Stories from 1996 Chapter 41 A Britpop Journal The Epilogue

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December 31st 1996

A quiet moment of reflection before the carnage of New Year’s Eve begins.

1996 – a year of maximum highs, great escapes, stupid girls and charmless men. I am relieved  to be far away from where I was this time last year but can’t help feeling not far enough away. I am in a the fortunate  position of being blessed by fabulous friends, excited by the prospect of a new man and yet frustrated by a non-starter of a career. Still 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

So to summarise – I still feel lost but there is hope. Here is to 1997 and beyond.

Right let’s get a sparkle on, its New Year’s Eve and I want to party.

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Hello world of hangovers and high hopes! It is officially 1997  but felt this entry deserved to be my epilogue to 1996. The final hoorah.

And what a hoorah it was. I don’t care how much the room spins this morning and I can tolerate the stomach lurches. I can live with shaky hands and sunken eyes. Last night we partied like it was 1999. It was the perfect concoction of fantastic mates; Maisie and Rhys, Ruth, Harry, Ben etc, a superb venue; Clancy’s in Roath which was chosen at random but ideal because of cheap drinks and an excellent jukebox and the cherry on the cake; a surprise visit by Will.  This was a daring stunt on his behalf and could easily have ended in tears. Gatecrashing a mates only night out hoping for a shag can have catastrophic consequences. But I was thrilled to see him and his mates and even if his intentions weren’t entirely honourable what can I say? Will broke the rules and I liked it. This might have potential. Ever since the Shed Seven gig before Christmas he has been dominating my thoughts constantly. The daily phonecalls over the holiday built on that initial knee trembling spark and I could not wait to see him in the flesh, I suspect that he felt the same.

The evening in the pub was spent in a trippy whirl of merriment and love. We commandeered the jukebox and danced on the tables until the drinks were all drunk.  Then came the point in the evening, after midnight, when the New Year’s Eve fun deteriorates into a disjointed mess of half-hearted plans and goose chasing. But, last night, this was not the case as myself and Ruth had thought ahead and bought in a variety of supplies for the house. As seasoned party goers we knew that there would become a point in the night where everyone was all dressed up with nowhere to go. Therefore, the party staggered, noisily through Cathays to partake in more celebrating chez nous.

I must admit that in my rough as a taxi cab floor state this morning there are moments of last nights joviality that are slightly vague. I remember saying an over emotional goodbye to Maisie and Rhys when they decided to brave the freezing early hours and walk home; I have a recollection of Harry not so subtly disappearing into her room with a ginger friend of Will’s. My overriding memory of pure joy from last night is myself, Ruth, Alan and Will jumping on my bed singing/shouting our hearts out to Shed Seven and Pulp. For Christmas, Maisie had made me some oversized Rick Witter maracas from paper mache and these were being abused by each of us in turn. I have a horrible feeling that someone had a disposable camera.

I think most of us crashed about 4am. Will is still crashing and I have no desire for him to leave. This does feel different.

So, here I am, halfway through the first day of a new year, content, hopeful and without the energy to even make myself a cup of tea. My new diary sits on my desk beckoning. Its clean pages full of promise and what, when, why and whos?

Bring it on ’97.

nme 1997

Stories from 1996 Chapter 40 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 40

December 2nd 1996

Busy, busy, busy. Shift after shift at the shop of gadgets and not much else happening UNTIL TODAY!!!

Have been incessantly surrounded by Christmas and not particularly excited about it UNTIL TODAY!!!!

Eat, sleep, work, repeat UNTIL TODAY!!!

I arrived at work as normal, dishevelled and rushed. I went straight to the kettle to make my essential second cup of tea of the day and slammed face to chest with him. Mr Coombes, resplendent even at 9am. I had no words but had no need for words as my out of control body language was making it very obvious how I was feeling. It felt like I stood there, crimson, for about ten minutes before I finally mumbled a “Sorry”. Understandably he made a sharp exit.

I had to drink the whole cup before I had half way composed myself. How can a random beautiful stranger have such a physical effect? As I finally managed to calm myself down it suddenly dawned on me that I would be working beside him all day. ALL DAY. I am not entirely sure how I survived, but I did and I am here to tell the tale.

