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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