Stories from 1996 Chapter 35 A Britpop Journal

brassed off

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.

imgres

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

imgres

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.

unnamed

Stories from 1996 Chapter 33 A Britpop Journal

imgres

Chapter 33

16th October 1996

It has been getting harder and harder to get up for this awful, soul destroying, vom inducing job.  The whole Americanised group hug ethos of the company is really starting to grate.  I feel my intelligence, culture and character being steadily sucked down the line by the clients (we are not allowed to use the word customer as the office poster kindly reminds us with the hilarious strapline – Our clients’ priorities are put to the front but you must not call them a c**tomer.)

The mornings are such a struggle, it’s so dark and the cold is unbearable. My clock radio has been positioned at the other side of my Siberian temperatured room so that when Chris Evans’ smug shouting becomes too much I am forced out of the warmth of my bed to turn the bastard off.  It also doesn’t help that we are still trying to maintain the going out every night student lifestyle whilst facing reality during the day. I am exhausted.

Last night I had made the wise decision to have a night in. I had endured a full day on the phone talking to c**tomers and was still able to maintain a relatively high ‘Cheerful factor’ (little do the management know that I am still meticulously planning several murderous workplace scenarios in my head. The first to go – my new line manager, with eyes like a dead fish and an uncontrollable tongue, who keeps telling me to ‘Shake it up Baby’ like some wannabe porn director.)

So, I spent the whole evening in the house, in front of the TV, which was a huge novelty after endless nights of Faux Fresher Fun. My liver had started to throb and I was getting daily shakes by midday so I desperately needed at least one night off the beer.

I was tucked up in bed listening to Shed Seven by 1030. An admirable attempt to undo all the recent evils.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the night I was rudely awoken by a terrifying amount of crashing and banging somewhere in the house. I sat up in bed numbed by fear as my heart pounded.  After what felt like hours, enough time for my legs to become numb,  I heard voices shouting in the distance and decided, that after all that, it must only have been Harry’s latest man stumbling in for some drunken fumbles after drinking with his rugby mates. Selfish bastard.

I was just snuggling back under my duvet when there was a knock on my bedroom door. Before I had a chance to be abusive in walked f**king Elvis! Like some zombie in tiger print, wearing purple glitter and stumbling towards my bed and me. Thankfully he was so drunk I managed to dodge him and run out on the landing, to the awaiting scowls of my housemates whose doors he had tried first I later found out. We then heard another huge crash before silence. Myself and Harry peered around the door and saw that he had tripped over my boots and was face down on my bed snoring his stupid, drunken glittery head off.

We concurred that there was no way we could move him now and that we would deal with him in the morning. I retired to Ruth’s empty room, locked the door and slept. We have all just thrown out the very hungover, smudge faced chancer out on his backside. He insisted on leaving  his phone number. I will enjoy scrawling it on toilet walls in some dodgy establishments around Cardiff.

imgres

Stories from 1996 Chapter 32 A Britpop Journal

Menthol_Cigarette_ECigarette-232x300

October 2nd 1996

This call centre is really starting to do my head in. After a whole month of fun classroom based training with a bunch of like minded souls, this week we have been deemed capable enough to be allowed to go ‘live’. This means talking to actual members of the general public. It takes a month to get to this stage. A month. The going ‘live’ week is begun with a morning meeting of balloons, donuts and back slapping because it is a ‘celebration’. Seriously.  The whole Americanised ‘group hug’ mentality is sending me slowly deranged. If I have to hear the phrase, “Make your smile heard” from the mouth of some power mad manager in a bad Matalan suit again I will not be able to restrain myself from breaking their smile. Even the flexi time which allows us a 2 hour pub break on a Friday does not compensate for the boredom and daily insults to mine and everyone else’s intelligence.

I have never been patronised so much in my life. As if ‘Positive Problem Solving’ over the phone is not bad enough – listening to grumpy grannies and Trisha viewers for 8 hours a day, we also have to content with these jumped up control freaks analysing our, amongst other categories, ‘Cheerful Factor’. Well my cheerful factor is nil while my F*ck Off Factor has been turned up to 11.

Work had already managed to break me today, then I had to walk home in the rain and to top it all I have just opened my credit card bill. I am in hiding in my room avoiding any human contact after being contacted by humans all day. Woe is me. I can hear the phone ringing but am too melancholy to brave the big. bad world. Having decided this is a day of shit, I can see no way of that changing and besides it is probably just my credit card company.

*      *      *      *      *       *       *       *       *       *        *      *      *       *       *       *        *

October 3rd 1996

How someone’s fortunes can change. Luckily, Alan was in when the phone rang and answered. This inadvertently spun my day on its head. It was Ben and he was ringing on the off chance that I was free. He had been given 2 spare tickets to see The Bluetones at the Newport Centre and he instantly thought of me as he knew how much I loved them.

