I had my confirmation letter from Brain of Britain‘s producer Paul Bajoria a few days after Lizzie’s email. That somehow made the whole thing real. Over the next fortnight or so, Lizzie and I emailed each other and spoke on the phone a couple of times, finalising the date and time and arranging my accommodation. As the recording would take place on a Friday evening, I’d have to stay overnight.
Regent Television had made similar provision when I was on Fifteen to One, and the BBC had put James up in Glasgow, so I knew I’d have a bed for the night. Once the date was confirmed, I was able to go ahead and book my travel tickets, as I related in A Farey Tale. Then I read up a little bit about Manchester and Salford. I’d already guessed that I wouldn’t have much free time to explore, so rather than mapping out an impossible itinerary, I decided to make it up as I went along.
On October 11, Lizzie emailed me again to confirm that I’d be staying overnight. If I’d known anyone in the Manchester area I could have probably stayed with them. If I’d been working, I could have booked a couple of nights in a B&B and made a nice long weekend out of it. As things were, I emailed back, saying that I’d leave it up to them to find me somewhere nice for the night. I needn’t have worried. A couple of hours later she sent me a copy of my hotel booking – a single-occupancy room at the Holiday Inn in Salford Quays. As one of the four men from across the Pennines might have said, looxooreh!
On Thursday, I decided that I’d try and get hold of the latest edition of Stuart Baker’s Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland at some point over the weekend. As I told you in A Capital Day Out, I managed to miss out on the 11th edition when it was published. I’d seen the 12th edition in the Ian Allan Bookshop when I was there with the Dippy Bint, but I held back from buying it. I had about £3.50 saved on my Waterstone’s Card (almost a quarter of the cover price), so I decided to get a copy in Manchester when I was there. I looked on the Ian Allan website, and was shocked to find that there’s yet another edition due in the spring. I guessed that it was going to be a hard book to track down this late in its life cycle.
I did a quick search online, rang Waterstone’s in Manchester’s Deansgate, and asked them if they had a copy on hand. The chap I spoke to said that they were out of stock, and that the replacement copies had been on order for the last month. I knew only too well what that meant. He suggested ringing their branch in the Arndale Centre, as the computer was showing a single copy in stock there (and I knew only too well what that usually meant, as well!) He gave me the number of the Arndale branch and my call was answered by another cheery lass named Ashleigh. She went off to look for the book, drew a blank, and then took my number so that I didn’t have to hold on the phone while she had a good search for it. A few minutes later she rang me back. Needless to say, the book had been hiding in plain sight on the shelf. I asked her to reserve it for me, then we chatted for a couple of minutes about the reason for my first visit to the city. It was my second taste of the northern warmth, friendliness and helpfulness which I was to encounter over the next two days.