Just get us to Manchester

When Mark and I first arrived in Liverpool, we were aware that there was going to be a train strike on the day we got back from the Isle of Man. We would have to make alternative arrangements to get to Manchester, but prospects for a bus trip didn’t look too good when Mark stopped some transit employees on the street outside the Lime Street train station who told him that all long-distance bus trips had sold out. Sigh. We wondered how we’d even get there. We saw a transit information office so walked inside and a very pleasant and patient woman planned us a bus journey, where we would have to take four different buses.

While we were still in Douglas we went on-line to work out the specifics for our lengthy trip. We’d get a bus outside Lime Street station to St Helens, then transfer to Wigan, then get a bus to Leigh and finally a bus to Manchester Piccadilly station. Our wait times between buses were never too long, and I had time to order a real bacon barm at Church Square Shopping Centre in St Helens. I also saw Eccles cakes for sale for the first time. With my bacon barm and the sight of Eccles cakes, it felt as if I was standing in Roy’s Rolls on “Coronation Street”.

Passengers on the buses heard us talking and on several occasions asked us where we were from. On the ride to Wigan, a young man seated three rows in front of me asked if “Coronation Street” was popular in Canada. You bet it is! I charmed the whole back of the bus by regaling them with my love of that show–yet implored them not to talk about the current goings-on because the show is three weeks behind in Canada (and by then it would already be four weeks behind for me). Mark got into a conversation with two girls about chocolate, and shared with them some of his fudge-covered Oreos. They loved the taste, and recommended he try a Galaxy bar for some excellent British chocolate. When we got to Wigan I bought Mark a milk chocolate Galaxy bar at the bus station.

On the final leg of our bus journey, we sped along a reserved guided road. It felt as if we were on a train and not a bus. That bus was the most crowded of all. Some passengers gave us advice on where to depart, and recommended an earlier stop than going all the way to the terminus at Manchester Piccadilly. We had researched this as well, and figured out the Chinatown stop on Princess Street would be better, but had no way of identifying the stop since the windows had fogged up and the digital sign displaying the upcoming stops wasn’t working. With such a crowded bus we realized it would be too much of a hassle to get off in Chinatown and accepted that we might have to go all the way to the end anyway, but the passengers said that the bus would empty out before then. They were right, and we got out in Chinatown. In total, the four bus trips took us five hours.

We walked right past our hotel, the Whitworth Locke, even though its name was clearly visible from the street. It looked as if the place was a popular bar, and maybe it used the same name. Yet when we walked further on, we realized the street numbers didn’t jibe and that swinging bar must in fact be our hotel. It was, and aside from one night of our five there, we had quiet nights. (The noisiest night was this past Monday, believe it or not, when the DJ kept pumping thumping tunes till 1 a.m.)

The reason Mark and I decided to visit Manchester when we planned our trip two years ago was that four of the five members of the Green family, my hosts during both of my visits to Tristan da Cunha, were staying in the city. The two girls, Kimi and Janice, were pursuing their education while mother Renée was accompanying Dylan for some medical appointments. When COVID cancelled all travel plans we realized we wouldn’t be able to see them, and Renée and Dylan eventually were able to return home. It has taken over two years for Mark and me to make our trip to Manchester, and the girls, Kimi (age 24) and Janice (age 21) are both now working in the city.

In 2013, during my first visit to Tristan, both girls were still at home. Kimi and Janice were already in Manchester when I visited the island in 2017, yet I spoke with Janice on the phone when Renée called her. I regularly write to the girls, and always send them birthday cards, so we have kept in touch. I have cherished every moment I spent on Tristan and longed to see the girls again.

We had arranged to meet at Piccolino, an Italian restaurant off Princess Street, at 2:30 p.m. last Sunday. Janice booked a table but at that hour the restaurant was practically empty (yet it was filling up by the time we left some three hours later). While we were taking photos outside the restaurant, Janice called her mother who was in Cape Town with Dylan. We had a video call and Renée got to see and speak to Mark for the very first time. She congratulated us on our wedding. I also spoke to Dylan (age 18).

Janice and Kimi

with Janice’s fiancé Danny

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