I was changed and out of the door as quickly as my mood shifted. We caught the train to Newport, had a few beers in The Griffin (on guard in case of an appearance by Him, this being his territory) and then watched the beautiful Mark Morriss and guys perform their fantastic tunes. They were amazing and the whole evening was a brilliant, unexpected escape from the tediousness of the last few days. After the gig we raced through the wet Newport streets in Slight Return mode and caught the last train back to Cardiff by the skin of our teeth. We held hands and giggled over our shared can of warm lager as our ears rang from the music. As Ben walked me to the door, in the pouring rain, he cheekily said “I could go home or we could get into bed and have lots of cuddles.”

Well how could I resist?

The day of shit transformed into a night of greatness.

imgres

Stories from 1996 Chapter 31 A Britpop Journal

015-blur-girlsandboys

September 29th 1996

When myself and Harry were Freshers and lived in halls at Llys Talybont there was an infamous resident called Elvis. Yes, his real name. During the daytime, when not attending his Law School lectures, Elvis could be found skating around the campus on his roller boots, wearing teeny tiny denim shorts with his long hair flowing in the wind. To complete his Miami look he accessorized with a home made wooden trolley decorated with CND stickers that he pulled behind him. The wheeled alternative to a manbag.

Elvis used to live directly opposite our flat so we could see right into his bedroom window, especially at dusk. Elvis was not shy and loved having an unofficial audience. He would often entertain us with his Thai Boxing training (in tiny pants) or with his disco moves to Chaka Khan (again in tiny pants but of the disco variety).

As the years passed and we became veterans of university life many characters came and went. Some people dropped out, some never went out and some probably intentionally avoided us. Elvis was always on the scene, swanning about in some shape or form. He reinvented himself as often as Madonna and was last seen in a Mod suit complete with Lambretta.

Not one of us girls was ever sure how to feel about Elvis. He was an enigma. Above all else the man was a complete egotistical buffoon courting attention in every way and from anyone possible. Yet, he was inoffensive and hilarious in his showing off tactics. We admired his audacity and in a sea of Liam Gallagher wannabes or during the Saturday night mundanity of The Check Shirt Brigade it was refreshing to see a man with his own, if sometimes questionable, style. The other attraction was that he was really, really physically fit so could easily be forgiven for the lack of top or the disco knickers.

The other big unknown was his sexuality. Until now……

We had to go out last night for numerous reasons. Firstly, we had all completed our first month in grown up land, secondly, Ruth was here for the night and we hadn’t caught up for weeks, thirdly, it was Fresher’s Week and the first Cloud Nine of the academic year. Not that we are any longer academics but who cares? Someone needs to take the responsibility of teaching these kids how to party.

So, we followed tradition and all got ready separately listening to our favourite tunes, I favoured a bit of Blur. Then, we congregated in our living room in time for Blind Date and ready for some pre – drinks. All short skirts, platform boots and Jean Paul Gaultier perfume (apart from Alan who favoured a Smiths T-shirt).

We didn’t leave the house until 10.30 ish, a raucous rabble of vodka fuelled revellers teetering on the brink of carnage in 6 inch platforms. We pushed and shoved our way to the front of the Terminal queue moaning at the “Bloody Freshers”even though they had more right to be there than we did.

Anyway, once unsteadily but safely inside, at the bar we had to endure another wait whilst the inexperienced spent their loans on Baileys and Vodka and Pineapple. It was then that I felt hands around my waist. I turned around aggressively expecting a cheeky fresher but, instead, there stood Elvis resplendent in a glittery T-shirt and a leopard print scarf channelling Richey Manics Rock chic.

What can I say? Elvis has now left the building and left me with a huge smile.

I am bracing myself for the hangover interrogation downstairs, another Sunday another morning after the night before. Hooray for Elvis.

imgres

Stories from 1996 Chapter 30 A Britpop Journal

Suede

September 5th 1996

I am now the proud new tenant of the Coburn Street Residence.  Right round the corner from The New Ely, 5 minutes from The Taf and approximately 1 minute from the counter in the corner shop which is handy for those Coronation Street advert chocolate runs. My fellow housemates are Ruth, downstairs front room; Alan and Kim, upstairs front room and Harry middle upstairs room. I have the tiny back room but all outside walls so, even though I will be slowly freezing to death come January, I will be able to play my music as loudly as I want. Who needs heat when you have beat?

