Fools Gold

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
In 2012 the Stone Roses announced they would be performing a homecoming gig in Manchester. The whole of the North West wanted to be there. Paul Harrison joined the mad scramble for tickets.
Would he get to see the legends perform? His attempts to get a ticket would take him to unexpected places.

Submitted: September 17, 2014

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Submitted: September 17, 2014

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‘You heard the news?’

‘Yeah, heard it on XFM this morning.’

‘You going?’

‘Of course I’m going.’ said Paul.

Paul Harrison was excited. The whole of Manchester was talking about the press conference. Four men known collectively as the Stone Roses had announced that they were getting back together for a series of concerts. These gigs would culminate in a homecoming at Heaton Park. Forget the Olympics, the Heaton Park gig would be the event of 2012. Paul had just turned thirty five. To him and most of his generation, the Stone Roses were important. They were more than just a band. They were legends. If his life was a film the Stone Roses was the soundtrack.

Paul really wanted to go to the concert. Guitarist John Squire was his ultimate hero. Paul even learned the chords to Waterfall and could strum his way through the song. To see John Squire perform with the rest of the band would be a dream come true. He shivered at the very thought. He was not a football fan so a lot of the City and United fever that gripped the city around derby day went over his head. But the Stone Roses, that meant something. That touched him.

 

The tickets went on sale a month before the concert. Like everyone across the North West Paul desperately wanted a ticket for the comeback concert. It was going to be amazing. It would be the event of the decade. Paul, like everyone, wanted to be able to say I was there.

The Monday morning the tickets went on sale Paul arrived at the office ten minutes early. He made himself a cup of tea, booted up his computer. He made the pretence that he would be starting work at nine o’clock as usual. But his main task that morning would be to try and get tickets for the gig. As soon as the clock on his computer said 0900hrs he dialled the number on the scrap of paper. He felt anxious.

 A second later he heard the beep beep of the engaged tone. He hit the redial button. Engaged. He tried again. Come on. He heard the engaged tone again. He looked around the office. Half of the staff were dialling out on their work phones. The others stared at their computer screens. Paul knew they were all trying to get tickets. From all sides he heard frustrated grumbles. Phone lines were constantly engaged, websites crashed due to number of people trying to get on.

Paul dialled again. Engaged. He was old school, if he wanted to order something he would rather phone up and speak to a real person. You knew where you were by ringing up. Staring at a computer screen you never really knew where you were. You didn’t know what was going on behind the screen.

As he hit redial he heard a cheer from across the office. Still with the phone to his ear he stood up. A lad on the accounts department was punching the air and pointing to his computer screen. Paul did not need telling that his colleague had managed to get the tickets everyone wanted.

His workmates glared with envy. Paul, like the others, hit redial with renewed gusto. If this guy could get tickets then surely they could too. Engaged. A while later a woman in her forties yelped. She excitedly read out credit card details down the phone. She thanked the person on the other end of the line a few too many times. She hung up. She clapped her hands. Paul felt like a gambler needing a win on the slot machines as he punched the numbers again. Come on. Beep beep beep.

An hour later he heard the ringing tone. He was elated. His heart was pounding. His credit card shook in his trembling fingers.

‘Hello? I’d like a ticket for Heaton Park.’

‘Sorry, love. They’ve sold out.’

‘Cheers.’

Paul sighed. He slowly placed the receiver down. Across the office his workmates were having similar conversations. Paul and the rest of his disgruntled colleagues went back to work. He was sure he was not alone in wanting to slap the grins from the faces of those who had managed to get tickets.

 

On the drive home from work the radio DJ congratulated those lucky enough to get tickets. He then played I am the Resurrection. Paul still hoped to get a ticket. He had a month. There were always tickets floating around for this or that concert even though it had supposedly sold out. So, he decided, all was not lost. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel in time with the music.

