I don’t normally do this, but here is a bit of novel number 2. I will probably read it tonight at the Manchester Blog Awards.
Novel number 2 is going well. I think I am going to be ready to let other people see it by Christmas. This is the first unveiling. A mini unveiling.
Once John and I got down from the roof, I let him into my flat. He went into the kitchen and started making noises with my cupboard doors. I perched on the edge of the couch with my coat on and used the remote control to turn on the television. I heard the static on the curved screen fizz as the picture warmed up, and waited to be proved right.
The man reading the news was the usual one. Gordon Best. He’s semi famous in the local area because he always wears a suit jacket and a pink shirt. Various ties, often seasonal. But always, always the pink shirt.
Sometimes his fans send him in different coloured shirts for Christmas and urge him to ring the changes, but he is never seen wearing anything but pink. He might only have one shirt, or five hundred that are all the same.
Woolworth’s sell pink shirts and they did a special promotion for them in the window with a big poster of Gordon. It didn’t say it in so many words but it strongly suggested that Gordon Best bought his shirts from Woolworth’s. The management of the news programme he presents complained and told them to take it down.
There’s a postcard you can buy in the bus-station kiosk – him, with his thumbs up to the camera. The caption along the bottom, which is in the same kind of glowing green writing that the Twin Peaks opening credits are done in (although I don’t think many people will have noticed that) says: REAL MEN WEAR PINK. That’s never been banned, mainly because it isn’t advertising anything except for Gordon himself, and because, I think, even though Gordon is a celebrity and a local hero who people really look up to around here, he’s still down to earth and doesn’t mind poking fun at himself.
Most of the people who live in this city have a story about seeing him getting on a bus, complaining about the wait at the post-office, carrying a rolled up towel into the swimming baths. I’ve seen him once before, or at least, I think it was him, suit jacket, pink shirt – hauling a heavy looking bin-bag from the back of his car, and dumping it on a verge by the side of the road. I told Lorraine about it, and she got all breathless and asked me what was inside the bag. When I said I’d never checked, she refused to give me any overtime for a month.
People like to see him – customers mention it a lot at the supermarket. ‘You’ll never guess who I saw today,’ they say, and you always shake your head, even though you know they’re about to say ‘Gordon Best, Face of the North West!’ which is the catchphrase he uses at the end of the news bulletin every night, unless the thing he’s just read out is too sad. In that case, he just stares solemnly at the screen until they fade him out.
He isn’t a regular at the supermarket, but apparently he’s been in before, one afternoon when I was at home in bed. No-one will confirm it, but there’s a rumour doing the rounds in the staffroom that Lorraine wanted to give him the staff discount, messed up putting her card number into the till, and ended up just giving him the whole trolley full for free. She didn’t even ask for a picture to put near the revolving doors.
It is hard to explain how important Gordon is for people who don’t live round here. Without noticeably aging or changing his shirt, he has presented the local news bulletin every evening for about twenty years which means he has been a part of most of the important things that have ever happened in this area.
Every time the river flooded. The time they tried to do a music festival in the park. That pub riot they had, and the ongoing debate about the multi-storey car-park on top of the bus-station. He’s opened the new markets, welcomes in the Whitsun fair and turns on the Christmas lights every year. He presents the book club certificates at the library, and he guest speaks at the AGM of the Real Ale Society. Gordon’s more of a fixture in some people’s lives than their families are, because whatever happens, good or bad – he’s there. If you were expecting bad news, Gordon would be the one you’d want to tell you.
Gordon is on the telly looking unflustered and dignified. He’s talking about a stabbing that happened two nights ago at the train station. It is old news now, but he is still appealing for witnesses, and cuts to a picture of the steps down to the platform, the police tape and browning heaps of garage carnations.
‘Anything on?’ John shouts from the kitchen. I can tell by the noise he is making that he’s got into my carrier bag drawer. I can hear the sound of sticky tape being peeled off the roll.