And it just gets better……

The shop floor was non-stop, no time to think and thankfully no time to make an idiot out of myself. I did manage the odd, sly glance though just to check that he wasn’t a figment of my imagination. He certainly was there and I was all aflutter.  I didn’t even know his name.

When I returned with my sandwich at lunchtime the gods must have been smiling on me because who did I get to share the grubby staff kitchen with but Mr Beautiful himself. As I fumbled over the various tasks involved in making a cup of tea, I silently yet sternly ordered myself to get a grip. Just bloody talk to him. Maybe my prawn sandwich had given me some inner strength as I turned to him as calmly as possible, looked into those fantastic brown eyes and asked him if he wanted a tea.

He did. The rest of our lunch hour was spent getting on together brilliantly. We had everything in common and made a thousand clichés come true.  This Will as I now know his name to be, is making me feel really strange. Really strange. I really like him. After one day, one cup of tea, one brief half an hour with him my life is great again.

Good God, I need to calm down. I have just spent the evening boring Alan and Harry over my new obsession.

He is working tomorrow again, so am planning on an early night and an earlier than usual morning start so I can get myself looking as fine as possible for before 8am.

Also, just to add two cherries to the trifle of wonder that has been today I made two hugely important purchases.

1.  Today is the release date of the Super Furry Animal’s new single. The Man Don’t Give a F**k and it is so brilliant.  I’ve bought it on every format and am playing it on loop until sleep comes. Apologies again to my poor housemates.

2.  Two tickets to see Shed Seven and Catatonia in Newport anyone? Mine, all mine. Don’t know who’s coming with me yet.

Could I actually be brave enough to ask Will?

Stories from 1996 Chapter 39 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 39

22 November 1996

I must have been  just cocky enough or demonstrated the correct amount of aloofness because I got the job. Obviously my drinker’s degree had nothing to do with it and it is a mere Christmas job but its better that signing on. It also means that I can enjoy the festivities to full effect and buy people some decent presents (esp. with my 20% staff discount). Novelty corkscrews and rave lights all round then this year.

A handful of us newbies went in this morning for an induction. No sign of Mr Coombes but I still hold out hope that he too has been given the honour of a Gadget Shop T-shirt. I am feeling superbly positive at the moment about everything which is how I want this topsy turvy, shimmy shimmy year to end. Most of the other staff seem great, they obviously did not want obnoxious twats after all, and I begin my new career in retail in 2 days time.

Which means it would be ridiculous not to celebrate this fact tonight at Popscene with Maisie and a couple of room fulls of other shiny happy people. I am so excited, having not been to Clwb for a while. Its dressing up time. Off to Maisie’s for some vodka and lipstick.

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I am going to make a blurry eyed, hungover statement of truth – I have never since the launch of Popscene and it’s weekend brother Popshop ever had a crap night in that place. It is always rammed, with more than its fair share of Beautiful People; the music is fantastic thanks to the ‘One that got away DJ’ (to cut a long story short – he charmingly pinched my arse one week, I bravely, after a lot of Dutch Courage, asked him out another week only for him to say he was a ‘busy boy’. How bloody dare he?) and finally the atmosphere in Clwb is just amazingly, fantastically Cardiff! I truly love that place and hope I will still be returning for years to come. No where else comes close.

It was a night of dancing, flirtations and a cutey barman who we nicknamed Matthew Kelly (he had a beard) who

se gentle demeanor at the bar had Maisie cooing. We saw old friends, made new ones and got told off by the bouncers for standing on the windowsill in the toilets shouting at handsome men outside in the queue.

At the end of the evening, when we could neither dance nor drink any more, we stumbled down the cobbles to hail a taxi. This proved to be a fruitless task so, arm in arm, we braved the November wind to Canton. After about ten minutes of enthusiasm our beer jackets began to malfunction. Our noses were cold. We could see ice forming on the cars as we walked on by. Another ten minutes passed and we tortured ourselves with the thought of steaming hot vinegary chips. Alas tonight this was not meant to be as no where was open. Never in my life have I felt so cold and tired. When we eventually arrived at Maisie’s house we collapsed fully clothed in a grateful heap. A heap I have just crawled out of.

