THE URBANATHLETIC MEDALION

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Found in my documents, on the archives of my old computer, here’s some writing from July 14th in 2008:

GREENBLUE AND THE URBANATHLETIC MEDALION

The morning of Sunday July the 13th 2008 marked something rather different for me.  I woke up, had three Shreddies breakfast bars, a bowl of muesli and a banana.  I decided to skip having a bath or shower.  I affixed the bog standard shop’s own roll-on to my armpits.  I then walked my family’s dog Bailey around Highfield Country Park (Levenshulme) in glorious shimmering summer sunshine.  The bus journey into town and out towards Sportscity filled me with nerves.  Prior to today, I had only ever ran around chasing a football or on Aberystwyth Town reserve team runs with Richie Jones barking his orders at decibels only heard near commercial aeroplanes.

The full three months of training were about to come into fruition.  Had running like a Monty Python sketch artist up stairs in Plymouth’s Hoe before diving to the ground to do a transverse abdominal stretch on the grass made a difference?  Had cycling insane distances and mentally challenging hills improved my stamina?  Did laying off the real ale and whiskey make one iota of a difference?  Only today would tell all.

Watching The Gladiators since I was younger and occasionally catching great Olympians like Linford Christie and Sir Steve Redgrave on television should have been a big influence.  I should have done more sport back in my University days at Aberystwyth.  However, the Latin Superbia in proelia stuck to mind.  Having gotten sponsors that combined a total of over £700 between them, I had to do this as best possible for my chosen cause the Genesis Appeal.  I had chosen the Genesis Appeal for several reasons.  I like boobs.  One in ten women develop breast cancer (and even 1 in a 1000 men develop this too).  That’s shocking!  Imagine the days back at your secondary school, I went to Reddish Vale where we had around 1400 students at the time.  Just pin-balling figures around to say half the students were female to give us 700 and then dividing that by ten to give us 70 possible breast cancer sufferers.  Astoundingly large numbers.  Scary.  The other factors for choosing The Genesis Appeal included someone within the family undergoing treatment for breast cancer and my football club, MCFC (okay) choosing to nominate a cause I had up until then never heard of.  I perused the matchday programmes and visited their excellent website, www.genesisuk.org, to find they are a national charity based in my homeland of Mancunia.

Preparing for the run did not just involve physical preparations, but I had to bug people, kneecap them, and scrape for pennies towards my chosen charity.  The medium of Facebook proved easiest, setting up a group called the, “John Acton’s Urbanathlon Run In Aid Of The Genesis Appeal Charity” which could also have been named, “Oi, gimme cash for a bloody good cause, and I’ll do something stupid.”  Then there was the T-shirt… having emailed many custom-made t-shirt providers and got no response, I contacted a firm in Plymouth who took my order, then lost it, then re-took my order before eventually deciding a week before they could not find the order again.  I still await a refund.  So, off to the shops I go, I grasp the blue dye and apply liberally to a cheap polo shirt from a high street sports shop (the night before the run).

So, to the task in hand, the Original Source 2008 Urbanathlon in Sportscity, East Manchester… the warm-up was bloody hard work.  Diane Modahl launched the race, the first of its kind in Europe, and then on the day started us off.  And off I jogged.  Ouch, why do you always need a piddle after only a few minutes running?  The race started on the Regional Athletics Stadium, looped around the City of Manchester Stadium forecourts, over some concrete blocks, looped around beneath the F of The Fart (I mean B of The Bang), up the spiral staircases into the City of Manchester Stadium (I stopped enroute to use the men’s toilets), back out of the stadium and past the City Social café, over another wall, through a man-made lake of water, lemons and oranges, back out feet drenched before tumbling over a few logs, following the course below, alongside the canal, then up into Phillips Park, through towards the bridge, under the bridge, up a hill, over a pyramid of hay bails, down a dip, up a slope, over some trees, through stinging nettles, up a muddy embankment, down a hill, up a steep winding path, slid down a huge waterslide aided by Fireman Sam’s hosepipes (no pun intended), up a grassy slope, across more green fields, down a path, banking left, following the pathway alongside the river Medlock, through the river Medlock and up a steep bank of mud, following the river pathway yet again but on the opposing bank, back through the river, this time over more slippery pebbles, up onto the dry land in drenched trainers (will they ever wash clean?)…

