Yesterday, in Manchester, there was a parade to celebrate Chinese New Year, the Year of the Snake.The parade and celebrations happen every year, but this is the first year I’d decided to go.
Sure enough, we woke on Sunday morning to drizzle, cold and a generally grey atmosphere, but never the ones to let the rain stop play, we got dressed and headed out to town anyway.
We were so unprepared for what we saw.
The streets were literally lined with people, thousands of them. Billions of them.
“Jolly good!” I said to myself, expecting the atmosphere to be jubilant – a real Royal Wedding feel. I completely anticipated a jovial occasion full of strangers smiling at eachother, and offering out spare bags of crisps to bystanders, or moving out of the way to let children see properly.
I did not expect to see grown men stealing “snakes on sticks” from other people’s children to give to his own.
Clearly, in my head, I was attending a festival in the 1940s, where the majority of bystanders had arrived overnight in a Cherabang, singing and sharing fish spread sandwiches with lemonade while the Dads glugged from misty bottles of home-made scrumpy, and stayed out of the way.
I was wrong.
You’d never guess it was a celebration at all – there were angry looking women protecting their young [read: ramming passers by with prams], grim looking couples shoulder-barging routes through the crowd and worried crowd control officers being shouted at by an ‘eclectic mix’ of visitors.
By eclectic mix, I mean ‘bunch of bastards’.
I have literally never heard so many muttered insults or complaints in my entire life – and I’ve been in Philadelphia Airport at 4am following a 12-hour flight delay, sitting beside a man travelling alone with his 4 pre-teen daughters.
I’ve never heard a man tell his wife he was going to “ram that bloody sausage roll” down her throat before, simply because she was trying to stop him being run over by an oncoming tram. The thanks we get, eh?
In the end, we had to stand up a side street in the hope of seeing the parade, as the crowd of what can only be described as mourners would not let anyone pass – even to cross the road. We didn’t mind too much, the view was set to be alright, as it happens, and mostly unhindered by elbows to the ribs, or the eternal worry of being pick pocketed.
The drums began to bang, and that good old Irish party spirit started to dance inside my belly, and I was excited to see a nice authentic celebration. Sod the rain!
The first dragon-on-a-stick dancer pranced across the road, revealing our spot to be quite good indeed. I could see the snout of the first big dragon float, and against my own better judgement, got my phone out to take a picture.
Then a tram came, and totally blocked the view for everyone in our side street.
Then the complaints really started.
“Couldn’t organize a penny raffle!”
Personally, I had to laugh.
Of course we got up and went out in the rain to a crowded festival, where we were stood on, swore at and poked in the eyes with umbrellas.
Of course we spent £4 on a stingy portion of Chinese Curry, which was not very good or very warm.
Of course we got our view blocked by public transport.
That is part of the charm of a British day out!
If we’d gone in the sun, had loads of room, eaten fabulous food at a decent price, we’d have gone away from it thinking it was good, and then never spoke about it again.
We’ll tell this story for ages.
Come on, England. Stop complaining about things, and start enjoying them!