And There’s More

In which The Author wants to go home and lie down in a darkened room

After the bizarre events I related in Je t’aime, I went to Wetherspoon for some breakfast. Much as I love Aberdare Library, they don’t serve food. Neither do they serve hot chocolate to a closely-guarded secret formula. On the other hand, you can’t go into the library at 9.15 and see someone finishing their first pint of the day.
Then again, the Loteks in the Library would fit in well here. A woman came in and approached a table of AAPAA pissheads before my breakfast had even arrived. She asked them what the pub was called. Schoolgirl error!
‘Spoons,’ one of them said confidently.
‘Witherspoons,’ another suggested.
It appeared that she was meeting someone, and they were coming from AWAY. (Remember, I’m re-reading The Lord of the Rings, and so I slipped straight into Hobbit mode and started wondering about these queer folk from AWAY…)
After failing to get any sense from the early drinkers, she went outside, where the name of the pub is displayed in big letters. There was a time when pubs just had easy visual signs (the Ivy Bush, the Red Cow, and so forth) to accommodate clientèle before the era of universal literacy. This place might as well have some large spoons hanging from a railing above the door. Anyway…
At the risk of being chucked out and banned for life (and with apologies to my Facebook friends who’ve already read this), I shall now share the Ieuan ap Iago secret hot chocolate recipe with you:
  • Take a clean mug and pour in 3 tsp of chocolate powder
  • Pour hot milk in to the halfway mark
  • Add boiling water to about an inch below the brim
  • Go the kitchen to look for the squirty cream and spend two minutes fucking around while the chocolate goes cold
  • Squirt the cream in until it resembles an Art Deco snowman and overflows the mug in all directions
  • Serve with chocolate sprinkles and a grimace
Having run out of just about everything apart from bread, I came to Spoons for breakfast. I was still reeling from my encounter with the French Bint With The Grey Poloneck. I checked my emails, wrote a decent draft of Je t’aime, potched on Facebook, saved my draft before the wifi in the pub crashed, and then went to Aberdare Library to start again from scratch.
It was quite a while after 11 a.m. that I eventually got online in any meaningful fashion. It took a couple of Tech Support calls from the librarian to establish a decent connection, and that only lasted until lunchtime. I had to return to Spoons to email my local councillor about the piss-poor wifi in the library. I mentioned that I’m setting up my business, and suggested that I should invoice Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC £25 for every hour that I’m unable to get online during the working week. So far (and it’s 8.30 on a Wednesday night as I type this) I’ve had no reply. Anyway…
While I was rummaging through boxes of ancient documents yesterday, I came across an envelope of A4 sheets. The accession number wasn’t much help, so I tipped them out onto my table. They turned out to be photocopies of Maesydre, undated, showing that area of Aberdare which was undergoing development at the time. Here’s an extract from one of them:

