The journey this time, by train, was much better - although I did have a two and a half-hour rave going on in the seat adjacent to me as the bloke sitting there decided that the entire coach had to listen to the monotonous beat of the party he was having in his head. I was largely able to ignore it, lost in the June edition of BBC History magazine.
Things rapidly improved after reaching Manchester. My publisher had put me in a rather plush hotel, the Malmaison, albeit decorated to the taste of a 1980s teenager, in black and grey. And then I met up with Colin Mathieson (Accent UK) who was a gallant and generous host to me for the entire weekend. I don't get to talk with a fellow comics (and, as a bonus, history) enthusiast that much these days, so it was a real treat - for me at least!
On Sunday morning, after a breakfast surrounded by bleary-eyed Stone Roses fans, we met up again and spent a pleasant couple of hours or so at the Manchester Art Gallery before heading to Waterstone's, in Deansgate, for the main purpose of my visit - a comics workshop/party as part of the Manchester Children's Book Festival. I must admit that most of the children attending were a lot younger than I was expecting, or I'm used to, and as I launched into the event I was mentally shedding bits of the workshop I thought wouldn't work and thinking of new things that would. In the end it went very well and I had enormous fun with the children's bizarre and brilliant suggestions. The children really seemed to like it too, producing some fantastic characters, and that's the main thing!
A huge thanks to Waterstone's events co-ordinator Mike Hayes, festival volunteer Emma Reynolds (a fantastic artist herself!), and again to Colin, for support and photographs. It was also really nice to see fellow comic creator Bevis Musson, who brought along his son for a little while. Afterwards I signed a few copies of The Rainbow Orchid, and my first and only copy of The Phoenix comic featuring the final episode of The Bald Boy and the Dervish.
Colin and I then departed to the café of the John Rylands Library for a wind-down cup of tea, before heading out for some fresh air and a little tour of central Manchester with Colin as my informative guide. After a short break and a drink at Mr Thomas's Chop House we ended up at the brand new and very shiny Tops for dinner - a new experience for me, but a very pleasant one. Both Colin and I were interested in the Euro 2012 final, Spain vs Italy, so we went back to the Malmaison. We only managed to catch the last 10 minutes but still ended up seeing two goals. Well done, Spain.
A drizzly Monday morning saw us meeting up again, now with Colin's son, Scott, and we had a couple of hours at the very absorbing People's History Museum, where we saw the Temperance exhibition and then up to the first floor and the main gallery for an education in Peterloo and an amusing print of some flying Scotsmen - and much more besides. With the clock ticking towards my train home, we had to curtail our visit for a quick lunch and then it was back to the station for me, and a much more pleasant (ie. no rave music!) journey home.
I can't thank Colin enough for his fabulous company throughout the weekend - all of which helped to make a very enjoyable trip to Manchester that I hope I can do again in the future.
Edit: You can read Emma Reynolds' report of the Waterstone's event at the Manchester Children's Book Festival blog.