I’d met Jon in Fez in 2013, and I suppose we became friends on the train from Fez to Marrakesh, where he was trying to read a book (Thinking, Fast and Slow) while I was trying my very best to distract him. It worked, and we spent most of the journey getting to know each other while we sat at the door with our legs hanging out and the wind buffeting our faces. We had such a great time in Marrakesh too, and hung out in London briefly a few weeks after that.
Do you know how sometimes you meet people, and you just get along like a house on fire? It’s like that with Jon. Every time I see him I just really and thoroughly enjoy his company, and even though he’s pretty terrible at replying to text messages or Facebook messages, he’s one of the most considerate, genuine and unpretentious people I’ve ever come across. He’s also super adventurous and wild, which is fun.
So I caught a bus from York to Manchester solely to visit Jon, just for one night. I booked into a hostel – Hatters – because I was arriving before he was (he studies in Glasgow, and had just finished his finals) and I didn’t want to intrude by staying with him when he’s just gotten back to his family after a semester away. Guys, paid $45 for this hostel, for one night, and they lost my reservation so that I had to repay my 10% booking fee, and they were super rude. And there weren’t any lockers in the room.
It didn’t matter, I reminded myself, because I was only going to be here for a night. I made myself feel better by putting on some deep house and cooking up a mushroom spaghetti in a tomato and mascarpone sauce, which was pretty delish. That was pretty much all I had time for – I ate it, ran into Nic again very quickly as he’d come to Manchester to watch a soccer game, and then Jon came.
Manchester has an amazing bar scene, and we spent our night doing some seriously nice bar hopping. They were all small bars a la Shady Pines in Sydney, but with much cheaper cocktails. We’d intended to go play ping pong at a few ping pong bars too but had no luck there – one of them had been taken over by revellers playing beer pong, and the other one was missing the table that I’d been informed by it’s website was meant to be there.
We eventually ended up at Sankeys, which I was later informed by other English people is a pretty stellar club. Entry was usually 15 pounds, but we got in for free by virtue of Jon being such a regular there that they’d sent him a text message offering him free entry for him and a friend that night. That worked out well!
“It’s probably easier if we just go back to mine,” Jon suggested at the end of it, “because otherwise I’ll have to come all the way back into town to pick you up in the morning and then we’ll have to go all the way out again. My brother hasn’t yet arrived so my Mum said that you could use his room if you like.” Sleep in a real bed, without having to worry about my belongings, or the state of the toilet? I was so fine with that.
We did a quick run to the hostel in the middle of the night, where the receptionist tried to stop me going in because he didn’t believe I was staying there, until I yelled at him that I just wanted to leave his stupid hostel anyway, grabbed my bags, and stormed out. It felt so good knowing that I wouldn’t have to return there.
Jon had these grand plans for the next morning of visiting a national park where there were lots of animals. That sounded absolutely perfect to me – I am a complete sucker for wildlife, and I was super excited about it all. Of course, plans like that are so dependent on waking up on time, which just didn’t happen. We got up really slowly, showered slowly, and then had a leisurely breakfast of omelets and juice and tea. Jon did try to hurry me up but I’m too lethargic in the morning, and we ultimately decided to just wander around the grounds outside his place.
I should probably point out here that when I say ‘Jon’s place’ I mean ‘Jon’s little mansion’, about 45min drive out of Manchester, with all these gorgeous rolling hills outside his backyard. The view from his back porch was breathtaking.
We had a little trouble on our first foray out, almost getting trampled by a herd of cows. They just suddenly started to run at us! I was a complete wimp, and just cowered behind Jon as he turned around and tried to look intimidating and tell the cows off in a loud voice. Evidently he did a good job establishing his dominance because every time he faced them they’d turn docile and let him pat their heads.
Eventually we waited for them to go to the other end of the paddock, then edged our way along the opposite side, moving briskly. It made for such a splendid tableau, with frost glistening delicately off the grass and gently undulating hills as far as the eye could see in every direction and a little reservoir all still and silver, perfectly reflecting the bare boughs hanging over it in the dim light. There were no hedgehogs, which was a pity, but there were flocks of sheep munching away peacefully all around us.
Then it was time to go. We headed back to the house, I met Jon’s mother and stepfather briefly – they were also really warm and lovely – and Jon drove me back to the coach station so I could head off to Newcastle.
Altogether too short, I thought, but an absolutely wonderful 24 hours in (and I suppose around) Manchester.