Small Mancunian Stories


Translated by Andrew Fentem



This morning during the rush hour, a snowstorm raged over Manchester. One of the townís inhabitants, who spoke English with a French accent, was carrying a bag with a copy of Stephen Kingís "Storm of the Century" inside

This person had also visited the cityís Jewish museum on the Sunday. Whilst he was there, the fire alarm had gone off at the museum, which had resulted in the arrival of two fire engines and a dozen firemen. In vain however, as there was no fire to be found. Not whilst that man was there anyway.


I need to tell you about my bathroom. It happens to contain a marine blue lampshade, which gives it something of a subdued atmosphere. Above the toilet sits a muscular figure with a small tuft of hair on his head. He keeps lookout there, sitting on his moped and staring at his rifle, protecting the flatís occupant just when the latter is at his most vulnerable. Itís actually a picture on a plastic bag I got from a comic bookshop in Copenhagen I was browsing around in last September. I like to keep the inside of my flat rather simplistic. I also ought to mention the name of the bookshop written on the bag Ė itís called ďFaraos CigarerĒ. I don't know any Danish but I think from this you can guess what exactly I was looking at while I was there. Iím sure weíre both thinking of the same thing now. The man appears to be an adaptation of Tintin.

As you can see, my apartment is a story in itself, but itís time I told you about the area of the city where I live. Itís called Whalley Range and is two or three miles south of the centre of Manchester to be exact. My neighbours include a young man of Pakistani origin who is so happy that, even when nobody is around to talk to him, he still engages in conversations. Sometimes I might see him chatting away with one of my female neighbours though, who is so attached to her raincoat that she even wears it when it is blazing hot at the height of the summer. Attached is the right expression in this case, as she always has a tight belt wrapped around it and wears a hood and a headscarf. Since Iíve already seen her about 382 times at least, I can only presume she spends her time ghosting the streets of Whalley Range. Either that or the streets spook her spirit so much they render her incapable of doing anything other than tracing and retracing her footsteps time and time again along Clarendon Road, Manley Road and Egerton Road in Whalley Range or in neighbouring Chorlton...


This morning, I had just crossed Princess Road - one of Manchesterís main dual carriageways - to get to the 101 bus stop when a Renault Clio, seemingly without reason, left the road it was travelling along at very high speed and collided with a Jaguar coming in the opposite direction. There was a terrible crash - a really terrible crash. An ambulance arrived on the scene straight away. But in vain. The driver of the jaguar, a man of about 50 years, died on impact, whilst the driver of the Clio, a man of about 30, and his passenger, a woman of barely 20, escaped unhurt. Greater Manchester Police, along with a journalist from the Manchester Evening News, were soon on the scene conducting their enquiries into how the crash had come about. Just how had the passenger and the driver of the Clio been able to escape safe and sound despite the incredible force of the crash? Some talked of a miracleÖ But they were stupid idiots. I had to wait four minutes 52 seconds before I could cross the road. It was a long time - too long.


This morning I took the 101 bus. It was an all white double-decker covered in small black spots. I was accompanied on my journey by a crowd of kids. They never stopped yapping the whole time.

Yesterday I took a taxi home. It was yellow taxi covered in black spots. It had one of those long tails, so very long that even in Glasgow they must have been able to see it. Hey taxi, houba, houba...

Before I got on the bus, I saw the woman in the raincoat again. Her cheeks were all puffed up. She didnít seem to like marsupials.


This morning, as I was putting my first spoonful of cereal to my mouth, I was interrupted by a voice.
-Hello Vincent.
Taken aback by the unexpected greeting, I turned round abruptly, returning the greeting with a feeble voice. Behind me, I saw the muscular figure from my bathroom. He was polishing away on his rifle and sitting comfortably on my sofa.
-Pardon me, but I simply had to stretch my legs, he said.
I didnít know what to say.
-Uh huh.. I stammered.
-But donít worry pal, I can see as far as the toilet from here so I can still watch over your flat, he added.
-OhÖ no problem...fine, I said.
The thing which most astonished me was that he spoke to me in French. I might have imagined him speaking English, Danish or even Arabic, but to hear him speaking French just seemed so unfitting. He did have a slight Germanic accent though.
-You off to work? he asked.
-Yes, I have to get going. I have to leave you alone now if thatís OK with you, I told him.
-But of course. See you later then, Vinnie.
-See you later, I replied.
I eventually left my house and headed in the direction of the bus stop, telling myself I had to be the only person in Whalley Range and Manchester, if not in England, to have a man armed with a rifle guarding their flat.


This morning, just before eight o'clock, a woman of about twenty-five got on the 101 bus and sat down between a teenager and another woman a bit older than herself. Opposite her a man, also a bit older than her, was reading a book written in a foreign language. The womanís eyes never departed from the window she was peering through, watching the start of the day with its bare end-of-autumn trees and black, orange and red clouds. Her big green eyes stood out sharply from her round face, which was reddened by the freshness of the November morning. The teenager to her leftís walkman and the woman to her rightís mobile phone seemed to irritate her - doubtless disrupting her daydreaming. Iíve no idea about what it was or about whom she was thinking, but I do know that, a moment later, the bus made a sudden turn and the sun beamed into the bus, dazzling the woman and the two people on either side of her. At the same moment, the man dropped a postcard he had been holding to his book. The woman picked it up again and gave it back to him smiling. It was very beautiful.