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Time to chill before the next chapter of my career starts tomorrow. Go Go Gadget arms!

Stories from 1996 Chapter 38 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 38

November 19 1996

After spending hours filling in the initial forms, enduring the shame of the Job Centre employer’s cold hard questions and then receiving a speedy reality check about how little you can do with seventy odd quid, I luckily spied an appealing job advert in the Western Mail. Christmas is coming and that means lots of casual work in the shops in town. I have scored myself an interview with The Gadget Shop in the Capitol Centre.

This is the kind of job I can put up with. They sell cool stuff and they play music really loudly which can only make a working day a bit easier. Of course, I have to get the job first but it can’t be that difficult surely? Am feeling positive.

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Well that wasn’t too bad. It was a group interview which basically means that you are in a room with a load of loudmouth idiots trying to out idiot each other. You never know whether the success criteria for the job involves being cocky and annoying or whether they are in the market for an aloof mastermind. Unfortunately I do not have an arrogant, listen to me everyone button so I hope I was able to display some intelligent tendencies. I reluctantly played along with their painful ‘challenges’ and tried my best not to allow every single other person in the room to drive me insane. The staff from the shop seemed cool and despite my lack of enthusiasm for the interview format I was actually quite keen to get the job. There are far worse places to work.

As we were shown out after our 45 minute ordeal there were more hopefuls waiting outside. A gaggle of over-enthusiastic Machiavellians; fake, loud and sly. One from the aloof camp caught my eye though as I passed, sat on his own listening to his Discman. He had something of Gaz Coombes about him. Tall, dark and cool as f@@k. As I approached the shop door I couldn’t resist another sly look as he really was quite special. Our eyes met and he hinted at a smile. I immediately flushed crimson and bumbled outside.

How strange it is that a complete stranger can have such a physical and emotional effect? It is such a cliché but that fleeting moment has been at the forefront of my thoughts all day.  I have floated around in a fantasy bubble with a soppy Mills & Boon look on my face. Imagine if both of us get the job? Imagine if our paths never cross again? Imagine if he has a girlfriend? Imagine if he secretly stalked me all the way home and is soon to appear beneath my window to serenade me with “Wonderwall?” On second thoughts, scrap that one, that would be slightly disturbing.

Anyway, what a bright, shining star my mysterious man was in another day of November dreariness. I am quite contented to stay in from the cold tonight and fantasize what could have been with my fingers crossed for a new job. After a spate of mistakes and embarrassments I am pleased to announce that I still have impeccable taste in men. Now where is my Supergrass CD?

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Stories from 1996 Chapter 37 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 37

November 15

This morning was the dawn of  new experience.

I woke up mercifully hangover free and clear headed which in itself is a rarity. I briskly walked through the leaf strewn streets, squinting at the sun. One of those fabulous days were you can get away with wearing a woolly hat and sunglasses without looking like a twat.  I think I may even have been humming to myself. Yep, on my journey there I was happy as could be without looking a bit odd.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so cheerful. Maybe it was returning to Cardiff, a beautiful place to be in the Autumnal sun. Perhaps it was the aforementioned lack of post alcohol fuelled come down. Or maybe just being in the fresh air with a purpose that was not work in a disgusting call centre. On reflection, if I am brutally honest with myself, I was excited to be getting some free money as today was my first time of signing on. I was about to pop my Jobseeker’s Allowance cherry. Desperate times.

That 30 minute walk this morning was the beautiful start to a day that slowly but surely slipped into horribleness. As I stepped over the Jobcentre threshold I could feel the joy evaporating.  The signing on experience was like a terrifying interrogation, with me trying to second guess the psychology behind each question. I was doubting every word that came out of my mouth, so I cannot begin to imagine how dodgy I sounded to someone else. I was expecting to feel the heavy hands of the mountainous security guard on my shoulders at any minute.

Thankfully my answers must have passed the test as I was issued with my cheque and told to return in two weeks. I had to promise to put 100% effort into finding work in the meantime. I nodded and smiled and left as soon as I could with my free money burning a hole in my pocket. Lickety split.

