- The morning stole upon the day and I woke up cheated, the extra hour gone.
The narrative takes place in late October; in the United Kingdom, towards the end of this month, clocks are set back one hour in accordance with Greenwich Mean Time, marking also the end of British Summer Time.
- I made the journey from Altrincham to St. Peter’s Square alone.
A light-rail route in Greater Manchester, St. Peter’s Square is a tram-stop and plaza opposite Manchester Town Hall and was the site of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, where a cavalry charged into a crowd of protesters demanding parliamentary reform. Fifteen people were killed and over six hundred injured.
- …walking along the tracks, the scent of spring roll fresh in the air…
The tracks are the tram-rails which run through parts of the city centre.
The ‘scent of spring roll’ suggests that the narrator is in the vicinity of Manchester’s Chinatown district, the third largest of its kind in Europe.
- …avoided the crowds and made my way towards Canal Street, where some smartarse had painted out the ‘C’ on the sign.
Canal Street runs parallel to the Rochdale Canal and is the focus for Manchester’s gay community.
- The rain stopped, briefly, but it was never far away. Morrissey and Curtis didn’t have much choice.
Manchester is often perceived as the archetypal rainy city, although precipitation averages for the region are actually less than the UK in general.
‘Morrissey and Curtis’ is a reference to Steven Morrissey and Ian Curtis, two prominent Mancunian musicians known for their dour lyrics. Morrissey sang with The Smiths and Curtis with Joy Division; the latter committed suicide in 1980.
- I waited for over an hour on our bench in the Gardens, next to Victoria, but he didn’t show.
The ‘Gardens’ is Piccadilly Gardens, a public space in Manchester city centre. ‘Victoria’ refers to the Queen Victoria Monument in the same area, by the English sculptor Edward Onslow Ford (1852-1901).
- His number was engaged and the phone-booth spat out the unused coin. Irritated, I tossed it into the fountain where it sank, dead in the water.
‘Dead in the water’; an English idiom indicating moribundity.
- Hair of the dog was called for.
A colloquial term for a like-for-like hangover cure (i.e. ‘the hair of the dog that bit you’).
- I bought a half-litre of scotch and had it wrapped in brown paper, wino-style.
It is common, in many English towns and cities, to restrict or prohibit public drinking in an attempt to maintain order.
- I envied the Arndale with its shiny newness. I wanted to blow everything up and start again too.
The Arndale Shopping Centre. In 1996 parts of the complex – as well as other nearby buildings – were destroyed when a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army was detonated. Major redevelopment followed.
- …skirted across enemy lines, behind the Lowry and back again…
‘Enemy lines’ is the (non-defined) border between the contiguous cities of Manchester and Salford. That the latter is ‘enemy territory’ suggests that the narrator is a native Mancunian as opposed to a Salfordian.
‘The Lowry’ is the L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) art gallery in Salford, named after the eponymous English painter, known for his depictions of industrial life in northern England.
- …acceptance was supposed to be the final stage in the process, but I wasn’t ready for it yet and doubted I ever would be.
A reference to the Five Stages of Grief, a theory in psychologies of loss and bereavement. Acceptance of a loss is the fifth and final stage.
- …after all that I was back to where I started.
The narrator may mean this metaphorically, or – tracing their route through the city – literally: i.e. they have returned to St Peter’s Square (see note 2).
- The Samaritans on Oxford Street was shut.
Samaritans is a charitable organisation offering support to people in distress or at risk of suicide. Their name is derived from the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 29-37).
- I had been walking alone for hours, or at least it seemed so, like Poe’s convalescent.
The reference here is to Edgar Allen Poe’s 1840 short story ‘The Man Of The Crowd’.
- The phone-box wouldn’t take my shrapnel and I had nothing else. I remembered the coin that I’d thrown away…
Shrapnel is a colloquial term for small change and is unlikely to be accepted by public phone boxes.
- Tiring of the crowds, I slipped over a stone wall and tottered toward the canal.
Again, tracing the narrator’s route, this is either the Rochdale Canal (see note 4) or the Manchester & Salford Junction Canal.
- …but canals were dark, murky places, where bodies were recovered in programs like The Sweeney or The Bill.
Both long-running TV police dramas, since discontinued.
- The night stole upon the city, just as the morning had.
See note 1.
- The chimes tolled the hour and I recalled miserable mornings against the misericords, as the slick of the city sucked me under.
The chimes are coming from Manchester Cathedral.
A misericord is a small ledge built into some church pews, designed to relieve discomfort during long periods of standing (from the Latin: misericordia, meaning ‘pity’).