I’m in Altrincham at the moment, having travelled here yesterday to celebrate my daughter’s birthday (17, going on 25).
Last night we had a meal at her favourite restaurant, Danilo’s in Hale (again) and, after driving 327 miles to get there in awful traffic, I left my car parked at Hale Station overnight and walked the mile or so to my apartment after quaffing a few drinks.
For the first time in ages, I woke at 04:30 and could not get back to sleep.
I lay in bed, in the dark, thinking about “stuff” – family, finances, friends, business, deadlines – you ever done that?
Having decided on a cup of tea, I then remembered that the milk and bread I had bought at Tesco Express last night – were in the boot of my car – duh.
You know when you definitely want a nice cup of tea and you cannot have one – how irritating that is?
Well, driven as I am – at 05:15 I left the apartment, all wrapped up against the dark night and freezing fog and started the walk back to Hale Station.
Just a few yards from my place is an Esso petrol station, manned 24-hours a day.
The overnight attendant normally sits securely behind locked doors and a security screen – but he was outside depositing newspapers in their stands.
As I walked past, I heard a loud shout and looked over to see the doors of a small saloon car opening and two men in baseball caps jump out and head towards the shop.
The attendant scurried inside and, before he could shut the door, the two men followed him in.
I was standing across the road, partially hidden behind a sign and with a clear view.
What would you do next?
The following thoughts raced through my still-drowsy mind:
do I walk over to make sure everything is OK?
do I stay where I am and observe?
Have I brought my iPhone with me? (yes)
The decision was to stay very still and observe.
And you know what?
Couple of guys – on the way home after a great night – probably high on something – stopping for drinks and cigarettes – no threat.
But this is South Manchester in 2009 – and it could have gone the other way.
I still had a good mile to walk – and I suddenly became aware of the fragility of my situation.
Walking through deserted streets, in the dark, in fog – and with nobody else is sight or in earshot.
During the rest of my journey I saw a few taxis and one milk-float – no pedestrians – and felt constantly “on guard”.
Maybe I’m out of touch or just getting older – maybe I’ve lived in Cornwall for too long.
I did count a small blessing when I reached the car.
Back home with that warm cuppa in my hands, I gave a moments thought for the relative security that our public services provide.