The Snooker Grand Prix tournament was played at the Preston Guildhall in 1998, at the start of the snooker season, and then yearly until 2005 (moving once to Telford in 2000). But there has been so much more than that going on at this famous venue down the decades. So this weekend I travelled to Preston with Seán my secondborn child, his mother Hilary and his girlfriend Lucy to see.
On Sunday night, having encamped at a rather swish hotel in the fashionable Fox Street district of the city we gorged on Neopolitan fare at Tigi’s, our favourite Preston restaurant, and retired early to restore our energy levels for Monday’s proceedings and to make sure we made the most of the free sachets of Nescafé that adorned our suites of rooms.
We were a week too early for Frankie Boyle’s stand up show and the stage production of Angelina Ballerina had been and gone but we were bang on the dot for a gargantuan awards ceremony in which our Seán graduated as a Bachelor of Arts (First Class) in the art of Sports Journalism. Exciting enough, you may think, but the fact that the event took place in the same venue as that in which Chris Small beat Alan McManus in the 2002 snooker final and where Chas ‘n’ Dave did a one off charity concert in 1982 to raise money to help the troubled Verona Opera House made me wonder if there was any better place in the world to be than Preston Guildhall.
News spread fast and soon we were joined by Sophie my firstborn child, who had travelled up from Manchester to be there on that special day. Meanwhile, Rose my thirdborn child, who unfortunately couldn't be there, sat on the settee at home with a bowl of Tesco Fruit ‘n’ Fibre in a most celebratory fashion.
Seán wore a white shirt, black tie and black trousers for the occasion. I worried at first that he had thought he was there to play snooker rather than to pick up his degree but on arrival at the magnificent complex he donned his mortarboard and gown in which he strutted around with his head held deservedly high like he was the headmaster at a private school.
In fact I was sure that I heard him say to one of the ushers in the auditorium, “You boy, stop chewing!”
But he did a marvellous job of going up to shake the hand of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) and he made us all very proud of him and his achievement. We were even prouder when we were invited to join the procession from the Guildhall, down through the city centre to the University building where an all UCLAN eat buffet was waiting for us.
I hope that wasn’t my last ever visit to Preston. It’s a nice old city with lots of history and culture and its people are so incredibly friendly. It turned out to be just the right place for Seán to study so I know there will always be a touch of fondness for the dear old place in my heart and in his.
So I’d like to thank everybody at UCLAN, Sir Tom Finney, Mark Lawrenson, John Inman, everybody at JD Wetherspoon’s Greyfriar bistro, Nick Park, everybody at Cassandra’s restaurant, Peter Purves, the management and staff of the Premier Inn and my trusty Honda Civic that has notched up approximately 4,000 miles without complaint to transport our hero Seán and his entire possessions back and forth between his home and his seat of learning during the last three years.
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