 

In the next few weeks there was scramble for tickets. Paul was reminded of the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in which everyone wanted a Golden Ticket to visit the famous factory. Paul hoped that, like Charlie Bucket, he would be successful. He had texts from close friends and read tweets from others. The messages were all similar, very excited, and made up to have tickets. He heard his colleagues talking too. A few of them had managed to get tickets.

Paul asked each of them how they had got their tickets. Some had clicked on various auction websites, others had been obtained through a friend of a friend.

One evening Paul booted up his laptop computer. A lad he worked with had mentioned a website that some of his friends used to get tickets. He entered the name in the search engine. He went on their website. Hopefully MuchoTickets would have something for him. Imagine, he thought, having a ticket for the Stone Roses. It would be like his dad going to see the Beatles. The concert of a generation. No, best not get his hopes up. In the search box he typed the name of the band and the venue. He waited while an egg timer turned around slowly on the screen. Then a small grey box popped up. Sorry, no tickets available. Paul swore. He slammed the lid of his laptop shut.

 

The next day at work he tried more than half a dozen websites. Nothing. The sites advertised the concert then when you clicked on, daring to dream you had a ticket, only to then tell you they had no tickets left. His cousin sent him an email. One of his friends had got his cousin a ticket. Like everyone who had a ticket, they could not believe they were going. Paul jammed a thumb on his keyboard and deleted the message.

How did they all manage to get tickets? What was he doing wrong? A colleague stormed across the office, blurted out I’m going. Paul mustered all the cheer he could and congratulated her. It was as though they were all planning a fantastic party and he wasn’t invited.

 

The weeks rolled by, the concert date crept nearer. The hype escalated to outright hysteria. Manchester and the North West was made up of two kinds of people, those with tickets and those without. The divide across the region was more vast, angry and envious than any football banter.

Paul kept trying. He hung onto the tiny glimmer of hope. More and more people he knew were going to the concert. The numbers had changed, there were more haves than have-nots. As the weeks went by the chosen few became the majority. Most of his friends and family had obtained tickets. So many of his colleagues were going that it was almost a works night out. As he crossed the office people would ask him if he had a ticket yet.

 

The week before the concert. Paul read on social media that a lad in a pub in Broughton was selling tickets. Paul drove across Salford straight from work. He pulled up outside the Dover. The pub was a boxish square building. The inside, like the exterior, had seen better days. Paul got the feeling that back in it’s hey day, whenever that had been, that this would have been a cracking little pub. Now though, even the cliental looked run down and jaded.

Paul went to the bar. He ordered a pint of lager. As he was handed his change he asked the barmaid where he could fine Seamus. She pointed a painted fingernail to a large man in a tracksuit. Paul took a gulp of beer and went over.

Seamus and the group he was with stopped chatting as Paul approached. They glared at him. Paul reminded himself that he had to do this if he wanted a ticket.

‘Alright lads?’

Nobody spoke.

‘I’m after a ticket for Heaton Park.’

Seamus stood, moved his bulk and shuffled towards him.

‘Hundred quid.’

Paul nodded. Seamus waved a hand and headed out of the pub. Paul followed.

Out on the street Seamus pulled out an envelope. He held his hand out. Paul gave him the cash. Seamus grinned. He slid the envelope back in his pocket and then pocketed the cash. Paul held a hand out. He waited for the ticket. Seamus shook his head.

‘Get lost, mate.’

‘I want that ticket.’

Seamus laughed. Then he drove a fist into Paul’s face. Paul crumpled to the floor. His eyes watered and the street spun around him. He heard the large man return to the pub. He knew that if he went to try and get his money back he would get worse than beaten up. He sighed. He forced himself to his feet. He stumbled back to the car vowing never to visit the crappy pub ever again.

 

The day of the concert. He did his food shopping in the morning. He went up and down the aisles. He heard excited conversations from other shoppers as they made plans of where to meet before the gig that night. He saw groups of people all wearing distinctive Stone Roses t-shirts and beanie hats. If he heard one more person say it was going to be the best night of their lives he would throttle them. He had one option left. He did not like the idea of buying a ticket from a tout but what option did he have? It was either go to a tout or be, as he felt, the only person in the city not going.

