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 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 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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Stories from 1996 Chapter 33 A Britpop Journal

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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.

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Stories from 1996 Chapter 32 A Britpop Journal

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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.

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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.

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