I wrote this a dozen or so years ago, after an epic trip to London to see the Manics. I was awake for nearly 24 hours, which explains the spaceship and the elephant, but nothing else. It turns out that I wasn’t constipated, the pain was from gallstones, but that’s another story.
This will probably be impenetrable to anyone who isn’t a fan, or is unaware of the Manic Street Preachers but …
Here we go:-
Five Fans and a Nissan
Relic got up ridiculously early that Monday morning, setting out to brave the heavy rush hour traffic between Preston and Sowerby Bridge. Luckily it was a road not well travelled, and she reached Sheila’s International Brigade Hostel in plenty of time. Collecting Itay and Jan, and dropping off Sheila in Halifax, she headed back out of town, and tried to find Glossop.
After realising that it wasn’t to be found in the hills around Oldham, her fallible sense of direction finally located the M60, and before noon, she was outside Michelle’s home. Shell and Mel piled in, and the fearless five set out on their long journey. Five minutes later they stopped, for fuel, sweeties, pop and copies of City Life magazine with the Manics Move interview in it.
The next task was to find a road South. The M1 seemed suitable, but the hills were in the way. The day was getting hot, and the journey over the Pennines in a small car was scenic but a little cramped, especially when traffic got heavy and the breeze from the open windows failed to revive the three in the back.
By the time relic found the motorway, time was getting on, and Sheila had started to ring to ask if they were in the queue yet. As a distraction, they listened to Mark and Lard on the radio, to the bemusement of those passengers who were unfamiliar with their sense of humour. As they swept past Junction 31, relic observed that her mother-in-law lived ‘just over there’, and suggested visiting her. The idea went down like a lead balloon.
Miraculously, the M1 was light on traffic, the sun beat down, relic got sunburned, and people began to fall asleep. Every half hour or so, Mel would poke rel and ask if she was OK. Jan made a superhuman effort and didn’t snore. Not once. Honest. After a stop for loos, Skittles, more pop, and a leg stretch, during which Itay was temporarily misplaced and rel clucked around like a mother hen, they resumed the journey. They arrived at the outskirts of London and came off the motorway and onto the North Circular. Relic reminded all four passengers that she had a present for Nicky, and they weren’t to let her forget it. The Quest for a Parking Space began, and for the first time that day, Michelle began to lose the will to live. They passed an interesting looking recycling centre, and relic suggested they go there, instead of HMV. The idea was vetoed. The power of prayer was suggested, until it became apparent that the car was filled with atheists. The power of observation and common sense was then applied, to no avail, and eventually the power of luck and blind chance led them down a side street to a previously unheard of Underground station with all day parking for £2. Prayers of thanks were offered to Nicky (by relic), and as the five of them, plus Itay’s guitar and the men’s luggage, waited for the train, she passed round yet another birthday card for Sean for them to sign. As they sat on the train, getting excited at last, relic looked up and reminded her four ungrateful passengers that not one of them had reminded her to pick up Nicky’s present. Still, they had Sean’s birthday cards. Wristbands were checked carefully, and eventually the five of them emerged from Oxford Circus tube station into the hot dusty glare of a London summer’s day. The Northern women stared like yokels, and eventually they got their bearings and headed for HMV, rel bought Lipstick Traces from a puzzled clerk who failed to understand why anyone would travel more than five miles to see the Manics perform from a tiny stage to a sweaty crowd. Michelle and Mel retired to the pub, where Shell threw up enthusiastically, but had seemingly regained the will to live. Jan and Itay marked their places in the queue with a bag and a guitar, and rel waved to her friends at the front of the queue, and settled down to chat to a nice young man who was standing behind her. Nicky Wire (no, not that one, the Welsh one … no, the really really Welsh one, you know, that pretty teenager with the nice hair … Rhys! That’s the one.) was in front of her, with Starlight and her friend.
Mel and Shell came back from the pub, and gradually more friends started to arrive, Sheila with the rest of the International Brigade, Tracey, etc. As the afternoon wore on, drinks and food were passed round, and Starlight and her friend suddenly revealed that they had guest passes, and disappeared into the building. They returned half an hour later with an unsatisfactory bag of Walkers crisps, rejected by Nicky Wire (the real one, the impossibly good looking tall one with the great smile and the long legs and the perfect collarbones and the blue blue eyes), but seized on eagerly by several fans.
It was about then that the great HMV Queue singalong started, with Itay and Rhys taking turns to play Itay’s guitar, and Amanda in superb voice at the front of the queue, leading the fans in amazing renditions of Manics songs. Relic mimed. Shell and Mel disappeared again, for Shell to puke. More food, but people were beginning to ration their liquid intake, with an eye on bladder control. Nervousness spread like wildfire, after all, this wasn’t just a gig, it was a signing, a chance to meet the band. Fans were showing each other the albums, collectibles and projects that they had brought to be signed. Several people had brought guitars.
