Bury, near Manchester, has a famous market. Famous for what, though, I wonder?
Well, not much, except hot Vimto drinks and superfluous apostrophes. I hate to harp on; comparable to world poverty and war-ravaged states, the erroneous apostrophe is hardly a humdinger of an issue.
Yet Britain’s educational downward spiral is a shame. Nipping the misused apostrophe in the bud is evidently no longer an option – I think we shall have to cede defeat, and accept, heart-breaking as it is, that its correct use is a lost cause.
Even in the wilds of Lancashire today, I saw a sign warning that a road was “unsuitable for HGV’s”. Now, if the Department for Transport are at it, its employees no doubt waist-high in university degrees, what chance does the layman have?
So I think we can also safely say that a degree is no longer a proof of literacy. Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I – I haven’t got one. Anyway, let’s crack on with today’s events.
I am in Bury to visit my Great Aunt Gwen, Grandpa John’s ‘substantially’ younger sister. I rang yesterday, describing where I shall be parked with the truck, and blatantly angling to be collected by car.
Oh right, I’ll make my own way there, then. Great aunts, certainly wickeder than ordinary aunts, are not to be trifled with.
The weather is lovely today, far too nice to be on trams, and so I cycle instead. Puffing and panting after eleven miles of gradual elevation, I call the Rochdale residence from Bury. ‘I’m busy,’ she says. ‘It’s about three miles from there. See you soon.’ In Gwen’s defence, through a misunderstanding, I arrive seven hours earlier than we’d agreed – apparently.
Gwen is marvellous, with an infectious laugh, and an underlying mischievousness. She does not, as I had naturally presumed, play bingo most nights and totter between bedrooms quaffing crème de menthe. She runs a private nursery for thirty children, and is being uncooperative regarding a photo for the blog.
Now, while Grandpa John would have offered a comfy chair and a glass of San Giovese by now, Gwen is feeding three babies…and even a cup of tea takes a bit of prompting. Things seem a bit thick, and I feel rather up against it.
A female staff member eventually brings me a steaming mug, and a saucy glance secures a biscuit, too.
But actually drinking anything is hampered by a four-year-old hanging off my left ear. Then a gaggle of three-year-old girls excitedly jostle, badger and harass me, making a short nap simply impossible.
At 2pm, Gwen takes me to the pub – ah, bliss. A pint of Lancashire bitter and a walk along dry stone walls in the sunshine is perfectly lovely. Knowing nothing of the rock ‘n’ roll industry – and my duties therein – she tells me we shall be driving to her daughter Judith’s house for supper. Erm, there was talk of manoeuvring trucks for AC/DC back in Manchester at 7pm.
I ring our Number One driver, Sean, who organises all the truck parking and movements, explaining that dining with a great aunt has arisen. ‘Oh well, I’ll cancel everything, then,’ he says cordially, with the merest hint of caustic sarcasm. As I say, great aunts are not to be trifled with..