Maesydre 4

Haydn from the Cynon Valley History Society came in just after I’d photocopied them for my own records. Up in the top margin, St Elvan’s Church is marked simply as ‘New Church’ – Haydn said it was built in 1852, which gave us a bit of a benchmark.
I assume that the individual properties are labelled with the people who owned the leases. The entire area was leased from the Diocese of Gloucester – hence the street names, as you’ll see when Geoff and I finally publish our book. I cut the sheets up, borrowed some sellotape and a large window, and reconstructed the original plan as best I could from the 40-year-old photocopies. I took it to The Glosters this afternoon, where Wayne and Elaine were fascinated to see their parents’ pub marked just after it was built. They’re going to frame it and hang it on the wall.
The weirdest thing, though, was something I found written on the back of one of the A4 sheets. Whoever took the copies (I’m assuming it was Richard Arnold, borough librarian back in the day) made a note on the reverse side. Apparently it was copied from an original owned by one ‘Rowland Davies’. The only Rowland Davies I can think of is my old friend Rowland, former editor of the Aberdare Leader and a key player in a number of my previous entries.
Rowland’s maternal grandfather J. L. Rowlands was one of the founders of the Aberdare Leader, back in 1902. Their office was in Dean Street, well within the area covered by this mysterious map, It’s quite possible that this remarkable artefact, detailing the owners of each property and the rateable value thereof, has been passed from father to daughter to grandson, and then to the capacious boxes of the W. W. Price Room. I emailed Rowland himself earlier, but he probably won’t reply until early tomorrow morning.
Didn’t I tell you about the way these coincidences keep piling up? Friday 13th is when everything might go critical. A well-wisher pointed out earlier on that there’s one next month as well.
I think I told you about the time I was in the surgery making an appointment. I realised that there were no fewer than three Friday 13ths that year – two had gone, and the third was in July.
I mentioned it to my friend Janet, who works in the office, and she said, ‘Oh no! Really? What day is that on?’
We all exchanged glances for a few moments before the penny finally hit the ground with a deafening thud. If I hadn’t been with a friend, nobody would have believed it.
I went home and logged onto Facebook. Straight away I created an event called ‘Friday the 13th Part 3’, and invited Janet to attend. It would have been rude not to, really.
Martin H. shared this gem on Facebook over the weekend. Not only does it prove that he’s still alive; it also proves that I’m not the only awkward bastard in the Hundred Acre Wood.



Je t’aime

In which The Author meets someone new

A funny thing happened to me on the way to town this morning.
I’d better put this into context and say that I’ve got a tune stuck in my head, and it’s been there since about 8.15 or so. It’s a groovy, rather louche and naughty tune called ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’, by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg. It’s there for a reason, too. As Prof Jim al-Khalili would say, Let me explain…
At precisely 0752 my next-door neighbour started hammering something into the party wall. Again. This has been the state of play for several weeks now. I’ve no idea what he’s building in there, or why it should be so important to start work that he wakes me up every morning, but that’s his business. (I might make it my business if it carries on much longer, mind you.) Anyway, having been rudely awakened again, I got up and ran a bath while I listened to the BBC headlines. At about 8.15, my neighbour decided to start drilling into the party wall – at which point my subconscious mind took a little tour along my neural pathways. Watch this:
In Michel Gondry’s brilliant and surreal film The Science of Sleep, Stéphane (the hero) is woken up by his neighbour drilling through their party wall while fitting some shelves. The neighbour is played by the gorgeous Charlotte Gainsbourg. She, in turn, is the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin – who had a hit in ’69 (wow! A Freudian slip if ever there was one) with the aforementioned ‘Je t’aime … moi non plus’. My train of thought, having taken a little-known freight-only branch through my brain, arrived at that particular Ohrwurm and has stayed there ever since.
I left the house just before 9.00 and headed towards the Library as usual. I was halfway down the Gadlys hill, just past the site of the Waynes Arms, when I saw a very attractive young woman walking towards me. At first glance I thought she was my friend Claire M., a burlesque dancer and singer whom I haven’t seen for ages.
As we got closer I realised that it wasn’t Claire, but there was a striking resemblance. This girl was tall, slim, and quite dark, with black hair and a nose piercing. She was also wearing a chunky grey poloneck sweater under a black coat. So far, so good. She was ticking most of my boxes already.
Then she spoke to me – in a French accent. How bizarre is that?
She was trying to find her way to a little complex of offices tucked away behind the old Girls’ School. The GPS on her phone had let her down, and she’d missed the turning. Luckily she had the address as a photo on the screen. We crossed the road and I explained that she’d found her way to the Valley That Technology Forgot. I said I’d guessed from her accent that she wasn’t local.
It turns out that she lives in Cardiff, works in Brecon, and was in Aberdare for a training course. Once we reached the corner we went our separate ways, and I realised that in one of those famous parallel universes I’d just met my next girlfriend.
Yesterday was a day of coincidences (see And Another Thing….) It looks as though today is heading the same way already, and it’s not even lunchtime yet. Friday 13th is just around the corner. Watch this space…