…up a hill of hell, no car could ever climb this hill, it is far too steep and long, through more green pastures, descend some steps, crawl through the pipelines, grab some water where a lady informs me I’m halfway (is there no end to this hell?), a lad shouts to me, “well done Genesis Appeal, its horrible what happens in a Genocide.”  I slow my pace and inform him of what The Genesis Appeal is, I clamber through ropes aplenty in a horrible sapping rope course, waddle along the pathway, transcend a hill banking up towards Newton Heath, a silver car passes me by on the pathway with its hazard lights flashing to reflect my feelings, over an assault course (similar to that seen on parks), through some tyres one foot at a time, then run over the bridge, towards Ravensbury in Clayton, down a cobbled alley way, over a platter of car tyres, over the road back into Phillips Park.  Under the old bridge, onto the straights towards the finishing line which is now in sight…

over a sadistic climbing wall, I decide to leap two footed onto the cars just before the finish line before jogging over to glory, collecting my medal and goody bag before grabbing a drink and striding away in sheer agony.  Who’s idea was this?!  One milkshake later, a warm down and some water I decide to go and collect my time.  I was assaulted on the way by a Gazebo and promptly St. John’s ambulances called into action.  One superficial cut to the noggin cleaned up later and then a whiz round the Party In The Park before watching hundreds more cross the finish line. I had finished the 10k Urbanathlon in around an hour.  Not bad for a non-distance runner!

And even today my muscles twinge, my feet burn and my body demands energy.  If you sponsored me, thank you kindly.

John Acton,

www.justgiving.com/greenblue (open until September 2014  for sponsorship)

From my archives.

David Steeds (1938-2020)

I was saddened to read on ATFC.org.uk the news of another fond person passing away.

David Steeds (1938-2020)

David Steeds made me laugh. The first time I met him, he rolled over to me, looked up at me and said, “I used to be as tall as you.” From then on, he was always witty and welcoming. After some time, I learnt he was one of those mythical Directors within Aberystwyth Town F.C. He’d tell tale after tale and engage me with his vision of how Aberystwyth Town F.C. could be so much bigger, if it wasn’t for the sea and regional isolation. As well as being a keen historian, he was greatly knowledgeable about literature and could quote countless authors. Not only that, he’d throw in a question and make you engage the conversation in a thoughtful but not taxing way.

Recommended further reading: Aberystwyth Town Football Club: Fallen Heroes of the Great War by Gil Jones and David Steeds [GB 0212] ADX/1503 @ Ceredigion Archives.

Mr Steeds was an International Politics Lecturer at Aberystwyth’s University when it was simply known as the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. I don’t recall ever meeting his two boys William or Daniel, but I do remember feeding their family cat and chickens over several holidays, as Mr and Mrs Rhiannon Steeds travelled. The popular ATFC director always had a warm greeting and was clearly very friendly throughout the club. His people’s person skills are something we should all learn from. People matter – and to him they always did. When F.C. Dinaburg came to train in Aberystwyth, he accompanied them to Penparcau’s Min-y-ddol fields to help them settle in. I recall seeing him in deep conversation with the UEFA Intertoto opposition team’s manager (as pictured).

Local football and Aberystwyth have lost someone dear. I read his involvement in the Mini Minor League had nothing to do with cars of the same name, but his passion to push his boys as far as they could go. I heard he helped them get to Aberystwyth Town’s Youth and reserve teams. He talked a few times of these great moments, and the rainy days when things weren’t so easy, but he always conveyed his pride that his boys had gotten so far in football. This is proof alone, that lifting the Champions League trophy is one thing, but giving your all and getting into your local club is one thing entirely different. Something to be utterly proud about.

