There are many things that I would like to say to you…..

Mike Flowers Pops

Chapter 21

July 30th 1996

Graduation Ball – the morning after.

Last night was meant to be the final fling, a chance to say fond farewells and celebrate our achievements (again!). I had debated over the last few days about whether to go or not. Harry would be there, as would Liam. Did I want to end this chapter of my life feeling awkward, let down and hurt? But, the alternative was to risk potential future regret by not going and to spend the nightstill feeling let down, hurt but also lonely.

So, fully persuaded by both Ben and Ruth I donned my party dress (Ball dress sounds too Cinderella) and faced the music. One tempting attraction being the Leftfield set and another being the strangeness of Mike Flowers Pops. Love it or hate it there is no escaping his version of Wonderwall.

It was great being at a venue and knowing almost everyone if not by name then, at least, by nickname. Carpet Chest Hair, Carpet Side Burns, Frayed T-shirt Man, It’s That Man Again, Phil Frooge, Pasta Paul, Minger Mike, Poodle and my personal favourite Kerchunk (named because his strong jaw was reminiscent of a Transformer). Friends, drinking buddies, one night stands, experimentations, dares and morning after cringes. Wall to wall familiarity, all dressed to kill, high on alcohol, academic success and pheromones. Everyone was very generous with their hugs and kisses, congratulations were shared, best wishes bestowed. Goodbyes and farewells.

I literally bumped into Liam on the Leftfield dancefloor, he was unattractively off his head, unable to string a coherent sentence together. He was a sweaty muttering mess. Such a shame that will be my final visual memory of him. Best off out of it. The wandering continued, the same old faces, was that boredom I felt? I ended up spending the next few hours listening to a particularly pissed Ben reveal his plans for future world domination. I could definitely feel boredom.

So far, so very disappointing.

But, the biggest let down was yet to come as the official announcement was made that Mike Flowers Pops would no longer be entertaining us as the huge success of ‘Wonderwall’ meant he no longer had to do crappy gigs like this.

Boo. Hiss.

Instead they had drafted in a Mike Snakehips, who wore fancy dress shop flares and a cheap afro wig. He looked and sounded as though he had walked straight off the stage from a Butlin’s cabaret night. He was hilariously shit but the joke soon wore thin and the inebriated, obnoxious, baying mob ripped him to shreds. It was very painful. Poor Mr Snakehips. I could no longer deceive myself that this night was anything but an anticlimax. Time to go home, alone, and face the future.

Just as I was making my way towards the door I came face to face with Harry. I had successfully managed to avoid her until then. She immediately lowered her gaze and looked away. I had a two second episode of a million thoughts. Save face or friendship? Forget not yet forgive. So, I ran after her. I was ridiculously honest which, initially, incited her defensiveness, but we soon mellowed and our emotions took over. I had missed this girl, as she had me.

LeftismTime to move on. I will forget for now and work on the forgiving later.

So, we did not have a ball but it was a productive night. Friendship won.

So long Cardiff University, you have been mental.

See you in your next life when we’ll fly away for good

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Chapter 20

I HAVE GOT MY DEGREE!!!!!

Just a fabulous 2:2 drinker’s degree but I don’t care. I have my degree and from now until my final days nothing can take that away. Not brilliant but adequate. The most I have achieved in the past few years.

Going to get my results was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. Crowds of us reluctantly stomped up the Humanities steps, heads down, various body parts crossed. There was no eye contact just mumbled greetings and fake smiles. When the dead man’s walk to the 2nd floor corridor finally ended we were faced with The Result’s Wall, thousands of random names followed by random numbers. People were anxiously pushing and shoving to get nearer whilst, every few seconds, the anxious atmosphere was punctured by a shout of “YES!!!!”, or a squeal, or an “Oh my god!”

I was there with Ben and we held hands as we both scanned the millions of names that seemed not to be in any order to purposely create confusion and incite panic.

