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?

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Stories from 1996. A Britpop Journal Chapter 24

posterv96

18th August 1996

V96

What an absolutely perfect day.  We woke up bleary eyed after spending the night before on a variety of Ellie’s furniture in her house in Chester, Maisie lucked out with a bed while Erin and I struggled on the springy sofas. But no one cared, even the ‘more than we intended to drink’ amount of alcohol last night could not dull our excitement or energy for the fun packed day ahead. Our bags were packed with lipgloss, disposable cameras and half bottles of vodka. This was the day we were going to see PULP!!!!!!!!!

The train journey to Warrington was a disgusting squash of armpits and crotches but once at the park it was all worth it. The sun was shining beautifully over Warrington, so much so that we all got a bad dose of festival sunburn: dodgy strapmarks and goggle eyes. The day started with a bang as Longpigs blew us away. Gorkys were fun, Numan was a legend and a great opportunity to play spot the ageing goth and, of course, SFA made some proper Welsh noise. Supergrass were the only slight disappointment – lack of atmosphere and far too serious. Lighten up Coombes.

Pulp,on the other hand, exceeded our expectations. They had obviously gone to town on the production; their set was excellent, wall to wall classics. Jarvis’s banter and prancing made us all fall head over heels for him once again. Then fireworks and an exploding portaloo to top it all off.

It was so cool to spend a wonderful sunny day with likeminded people watching brilliant bands, drinking vodka and Virgin coke from Pamela Anderson shaped bottles. A day of boiled burgers and best mates. A day to remember for ever. We all arrived back late at Ellie’s on a real high unintentionally slaying Pulp tunes. Shouting and screaming through the streets until we collapsed in a sun, vodka and good time induced heap at her door. Knackered but happy.

I am pleased to say that Erin, my cousin from the States, has immersed herself seamlessly into our group. She loves what we do and is enjoying our quaint British ways. She hadn’t really done a festival before V96. Well, not a festival like we do a festival, no halfs of lager here thanks. Erin absolutely devoured the whole experience. We had educated her with numerous Shine CDS and copies of NME on the train up North and she is in full acceptance of her new role as Britpop ambassador when she returns to the States.

We are all having such a carefree, silly time away from everything. Cardiff seems a long way away as do the emotional ties and impending adult responsibilities. Maybe if I actually bought a lottery ticket I would win and could live like this forever. I am not bothered about Lear Jets and diamonds, just tickets to see the best gigs and time with my mates would make me eternally happy.

Today is day 3 of our Up North Trip and we are all in need of a mega fry-up. I hope Ellie has some recommendations.

Virgincola

Then a big chill out before hitting the shops in Liverpool tomorrow. Quiggins, Quiggins, Quiggins, we haven’t graced your doors for years.

Will need some energy for that. I am going to try to stay off the booze today…….

Stories from 1996. A Britpop journal Chapter 23

Super furry animals tank

August 9th 1996

A brief recount of my experiences (those that I remember) from Eisteddfod Llandeilo 1996.

The 1970’s orange and brown triangle tent failed dismally in the West Walian wash out. It has been consigned to the bin, never, ever to be seen or, thankfully, used again.  It survived 2 nights of pills :), thrills (thanks to a beautiful boy from Bethesda) and bellyaches (over indulgence of K cider, vodka and green Pot Noodles), but it was the miserable, relentless rain that finally saw it off.

There were good times – the brief periods of glorious sunshine, like fools gold, teasing us out to play. The amazing bands we were honoured to see including the supreme Super Furry Animals and their fantastic blue tank. We managed to squeeze into their Pabell Roc (Rock Tent) performance and were given a songbook to sing the English words for them as English is banned from the stages at the Eisteddfod. The above mentioned Beautiful Bethesda Boy. The guitars around the campfire. The CD player continued to work throughout our stay even though it was left out in the rain. The joyful banter and idle chat of a close group of friends with nothing better to do.

There were bad times – the dark clouds that persistently spat out rain that slowly, yet painfully, dissolved our resolve. That we managed to drunkedly fall asleep in the only afternoon sunshine we had and slowly burnt to a deep red. The country folk who still thought it was acceptable to pinch a girl’s behind as a chat up line. My beautiful new Adidas Gazelles destroyed by the acrid mud.  Ruddy faced idiots who thought the dancefloor of a gig was the perfect spot for a drunken brawl. The snoring….bloody hell the snoring…….the fucking snoring.

At this early stage of my return I am unsure of whether I enjoyed myself or not. I need a week of uninterrupted snore free sleep, a detox, some proper home cooked food and the company of civilised city folk.

‘Never again’ has been uttered in true come down style. My lowly airbed seems ridiculously luxurious and I cannot help but marvel at the invention of an indoor toilet.

I need to sleep this off.

The next day.

I did actually sleep for 15 hours yesterday. I wouldn’t admit to being sprightly but, some small resemblance of my former self has returned. Still cannot imagine drinking alcohol again and the thought of a Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodle makes me want to vom, a lot. Ventured out to develop our photos from last week. We were concerned about the water logged cameras but luckily, or perhaps unluckily, the photos survived.

