Freaks, Geeks and Space Invaders

In which The Author is the fount of all
knowledge and wisdom

I used to enjoy the afternoon pub sessions in Aberdare. There was a time when I was able to go in on my day off for a leisurely pint, read the papers, do the crossword, do a bit of writing, read a book, watch the women go by, or just stare out of the window at the rain and be grateful I was indoors. The horse-racing, or Sky News, or an old film, or whatever, would be on the TV with the sound turned down, so it didn’t disturb me. If I wanted to have a chat to a couple of my mates, I could. If not, I found a quiet corner and kept myself to myself.
It all seemed to change back about six months ago, when I finished work and was therefore more likely to be found in the pub on a fairly regular basis. I’d always been aware that there was a hardcore mob of afternoon drinkers in Aberdare – mostly older guys, but some around my own age, and a fair smattering of women of all ages – who seemed to spend every day, come rain or shine, benefit cheque or Provident agent, getting pissed.
Well, no, not even pissed. They were alcoholics by any measure, and so only needed to keep topping up in order to function ‘normally.’ It didn’t matter whether it was ten in the morning or ten at night, they’d always be in exactly the same state, and would spend each groundhog day locked into an endless circuit of the pubs before staggering off at the end of the evening. Presumably they crashed out once they got home and slept the sleep of the just. They didn’t lie awake worrying about losing their jobs, or keeping a roof over their heads, or paying the bills, or exam deadlines, or how to try and keep their romantic relationships alive. Their only worry was what time the pub would open on a bank holiday.
By virtue of spending my time out in the afternoons I seem to have found myself an honorary member of this exclusive club – the Aberdare Afternoon Piss-Artists Association, or AAPAA. I don’t know who proposed me, or when my election was ratified, or even what the rules and constitution of the club are. All I know for sure is that Groucho Marx was right – I don’t want to join any club that would have me as a member. But I seem to have been elected unopposed, and now I’m forced to spend time with (to quote Morrissey once more) people who I’d much rather kick in the eye.
Not only that – I also seem to have landed the non-sabbatical and unpaid roles of Reference Librarian, IT Helpdesk, Secretary, Information Officer, Archivist, Keeper of the Sacred Scrolls, father-confessor, agony uncle, legal adviser, and general all-round fount of information for every single member of the AAPAA and his wife.
On Monday, my Creative Writing workshop was cancelled as Catherine M. couldn’t make it. However, since I already had a writing head on (see ‘Education, Education, Education‘) and I was running on all cylinders towards the exciting climax of Pit Stop, I decided it was a shame to waste the afternoon. I went to the pub armed with my Netbook and a few throwaway lines I’d come up with over the weekend, and started work on Chapter 8. I wasn’t even drinking. I had a soft drink in front of me on a quiet table in the corner, and I was in full flow when a guy leaned over and said hello.
Now, I can’t even remember meeting Scott. He seems to recall talking to me on a train one day – possibly after a rugby match when I was on the way home. After all, when the trains are rammed you can’t help who ends up sitting next to you (and I’m sure Tasnin often feels the same on the occasions when we’ve ended up together on the way home!)
Anyway, this same bloke came onto me in the pub a couple of weeks ago – the day of the Wales vs Samoa game. He was already pissed, and I wasn’t in the mood for talking to anyone really, but he forced himself into my space nonetheless and immediately proceeded to bore me senseless until I took emergency action.
Scott’s the sort of man who’s pathetic, lonely and needy, with a divorce going through the court at the moment, a couple of on-off girlfriends, a severe alcohol addiction (to the extent that he doesn’t work), the marvellous inability to ignore anything that anyone else says in the course of the ‘conversation’ (i.e. his monologue), and a desperate need for a New Best Friend.
For some unaccountable reason, I seemed to fit the NBF criteria. When he went for a piss that Friday night I sent a text to half a dozen mates, asking them all to ring me ASAP and give me an excuse to leg it from this particular Pain In The Arse’s ‘company.’ Fair play, Rhian was first out of the blocks, and I legged it in pretty short order.
I went to another pub with the intention of watching the game there, and immediately got captured by another Pain in the Arse. By sheer good luck, Mark W. rang in response to my earlier SOS within a few minutes, and I was able to leg it from there as well. Then I went to a third pub and some pissed-up teenager decided he was going to have a go at me. I stood my ground, the landlord backed me up, and the fuckwit left.
