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

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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 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 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 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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Take it easy chicken

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Chapter 16

June 12th 1996

Time to get out of Cardiff for a few days. These last few weeks have been a rickety ride of highs and lows with no stability and no direction. Its time for some self-analysis, future planning and some grown up help.

Am at Mam and Dad’s in Llanfair. R&R. TLC. Home comforts. Hiraeth.

Sleep beckons in my teenage loft room with all my old Grunge and Metal posters full up of shepherds pie and trifle. It smells safe, sounds safe. I am safe.

June 13th 1996

Woke up to bleating sheep, the soundtrack to my childhood. Looked out of the sunny window to see the familiar intimidation of the Quarry that is our back garden. I am glad to see that the massive CND sign daubed on its peak is still visible despite the extreme North Walian weather.

Today though is a beautiful June day. Full of  hope.

This morning will be spent chilling down Llanfair beach in the sun with my lovely sisters and bro. Then, later, the plan is to catch up with some old mates in town for beers and memories. Lots of relaxing and reflecting. But also, time to face the future. Make plans for the summer and then for the rest of my life. Shit – on that note I am off to bury my head in the sand.

3pm

What a fantastic day. This place is stunning when the sun shines. Dramatic mountains, blue sea and fabulous company. Had beers on the beach and deliberated my future path with my, wiser than their years, little sisters and my crazy yet honest bro. All think I need to spend the summer in Cardiff, all think I need to lay off the men. Definitely maybe.

Off out to Banging Bangor tonight to catch up with past school friends. No plans apart from an early start in Skerries. The ultimate old man pub complete with a drunken landlord, excellent but underused jukebox and the cheapest drinks in North Wales….probably.

Too late to even care……

I have no idea what time it is. The house is so quiet and I am sooooooooooo drunk. A ridiculous volume of alcohol was consumed of every size and shape. But we had a bloody blast. Pub crawled our way around Bangor City, ended up in The Old Glan which was pretty shite so stumbled up the hill to Upper Bangor. Spent a fuzzy few hours in the Glob, singing badly and then onto Pen y Bonc.

The drink had obviously made us nostalgic for our teenage past so, armed with cans of Coke and bottles of vodka, we muddled our way to that infamous mini hill of grass. Pen y Bonc.

It was here that many of us had our first after binge vom, our first drunken grope. Such a glamorous location. I recounted how Maisie and I had stalked Gruff Rhys from the Super Furries around Upper Bangor until he’d sat on a bench and smoked a dubious roly. We had watched from afar until he got up and left, when we duly relit his discarded stump. Standards.

Anyway, here we sat on this warm June evening, reminiscing through the medium of drink.

LlanfairfechanIt was a perfect summer’s evening and it made me feel special and lucky. I haven’t felt special and lucky for a while.  This weekend up north has worked its magic and I feel ready to face whatever is around the corner post Uni and in the aftermath of Him.

Bring it on I am ready. Well, I will be tomorrow morning.

Diolch i/thanks to Lowri Griffiths for the pic;)

We don’t talk about love we only want to get drunk

EverythingMustGo(1996album)Albumcover

Chapter 15

June 10th 1996

Its been a while since the last entry as I have been working on project deadlines, revising and taking stock of my whole living situation. Last minute I decided to move back in to No.10 to get out of Harry and Ruth’s way. I still paid rent here and seeing as they both do a ridiculous maths degree it felt unfair to burden them with a soon to be finished language student when they were still in the thick of some god awful exams.

It took a bit of courage and a couple of sleepless nights but I was doing well. I was quite contented back in my little room with Rick Witter and Jarvis staring down at me. I was enjoying listening to my choice of CD, having continuous access to my wardrobe and, to top it all,  the housemates were being uncharacteristically pleasant.

All was going ok when, a couple of mornings ago, I was lying in bed listening to the new Manic’s album,putting off any revision and watching the sun streaming through the window. Suddenly,  I heard the bedroom door rattling, followed by someone trying a key.

What the……?

My initial and most obvious thought was that it was the landlord having a nosey thinking I was still away. Still, I jumped out of bed and grabbed my hairdryer, not to pretend it was a gun (!) but because it was the heaviest object to hand.

The door flew open and it was Him.

The look on His face was priceless, He obviously didn’t expect to see me. But He soon composed himself.

“Oh you are here,” He said, looking through me. His physical presence and His lack of emotion unnerved me completely. Suddenly, I was very, very scared.

As if to confirm the fear He elbowed passed me and started rampaging through my belongings, tearing through my newly organised room with venom. I just watched Him, like a stupid idiot I just mutely watched Him ransack my life, again. He was like a man possessed, I became a cowering wreck, ashamed to feel so scared of someone who once meant so much to me.

After what felt like a pathetic eternity but was probably only about 3 minutes, He pulled this battered, treasured tome from beneath my bed. He stood there, without any shame, and just leafed through my most personal thoughts and experiences. I was too stunned and weak to stop Him.

“So this is what you have been busy doing? I have failed my degree because of YOU!!!”

I honestly thought that he was going to hit me across the face as He was so enraged but, He took stock, threw the book on the floor and stomped dramatically down the stairs. I cautiously watched Him go and with one final victorious glance over His shoulder He ripped the phone from the wall and took it with Him in His pocket.

I was in a state of complete disbelief, which still resonates now. My automatic reaction to such a violation was to get out of there. I was petrified of His return. I grabbed my essentials and ran to the nearest phone box and called the only person that made sense at that hideous moment in time…….Ben.

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Thankfully he answered and stumbled to get me in a hungover daze. I escaped to the safety of his single bed where I cried for Wales whilst he made me cups of tea and shared his cigarettes.

What now? I really don’t know.

I am furious because I was recovering from all of this. I had regained my sense of self. I was beginning to feel strong. All that has now gone to dust. I wish our paths had never crossed.

Back to square one.