It was a bit of a 24 hour whirlwind really. Although that’s far too dramatic a phrase. What I mean is that I met Alison in passing and very, very briefly. In that two minute meeting she said, “I’m going to Tom’s book launch at the Peveril tomorrow evening, why don’t you come along?”
“Tom Molloy. He’s dedicated the book to me.”
“Errr…why has he dedicated it to you?”
“I’m not sure really.”
Well that was, of course, intriguing enough to go along to the Peveril of the Peak on the day after and find out what it was actually all about. Particularly as Alison herself wasn’t sure. The time capsule that is the Peveril is, on my rare visits these days, an enduring treat.
Thank goodness that a plan to demolish the pub many years ago was diverted by…diverting the planned road around it, leaving an island. An island with the only city-centre pub that you can walk all the way around. But largely Peveril people are the same people whenever you go in.
When I walked in (not having met Tom Molloy) I knew some, if not most, of the people there. “I’ve come for Tom’s book launch, can you point him out to me?” Now the Peveril is small enough to be standing very near to, or next to most people in there at any one time. I was standing next to Tom and a conversation started immediately.
Tom is from Wythenshawe. He likes music, bars, food and Manchester. That much I found out in the first few minutes. His book is called ‘Walking down Deansgate’ and is an amalgam of his diaries of…music, bars, food and Manchester. We had a decent chat but arranged to meet in a day or so, away from the book launch, so that we could have a longer conversation. Tom gave me a copy of his book and I left.
Now that’s when the story really starts because I started to read it on the Met on the way home. I was laughing quietly on the half-hour journey and couldn’t wait to read some more. The book is full of laconic anecdotes that are pure Manc. It’s not just that anybody not from Manchester wouldn’t recognise the locations, it’s just that it’s pure Manc humour:
‘I got on the late night 43 at The Refuge. I sat near the stairs and a woman on the seat in front burst into song at the top of her voice. A one-woman toothless flash choir. A vodka infused rendition of Bowie’s Life on Mars. ‘Take a look at the lawmen beating up the wrong guy.’ Mesmerising. Looking like Susan Boyle in a leather mini after a heavy night, she trudged off in Rusholme to no applause but much relief.’
Or on Gary Neville: ‘Pomona Island is looking ever like Alacatraz. Anything owned by mad Monopoly player Gary ‘stick a hotel on it’ Neville is another.’
So we sat down for a proper chat in Mackie Mayor. Tom was a little late. “I’ve been to see me mam. Get her tea for her.” By this time I’d read the whole 200 plus pages of Walking down Deansgate and thought that I’d got the measure of Tom.
I asked if he just went to gigs, got drunk and ate. He confirmed that that was the case, working 4 consecutive twelve-hour shifts ‘making dough in a Stockport factory,’ means that he can then concentrate on his loves for, effectively, 72 hours non-stop. A 72 hour party person.
But make no mistake. His knowledge of the Manchester music fringe, up and coming, long-lived or nascent acts is detailed and extensive. He knows every basement and upstairs venue, every pub and hall gig, every musician and their talents and traits. And every beverage, every kebab or…’Federal on high street does the world’s best omelette.’
All are detailed in his book – his diaries – along with historical info and knowledge about Manchester and its boroughs. “It all needs recording,” Tom tells me at Mackie, “because diaries are just kept by the upper class. That’s just part of history. Their lives won’t reflect what real life was like.”
Tom does venture outside his home environs during the course of the book. European travels following Man U, slightly more local following bands: ‘I’d always wanted to go to The Leadmill in Sheffield town centre. You can’t beat a midweek trip to another civilisation. It’s the kind of thing that Attenborough has thrived on for years, but only rarely has he ever had to put up with Northern Rail.’
Tom’s book is funny and yes, records Manchester of recent years and today in its own genre. It’s eight quid to buy and worth every penny. Although, he says, “It’s only worth a fiver really.”
Walking Down Deansgate by Tom Molloy