Well time to plan the next chapter of the Summer of ’96 Love Adventures. Up next is a two week visit from my Wisconsin born cousin Erin. She arrives tomorrow. We will be giving her a brief, but valuable introduction to Britpop via the V Festival. I hope she is ok, it could be a horrible few weeks if she is into Celine Dion or some such crap. Cross fingers for a cool cousin.

SFA leaflet

(The song leaflet from the SFA Eisteddfod gig).

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?

You know we’re drowning in designer ice cream

Chapter 13

12th May 1996

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS supported by BIS at Terminal 396

Setlist: Lazy Life (Of No Fixed Identity), Frisbee, Something For The Weekend, Hangin’ With Howard Marks, Organ Yn Dy Geg, Fix Idris, Hometown Unicorn, If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You, Focus Pocus/Debiel, Bad Behaviour, Mario Man, For Now And Ever, God! Show Me Magic

SFA I spent today in a frenzy of over excitement. How could I contain myself knowing that tonight was going to be spent in the company of two of the coolest dudes in Cardiff? Liam by my side and Gruff Rhys on stage. The only way I could keep calm was by focusing on Uni work. I wrote nearly 2000 words of my essay this afternoon. Well chuffed and well deserving of a few pints tonight.

I am meeting Liam on the Union steps at 6 so that we can get a few drinks in first. What am I going to wear? Shit, I am so bloody scared/excited. Will report back on my return………

13th May 1996

Last night was just incredible. One of those nights I will remember for the rest of my life. Such an overwritten cliché but so true. After all the recent heartache, all those years of cowering in the shadows, all the self doubt, I felt so free and alive.

This is the recount of my day of delights. Liam was waiting for me on the steps as I was intentionally but not overly late. I went for flared cords and a lace top in t he end, not too much effort but not underestimating the occasion. He was stood there resplendent in a retro floral shirt and Dr Martins. The broadest smile ever, beautiful blue eyes, and there he stood waiting for me.I tried to take subtle deep breaths as he took my hand and led me up the steps to the Taf. Calm down, calm down, calm down.

We ordered two pints of Stella, found a cosy corner and lost ourselves in lager and small talk. I was nervous but, strangely and comfortingly, so was he. It was never awkward and as the drink flowed, we became best mates celebrating all the many, many things we had in common. This bloke is  just amazing. Several times I had to mentally take stock of the situation and give myself an imaginary high-five.

I am ashamed to admit that we were having such an amazing chat that we lost track of time. We had the full intention of seeing the support act Bis as there had been loads of hype about them and I had seen them on Top of the Pops. But we missed them completely. Gutted.

Once inside the Terminal it was a shock to see how empty it was, probably because it was in the thick of exam time. A shame for the band but the atmosphere was not affected. From the moment the Super Furries took to the stage the whole place was on fire. They were so loud, so exciting, so in your face that the small crowd that was there were whipped right off their feet. Liam and I embraced the noise and danced our way through the exhilarating but disappointingly short set. It was all over far too quickly, a tiny golden nugget of live music perfection. We wanted more but they weren’t feeling generous tonight.

So, we were unceremoniously emptied out onto the steps of the Student’s Union. The night but young there was only one place to go. This time I was obviously an expected guest as his party pad was much more welcoming, he had beer and had even planned a playlist from his vast CD collection. This man is too good to be true.

To top it all, as I reluctantly made a move to leave this morning he insisted on driving me to Harry’s. He’s got a bloody car!!! Then he showed me to his car. Only a 1970s MG!!!!! So, we drove through the sunny Cardiff streets with Fuzzy Logic blaring out through open windows.

Just a perfect day. bis

Well it was far too long to hide before I met you

Popscene flyer

May 5th 1996

After spending most (well some) of the day revising we couldn’t resist another visit to Clwb Ifor Bach last night. Popscene was so good last time, like a perfect indie music bubble, that we needed another fix. Lovely men, minor Welsh celebs, excellent tunes and dirty dancefloors. What else does a single girl need in life?

I am getting more than used to the single girl label these days and as long as I can push all thoughts of Him from my consciousness I am ok. This is easily done with the use of alcohol, friends, music and, yes I will admit it, a bit of male attention.

Young, free and single and loving it (most of the time/as long as I don’t dwell on the past too much).

So, back to Popscene with a vengeance. Tanked up on vodka we cabbed it into town, the queue was starting to snake along the cobbled streets which annoyed us. This club was ours!After shivering in the queue for what seemed like hours we got inside and it was BUZZING!  Wall to wall with beautiful people (we had drunk a lot of vodka!), stunning music, and an amazing atmosphere. Everyone wanted to hear this music and the dancefloor was jumping. So many good tunes it felt wrong to sit down. Dance, dance and more dance.

I could have stayed in that happy zone forever. I’m sure in about twenty years time, when my life has changed beyond recognition, the smell of Marlboro Lights, dry ice and Jean Paul Gaultier perfume will send me straight back to Popscene in Clwb.

