It is strange to be here. Every so often it swings from 'strange' to 'strange-but-good', but then I catch a glimpse of my now-useless Oyster card in my wallet and veers back to 'strange'. Today a surly youth knocked me as he walked past and turned and said "sorry, love", in thick Northern tones. It is strange to be called "love" by everyone. I'm not sure whether I like it yet.
It's cold and rainy, but then it's cold and rainy in London, too. Here, though, I feel that escape is at my fingertips. Last Sunday Ben and I got a little train out to the Peak District and walked up a peak (I'm not sure of the name, but it was that one, you know, with all the heather, gorse and sheep). When we reached the top we leant on the wind and gazed at the hills overlapping each other, creating horizon upon horizon. The sky floated past on its own dusty mountain ranges and I smiled as I thought about the clean air I was breathing. After a while we headed back down, running down the side of the peak to get to the pub. Faces cold and pink, we ordered two pints of Fox's Nob beer and an array of crisps and nuts and settled down in the part of the pub that allowed muddy walking boots. Hours earlier, as we had walked past the field at the back of the pub, we had spotted two tiny little ponies, chewing impishly on the grass. A man came out from the kitchen with some vegetables for them, and they came up no further than his burly knees. I watched them for a while, feeling that my heart was going to burst with glee. I turned back to Ben, grinning uncontrollably. "Aah" he said, in a worryingly-familiar tone that I like to think of as 'fond', "you look like a right mental." After our first pint and packet of Marmite crisps, Ben went to the bar to fetch more. He came back and shook his head, sadly. "We can't go and feed the ponies" he said. "Apparently, when miniature Shetland ponies are grazing they bite." If allowed, I would have done it anyway just so I could have told people that the injury on my hand had been sustained by a tousle with an errant pony.
Since PonyDay I've been back to London for a few nights, to sort out some remaining details of the Brixton house. Back in Manchester I have been following Ben about, annoying him by asking every five minutes whether he would like me to leave, and apologising for distracting him from like, work and stuff even though I am just hanging about reading books. I know that it will just take a bit of time for me to find my feet here, and that in the meantime I am bound to feel a little disorientated and over-sensitive. However, in spite of such sensibly-intentioned mental preparation, I appear not to be very good at talking myself out of the sudden rushes of fear I keep feeling.
I now am sitting in "my" room in my Grandma's house (the inverted commas are meant to denote that I do not quite feel like it is mine, even though I have attempted to make it so by sprinkling clothes and jewellery about the place with careful abandon). We have had tea (this is Northern for dinner). Today I walked from Ben's house into town, where I got on a bus to come back here. The bus wound through the wet streets of Greater Manchester, which are peppered with shops called things like "Fone X-change" and "The Thrill of the Grill!", and about eight million Morrison's supermarkets. I watched the unfamiliar roads unfurl and listened to the other passengers discuss their lives.
Tomorrow I suppose I shall go into town and wander around, with the intention of working out where to get some kind of job that will keep me in loose women and fast cars while I live the dream here up North. Although, actually, I don't want to do that just yet. I have spent the last four years lurching from shit job to worse one while I attempt to wrap my head around the fact that I am trying to live some kind of artistic dream. My CV is a graveyard of horrific former miseries. Looking at it is like staring at a list of equally-horrific ex-boyfriends, and I can't face adding to it yet.
However, I know that getting a job is the best way of making friends. Given how abjectly terrified I am that I will end up becoming too reliant on Ben (who is leaving in two weeks to hang around Nepal for a month, where he will be of less use to me) I feel that I should go and make some friends by means of shared humour about terrible hours/customers/managers.
I will see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow, and hope that I can bring myself to get out of bed and face the terrifying prospect of my new (improved) life.