I could not find my name….I actually thought that I had done so badly that my whole university existence had been wiped. I scanned every bloody sheet of paper with my temperature rising, my heart thumping, my palms sweating until, at near melting point, Ben yelled,

“2:2 we both got a 2:2. Excellent news!”

We bounced about like idiots stopping every now and then to hug, then more bouncing, then hugging etc. The relief was immense. The joy was ridiculous.

So, we made like two recipients of a fine Cardiff University drinker’s degree and took the only option that made sense. Entered the Tafarn and lived up to our brand new honour.

That is where we spent a merry couple of hours in full celebration mode, drinking Stella and singing along to retro Suede on a cloudy but warm lunchtime in the Welsh Capital. (Degree Celebration Phase 1).

On the way back to Borrowed Bedroom No.2, giddy with excitement and beer, I had the understandable, yet uncharacteristic, desire for champagne. I deserved this.  I followed my heart into the nearest off licence, spent a stupid amount of money on a bottle and skipped back to the house. Within 30 minutes myself and Maisie had gleefully demolished the lot in the garden. She was so honestly, lovingly pleased for me. We giggled, we danced and we hugged. I cried posh champagne tears for about an hour over our beautiful friendship, my degree and the thought of facing the future. (Degree Celebration Phase 2).

Well, I probably should have sensibly called it a day after bawling over bubbly but, here I am all glammed up, vodka in hand preparing myself for a large one in town. Maisie has Jamiroquai blaring full blast in the living room, the taxi is booked and I have just about managed to apply my eyeliner in a straight line.

I keep on getting waves of euphoria every time I remember that I have got my degree. The amount of work I did was enough to ensure a huge, fat qualification. The emotional crap that has happened these last few months did not, I repeat, did NOT impact my success. In a few weeks I will wear an uncomfortable, unflattering suit and a stupid cloak and ‘Graduate’.

My degree, my passport to…….what?

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There are two thoughts that I will not dwell tonight.

1. The rest of my life.

2. Harry.

Tonight is not the night to plan,tonight is not the night to be miserable. Tonight is the night to dance.

Open your disco doors Cardiff we are on our way.

Shock shock horror horror, shock shock horror!

Space

Chapter 19

June 24th 1996

You know when you love someone so much that you feel honoured to have them in your life because they make living so good?

When you have invested all your emotions in someone, shared good and bad, ups and downs and genuinely appreciated all they have done for you.

When a chapter in your life is so intertwined with this person’s life that the thought of them not being there is too hideously painful to begin to imagine.  Day in day out, sharing grubby hungover breakfasts, mentalist Force 10 lager and even occasionally an easily accessible bed.

When you’ve really suffered at the hands of another who meant the world to you and this person has tenderly nursed you back to normality.

There are stages in your life when your friends become your reason for being. My friends have been amazing through thick and thin. They have been there beyond loyalty and support.

But then something incredibly ugly happens. And life preceding this vile moment will become a rose tinted memory and that friendship will end and become a spiteful, bitchy war.

I am scared to actually put these words to paper as it makes it all real. But there is no denying that this is the truth. This has happened. Whatever the rest of my life throws at me, this has happened.

Harry has shagged Liam. Liam has shagged Harry. Whatever the logistics, whoever instigated this fine mess, it doesn’t matter. It is all SHIT. Shit that should never have happened.

Ruth informed me as soon as she could, even though she needed a few Stellas first. Harry had apparently confided all to her, in full on bragging mode, without any thought for my feelings. I know that myself and Liam were not going anywhere, I know I didn’t have a claim on him…blah,blah, blah.  Still, he meant a lot to me and so did she. I think I feel worse than I did when He and I split.

I mean come on – there are boundaries in life! Grown up rules, respect.

What can I do? I have phoned Maisie and Rhys who are on their way round in their Mini Metro to take me to theirs. I need to get away from her house. I definitely cannot face her right now.

She is still unaware that I know and I want to keep it like that until I am prepared. I need to maintain some level of dignity when I finally confront her with this disgusting mess of her creation.

Right, here I come Canton via Victoria Wine (lots of.)