I didn’t know Mr Steeds as well as others, or wasn’t his student, but I am glad that Mr and Mrs Steeds showed their kindness during my late university year and the year I resided in sunny Aberystwyth after university. To Mrs Rhiannon Steeds, his sons William and Daniel and to their family, I give you my condolences.

Bryan Pugh Jones

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The name Bryan Pugh-Jones is one that should be known throughout Welsh football. He has long been associated with the old black and green of Aberystwyth Town F.C.

A true Green Legend of Aberystwyth Town F.C. means much to fans and the community of Aberystwyth. They engage those around them in ways that others cannot replicate. Whilst ATFC haven’t been seen as professional, one amateur player and club representative has been nothing but professional in his attitude. Having bled black and green over decades of football, few have had a connection with the Seasiders longer. Bryan wore the captain’s armband for 12 years. He carried on with the reserve team, long after others sought retirement.

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I was told Bryan arrived in Aberystwyth from Penparcau via Bont – and never left Town. Indeed, on meeting him in person, he delivered many witty yarns in ways that I found belly laughter the only way to respond. From those early days as a student to my departure from living in Aberystwyth I found Bryan Pugh-Jones was always a friendly and kind man. He’d answer every question and point me in the right direction.

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A self-confessed tone-deaf player would hum hymns as others sang. Listening to his stories it was hard to imagine this gentle man being a formidable adversary on the football pitch. Those who played against him told me he was strong and direct, yet not dirty. So much respect awarded him the first ever ATFC testimonial. A certain Geoff Hurst featured amongst the opposition.

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For any player to have come up against him, they would have learned much from that experience. In 1974 Bryan Pugh-Jones became ATFC’s first ever player to be awarded a testimonial – the opposition featured Geoff Hurst.

It is fitting that on the day football legend George Best was laid to rest, another legend Bryan Pugh-Jones was honoured for his services to football from the FAW. The 3rd of December 2005 was one of many honours, and on 23/6/16, I read in the Cambrian News, whilst I lived in China, of Bryan Pugh-Jones being honoured by the RNLI. His services to lifesaving were celebrated alongside others in receipt of awards at Aberystwyth’s National Library of Wales. So, the Green Legend joined was made Honorary Life Governor of the RNLI. 57 years of voluntary work for Aberystwyth RNLI marked his varied tasks. In those years he was a crew member, tractor driver, station mechanic, and deputy launching authority.

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I recall one day talking with the late David Hides and Bryan Pugh Jones, stood by the tractor that Bryan had set aside. They both discussed in great length the potential of Aberystwyth Town as a club, the history of the region and the weather. It seemed idyllic and eventually we noticed a few hours had passed, and we were all late for our various arrangements of the day.


From 3/12/2005:

Bryan Pugh Jones was recognised by the FAW in the John Charles Lounge. Players from the FAW amateur XIs, Bont, and ATFC teams that played alongside Bryan were present. Bryan’s one-time ATFC captain Howard Madley made a short speech, followed by team-mate Alan Blair (who told us how much fun the team was then, and that arguments did not happen), and Dr Gethin Jenkins spoke of the bravery and tenacity Bryan added to football. Bryan always played football with a smile on his face. The step-over was apparently invented by Bryan Pugh-Jones under the name of the alley shuffle. Bryan was always referred to as the laughing entertainer within his changing room. Tegwyn Evans handed Bryan a long service award on behalf of the FAW, and thanked him for his continuing services to football.

The then ATFC Chairman, Donald Kane, first joined Aber through the reserve team. Donald’s first training session ended with Mr Kane landing on his rear-end, taken by a steady and experienced Bryan Pugh-Jones. Bryan lifted Donald up and said, “You’re not the first and you won’t be the last.” Donald Kane added that as a groundsman working with hard conditions (as verified by Dr Jan Hides in a letter to Bryan, read by MC Glan Davies), “he has done wonders, and Bryan could not be replaced.” ATFC’s Honorary Life President, Glenda Charles, presented Bryan with a gift from all members of ATFC. The fans of Aberystwyth gave Bryan Pugh-Jones a framed and signed artwork of Liverpool players Ian St. John and Roger Hunt, from an FA Cup final win in 1965.

