When you walk into the Night and Day café in Manchester and that big dark wood door closes behind you, it seems to shut out the anxiety of the city. The timeless smell of freshly ground coffee, low lighting and quality thoughts gently embraces you into another world.
“We rehearse in the basement here Jules” said Jaime, confidently searching my face for an agreeable response as he pushed open the front door of the café.
Still not really knowing what to expect from all of this, the only thought I could come up with was to comment on how cool it was that this old building still had its original rosettes and cornices round the ceiling.
The guys laughed at my observation.
Their laugh was refreshing as we marched through the café it brought it home to me that I was ten years older than the rest of the boys.
But it felt good. I felt liberated from all the useless interests and observations I’d accrued over the years.
I can be silly and young again!
Who gives a fuck about rosettes and cornices anyway!
I noticed as I was led down the stairs that the original Victorian banister rail still existed, but decided not to comment.
At the bottom we turned right, past the make-shift toilets, through a dark hallway and then through another big wooden door with some old posters on it.
The first thing that struck me was the faint smell of cigarettes and the silence…, the thick tangible silence of a room that doesn’t exist until you open its door.
Phil didn’t hang around, his amp was on before the strip lights had even finished igniting, guitar strapped on, tearing at the strings and exploring the best position for his amp to feedback and howl.
Time to wake up!!!!
Tony was tuning up with a knowing smirk on his face as Phil smashed the silence.
Murad was adjusting his kit with very critical and precise movements.
Jaime was looming over the crappy PA amp, wiggling a crackly plug and doing bingo caller impressions in a retard accent!
“Hey guys, where do I plug in?” I enquired, still more preoccupied with the absence of the recently promised coffee in the café dream.
Nope… Unfortunately the volume of my voice wasn’t adequate enough to compete with Phil’s screaming guitar.
I opted to be amused by this sonic barrage, and in my mind a thousand pennies dropped! I’d never been so clearly aware of having a choice of reactions, and this was no moment to be grumpy.
I decided to roll a joint while I waited for a gap in the noise that would allow me to speak.
So I adorned myself on a decorator’s trestle trying to look cool and half-arsed, but as I reached in my pocket to get my dope out, the fragile trestle buckled under and crashed me onto the dusty floor.
The guys loved this display! And as I disentangled myself from the sorry little bent legs of the trestle, something else broke. I guess it could be called the ice. It was perfect. Murad and Phil were in tears laughing, and Jaime, (once seeing I was ok and equally amused) let out the world’s most infectious giggle. Tony looked delighted at the sight of this cocky idiot crawling around the dusty floor looking for a tiny piece of smoke.
“Let’s go upstairs and grab a coffee!” I said, at last having the command of attention.
It was met with enthusiasm.
“Joe might have arrived by now anyway” said Jaime.
“Yeah and I’m starving” said Murad.
“Jules if you need to eat, we’ve got a tab here” added Phil.
This pleased me beyond description!
So the little rabble of activity that I by now felt very much part of moved back up the stairs into the civility of the café.
Back in 1994 Becky was the cook at the Night & Day café. She was probably only about 20 years old but I could see she’d already established herself in a maternal role towards the band. I liked this, it allowed us to be cheeky grubby little boys charming massive portions of food out of her, and getting away with nicking cakes out of the display.
As I tucked into the veggie burger and chips, I lost myself for a moment in the sharp light of the February afternoon shafting in through the windows. Only a handful of months ago I was desperate and lonely in the gutters of New York City, a dream had become a nightmare.
I’d felt old and jaded.
The good times of my youth seemed so long ago.
I was so fucked, I started to believe they were someone else’s memories, and the resignation to believing my days would end in that loveless city, cold, lonely and hungry, were not a dilly-dally with some fucking bohemian art trip.
“Oh, yah yah my New York stint was such a blast guys!!”
I was 8 stone, dribbled heart-burn when I spoke and protected my night-time shop doorway home with a piece of wood with nails sticking out of the top!
I was only 27 but looked like an old creep. I felt like a creep, I’d been violated but was left battling with an undeserved guilt.
The reason why I have such a vivid memory of my time in Marion is because, as I mopped up the remainder of my delicious café lunch, surrounded by the giggles and wide eyed wonder of this little gang of Artful Dodgers, I knew I was going to devour every moment of that new chance of being alive.