Eventually security guards came out, and asked everyone to stop singing, because the Manics were trying to sound check. The queue got organised, and at last, at long last the fans filed in, the International Brigade, and Mel, Shell and rel trying to stay together. In a frustrating display of sheer bloody mindedness the HMV staff herded the fans into tiny enclosures, in a system that meant that those who had arrived ten minutes before the doors opened had a better chance of actually seeing the Manics than those who had been there all day. Shell was nearly in tears, and was obviously ill, she sat on a rack of CDs. Jan noticed that rel couldn’t see a thing, and hauled her closer to the front, where she found herself behind a hugely fat guy with the worst BO in the history of civilisation. Still, she realised that she could actually see Nicky, which was more than she’d achieved at Move. Mel was taller and could see, Shell was not well at all, but everyone felt better when the gig started, the Manics ripping through a set of B sides and rarities that was lapped up eagerly by the audience. Screams of ‘I love you Nicky’ and ‘Shag me James’ were heard, and then the girls started to shout too. A chant of ‘Sean! Sean! Sean!” was picked up enthusiastically, in tribute to the drummer. Nasmyth and Havers were introduced, and got cheered, the crowd was in a hugely good mood. All too soon, it was over, and after a short break, a queuing system for the fans was set up. Mel, Shell and rel were determined not to be parted. Rel saw James first, and her knees went. He looked gorgeous. Then she saw Nicky, and forgot all about the singer. Mel and Shell had gone ominously quiet. Rel confessed that the sight of Nicky was almost curing her constipation. “Know your Enema” Shell joked.
First, to Sean, who accepted the birthday cards with a smile, and chatted to everyone. Rel fell in love there and then, and hasn’t got over it since. Nicky laughed at her when she had an attack of teenaged babbling all over him, but he wasn’t nasty at all, and he didn’t have his sunglasses on, and he was the most perfect vision of male beauty that she’d ever seen. She forgot to check that James had signed everything, just thanked him with a quick smile and tried to move on, dropping the insert from her new CD. Doubling back for it, she was stopped by an over anxious security guard, who obviously thought she was making for James. In hindsight, that might have been a good idea, but no, she was still besotted after her first sight of Nicky close up. She waited for Mel and Shell, Shell was gutted, she’d been too shy to speak to James, and he’d not spoken to her. Mel had been similarly struck dumb, and although she’d got a very nice smile, the whole experience had been a disappointment. It was universally agreed that Nicky and Sean had been lovely, but that James had let Shell down. Shell went to puke, again, Mel went with her. Rel tried to go to the loo.
They all said their goodbyes, getting hugs from friends and FD forumites who were meeting for the first time, and made their way to the tube station. Michelle was heartbroken, and Mel was furious. James could have tried harder. He was to redeem himself the following week, at the Manchester signing, but after the day of travel and queuing, it was all too much, and the women were exhausted. They found the car, complete with Nicky’s present, and started the long drive back home. They stopped for almost an hour at Gateway services, rel was still having odd pains, and Shell was still ill. Pizza and orange juice helped, and they were back on the road, playing Lipstick Traces and beginning to feel better, talking about the gig and meeting the band. Suddenly an alien spaceship appeared in the middle of the M1. Rel was slightly alarmed, but not as alarmed as her passengers, who were abruptly aware that their driver was hallucinating. Shell offered to drive, but she was half dead, and rel decided that she stood a better chance of making it back to Glossop, if not Preston. Sheffield was the next stop, and for some reason the fates had decreed that the three fans had to be diverted off the motorway, around Meadowhall, and through a huge slick of human sewage. At that point, all three lost the will to live. It seemed like the final straw. Opening the window to get rid of the smell wasn’t an option, as the stuff was spread in a noxious clinging layer to the bottom of the car.
They decided to take the Woodhead road back to Glossop, a good idea at the time, but soon a thick ground fog descended. Relic was driving on trust, as long as the wheels turned smoothly, she assumed that they were on the road. Finally, Shell said it. “I’ve lost the will to live.” At that precise moment, dead ahead through the fog, a set of headlights was approaching them at some speed. “That’s convenient.” replied rel, preparing for death, and thinking about Nicky’s eyes. For some reason, Mel and Shell were laughing hysterically, and rel joined in. The headlights were on the other side of the road, and death was averted. Shell showed that she had brains as well as beauty by suggesting that rel pull over until an HGV went past, pointing out that the huge one that was halfway up the Nissan’s exhaust pipe might be a likely candidate. The HGV cabin was above the fogline, and the driver could obviously see where he was going. Rel took on the suggestion, and the rest of the journey was easier. With the exception of an hallucinated elephant on the road into Glossop, and a stranded milk float with a man lying underneath it on Shell’s estate, the next half hour passed uneventfully. At Shell’s house, rel dropped off her passengers, and set off home, slightly bemused by the 3 am traffic jam at the mini roundabout in Glossop. She turned the volume up on her CD player, put ‘Can’t take my eyes off you”. on repeat, and finally got home just before 4 a.m.
The phone rang at 11 a.m. and she struggled out of bed. It was Shell. “Jeanette, how much do you love me?” she said.
Rel struggled for an answer. “Wha?”
“Adam’s got spare wristbands for Manchester tomorrow, and he’s promised me that you can have one.”
Rel was happy. And that’s another story.