MC Glan Davies spoke next about the times Bryan played for Cwmderi (The S4C Pobl-y-Cwm team). Bryan was acting-Chaeufer following an accident Glan had thus preventing Glan from driving. In the end, the TV stars rang Glan up (not asking if Glan was available to play) enquiring if Bryan was available for games. One such game was in Waterford, Ireland against a local fire station crew. In the changing rooms afterwards avrey primative mobile phone rang (Glan said it was the size of a small car?) and Bryan went to pick it up. The players listened in, “Yes, yes, carry on,” said Bryan. He repeated himself again, “Yes, yes, carry on.” And for a third time. The players within the changing room queried, “Who were you speaking to?” Bryan replied, “Someone just rang to check if she could spend some money on a new jumper, so I said Yes, yes, carry on. She then asked if she could get a new car, so I told her Yes, yes, carry on. When she asked for jewellery from a local jewellery store I said, Yes, yes, carry on. Whose phone is this?” Bryan Pugh-Jones was not the only one presented with a gift of thanks, Tony Bates handed Her Indoors a bunch of flowers for putting up with Bryan. The night finished with a comedian, Bob Webb from Swansea, a buffett, lots of drinking and being merry in celebration of a great man: Bryan Pugh Jones.


As a former editor of ATFC.org.uk, I want to share this gallery to honour Bryan Pugh Jones. The flags at Park Avenue and the RNLI lifeboat station in Aberystwyth are at half mast.

My sincere condolences (Pob cydymdeimlad) to the family, friends and those who knew Bryan Pugh Jones.

Wherever you are Bryan, yes, yes, carry on.

The £80 season ticket.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

 

“Mr John, what’s your favourite season?”, Billy asked. His tiny frame jiggled around with excitement as he happily danced the question from his chirpy mouth. He looked in anticipation of my answer. In his eyes, I think I sensed he wanted me to answer winter. He could see that I was sweating from the 35°C heat. I have been quite vocal about my dislike of summer and heat since around March when the mercury hit 30°C for the first time this year.

To his surprise, I could see it in his eyes, I did not reply spring, summer nor autumn. The expected word of winter did not disembark my mouth. “Billy, I like the football season best.”

The response was quite international, “Huh?!” One simple sound of confusion with calculators flashing in his young eyes. And smoke billowing from his ears. His thought processes however surprised me. He understood, “You like the start and end of football games in the year but not no games.” Spot on. Grab your A-stars now and go directly to university. How perceptive of you Billy.

Now, flash forwards a day to older-than-eight-year-olds. During a conversation, I was asked which season I like best. I gave the same reply. Nothing. Not a single question or notaion of understanding. The boy in grade 8/junior school 2 was flummoxed. Uterrly mystified and totally foxed. So, rather than let him avoid the subject, I asked if he understood. He replied, “of course.” Very confident. So, I said, “please explain.” I didn’t expect much more information to come. The body language of the boy shown he had been thrown, possibly flabbergasted and bewildered. There was a rabbit in the headlights. He opened his mouth, “In winter it snows, so there is no football. In summer, it is too hot, so there is no football. In spring, it is too wet, so there is no football. In autumn it is windy a dry, so this is when the football season is.” I liked his answer, it had a kind of mathematican’s logic to it. I explained the traditional football seasons of Europe run from August to May. There are variations of course. I said summer football is a huge outlier and probably because the weather is too hot, the fields (pitches) too firm. His reply was, “Well, why is the World Cup in summer?” I said it probably boils down to availability and less interruption to less leagues. I said the winter World Cup of 2022 in Qatar will be an outlier.

