I’m Reviewing the Situation

In which The Author is wondering ‘What’s the bloody point?’

I’ve been feeling considerably down for the past week or so. There’s nothing unusual in that, of course; in fact, it’s been the normal state of play for the past five years.
I thought that the opportunity to finish in Waterstone’s was the light at the end of a very long tunnel. I realise now that it was nothing more than the headlights of an oncoming train.
My university career came to an abrupt end halfway through my second year, kicked into the long grass by a combination of back pain and bureaucratic SNAFU. Since then, everything that could go possibly wrong has gone wrong. My tentative steps towards setting up my own business, my writing projects, and even the Street Names Project, all seem to have run into the sand. I’m up to my ears in debt, and it’s only a question of time before I end up on the street.
The insurance policy on my endowment policy lapsed ages ago when I couldn’t afford to keep up the payments. I know the DWP are paying most of the interest on my mortgage, but when the mortgage ends I’ll be left with a massive shortfall that I’ll never be able to repay.
With this in mind, I’m seriously thinking of putting my house on the market. I know I won’t get much for it, but it’ll be enough to pay off my debts and give me a cushion while I look for a place to rent. It’s been going through my mind for the past couple of months, in fact. I can’t afford the work that needs to be done on the place, so I might as well cash in my chips and head for the exit.
Some of my pals have already headed for the exit. I had a message via Facebook a couple of weeks ago, from a friend of mine who’d decided (along with her husband) to up sticks and emigrate to Australia. She was picking my brains about setting up a blog to chart her adventures down under. I’m still waiting for the first instalment.
Another mate will be heading for the States in the near future. He’s (understandably) had a gutsful of this town, and this country, and has decided to make a new start while he’s still comparatively fit and healthy.
This morning, walking through Aberdare, I bumped into another old friend, and we stopped for a chat. She and her husband own their house in Aberdare. They don’t have any children, so there’ll be nobody to leave the house to when the time comes. I told her I was thinking of selling up and looking for a small place to rent for the rest of my days. She said she and her husband have been thinking along similar lines. After all, there’s only any real point of owning your own place if you’ve got someone who can inherit it when you die. That’s never going to happen to me, so it’ll just sit empty until someone snaps it up – as the previous owners did with my place, after Miss Morris became too infirm to stay there and went into a care home. By that time, it’ll be too far gone for anyone to move into it straight away. I might as well get out now and have done with it.
Besides all that, is there really any point of spending the rest of my days in Aberdare? There’s fuck all here anyway, and in ten years’ time there’ll be even less (see In the City and numerous related posts). In a proper town there’d be a library worthy of the name, a decent cinema (showing something other than Disney and Pixar kids’ films), a range of shops which aren’t just chainstores and charity shops, a proper museum (one with guest speakers and visiting exhibitions, not just a collection of old biscuit tins and soap packets), more than two pubs which are worth going into, a live music scene, public transport after 6 p.m., maybe even a real bookshop – who knows? In other words, all the things we used to have in Aberdare when I was growing up.
I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to go to London, except for the odd day trip. The people and the culture that made it so appealing thirty years ago have been squeezed out by the relentless transformation of the areas which gave it character and characters in equal measure. Only last weekend there was a mini-riot in Camden, when people protested against the gentrification of the locality clashed with police. The areas which used to be so run-down that only struggling artists and bohemian types wanted to live there (Clerkenwell, Spitalfields, Hoxton) are now so ‘trendy’ that the real inhabitants have been forced elsewhere. In another ten years, London will be a ghetto of the wealthy and corrupt, with a perpetual underclass of the deprived at its periphery, a struggling subculture of ‘hip’ artists and musicians, and a few entrepreneurs somehow managing to make a decent living. It’ll turn full circle and revert to the situation three hundred years ago. That’s progress for you.
Ross D. and Richard B. moved to Brighton when they disproved Samuel Johnson’s maxim and grew tired of London. Craig C. went to live in Brighton a while ago. Rob C. had also made a new start down there before his premature death rocked us all a couple of years ago (see Death of a Clown).
I’ve never been to Brighton, although the boys have extended me an open invitation to visit them for a few days. Rob H. went to stay with them during the Brighton Festival; he goes down to see them quite often. The Brighton Festival doesn’t seem to be what people usually have in mind when they hear the word ‘festival’. I imagine there’s live music and comedy and stuff like that, but also talks and book signings and film screenings and plays. I can’t imagine Rob H. grooving to some cod ‘festival’ reggae somehow, so there must be more to it than just the usual crap.
I’ve only ever been to three festivals in my life: the Ashton Court Festival in Bristol, back in about 1990 or 1991; the Cropredy Festival in Oxfordshire; and the Hay Festival, as I told you in Sentimental Journey. Of the three, the last one is the only one I’d definitely jump at the chance of going to again. I wouldn’t mind a return visit to Cropredy if the opportunity arose, and the Cambridge Folk Festival sounds quite appealing. Then there’s the Blyth Power Ashes, of course, which is a low-key long weekend of beer, folky punk and punky folk, cricket, and beer. That sounds quite appealing as well. However, I’d rather chew off my own penis than go to Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight, Latitude, Reading, or any of the other commercial festivals which clutter the summer calendar. Give me a couple of interesting talks, some films, a few stalls and second-hand bookshops, and a bit of jazz in the evening, and I’ll be a happy camper.
So, if not Brighton, where else? I’ve always been fond of Bristol, although I haven’t been there for several years. Last time I was there, a lot of the shops had gone and the culture of the place seemed to have changed. But it’s still got a decent alternative/green/left/anarcho subculture, so it’s on the list.
I feel instinctively drawn to Manchester, even though I only scratched the surface of it back in 2012. I should really revisit it and put some feelers out before I make a big commitment like that, though. I don’t know anyone in the area whom I could stay with while I was sussing the place out.
If my proofreading business does ever get off the ground, it really doesn’t matter where I choose to live. As long as I’ve got access to a phone line and the Internet, I can work from anywhere in the Global Village. Gareth L. and I were talking about getting the fuck out of the UK last time we chatted – before Emma’s name came up and ruined everything again, of course (see When the Inevitable Happens).
Gareth mentioned Greece as a possible destination. I warned him off that one, because I’d been reading the papers and could see that their economy was heading for one almighty fuck-up (which happened earlier this week, in fact). The idea of Bulgaria appealed to us both, though. Oddly enough, I caught a brief item about Bulgaria on Radio 4 this week. It’s transformed itself from a desperately poor Eastern Bloc client state to a thriving economy, with a good standard of education and a decent standard of living. (It dawned on me a few days ago that Gareth could be a candidate to buy my house, and then rent it out as a new income stream. Then I saw him in town yesterday and he hardly even said hello. We’re back to square one again.)
I’m sick and tired of this town, and I’m growing increasingly sick and tired of this country. Maybe I really should follow Maria and Deano and head straight for the airport. I’ve got nothing to lose by going, after all, and I’ve got very little to gain by staying here. Is there really any fucking point in hanging on, just waiting for something to turn up?
I think I’ll call into the estate agent’s later, and ask them how you go about selling a property with nine years still to run on the mortgage. If I go for a quick sale, I could be out of here by Xmas.
One thing’s for fucking certain: something’s got to change, and it’s got to change soon. If it doesn’t, I’ll be putting Emergency Program One into effect after all.