out the numbers. Meanwhile the greying man behind the counter balances glasses on his large nose and studies my passport. “France….” he says, not asking for or expecting a reply.
After flipping through my travel history, more for curiosity than security, he slides the pasport back to me and leans to the computer screen, nodding. “How would you like your money?”
“Thats a lot of cash. Do you not have a bank acount?”
“I don’t know.” It has been five years since I put money into it or transferred any out. I know that others’ accounts have been frozen for less, so I’m not holding out much hope.
“If you think it has been stolen by the government my brother has experience releasing such funds.” He has started counting out money onto the counter, “I will give you his card.”
I get to keep the reformatted thumb drive, for what little capacity it has. I haven’t worn the money belt for a while, I haven’t had that much cash to carry around, so I go back to the hotel to get it. I turn the laptop on, I might as well. There are messages for me. Several of them are along the lines of “Bloody hell, I thought you were dead!” One is intriguing. It’s from the account of Kieth, a guy I worked with for a while who remained a friend, but it’s signed ‘Sally’. Has Kieth had a sex change, or has Sally hijacked his acount? The message gives me an address in Levenshulme and says I should drop in any weekday afternoon.
Another message is from the storage company, saying they have located my locker and I can collect the keys from their local franchisee- the very same jewellers that was my local double plus. He’s surprised to see me back. “You want to put some money back into the system?” I explain about my lock-up and slide my passport over the counter again. “That is a different database. Or I could have done this for you earlier.” He chuckles, making great play of checking my passport again and comparing the picture inside. Satisfied, he wanders off into the back room and there’s the sound of a heavy door being unlocked. He comes back with two keys on a ring. “There you are. There is twenty four hour access, when I have given you the code for the pad on the gate.”
“Are there any other sevices you offer? Am I likely to be back in here asking for anything else?”
“Maybe. I don’t sell much jewellery any more. These days luxury is….. a luxury. But thirty years in this business mean people trust me in matters of money. So it is easy for me to take on roles that require me to be trusted.”
The tag on the key ring gives the address of the yard where my box is stored. I look at it for a while before having to ask “Is that right.”
The shopkeeper cum moneylender cum key holder puts the glasses back on his nose, checks the tag and nods, “I’m afraid it is. You know how to get there?”
There is no trace of Maine Road football ground left. Unless you count the negative indicator of a big open space where it used to stand. They never got around to the housing development promised when Manchester City up and moved across town to the former Commonwealth games stadium. It found an alternate use soon enough.
My container is on the western end, farthest from the gate. It’s a half sized shipping container butted against another and at the bottom of a stack of four. Several frantic, and often interrupted, telephone calls had led to this container arriving on the back of a lorry outside my old flat and several of my friends helping to load it on the promise that they could “look after” anything they really liked until I got back. I’m surprised how full it is when I swing the door open.
It’s going to take a while to work through this treasure trove, but my first target can be seen on top of the shorter stack of crates. It takes a lot of swearing, tugging and rearranging to get the bike out. It’s the fixie I had built out of a second hand frame and scavenged parts, that I never really got around to riding. My friends were scared of it, especially its lack of brakes. It looks like someone coveted the urbanised mountain bike enough to take that though.
One of the crates I moved to get at the bike contains cycling spares and accessories, including two locks complete with keys and a back pack. I have transport.
I pull down another crate and look inside. There’s nothing really special about the contents, I get the feeling every box will be capable of making me well up like this. There are cds, dvds and a few magazines. Actually, the magazines don’t look at all familiar. I might have forgotten them, but a check of cover dates tells the story. My subscriptions carried on whilst I was away, at least for a while. The information’s half a decade out of date, but it’s more reading material. I stuff the magazines into the back pack.
The next crate offers up a real treasure. A one terabyte external hard drive. With luck this still has all my old photos, gigs of music, a few unfinished novels and the back up of my desktop computer from the day before I left the country. It may even have some porn on it. It, too, goes into the backpack.
It’s getting dark, and I haven’t found any lights yet. I noticed last night that not all of the street lights come on at night. Until I’m certain of the safety of night time riding I think I’ll take what I’ve found and head back to the hotel.