My years have never been measured by lunar calendars, Gregorian dates, academic planners or such. No, I opted for cards handed out with the Manchester Evening News’s The Pink years ago, and other wonderful football season date lists.  That first date tunnels utter anticipation until the close season becomes pre-season. Pre-season dates are foreplay to the full activity of the football season proper. Waiting for the football season is a time in itself. Here shirts are released, players exchanged, cold, bought and loaned in or out. Words of war are spoke and expectations set, high or low. The battle is far from underway. The Community Shield is looked at as a friendly, unless you’re in and then it is a trophy, unless you lose. There are contradictions in the making from supporters everywhere. Prices of season tickets, games, and all the accessories of the devout football fan are bickered over. “I won’t buy that” becomes an impulse buy. Quarells placed on pause since May (or June) slide to on. Fantasy football teams are prepped. Bookies collect their bets and forms.

TV subscriptions and schedules are juggled around bills and holiday plans. The ripple of every change is mirrored by the frantic actions of a football fan cancelling a wedding in Benidorm in favour of a weekend wedding at Bolton’s Travelodge. Well, Bolton host your team that weekend. Aberystwyth Town’s last season kit is folded away, and you’re pestering Steve Moore at the clubshop on a daily basis. You’re pinging off text message after twitter message after Whatsapp group query, “When is the new Aber Town top out?” You know that by the time your £80 season ticket is printed, you’ll have the famous black and green on your chest but can’t be sure you’ll be wearing it before Gresford Athletic or Llanidloes Town visit. You’ll dig out your oldest kit and call it retro those days. When is the Nathaniel MG Cup Round Two draw? You overlook the first batch of round dates. It matters not to you.

This pre-season I will travel further than before for City’s four preparation games. Taking in the Premier League Trophy in Nanjing and Shanghai,  a game at Hong Kong Stadium versus Kitchee SC and then the EuroJapan Cup game in Yokohama against F. Marinos. Taking in a trip to Japan excites me. Time to do some planning.

Former City Manager Manuel Pellegrini returns to China having coached Hebei Fortune. Former sky blue hero, Pablo Zabaleta could face City. I’ve paid 288RMB ticket for each game on mainland China. Not a tenner in the sterling world, but not too expensive considering the tickets can equate to the below:

£71/£122 via ManCity.com. Newcastle Utd or Wolves v Manchester City. Fri, 19 Jul 00:00. Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium.

£43/£65. West Ham United v Manchester City. Tue, 16 Jul 00:00.Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre.

I’m told my ticket in Yokohama was for a similar price to the 288RMB, although I’ve seen some weird four-figure numbers banded about too. This all makes Aberystwyth Town’s £80 season ticket look good value.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Round Our Way

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste


TOUR

Well, I’ve booked flights to return to Blighty on the 31st of July, with the return to China slotted in on the 15th of September. That follows four days in Yokohama (Japan) watching English Premier League Champions Manchester City, and a trip that takes in Nanjing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to see the City face West Ham Utd, Europa League-bound Wolves or Newcastle Utd and then Kitchee SC. It is expensive and beyond my bank balance, but you only live once, I think. Money isn’t all there is to life. If your nation is billions in debt and U.S.A. is trillions in debt, and you don’t fully agree with capitalism, then flip it, live for the moment and the future, at the expense of yesterday. We can always make more money, but we can’t make more days of living. Our species has had more warnings than we care fit. Godzilla: King of Monsters, even delivers this cheesy message. Just do thes best you can, and to quote Braveheart, every man dies, not every man really lives. Something like that.


IMG_5346.JPGI may die without offspring, and in debt but I’ll be damned if I will die unhappy. If I pass on a few smiles and some good advice along the way, then I am happy. Morbidly happy. I can’t wait to get back and enjoy summer with family and close friends. I miss so many good friends. I certainly miss my family. Homesickness seems to creep in as the football season ends, and my eyes firmly focus on a summer trip home. It has happened this way since 2015. This year my holiday is extended by a few weeks – and also, I will request Christmas off, to visit home. I need to see my family I owe it to them.