I knew Alan through Harry and Ruth’s maths course and he has been like an older, slightly more sensible brother to us all the final term of Uni. At the last minute he decided to take on a teacher training course so has ended up rooming with us. His girlfriend Kim works at The Harvester and has promised us loads of freebie left overs. This almost makes up for her insistence to rota everything. My jobs are washing up Tuesdays and Thursdays and bins out every Monday. (the rebel in me is already digging my heels in but, I will try my best).  I’m not sure if we can be classed as Young Professionals but I have my call centre job, Harry works for a clothing depot in town and Ruth has yet to move in with us properly as she has met a man over the summer whom she is reluctant to leave. Fair play to her.

I love my new home and am stupidly excited by another year in Cardiff, still in the thick of the fun, but actually earning money. This has been week one of my answering the phone training and I am basically being paid to sit in a chair and daydream. There are twenty of us in a classroom, with a flipchart and Sally The Trainer (who went to school with Cerys Matthews don’t you know?). Having been in that environment for 4 days I have come to the conclusion that no one else in that room is taking this job seriously either. We are a motley crew that include a cute but cocky bloke from The Valleys, a handful of other lost soul graduates, a girl who looks like Boy George, a middle-aged man who used to work for ‘The Beeb’ and a lady with a five o’clock shadow. A bizarre cross section of society united by daily timesheets and coffee machines that offer a soup option. Our days involve drinking Lucozade to eliminate our hangovers, giggling while Sally The Trainer tries to balance her rather large behind on the corner of a poor young man’s desk and, basically, trying to get away with as many fag breaks as we can throughout the day. The smoking room is a lift ride away and gives ample opportunity for time wasting. Entering the frosted glass door is like setting foot into a 70’s sitcom set. Everything is brown and nicotine stained, the stench of cancer grabs you by throat. Two minutes in that room of death is 20 years off our lives. But, we still do it as it is the perfect skive and it really pisses off all the non-smokers.

Day four into the grown up world and I am surviving.

imgres

Stories from 1996 Chapter 29 A Britpop Journal

Popscene flyer

August 31st 1996

The last day of my Summer of ’96. So many laughs, so much drinking and a couple of hugely regrettable dalliances with substandard guys. I am still wading through the sludge of shame on that last one. My mates just will not let it go. Is a girl not allowed one reckless mistake? Or am I forever nudge nudge wink wink fodder for others? I am desperately trying to gain back any tiny scraps or self-respect which is near impossible when so-called friends keep referring to ‘The Woody’ incident. A major faux pas – time to move on.

A few weeks ago I had a shopping list of 3 items

  1. A house
  2. A job
  3. A man.

I have failed miserably on number 3 but the excellent news of the day is that, in the space of one particularly proactive week, I have managed to acquire both paid work and a place to live. I can’t quite believe that this has happened but what a result. Next weekend myself, Harry and Ruth will be moving into an unspectacular but functional student house in Cathays. Yes, I did say student house and yes, I am aware that we all have graduated – we know we should be aiming for a flat down The Bay but, we are not ready to leave the mothership just yet. The familiarity and refuge of Studentville is too much of a draw at present. Grown up life is temporarily put on hold, again.

On Monday I start my new, unglamorous, temporary job at a generic call centre in town. Better than nothing and money in the bank. My debts are bulging and this is one aspect of reality that I can no longer put off.

So, with a heavy heart, I wave goodbye to the inflatable bed and my amazing companions over the summer. Time to move on and give Maisie and Rhys the privacy they deserve. Onwards and upwards. Well at least I will have a proper bed.

I am feeling suitably smug and Saturday excited. We are gearing up for an end of era night out at Clwb Ifor Bach tonight,  myself and Maisie, a dance floor full of lush dudes (hopefully) and some cool tunes. I will not be drinking Stella after last weekends’ performance and I have warned Maisie not to let me near anyone who isn’t in the same league as Mark Morriss.

*       *       *       *      *       *      *       *       *       *       *      *      *       *       *        *

Unfortunately, number 3 did not happen for me last night but there were a few close calls. Some nights it is all about your mates. We barely left the dancefloor, my feet are still throbbing the morning after but, thankfully, my head is pain free. There were lots of familiar faces, we ignored them all, we just danced, laughed and were the best of friends all night. Even though I am only moving across town, I will miss my summer roomies.

Today, seeing as we are miraculously hangover free (must be the dancing) we are heading out for a day trip to Barry Island. A day of fairground frolics.  I have a purse full of 2ps for the arcades, Rhys has promised me he will join me on the rides as Maisie is too scared and I will not return until I have had fish and chips and a stick of rock.

My final day of frivolity before entering the adult world of paid work (that makes it sound like I am a porn star).

From one chapter to another. Next on the agenda is a beautiful man. Maybe I’ll find him in Barry Island.

Barry Island