Big Shout to Malmy Hatchman

I was intrigued by the old duffer, by his almost disassociated presence, and took to making excuses to talk to him. That is, I’d talk foolishness and he would gaze at the floor and murmur. They paid him little enough. It got him a room in a lodging house with others who were only one step away from the gutter; somewhere in Hulme, I think. Fag and beer money came from his ‘errands’; some kosher, some decidedly hooky. But one flash of his campaign medals, always worn under his waistcoat, and the most hard-bitten copper would turn a gruff blind eye.

I asked him once how he imagined his life would have turned out if the Great War hadn’t intervened and he smiled.

‘Building… building a city.’

‘Oh, was your father a bricklayer then?’

‘Naw. What father? I mean dreaming cities up, drawing them. Seeing them rise out of me and out of the earth and then touching the skies.’

I checked my guffaw just in time. ‘You wanted to be an architect – good God!’

‘What do you think I do of an evening? I’ve no schooling so I have to use my eyes and ears: careless talk and that, papers left around. I listen to them in their offices and look at their drawings. I’m the sad dog in the corner that gets in their scran and dirty magazines so they take no notice of me. The city is my university. Every building I see is the conceit of man-made flesh – the wrong ‘uns, good ‘uns, tombs for the living and palaces to go to the devil in; gables, domes, turrets, chimneys, proscenium arches and flying buttresses; gargoyles, goddesses, saints and heroes…’

The words were spewing out of this silent, austere man; a litany of architectural ephemera, the detritus of Manchester’s aspirations, the measurements, the styles, the quirks, the failures, the triumphs. He trailed off and sagged as though exhausted.

I must have looked both astonished and a little vexed as, with a mixture of shiftiness, defiance and some underlying neediness, he said ‘I can show you if you like.’

‘What – you still draw?’

‘Nah. Cartimandua.’

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7 Responses to “Big Shout to Malmy Hatchman”

  1. December 18, 2008 at 6:38 pm, David Flindall said:

    Interesting but maybe a bit obscure

  2. December 19, 2008 at 6:09 pm, Craig said:

    Fantastic! Best story on here yet!! I loved it!
    Looking forward to seeing more of your work Anne!….

  3. December 20, 2008 at 10:26 pm, Marion Hewitt said:

    Brilliant – I want to see the film – who’s got Tim Burton’s number?

  4. December 21, 2008 at 4:13 pm, Peter said:

    Captures and conveys the dark mood of ye olde ratHall…enjoyed reading this tale.

  5. December 25, 2008 at 11:17 pm, Joel said:

    It’s exactly how I see the Town Hall and all the buildings around there. Whatever’s new is built on something old, and for every ‘success’ there are many more of us ‘failures’. Very true story

  6. February 08, 2009 at 12:29 pm, Cousin Ken said:

    A touch of Le Fanu with a dash of Victor Hugo for good measure! Well written cousin. xxx

  7. November 13, 2009 at 1:12 pm, Olthwaite said:

    Thrilling! There’s something about those town hall corridors when it’s dark and deserted…


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