MANC AIRPORT ANNIVERSARY 2013 (25)Summer in the U.K. will probably see some football, London for the Community Shield, a few Premier League games, some Aberystwyth Town jaunts and whatever suits. I hope to see Bristol Balloon Festival when near our Ace’s. Chadderton Duck Race should be in there for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice. There has to be an airshow to visit. Perhaps some Tour of Britain cycling action, Vincent Kompany’s Testimonial game and a memorial tree planting. Everything is possible with your own powerful mind. Oh, and Doves near Acton town. That’s a must. Perhaps the Ramsbottom World Black Pudding Throwing Championships. Sadly, I fly back the week before Egremont Crabbing Fair & World Gurning Championships. Hopefully, I will find a way to see the great Lancaster Bomber fly, whether over Saddleworth, Southport or Blackpool, I don’t know!


I want to spend some of summer researching my family tree too. I know so little about my heritage.

gran and aunty sue

My Mother’s side:

Ivy Harrison was born on Densmore Street in Failsworth.  At the age of five Ivy attended Mathers Street Council School in 1930.  On April the 13th 1939 Ivy became a machinist making night clothes for Smith and Nephew (a Hollinwood based company).  In 1943 during the Second World War Avro Ltd. recruited Ivy to make munitions and aircraft pieces. Parachutes were also made. The war effort needed everything. In the wake of a recovering U.K. climate during 1949, Ivy married John Hitchin.  In May of that year, Carolyn Hitchin was born.  In 1955 John Hitchin died from a severe heart attack.  Ivy became a widow aged thirty.  And in 1956, Ivy’s mother died aged sixty-nine.

In late December 1956, Ivy remarried, to John Roberts.  John came from a long line of North-Wales’ Welsh men. Susan Ivy Roberts was born upon the 5th of October 1957. Soon after, Ivy’s third child Elaine June Roberts was born upon the 20th of June 1961. John Roberts died in my early years. My Gran remarried at the deathbed of her companion Ernest Freeman. She would pass away as a widow in February 2014 and leave behind family who miss her most dearly.

To be continued…

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

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J7: 2007-2011 Diary notes.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

I joined Facebook on the 15th of December 2006. That was much later than everyone else. I had enjoyed a reasonably sheltered life in Aberystwyth before that. There was little real need for the internet. I’d never had a MySpace, Twitter or such account prior to this. I’d established www.atfc.org.uk in 2004. That was my internet exposure. It kept me busy!


In the year of 2007 things became somewhat more confusing.  I decided to sacrifice life in Manchester to follow Nikki to university in Plymouth. I dropped off the Army Intelligence recruitment list (be it very late on) in favour of maintaining our relationship. I had no qualms with that decision, I would make it again in the flash of a synapse. However, I moved from a place with good friends and a relaxed homely feel to a place unfamiliar. My Granddad George Acton had arrived in Plymouth during the 1940s before setting sail for a global conflict. My conflict was closer to home. My nomadic life had seen me return to Manchester in 2006 for a brief stint at home. Work was proving hell to find. I had left Aberystwyth for similar reasons. Opportunity wasn’t knocking on my door and I was turning over every stone to find it! E-mails and text messaging made me feel close to friends but sadly these texts trimmed down.

 

A January saunter to Berlin helped things nicely. Oh yes, back to Berlin in January.  I arrived at Berlin Tegel on the 3rd of January 2007 (the day after Nikki had arrived at Schönenfeld Airport).  I clambered off the lime green DBA aircraft (despite flying with Air Berlin) and within minutes of arriving at the baggage carousel my ruck-sack was to hand.  I walked out of the arrivals doorway and to my surprise little Miss Brown was waiting for me.  After exchanging Great British Pounds for the Euro, Nikki introduced me to the public transport ticket machine.  The machine-printed ticket was very good value for money (even if the money resembled Monopoly currency).  So off we go onto a bus into the centre of Berlin to S-Bahn und U-Bahn Zoological Gardens.  We get an over-ground train and arrive at Waschauer Straße.  A short walk later and we were in the Sunflower Hostel.

