The reason I do all of my gift shopping well in advance and largely on the internet is so that I can avoid such things as going into Bury town centre in the freezing sleet on the last Saturday before Christmas. This was the gist of the message I intended but in the event diplomatically decided not to convey with some force to Mrs B and her mother. Including Brit Jnr, there were three generations of females against me: the game was up before it started.
Having chauffeured them into the town I gave them the slip as soon as was reasonable and went off into the famed boxy warren of Bury Market in search of hot grub. Bury is black pudding country. I have nothing against black pudding per se, a small disc of the stuff is a very welcome addition to any hotel breakfast. But you wouldn’t want to eat it in the same sort of style and quantity as you would, say, a bag of chips. Would you? In Bury you would. The market includes a little quadrangle of hot black pudding stalls offering exactly that. A boy of about ten was wolfing forkfuls of his congealed pig blood snack from a paper plate. He looked cheerful enough.
I hurried on and found a pieman. Like most men in the Greater Manchester area he was small and had a wiry moustache. His pies were a pound each. I ordered a homemade bacon and black pudding one.
“What, don’t you want peas and gravy for another 50p?” he asked, in a tone that was both injured and incredulous. “No, just as it comes please,” I replied in my southern accent.
It was a good pie, I ate it on the way to a warm-looking pub called the Two Tubs. Had myself a pint of mild in a nook (I like to go native, within limits) and checked the cricket score on my mobile. At the table next to me a small man with a wiry moustache was drinking a pint and reading his paper in great peace, while behind, a group of quite irritating students from some Home County or other talked too loudly about travelling in Australia. Idly, I studied the bar menu. The £3.99 special was A Plate of Black Pudding, covered in Bacon and smothered in Cheddar Cheese. Now that dish, I thought, is not widely available down south.