 

He arrived at Heaton Park just after six thirty. The atmosphere was amazing. As concert goers milled around dressed in their baggy finery Paul tried not to get excited. He pushed through the throng of people. Made of Stone rang out from somewhere.

‘Tickets? Any spare tickets?’

Paul headed for the guy. He wore an Oasis t-shirt. He supposed that when you were a tout guitar bands were all the same. He probably wore the same t-shirt for the Oasis concert a few years ago.

‘I want a ticket.’

‘Eighty five pounds.’

Paul nodded.

He handed over the cash. The tout peeled a ticket from a thick wad. Before Paul could thank him the guy was further into the crowd to buy and sell more tickets. Paul stared at the ticket. At last. He couldn’t take his eyes off the printed ticket. He actually had a ticket. Finally. He had started to believe he would miss out on the event. But here he was. He punched the air. He joined the throng heading towards the entrance gates. This was it. To quote the band, this was what the world was waiting for.

He was about to witness history. His heroes performing to their home crowd after years in the wilderness. This was the stuff dreams were made of. He neared the front of the queue. He handed over his ticket. He stepped forward. The guy in the Event Staff t-shirt placed a hand on his chest.

‘The ticket is a fake.’

‘What? No. It can’t be.’

Before Paul could insist that it was genuine the guy ripped the ticket into shreds. He tossed the pieces into the air.

‘Come on, mate. Let me in.’

‘Do one.’

The look in the guy’s eyes told him there was no point pushing the matter. Paul heard cheering and chanting from beyond the barrier. He felt tears burning his eyes.

‘Well, thanks for nowt, mate.’

 

Paul was angry, upset. He shoved his fists in his pockets and trudged towards the city centre. He needed a drink. He made his way across the city stopping at the pubs he passed for a pint.

Two hours later he felt a little better about things, and a lot less sober. He entered the Sawyers Arms on Deansgate. He went to the bar. Elephant Stone by came on over the speakers. Paul swore. If he didn’t here another Roses song for ten years it would suit him just fine.

A woman perched on a stool at the bar turned to face him. She saw the disgust in his face at the music.

‘You couldn’t get tickets either?’ she asked.

Paul shook his head.

‘Everyone I know has gone.’

‘Same here.’ Paul said. ‘And every radio station keeps playing their chuffing songs.’

‘My friends haven’t stopped going on about it. Some of them couldn’t name a Stone Roses song till last week. Suddenly everyone is a massive fan.’

‘Half the people I know who are going weren’t even born when the first album came up.’ He pointed to the bar. ‘What are you having?’

‘I’ll have a white wine, please. I’ll get the next one.’

He ordered a pint and a glass of wine. As the barman handed over the drinks she spoke.

‘You and I should have our own night to remember.’

‘Deal.’

They chinked glasses.

‘I’m Sally.’

‘Like Sally Cinnamon.’ said Paul.

‘Not funny. Not today.’

‘I’m Paul.’

The DJs voice came over the speakers announcing that he was taking song requests.

‘We should request something.’ said Paul.

‘What should we ask for?’

‘Anything but the Stone Roses.’

‘I’ll drink to that.’

They laughed.

 

Around midnight, having had a great evening and having almost forgotten about the concert, they stumbled towards Albert Square to get a taxi. Despite living in opposite directions Paul insisted they share a taxi.

As the taxi pulled away a familiar song came on the car stereo. Until Sally I was never happy..

‘Turn it off.’ said Sally.

‘No,’ said Paul. ‘Turn it up.’

The driver cranked the volume right up. The Stone Roses love song played out. Paul leaned in close to Sally. The city night rolled past outside. He slipped an arm around her. She kissed him.

 

In his wedding speech two years later Paul would describe not getting a ticket for the Stone Roses gig as the best thing that ever happened to him.


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