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Snuggled up on Maisie and Rhys’ sofa under their patchwork quilt listening to Radiohead. The wine has taken me on an emotional mystery tour, starting with heart ripping pain, swerving dangerously into hellbent revenge and now ending up in semi comatose, numb, darkness.

Poor Maisie and Rhys have been my sounding boards for my every dastardly plan of vengeance but, I finally agreed with them that wandering the early morning streets of Cardiff in borrowed Pyjamas brandishing a vegetable knife was not cool.

I get my Final results in a couple of days. We were going to go together and drink champagne whatever the verdict just to toast our fabulous  friendship.

This just throws another spanner in the works for my future plans. Cardiff do I stay or do I go?

Right, off to sleep in Maisie and Rhys’s womb like sanctuary. Try to forget all thisRadiohead craziness and nastiness. Tomorrow is a new day. The next chapter of the mystery tour, I just hope I have the stomach and strength for the world.

Oh my God, we’re getting hippy-dippy

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Chapter 18

June 25th 1996

It is all slipping away.

The raucous bubble of university life burst by reality. Friends and familiar faces are leaving, packing 3 years worth of belongings into their parent’s estate cars. People we knew by nickname alone will disappear to be forgotten. 

The streets of Cathays feel eerily empty in the strange no man’s land between end of exams and hopeful graduation. I feel desperate to cling on. A certain realisation that I will never experience this freedom, these friendships, this fun again.

I don’t want to grow up. I’ve only just escaped, I want to fly some more.

There is talk of jobs, careers, opportunities, travelling.  In all the emotional turmoil of the last few months I have not given my life beyond my degree or, let’s face it, beyond my next drunken evening much thought. Hopeless.

But I won’t dwell on my lack of hope, I need to get rid of this uncomfortable combination of dread and sadness. The end is not yet nigh and I need to forge a plan for the summer. One that avoids parental estate cars. There must be others like me who cannot yet face the future and want to deny any change.

But today is not for future planning. Today is for the sexy seaside town of Swansea.

Ruth has invited me to join her on a change of scene night away in “an ugly, lovely town.” So, having nothing else to do apart from plan the rest of my life how could I resist? I have been promised cheap booze and surfer dudes so it best not disappoint. Harry turned up fleetingly on a bad come-down after the party. She made some brief, embarrassed excuses for her vanishing act, packed a suitcase and buggered off to her Mum’s for the weekend. I am slightly worried about her but she assured me all was well, she just needs a break.

We all do. Ending a chapter in your life is exhausting. I need some sun, sea and surfer dudes………

Well, we have arrived and our borrowed accommodation is mighty fine. A bed each (always a bonus), sea views from the balcony and a walkable distance to and from the bars. Being a Swansea Virgin I am mighty impressed so far. All set for some frivolity.

Here is the order of events (in retrospective).

  • Pre drink whilst listening to The Charlatans circa 1990.
  • Hit a few city centre bars and feel underdressed and sober.
  • Pounce on some attractive, unsuspecting yet welcoming young men.
  • Follow said blokes to find some tunes on the beach.
  • Dance on beach most of the night to the Rolling Stones on a tinny stereo.
  • Get the surfer dude (not entirely convinced of his surfing accreditations but he looked the part:))

Have just spent the late morning with Ruth lounging in the Swansea sunshine, eating ice cream and planning our next move. We are both puzzled by Harry’s oddness but agree that everyone is burnt out and acting a bit strange.

Only a few weeks ’til results. Potentially only a few weeks left in Cardiff. What am I going to do? I can head home to Llanfair and get a job in a pub in Bangor and have my parents advise me about my lack of career. Sounds really inviting. Or I stay here in an empty memory of a city and try to move onwards and upwards.

Am sat on the 3.30pm train ‘borrowed’ home ward bound feeling trepidation. That horrible feeling of opening the door and there being an unwelcome bill/bank letter/court summons waiting for me.

Can I not just stay here on this train happy with happy go lucky Swansea memories on the beach?

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What would happen if I never got off?