 

On the 7th Nikki flew away from Schönenfeld airport and as she took off my eyes filled with tears.  This wasn’t right, I shouldn’t have been here alone.  I wanted to be with someone.  I couldn’t.  A city full of millions surrounded me, but I was alone.  I trundled, dawdled, plodded, feet dragging towards the S-Bahn station for my journey back into a more central Berlin.  My head torn about by thoughts of loneliness, when would I be back, and why I had booked those extra days.  The strength of mind I usually had, had deserted me, left me feeling vulnerable.  I opened the train door and stepped on board, taking a seat.  An irate German couple shouted something abusive about not closing the door on my way in.  It was icy cold.  I did not notice.  I could not see a button to close the door.  I ignored them.  My peril was worse than theirs.  My heart was lacking companionship.  It needed to feel camaraderie to gain warmth.  I sat in a seat far from any other.  The slow trickles of tears seeped down my cheeks.  I held my head down and dreamed of being somewhere else.  I could imagine Nikki sat on her flight home, listening to music, smiling, and comfortable. Here I was though, cold and lonely and far from home. Still, worse things had happened in this city.  Eventually, I relaxed as the journey took my North back towards the East of Berlin.

 

That next day, I visited Sachsenhausen.  It was a place that made me feel no hunger for food that night. Alone with my reflective thoughts I plodded the streets of Berlin and walked through the monumental Treptower Park (visiting a Russian Memorial). How could a human do those things to other humans? It was truly eye-opening and scarily funereal. The next day, I lightened the mood. I spent time sitting alone in a big park with red squirrels etc, following a visit to the Topography of Terror museum. Talk about bleak. As morbid and disturbing as the days had been, I believe to appreciate how lucky you are, and the losses of yesteryear, or for lessons to be learnt, all should learn about atrocities. We can’t go on this way.

 

My cold mood returned to Manchester in a mood of winter. I had spent the night sleeping in an airport because my budget was short by one day and I didn’t ask for help. My employers in Aberystwyth had failed to pay me – and they had conned me previously. Still, the paperback at the time made a whole night pass quickly. In that night, I had decided life in Aberystwyth must come to an end. Life in Manchester was not for me. I needed something new. Nikki was in Plymouth, and had been there since September. It made sense.

 

So, Plymouth it was. Being a Northern Man don’t mind the South that much. It was pricier, the water is shit but it ain’t all that bad. After all you could get Warburton’s bread in some of the supermarkets and there was the odd branch of Morrison’s down here.  The Northern invasion had begun. Beware! Life would never be the same again.  The monster was loose, and he was just starting to settle in. Making good friends in John Petrie, Andy, and Paul helped. They were originally Nikki’s friends but a few ales in James Street Vaults swayed them my way. Not that I was looking to usurp her friend group, even if Nikki would tell me so! Working with another Paul, Darren and Steve at Royal Mail in Plympton. Meeting friendly colleagues and playing football for Royal Mail F.C. helped. That and walks into Plymptom and the surrounding parks. Here was a good place to cycle but not a place I wanted to call home.

 

2008 – oddly, in this year, I kept a diary. On Friday the 12th of January 2008, I left Plymouth at 1435. I arrived at 0235 on Saturday. Long journeys between Manchester and Plymouth were the norm. It was only on the 17th of January, that I discovered blue cheese, and slapped a load of it with garlic on a homemade pizza. It was delicious. On the 11th of February, at Old Trafford, City ended a cursed run of defeats and draws stretching over several decades. “There’s only one Benjani, only one Benjani, he got lost on the way, so we don’t have to pay, walking in a Benji wonderland.” He only signed for City a little earlier that year. On March the 7th Astrid, (who had been struggling from late-2007 with mental health problems) ran away. She fled to London from the family home in Manchester. It was only the beginning of Astrid’s problems. One day, I will dig in, and try to write how much mental health problems affect us all. One day. By the 12th of March, my shooting boots found the net twice in a 4-2 win for Royal Mail F.C. since I had moved from striker to defender. On April the 9th, I caught a mouse whilst I was washing the dishes. I packed it in a Tupperware box and released it far away from the house christened the House of Wang, named after its strange-looking cacti. On the 19th of April I headed to The North once again enjoying a wander on Middleton Sands with Dad, Shaun and Christina. Two days later, and Astrid and I walked Bailey the dog on Highfield Country Park, Levenshulme. On June the 27th I watched Meat Loaf rock at Home Park, Plymouth with Mark from Royal Mail. The soggy weather didn’t dampen the Casa de Carne tour night. I would also see the same gig on the 23rd of July in Hamburg’s beautiful Stadtpark. The trip to Hamburg also featured City’s game at HSV, as well as a tour of the city taking in Miniatureworld, a submarine, museums, funfairs and great fish and chips. What a great city!