Anyway, on Monday Scott could clearly see I was busy; even though I told him several times I was in the middle of something, he still invaded my space and entered into a one-sided ‘conversation’ on the same topics as he had the last time I’d seen him.
I was wondering how to escape this time when Phil and Slim came in and threw me a lifeline. I immediately asked them what time we’d arranged to meet the boys in the Conway. Phil looked blank, and I teased him that he’d forgotten. Slim caught on straightaway and said he’d already told them we were running late. When they went for a smoke, Slim explained to Phil what we were up to; they drank up and we legged it.
When I got back from Treforest yesterday, it was pissing down and I had ages to wait until the bus, so I decided I’d chance my arm in the pub again. I grabbed my usual table, took out the weekend’s selection of crosswords, and was working slowly through Monday’s Kakuro when two other life members of the AAPAA came in.
Angela T. swears she remembers me from junior school. I don’t remember her, but she was in the year below me so we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths anyway. Danny’s from Merthyr originally, but the Merthyr Afternoon Piss-Artists Association is affiliated to the Aberdare group, so he’s able to exercise his membership here.
They were half-cut on arrival, and could see that I was really struggling with the crossword, so they said hello and then announced (very kindly, I thought) that they’d leave me in peace. That lasted all of two minutes before they resumed their daily round of pointlessly picking my brain on subjects I really don’t give a fuck about – Reality TV, sport, modern pop music, and so forth. Yesterday, my specialist subject was Angela’s Trainers.
I said they were okay. They’re a pair of trainers, for fuck’s sake, not a work of art. What was I supposed to say? I decided that they must have mistaken me for Gok Wan in the poor light and went back to my puzzle.
I think it was on the fourth (or maybe the fifth) occasion that Danny said, ‘Steve? Sorry to disturb you …’ that I lost my rag.
I said, very loudly so that everyone in the pub could hear, ‘No, Danny, you’re not sorry! You keep fucking disturbing me, even though I’ve already told you I’m not in the mood for company. You’ve already decided I’ve shape-shifted into some sort of gay fashion guru – now why don’t you just fucking leave me alone to get on with this?’
Danny’s one of these people who, when he’s pissed, says the same thing over and over again, like a stuck record or a Government minister being interrogated by John Humphrys. After a little while it gets on your bloody nerves, especially when you’re trying to concentrate. He told anyone within earshot (including me, three times) that he’d been refused alcohol in Iceland because he was already ‘intoxicated.’ He seemed delighted by the word, and offended at the same time.
I was just about to leave when Other Danny came in. He’s a life member of the Rhondda Afternoon Piss-Artists Association, but comes to Aberdare every day because all the pubs in Maerdy are closed. I guess he must belong to the same branch as Ray Maerdy, who used to be a regular fixture in the pubs around here until a couple of years ago.
Unlike Ray, however, Other Danny’s a fairly sensible chap. You can have some semblance of a decent conversation with him. He never stops long on his regular circuit of the pubs – a pint in each, and back home on the 6.15 bus. He could see I wasn’t in the mood. We said hello and he sat down a little way away, leaving me to it.
This afternoon I’ve spent a couple of hours in Aberdare Library, collating my university work and trying to draw a crime scene sketch for tomorrow afternoon. Siân took the measurements and they’re all to cock, as I said previously. It makes a bit more sense now I’ve sat down and looked at it properly, but it’s still a bloody mess – rather like the crime scene itself, ironically enough. I’ve got to hand it in by 3.00 tomorrow. If Siân doesn’t turn up at the Psychology tutorial tomorrow, so I can look at her measurements, I’m going to fuck this exercise up entirely.
Meanwhile, sitting next to me is an escapee from a lunatic asylum (or possibly from an earlier blog entry). He spent ages trying to get his laptop to connect to the library wifi. Since then he’s spent a couple of hours abusing his laptop, swearing loudly to himself, drumming his fingers on the table to the annoyance of everyone else, and making strange involuntary movements. I think he’s another Tourette’s victim (see ‘Inhibitions and Exhibitions‘.)
I’m going to the pub in a little while. I’ve got a book of Kakuro problems and a book to read. Let’s see how long it is before the AAPAA notices that their main brain is in the building, and start taking advantage again.

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