Then, as if the evening couldn’t get any better, I spotted Liam. Sat on the stage at the front of the Popscene room looking cool as. I had a very secret crush on this boy ever since the start of Uni. He had been a distraction in many a  tedious lecture, someone to admire as we waited for a tutorial. Not conventionally stunning like Tom the Disappointment more just super cool. He was the ultimate indie boy. Trendy clothes, precision cut hair, beautiful smile and, to complete the image, he was called Liam. Full of vodka fuelled confidence I strode over to introduce myself with the carefully thought out line of,

“You do my course you do!”

Luckily, he didn’t seem to be offended by my cringe worthy approach and seemed more than happy to be blatantly chatted up by a half cut Welsh girl.

“You’re so cool, you’re so cool, you’re so cool.”

marion

He must have thought I was ok too as he offered me a drink. As we talked, in-depth, the club emptied around us, friends went home, the birds started singing and he was holding my hand! He offered me a smoke at his, how could I refuse? Ignoring the fact that this was becoming a dirty habit I leapt at the chance.

As I have been starved of any positive male vibes for the last few years I wil not deny myself any pleasures for a while. I am sure these confidence boosts are good for me.

So we went back to Liam’s, a palace of a house by student standards. His room was enormous and decked out with trippy lights, lava lamps and excellent art. I felt like I was in a Doors documentary from the 60s. He was so bloody cool. We smoked, he played his guitar, he told me about his world travels, we listened to Marion, we cooked sausages at 4 in the morning. It was immense. This guy was out of this world and out of my league. But it didn’t stop us.

Can you fall a little bit in love? Is it too soon after Him? Am I still drunk? All so hugely exciting!

Also, I have invited him to come and see SFA with me next week at the Terminal. So the fun is ongoing.

God! Show Me Magic

SFA Fuzzy Logic

Chapter 8

April 12th 1996

Life is still very, very strange. Everything is so new and exciting and I feel like I am living someone else’s existence. I wandered into town this morning after my seminar and asked in HMV for the huge promo poster they had in the window for SFA’s new album Fuzzy Logic. I had asked them to keep it for me but was not holding out much hope. Surprisingly, I was in luck and it now has pride of place in my bedroom. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

Since the Fun Factory incident with Ben we have met at the library twice. Both times we have managed about 30 minutes work before racing off to his house. All so exhilarating, I feel like I am in a film with an excellent soundtrack.  I have ever done anything like this before. Seeing as He still hasn’t returned I can’t really class it as being unfaithful. I know He is at his parents’ house but have no idea of His future plans. Right now I don’t care.

This afternoon, after leaving Ben’s house in broad daylight all flustered and smiling with my dirty secret, I bumped into Harry. Up until then, no one else knew of this new twist in the plot of my life. We had been so discreet that even his housemates were unsuspecting. But, I was bursting to tell someone and who better than Harry, the friend I made on my very first night at Uni. We bonded over cider and a desire to get pierced, which we did the following morning – her in the top of her ear, me in my nose.

On the way to her house I told her everything, well, in as much detail as was tasteful for 3pm. She was shocked but also very excited. We all loved a bit of gossip and this was top class. Stable, boring, predictable me sneaking off for mid-afternoon naughtiness . Who would have thought it? Harry was completely non judgmental but she was worried about my state of mind.

‘Don’t fall for someone else straightaway!’, ‘Are you really over Him?’, ‘Don’t lose your self respect.’ All wise but unnecessary words.

I needed this; a focus away from being miserable. I needed someone telling me how lush I am, I needed this feeling of being on top of the world. I have a spring in my step and a swing in my ponytail. This dalliance with Ben is my gateway to being an independent, confident woman. Check me out!

Tonight, I am off to Clwb Ifor Bach with the girls for a night we haven’t tried before called Popscene. Indie music upstairs, Cheesy Club downstairs. So, the little skirt is going on with the ankle breaking boots and the 70’s shirt. We are all meeting at Harry and Ruth’s to pre-drink, Maisie is coming too. I am so bloody excited! If this is what being single is all about then I am in.

*        *         *        *         *          *          *          *          *

Clwb was fabulous. Brilliantly, amazingly fabulous! The tunes were unreal, Super Furrys, Pulp, Manics, Space, Bluetones, Blur, Ash and everything in between. We danced our boots off. Then, when Popscene had a lull, we went down the scary metal steps and boogied away to 60s and 70s joy with HUGE smiles on our faces. Best night I have had in ages. We drank our weight in Pink Grapefruit Woodies (which are now making me feel like voming!), saw many cool dudes and got chatted up by many “As-ifs”.

The highlight of the evening had to be Maisie’s liaison with Welsh actor and SFA friend Rhys Ifans who has recently been promoted to national Mountain Dew adverts on TV. Seeing him at the bar, Maisie bounded over full of drunken overfamiliarity.

“You’re the bloke off the Mountain Dew ads!” she shrieked.

His reply, although obviously well rehearsed, was a classic.

He grabbed her in his arms, span her around and shouted in his gruff North Walian accent, “I’ll be mounting you in a minute babes!”Mountain Dew retro

Hilarious. Off to bed now. One happy bunny who can’t be arsed to take my make up off.