One Year On

In which The Author is in reflective mood

Exactly three hundred and sixty four days ago, I was in a large auditorium at MediaCity UK in Salford, with a bunch of strangers and one person whose voice I’d heard on a number of occasions.
It was my first trip to Manchester, and although it was raining (as usual, apparently) I was having a fantastic time. After the recording of Brain of Britain was completed, I went into the city centre and had a great night in a couple of very reasonable pubs and clubs. I told the whole story in It’s Grand Oop North! on my return, and promised myself that by the time twelve months had elapsed, my life was going to be different.
At that time, I was friendly with a woman named Clare (who has been referred to as C— up to this point), and we’d both had a fucking gutsful of Aberdare. She was divorced and living back with her parents, except for the frequent occasions when she’d get pissed and/or stoned and go off-grid for a few days. She was locked into a self-destructive behaviour loop, just as I was. People who knew us both told me that she was on target to end up in hospital or the cemetery unless she sorted her life out.
I was spending far too much time and money in the pub as well, surrounded by idiots and/or wankers ninety per cent of the time. Although I’d been in Manchester for only a day and a night, it had changed my perspective on the world. When I returned home, Clare and I met up for lunch and I showed her the photos I’d taken on my brief visit to the Venice of the North. (Yes, I know Birmingham has more canals – but on the day I arrived, Manchester had rivers running between the historic buildings. Go figure…)
We made a pact that we’d both start applying for jobs in Manchester, after the whole Xmas fuss was over and done with. I looked into renting out my house, and we reckoned that we’d be able to relocate quite easily. The city was on the up, and we’d be a lot more likely to find work there than here in South Wales, which has been in a depression since the coal mines closed in the mid-1980s.
Accommodation would be nicely affordable as well. Even the stunning studio apartments in Salford Quays cost from £550 p.c.m., and public transport around the city is as cheap as Lancashire Hot Pot. Most importantly, it would get us both out from the same fucking rut we’d been stuck in for years.
That was as far as the idea got, of course. A year later, nothing has changed at all. Clare’s various addictions took her down a path I wasn’t prepared to follow, and we haven’t spoken since the argument I related in C is for Cyberwoman.
My own depression kicked back in during the summer, and I abandoned all plans to move away. I haven’t seen Clare for a few months, but she’s still around – people who don’t know we don’t bother any more mention her in passing now and again. I’m still being treated for my own mood disorder, and waiting to see a counsellor to talk about Life, the Universe and Everything.
I’ve only left Aberdare a handful of times since I returned home from Manchester. I’ve been to Cardiff a couple of time, London once, I spent a weekend in the Forest of Dean, and I’ve done a few trips to neighbouring Valleys towns which make Aberdare seem like a thriving metropolis.
My low mood stopped me from seeing Roger Waters performing The Wall at Wembley Stadium, on a ticket which I didn’t even have to pay for. I still hate myself for not going to that gig, but I’m too old for stadium gigs now. Fuck it, I’m too old for gigs in ropey Valleys pubs these days.
Tomorrow, I’m going to try and get back into the loop a bit. Nottingham Playhouse are presenting a touring production of 1984 at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, My ticket’s already booked, and I’ve ordered a programme to add to my collection in the stairwell at home.
I’ll be going down early, because I want to visit the National Museum of Wales. There’s an exhibition about the life and research of Alfred Russel Wallace, the neglected co-discoverer of Evolution by Natural Selection. After that I’m hoping to catch up with Shanara for a coffee before I head to the theatre. With any luck I’ll be so late heading home that I’ll miss the worst of the post-rugby crowd.
I’m only writing this tonight because I don’t want to break my pledge for NaBloPoMo. I don’t feel like doing anything much. I’m going to make some supper and listen to the radio for an hour or so. A year ago, I was in the hot seat before Russell Davies, while my fellow contestants and I tried to figure which of the transuranic elements Bohrium, Meitnerium, Seaborgium and Roentgenium, was the odd one out. An hour later I was out and about in the big city, and having a great time amongst complete strangers, and wondering how easily I’d be able to put my house on the market. So much for planning ahead…