Everything But The Beach by Tom Molloy probably contains more typos, misplaced punctuation, spelling mistakes and poor grammar than all other books published this century put together.
And I love it.
Everything But The Beach is a short book, 191 pages, including Top 10 Entertainment Venues, 30 Memorable Small Hall Tunes and Top Places to Go and Things to Do & See in Manchester. If I started to pick favourite passages, I swear I would end up quoting the entire book.
How can a book so, shall we say, informally written, be anything but a lone monkey’s attempt at Shakespeare? Indeed, how can a book that is, in effect, the partial journal of a middle-aged man from Wythenshawe who takes himself into Manchester a couple of days and nights in the week, drinks various strong ales and lagers, eats pizzas, sees bands most of us have never heard of, nightcaps in Big Hands and takes the 43 night bus home, be especially engaging?
Maybe the man himself is engaging? Maybe the man isn’t who he says he is? Maybe the man calling himself Tom Molloy, is in fact work of fiction?
If he is who he says he is, then Tom Molloy is Holden Caulfield, out of James Boswell, without the syntax. Manchester is his subject. Fired up by the jibes of Chloe Sevigny and Carlos ‘It has nothing’ Tevez, Tom sets out ‘with an open mind but small budget’ to prove them wrong. He makes a drunken bet to see 50 live events in 12 months. With ‘a thirst for knowledge and strong bitter…sponsored by an unexpected PPI settlement, and driven by a burgeoning mid-life crisis’, he’s on the bus into town.
We first see him on Wednesday 1 June 2011, ‘sat outside the Deaf Institute on a sunny evening’. He observes fellow gig-goers: ‘the couple at the next table were very muso, she was a lot younger and he was wearing cartoon type socks with Liverpool FC emblazoned on them’. First band up is The Suns, ‘four young lads from Chester, with expensive looking guitars. The lead singer slightly Gary (sic) Garveyish, checking lyrics, from his small notebook. Joyful enthusiastic rockabilly, loads of Hank Marvin riffs, an enjoyable throwback’.
Some of the time his concentration wanders: ‘At the side of the stage stood a plainly nervous Alice Gold, long blonde hair, black hold up stockings, tight satin shorts and a white basque, xxx factor. A quick headcount of the crowd as Alice started, 23 of us including the four Chester lads who cheered her wildly. She was superb, passionate about her songs and a fine guitarist. An A+ performance’.
And so it goes on, with one or two excursions, up hills in Derbyshire, to the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Art Gallery, on various guided city tours, lead by Jonathan Schofield or Ed Glinert, to watch Lancashire play cricket on a rain swept day on Merseyside. Tom passes on information, enthuses about what he sees, picks out incidents, reports participants. The cumulative effect is of a genial (if one-sided) conversation. Within five pages you know Tom Molloy, within ten you want him to sit next to you on the bus, twenty, you want to buy the man a drink, thirty, you are saying, “Can I come with you to Big Hands? Will that be okay?”
Everything But The Beach is a short book, 191 pages, including Top 10 Entertainment Venues, 30 Memorable Small Hall Tunes and Top Places to Go and Things to Do & See in Manchester. If I started to pick favourite passages, I swear I would end up quoting the entire book. Here’s one from an account of Big Deal at the Deaf Institute, Saturday 10 September.
‘A recurring feature of concerts in Manchester seems to be two women stood at the bar talking loudly about shopping. The acoustics at DI are so good, at times the band were listening to the two shoppers. Their mission, how to return a dress to Mango at the Trafford Centre….At the end, outraged of Didsbury, strode over to the two objectors. “Excuse me, did you pay to get in tonight? Because we did…to listen to the band”. The Trafford Centre supporters looked genuinely taken aback, only a muttered “Silly cow” and on they carried.
‘I saw outraged on the way out, convinced she was a teacher or community support officer, I said “Well done, can I ask what you do for a living” “I’m a radio presenter” Really? You think she could have made something up.’
Most women in Tom Molloy’s book are ‘stunners’. Most bands are on the verge of ‘World domination’. His dedicatee is Ruth, who translates most often in the book as ‘The lovely R’. Here is my list of the Five Top Things Everything But The Beach has taught me:
Not all good books need correct punctuation.
As the years go on Manchester only gets better.
Erdinger is not for me.
The great contribution that Wythenshawe has made to the culture of the city is that all good Wythenshavians make their way into town as often as possible.
It is never too late, nor anything less than admirable, for a gifted man to prove, even in this digital age, that he can publish between covers, a good, entertaining and worthwhile book.
Everything But the Beach by Tom Molloy is published by Rossendale Books, price £5.99. It is available to buy on-line at lulu.com Tom will be signing copies at Pop Up Gallery 8, 4 Commercial Street, Knott Mill Manchester M15 4RQ on Thursday 13 December, 6-9pm.
Cover image from Tom Molloy, Deaf Institute (top) from Jan Chlebik, Wythenshawe Double-Decker Bus stop from Tom Molloy.
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