Saturday, 7 November 2009
I'm never quite sure if I like Derby. Of the triangle of East Midlands cities, it's the one I know least. I'm more often there to change trains than to visit. But on impulse I decided to catch the train. There was a film I wanted to see at the Quad - the recent French film, The Army of Crime - and, after five weeks of overwork combined with a succession of viruses, it seemed splendid to be heading out for a treat on a Friday afternoon.
I found to my delight that I was once more able to run for the train - it was a very last-minute decision - and, once on the train, reflected that my life was suddenly becoming quite self-indulgent. I'd been to a bonfire, firework and pizza party the night before and now I was off to the cinema. By the time I arrived in Derby, I'd decided I liked the city. Perhaps I could even move there, one day. I considered the advantages: good train services, easier access to the Peak District, the Joseph Wright paintings in the museum, the Victorian market hall. Above all, it would be a new place and I would feel as though I were starting life again. I started to think about small, manageable houses without gardens and in good repair. I tried not to think about the horror of moving or getting a house in sufficiently good order to be shown to buyers.
I can never remember the quickest way from Derby station to the city centre. I took a slightly complicated route, past small modern factories and the huge Westfield shopping centre. It all seemed slightly dull in the November drizzle but I reminded myself that this was my afternoon out and determined to enjoy myself.
I'd never been in the Quad before and this wasn't a good start. I'd just got my money out when I saw the sign "An Army of Crime - cancelled, replaced by Casablanca." I asked what had happened but didn't exactly follow the answer: something about the equipment failing to "ingest" the film. "Is it digital?" I asked, in an attempt to understand. I didn't understand at all. Apparently digital films have to be ingested at least two hours before the screening. However a new copy was on its way. I bought a ticket, with cash, for the early evening screening and headed out in the rain to explore Derby.
I must have spent two and a half hours wandering, mainly gazing in shop windows in the hope that I'd feel inspired about birthday and Christmas presents. Then I thought I'd return to check that the replacement copy of the film had arrived and was being ingested safely.
The courier, due at two, hadn't arrived and it was nearly four. I decided to wait in the faint hope that the film would arrive and sat in the foyer, leafing through the film programme. The woman running the box office was suddenly concerned about my wasted afternoon and offered me a complimentary drink from the bar. I asked for a pot of chai so I was at least warmer when the news came that the film had been cancelled. The box office woman gave me my money back and offered me a complimentary ticket for any film in November. I accepted, though I'm not sure I'll make it to Derby again. But the kindness began to make up for my disappointment. I finished my tea and headed along the damp, dreary route past the overhang of the Westfield centre and bleak garages toward the railway station.
This time I managed the quick route and noticed the attractive railwaymen's cottages close the station. There were a couple of promising pubs too and an excellent chip shop. I began to fantasise about moving into one of the railwaymen's cottages. I thought I'd like being near the station. I always enjoy the possibility of easy escape. And I liked the idea of living in a railwayman's cottage. My dad was a railwayman - he worked as a fitter on the London Underground for 39 years and still takes an interest in trains.
I was unexpectedly tired when I reached home. I should have picked up some work but felt unable. I went to bed with a couple of books and decided I'd have a lie in on Saturday. But in the morning I felt the after-effects of the Derby drizzle. I had a bad cold and was aching too much to go anywhere. I coughed, spluttered and slept.
I have stopped dreaming of a move to Derby.