I am on the M62 crossing the Pennines for the umpteenth time towards the Red Rose of Lancashire. On Radio Four, a special marmalade with a bitter £3,000 price tang is being discussed and I am in good spirits as I wonder what a three-thousand-quid marmalade would taste like.
Traffic in both directions reverentially circumnavigates the farmhouse which refused to let itself be scared away by anything as inconsequential as a major motorway heading straight for it, and I am soon at the summit. ‘England’s highest motorway at 1221 feet’, it announces proudly. The lunar-like landscape here has a thin layer of snow today, making it look like a series of melting ice cream scoops with the protruding winter-burnt heather the sprinkled nuts.
‘Hmm delicious!’, enthuses the Radio Four reporter, finally getting what she came for, which makes me reach for the banana I brought with me as a snack. ‘It has an edible gold leaf in it’, explains the proud marmalade maker. Now there’s a thing. All this time we’ve been misusing gold as a form of decoration when we could have been eating it instead.
Manchester looks incongruous under the sunlight. I park the van and start setting my cameras up. A man wearing a waxed green jacket and tweed walking hat stops to watch me work. He looks to be in his sixties and has a neatly trimmed white moustache and goatee which gives him an air of respectability. ‘I could do with one of those’, he says pointing at the mast, ‘for my radio antenna’. I smile and carry on. ‘Later, when you’re gone, I could bring my pickup around and take it home with me’, he adds in a conspiratorial tone. I laugh, acknowledging his offbeat sense of humour. ‘Yes, yes’, he nods enthusiastically, and gives the impression of having a schizophrenic dialogue with himself ‘that’s what I’ll do’. He shoots me an enigmatic grin and walks away.
Typical loon. Most big cities have a steady supply of them but in Manchester they seem to be far above the national rate. Last time I was here it was a man on his way to court for assault. He looked like he was still recovering from a lobotomy, speaking slowly with unblinking eyes fixed on me. ‘They told me I cut someone in the pub with a broken bottle but I don’t remember it’. I encouraged him not to be late for his court hearing, and off he went with his uncertain walk, as if the pavement was strewn with landmines.
All this talk of gold-spiked marmalade made me hungry and I went into Tesco for a sandwich before driving home. This morning, my mobile rings. It’s my boss. ‘Marcos, the guy on site says there’s no camera outside Tesco. It looks like it’s been stolen.’