What a Difference a Year Makes

In which The Author wonders what the hell just happened

If nothing else, 2015 has proven to be an even more remarkable year than I’d thought possible. Only about six months ago I was on the verge of chucking the towel in. I had no job, no money, no chance of resuming my university career, and the DWP were on my back. There were only dark clouds on the horizon. After a visit to the chemist and a cock-up with my repeat prescription, I had a hundred full-strength Co-codamol and I wasn’t afraid to use them.
Luckily I saw my GP; she referred me to the Crisis Team at my local hospital, and some very good friends talked me out of doing something stupid. I wrote at length about that in the early summer, when I honestly thought there was nothing around the corner.
Then I bought Ben Aaronovitch’s latest paperback Foxglove Summer on a day trip to London, and everything turned upside down and inside out. A simple Tweet to Mr Aaronovitch, pointing out that (in spite of what it says on their website) his publishers really don’t have all the freelance proofreading help they need, triggered a chain of events which has resulted in my reincarnation as a fully-fledged proofreader and copy-editor for one of the biggest publishing houses in the UK.
I haven’t done much with this blog for the past few weeks, because I’ve been working on Jon Wallace’s third novel, to be published in the spring. I’ve recently finished Barricade (Mr Wallace’s first book), and I’m biding my time before starting the sequel, Steeple. Here in Wales it’s actually stopped raining for an hour or so, and I’ve come into Aberdare for a bit of last-minute shopping and a quiet-ish pint.
Last Wednesday I went into Cardiff, to meet Shanara for lunch. I walked around the city centre for a while, calling into some of my old haunts before popping into Waterstones for a look around. There was nothing much that caught my eye, but it was good to catch up (albeit briefly) with Jeff T. and Christos. Jeff still isn’t happy there. When he told me who the new store manager is, I could see why straight away.
He hasn’t even got the possible escape route into Ian Allan any more – that shop has disappeared. I don’t know whether it’s relocated, or just pulled out of Cardiff entirely. Spillers Records has relocated, to the Morgan Arcade, but there was nothing there to catch my eye either. I explored the market for a while, but nothing much has changed there. It’s the same odd mixture of food stalls, clothes stalls, a place selling vacuum cleaner parts, and a second-hand book stall which isn’t a patch on Barbara’s place in Aberdare.
I walked the length of St Mary Street, and it’s even more of a deep depression consisting of tightly-packed eyesore bars than it was when I wrote ‘A Letter to the Editor 6‘, way back in January 2003. For a so-called ‘capital’ city, Cardiff hasn’t got a great deal to distinguish it from every other city and large town in the UK. (Most of the others do have a bus station, though.)
After meeting the Dippy Bint and her friend Yasmin (who is even madder than I’d imagined), I headed out to Pontyclun, and the Brunel Arms. The previous landlady, Siân S., had kindly agreed to host a collection box for the Anthony Nolan Trust. It’s been in place for about a year and a half, so I reckoned it was time to check on its progress. As things turned out, it was nearly full, so I swapped it out for one of the new designs and headed back into Cardiff.
I made my way to the Old Arcade, which is a pub I’ve never been into before. Rowland and a motley crowd of journalists, ex-journalists, Mensa folk, music fans, real ale fans, and other general eccentrics have what’s known as Wednesday Club. Rowland has often invited me to join them, but it’s always been a bit of a stretch for me. However, since I was in town in Wednesday, I’d texted Rowland earlier in the day to find out the arrangements.
It became a rather boozy session, unsurprisingly, and I made it back to Queen Street station in time for the traditional last train chaos. I was shocked by the number of rough sleepers I encountered while walking through Cardiff that evening and night. There was always a hardcore of homeless men and women in town, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people huddled in doorways.
I paid the money from the Brunel into the bank the following day. It came to £33.35 – not a bad total, considering that it’s just one of four charity boxes on the bar.
This morning I made a little spreadsheet, so that the people at Anthony Nolan can track my seven collection boxes and issue updated certificates to the businesses who’ve kindly agreed to host them. I swapped out the boxes in the Lighthouse a few weeks ago. It was fairly late on parade, but it had still managed to accumulate £11.00 and some shrapnel (which I paid back in).
My friend Chris Davies runs a dispensing optician’s shop in Aberdare. His box is filling up nicely, but it wasn’t worth a visit to the bank when I swapped the boxes over. The same was true of the Vapour Den, managed by my friend Sharon. It’s building up nicely, but there was no great rush to pay it in.
I still haven’t checked the progress of the boxes in the Pagoda takeaway (a semi-regular stop on my way home from town) or the Bridge in Ebbw Vale, where Rebecca C. is working now. I need to visit Ebbw Vale for the Vanishing Valleys project anyway, so I can kill two birds with one stone early in the new year.
For the time being, though, here’s the cumulative total raised by the seven Anthony Nolan boxes which I’m looking after.
Screenshot from 2015-12-23 15:14:04
If you have a business which would be prepared to host a collection box, or know anyone who’d be willing to help out, please get in touch with them and they’ll be happy to provide you with all the material you need.
I probably won’t have chance to write again this week, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year. Thanks for continuing to read my blog, and thanks also for supporting me through what has been a very emotional and eventful year. It really is greatly appreciated.

One thought on “What a Difference a Year Makes”

  1. Erratum: I forgot to enter the previous total from the Pagoda takeaway onto the spreadsheet. Please add a further £60.00 to the total figure. Not bad, is it?

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