Moving from what ‘is’ to what ‘was’.
Saturday. The morning began at 8.30 am with an early appointment at Dickie Snips, the purchase of a rail ticket, and a visit to the chemist. The weather was uncomfortably humid. The remainder of the day had me sweating over a nuclear explosion. I constructed a composite overlay made up of three different expansions derived from the source. I would dearly love to play this through my 1000-watt PA. But would anyone or anything survive? This was a dangerous sound. Its fearfulness resides not so much in the volume and loudness (either actual or implied) as in the fullness of the sonorities.
The available recordings and reconstructions of nuclear detonations exhibit a ‘crack’ (like a rifle shot) coinciding with the initial flash. Because sound waves travel through the air far more slowly than do light waves (761.2 mph, in comparison to 186,000 mps), the visual and sonic phenomena associated with the blast are always desynchronous. My ‘crack’ was supplied by the original recording of the tone-arm being dropped onto the surface of the vinyl:
Today. I walked into town, early, to make the most of the sunshine before my rail journey to South Wales and home. (True home: the point of origin, the context of my formation and, I hope, the place where I’ll be laid to rest.) As on every such occasion, my expedition began at a local watering hole. The second breakfast. I’m letting myself go (following advice given by some concerned friends).
In the past, the opportunity to adjust my focus, put aside the trails and unresolved dilemmas of the here and now, and recuperate, just for a few days, has been powerfully medicinal. I’ll be sharing fellowship with friends associated with my secondary school days, various experimental bands that I’d played in during my teens, and art school education at Newport. One’s best friends always endure, however infrequent the contact.
11.30 am: Off! I’d be travelling from Aberystwyth to Shrewbury to Cardiff to Llanhilleth. I was consciously living this experience moment by moment; nothing would be wasted or overlooked. 11.35 am: A tea and KitKat. (This was riotous living.) My thoughts were ahead of me.
As this Diary draws to a close, following what will be over four years of entries, I’ll need to write an overview of its achievements, rationale, insights, and benefits, before deciding whether to continue the exercise in a somewhat different form. To this end, I began rereading my writings from the period beginning mid August 2017 to the end of January 2018. I was looking for answers. In doing so, I counselled myself. This had been one of the happiest and, yet, most painful and challenging periods of my recent life. I’ve no regrets, whatsoever. Never was I more alive. The friend that I made of myself back then has remained loyal. He and I may have had a falling out on occasion, but we’ve endured the rough and tumble and grown to accept one another’s shortcomings. 1.40 pm: I caught an earlier (delayed) train to Cardiff at Shrewsbury. Cardiff:
The 4.26 pm train to Llanhilleth was filled with shoppers returning to the valleys. On arrival, I discovered that my room at the hotel wasn’t yet prepared. (There’d been staff shortages today.) I took the opportunity to walk around the town as the evening sun declined, searching for the vestiges of National Coal Board architecture. I’ve passed this building on the ‘Llanhilleth Turn’ ever since I can remember. It’s an unassuming and functionally austere redbrick construction with an elegant Art-Deco inspired tower at the rear:
On my return to the hotel, the Abertillery-bound bus came into sight. I hopped on and headed for an eatery there:
My returns home are coloured by confused emotions. I’m drawn here like some spirit revenant doomed to haunt their old stomping ground. Perhaps I’m searching for something that’s no longer present – desperate for a depth of place that none other offers. In my day, Sunday evenings in town were hushed and reverential. Chapel and church folk were at services of worship. Those not so inclined, in front of their TVs watching Stars on Sunday. (Shortly after I was converted, I wrote a song, called ‘Miriam Poole’, which referenced that irony.) Pubs were ‘dry’, then. This evening they blazed music, while overweight young men propped up the door frames and squat under the window ledges, a beer in one hand and a ‘fag’ in the other. I ate bangers and mash. (Clearly, I’m a man without culinary discernment.)
Back at the hotel, I found myself in the same room as on the last stay. The decor was unchanged:
I rested. Below my window I could hear the throaty cackle of middle-aged women who’d smoked a fair few in their time, and men whose laugh reminded me of my father. ‘I’m not wearing any knickers!’, one senior woman shouted. What does one do with such information? Should I risk meeting the natives? What would have become of me had I not escaped the valleys? The thought ought to drive me to my knees in thanksgiving.
8.30 pm: After a shower, I took a walk up the road towards the mountains behind the hotel (which was now in Karaoke mode):
All the garages and lamp-posts were painted different colours of green, to blend in with the trees:
By the time I’d returned to the hotel, those that had been tipsy when I’d left were, now, well and truly established. I find the descent into drunkenness uncomfortable to witness. I felt and looked like an outsider: as conspicuous as the ‘man with no name’ entering the bar in Sergio Leone’s A Fist Full of Dollars (1964). ‘Is he the accountant?’, shouted one customer to the bartender. I didn’t look back; my guns weren’t yet loaded.