As usual when I’m completely broke, I decide to wander aimlessly around Manchester.

I get caught in a shower of sharp, cold rain, and head for Waterstone’s, where I find five pence on the floor.

When the sun comes out I head off again.

Later, I am strolling past Chetham’s and the Cathedral when a pretty girl catches my eye and smiles. I smile back. She approaches me. “Drunk,” I thought. I think she was, a bit. She was the kind of girl you’d want to get caught in the rain with, you run for cover, perhaps a shop doorway, art gallery or coffee shop, laughing because she’s wet and you’re wet, your eyes meet, she doesn’t look away …

“Excuse me, I’m not a tramp or anything, I’m from Eastbourne … I’m trying to raise £34 to get back there.”

She holds out her hand to reveal she already has five or six pounds in change, enough for a couple of drinks. Perhaps I could invite her to Sinclair’s Oyster Bar or the Wellington? Does she have to get back to Eastbourne today? What do I say?

I look straight at her.

“I’ve got five pee,” I say bluntly and truthfully. “I don’t suppose that’s any use.”

She wanders off.

Coincidentally, I stayed in Eastbourne one summer a few years ago when I was teaching English. What a hole.

So I don’t blame this girl for coming to Manchester in search of thrills.

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