When I got home with my new-found wealth Harry had already formed a plan. She was desperate to get to Zeus tonight as some rugby bloke she was after was guaranteed to be there and she couldn’t possibly go on her own but she really liked him and he had made a point of telling her he would be there and she would shout me some beers etc etc etc.  Free beer – I’m there.

So, we put on our best towny togs and forced ourselves to drink the gloopy, vile content of the mysterious cans Harry had found in the corner shop. Force 10 lager. Signing on and fortified lager in one day – classy.

Zeus was predictably shit. Clubs like that are just full of restrictions – you can’t dance because the music is crap or if a random Oasis tune does get through the towny filter you get blokes pinching your arse or diving in uninvited tongues first. You can’t drink because the queue at the bar is 7 deep, and that’s 7 rugby lads deep. You can’t sit down because all the seats are taken by couples snogging. You can’t even look around for fear of hearing the dreaded question – “What you looking at?”

On a positive note Harry bagged her man, so mission accomplished. Except neither of us had thought it through properly and I was left with his oafish mate shouting lager fumes in my ear.

I got my coat.

I had walked most of the way home without incident. But as my heels echoed down Salisbury Road a car pulled up beside me. I tightened my grip on my pre-prepared house keys.

“Excuse me.”

I carried on walking.

“Excuse me can you tell me the way to the castle.”

I tentatively approached his open window with caution and maintained a distance. I was about to fumble some directions when his tone changed and in a manner that can only be described as excitable he shouted,

“I’ll give you £200 if you sit on this.”

That was when I noticed his complete lack of clothes from the waist down.

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Stories from 1996 Chapter 36 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 36

November 10th 1996

I ran away home, to North Wales, to escape the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of the Metropolis forgetting that they are the main foundations of the North. My teenage years were spent obsessing about these three elements and they were often sought out and enjoyed in the most obscure of places. Those places only known to adolescent adventurers who live at home with their parents. Those places that will never be visited again once a certain age is reached. Or so I thought.

Last night there was plenty of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Too much of the triad of self destruction.

The intention was a quiet get together with various school friends. Friends that you can go weeks without seeing but then are best buddies once back together again. We chose the village pub, which has a tendency to be raucous affair. We drank pint after pint of Caffreys (on recommendation from the terrifying landlord). It was a noisy, messy, all to familiar scene and when the bell rang for last orders we were not finished.

The merrymaking then continued through the village to a never before visited stone bricked house that had a bar. An actual carved wooden bar with a pineapple ice bucket. The remainder of the merged hours were a whirl of dancing, various substances and familiar, friendly faces. I had left the party capital to become fully ensconced in the provincial version. No escape.

My main party people were two brothers that I had known since childhood. Neil, the eldest, had been through primary and secondary school with me. We had both then studied at Cardiff and there was no doubt that there would always be an eternal bond between us. I had known his brother Lewis for years too, but not as well. He was cockier, better looking but a lot less likeable. Tonight though all three of us were the best of friends in the whole wide world ever.

Eventually, the party became a murmer rather than a roar, so the three of us left arm in arm. Earlier in the evening, to avoid parental hassle, I had decided to stay at the brothers’ house. They live at the top of the village, up a near vertical hill, in the midst of sheep filled fields. The journey seemed to go on forever, our inebriated state of minds exaggerated every shadow, every dark corner and every subtle sound. We ran the last few yards. By the time we were at their door we were freaked out of our minds.

I have never been so thankful to collapse into a strange bed. The comfort of clean smelling sheets and a ticking clock. It being the early hours of the morning, sleep came easily. Safe and warm. But not for long.

Someone had woken me up with an agenda. Through my haze of drink, drugs and sleep I didn’t resist.  After the debauched night we’d experienced it didn’t seem too inappropriate and I knew that Neil had always harboured a not so secret crush on me since the age of 11. Why not? Both now adults we could deal with any emotions the next day.

The f*ck up was that it wasn’t Neil, it was his brother. Another immense faux pas. Midmorning I forced my broken body and mind out of the not so inviting anymore house. I sneaked out the back door, barefoot, make up smeared, not wanting to see either of them.

I walked shamefully down the hill and could hear the brothers fighting in the garden. Shit. Cowardliness, guilt and shame took hold and I ran leaving more destruction in my wake.

Time to leave again. On to the next mistake.images