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

Stories from 1996 Chapter 35 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 35

November 7th 1996

When it all goes Pete Tong what better place to disappear to than North Wales?

I managed to grab a lift with one of my old school mates, Geraint, who can make it from Cardiff to Bangor in 3 hours to a soundtrack of high volume Grunge. No toilet stops, no fag breaks, no finger nails left after enduring his speed demon approach to the A470. When sharing this journey with Geraint it is the only time I ever actually use the handles above the car doors. Gripping tightly for my life. After being unceremoniously dumped at my parents’ home it takes me at least an hour to feel human again. Every time I swear to myself never again and that even changing trains at Crewe is preferable to a 3 hour near death experience.

So I am home, with my supportive siblings, my friends from high school and a mouthwatering menu of home cooked fayre for the next few days. A few days to catch my breath and put my failings into perspective again. The main failing being my sudden lack of employment. Back to being jobless. The relief of not having to enter that office of shit ever again is immense but the practicalities of living without an income have come back to haunt me.

Yesterday I did what I do best and ignored all my woes, lived in the moment and buried my head in the Welsh mountain air. Everything of seriousness and reality was cast aside for a day of frivolous fun and escapism.

The afternoon was spent at the pictures in Bangor with my sisters watching Brassed Off. People with real employment problems. We laughed, we cried and we agreed that we all need a bit of Postlethwaite in our lives.

This evening we all got wrapped up and went down Llanfair beach after a few pints in the village. It was a perfect, clear, crisp evening. The tide was in and glowed in the moonlight,  beautiful in the shadow of the sinister mountains. A magical place in the company of lifelong friends. No hidden agendas, no playground politics – everyone knows each other inside out. Precious times – I didn’t want those few hours to end.

Maybe I should return home and give up on Cardiff?

The evening took an unexpected but welcome turn when our merry banter was interrupted by the ground shaking roar of a familiar Sierra Cosworth in the car park at the other end of the beach. It approached at a ridiculous, unneccessary speed blinding us with its headlights.

Then the screeching of overdramatic brakes and out jumps Geraint,

“Look what I’ve got boys!”

He flipped open the car boot and we all expectantly peered in. Apparently, I was later told,  it was £500 worth of fireworks especially imported from China. Geraint has, shall we say, money to burn. I can’t say I was all that impressed but the males of the party were overcome with caveman excitement and were literally jumping up and down with joy.

Geraint and others went into pyrotechnic mode and proceeded to set up these ‘beasts’, his words not mine, into the sand and fired them off at random intervals mostly towards the sea but, on more than one occasion, towards the gasping audience who had to duck for cover behind the sea wall.

It was silly but it was so much fun. No one got hurt and the local police were obviously too busy dealing with real crimes to interrupt our little private display. As the last firework fizzled out and we all realised how numb our extremities were, we trudged up the hill together, arm in arm, united again on our childhood turf.

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As I waved off my friends from my parents’ doorstep I swear I saw a shooting star (no, it wasn’t a stray firework).

A perfect end to a perfect evening. Let’s hope my wish comes true.

Stories from 1996 Chapter 34 A Britpop Journal

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Chapter 34

22 October 1996

I am a month in to my new start but life after graduating is not going as planned. I am still skint and seem to be getting further into debt rather than making any headway with my list of credit cards, loans, overdrafts etc. Just beginning to think about it makes my head hurt but those bold red type letters from the bank won’t stop coming unless I address the problem.

As my financial situation spirals out of control, the rest of my life becomes a thankless chore. Work is tedious and miserable and any money made goes straight into my debt pit. Most of the fun people who started there with me weeks ago have now left to move onto bigger and better leaving me rotting. I have been taking the piss and taken too many sickies after too many night outs and am very close to losing the worst job in the world. An achievement to be proud of.

The relentless drinking is taking toll. Firstly, on my health – I have had a permanent cold for weeks, weigh less than I did when I was 13 and look permanently made up for Halloween. Secondly, on my mental state – my life has gradually evolved from situations where I was in control, where I did the choosing, where I had standards and dignity into some horrible out of control nights that I barely remember where the end results are definitely not what I wanted. I find it harder and harder to find this fun and, when being my most honest, am appalled and ashamed of my behaviour. As the Sunday mornings after the debauched nights before become more miserable and lonely my party girl bravado is slipping away and becoming something more sinister; crazy bad, not crazy good.

This morning, a Tuesday morning when I should be in work, I am sat here in my freezing, student shithole of a room nursing hangover no.76 this month. My vague recollections of last nights mishaps began with an ill-fated decision to visit the Tafarn (again!) We made a successful attempt to drink as much as we could with my last £10 of the month. Then,suitably inebriated, I had the misfortune of bumping into my Ex at the bar who was going to see Dodgy in the Great Hall.  I felt physically sick on sight but, also an inexplicable concoction of longing, envy and regret. We had a brief chat but He made it transparent that He had moved on, sorted His life out and was in a good place. He may as well have cut out my heart with a butter knife. My low got lower and as I watched Him walk out with all His mates being all jovial I sank into a corner and bawled like a bloody baby. In the Tafarn. Beside myself with god knows what emotion, but definitely beside myself.

Harry walked me out and as we exited the Union building, we had the misfortune to witness some poor fresher getting a beating from the bouncers, I have no idea the story behind the altercation but in my highly emotional state that fight summed up all the injustice I had ever felt. Big, fat, bald bully bastards getting their kicks from punching this poor kid. I stormed in, fuelled by alcohol and anger, shouting at them to stop. There was a scuffle, I remember slapping one around the ear to which he retorted with a punch to my eye. It wasn’t his full strength as I was still standing, more of a reprimand than anything else but, I still have a fantastic shiner this morning. The ungrateful fresher ran off without a thank you and I was left on the pavement with even more to cry about.

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