The leafy villiage of Altrincham is one of the posher corners of Manchester, with many a footballer and cricketer tucked away in meticulously restored mansions behind tall brick walls.
However, the air was a little less rarified on Saturday, as Altrincham was hit with a miniature plague.
As my hosts and I were eating breakfast Saturday morning, we couldn’t help noticing that the house was rapidly being taken over by flies. “What’s drawing them in?” we wondered. As the new arrival, I couldn’t help checking my shoes and pits. “Is there something dead in the house?” they wondered. These are not really the sorts of chats that make for a relaxing pre-concert breakfast.
In the end, Adrian went looking for bug spray- he found no spray, but did get an explanation.
“It’s the farmers- they’ve been smearing manure in the fields. You’ll not find a can of bug spray in all Manchester,” the shop assistant reported in a thick Northern accent. “You’ll have to wait for a freeze for them to move on.” My host did manage to pick up something that looked like an electric racketball racket- and as we left for rehearsals it looked like a murderous game of R-ball was being played in the kitchen.
Sure enough, the plague had reached our concert venue just in time for rehearsal. There’s nothing like trying to sort out a difficult program with limited rehearsal time when you’re being swarmed by little black monsters. Fortunately, fate smiled. Someone in the band knew someone who had a can of bug spray left over from the last great plague. Normally, I wouldn’t celebrate the mass discharge of airborne poison, but I was pretty delighted to see it on Saturday.
Anyway, every concert has a story, a bit of drama. This one had a plague. It was refreshingly Biblical, a nice change from oboists with tendonitis, soloists with memory slips, broken lighting, over-eager heating systems or traffic jams. As plagues go it was more irritating than terrifying. At least it wasn’t frogs.