 

Whilst I’d been in Plymouth Nikki had left for around 6 months, to South Africa. Once again, I was left waiting. On the 5th of July she had returned. The day after, we caught a ferry and ate at The Bridge by Mount Batten, Plymouth. Two days later we visited Bedruthland Steps and Holywell Bay – enjoying great jam scones at the former, and crazy golf at the latter. Back to the North, I headed for my first ever running challenge, the Urbanathlon, a 10K assault course sponsored by Original Source shower gel. I completed it in a sluggish 1 hour and 7 minutes. I was never cut out or interested in such running challenges. By August Nikki and I had moved in together, in a house, in Heaton Chapel. On August the 2nd, I watched City at Stockport County and four days later I had completed my TEFL in Plymouth, before heading back to Manchester on the 19th to watch City versus Portsmouth. On the 29th of September I went to Wigan Athletic versus Manchester City with Sean and Tom, neighbours of my Mum. On October the 7th, someone stole my bicycle. I was in tears and shreds because bicycles have always been part of my life. On the 18th of October, I watched Jason Manford, a comedian before two days later three bands (Cure the Disaster, These Eyes Are Cameras and Wheatus) at Manchester’s Roadhouse. On the 1st day of November I walked around Lyme Park, eventually reaching the Lantern, witnessing many deer in the vast wilderness. On the 16th of November, I watched Irish comedian Ed Byrne at The Lowry in Salford. The weekend of the 22nd saw City face Arsenal and then the next day a comedy night with Paddy McGuinness. On Saturday December the 6th, I headed to London’s Craven Cottage to watch City at Fulham. My love for 6am bus journeys not present, as always. The following weekend involved winter bulb planting at Highfield Country Park and watching City, as always. Somehow, I managed to get to work on the 19th December 2008, having departed a bar the previous evening, and arriving back very, very late. I was full of blisters and had dehydration.

 

That New Year’s Eve, Paul, Eastham, John Petie and Abbie Matthews visited Manchester, having headed from Plymouth to The North. We all enjoyed New Year’s Eve together. By the 7th day of 2009, I had to wade to work in snow. On the 10th of January I watched Daniel Draig and Liev Schreiber in Defiance in the cinema. That was a good reward for a day’s winter hike around Lyme Park. On the 17th January, The Wrestler, at the cinema followed City’s 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

Following a great Christmas party at RAC Inspection Services, I went to watch Seasick Steve with my colleague Claire on January 23rd. Dessert was a lovely jammy Swiss Roll. The next day featured Valkyrie at the cinema. On the 27th, I watched City Reserves beat Newcastle Utd 3-0, before watching City beat Newcastle Utd 2-1 the next day. A walk and a daydream of a ride on the metal playground train in Phillips Park followed. The final day of the month saw a trip to watch City lose at Stke 1-0. A spell at the cinema watching Slumdog Millionnaire helped cure the pain of defeat. On the weekend of the 6th to 8th of February, I headed to Aberystwyth – and the game in Caersws was called off, due to snow, so a weekend staying at The Glengower and wanderings was had.

Like Claire, and my colleagues we all were told that we would have to relocate offices or take redundancy on Friday the 13th of February. Nightmare. I had only officially been working for RAC Inspection Services for a few months, following a temping job with them. I spent the following Sunday walking around Reddish Vale, worried that I would have no job and doubting the future. On the 17th of that month there was a question and answer session, the 20th a visit to Aviva’s Albert Square office, and on the 27th I had an interview with Jeremy Rouch for a job at Aviva. The last day of February saw Al Murray, Pub Landlord and comedian visit the Manchester Apollo. I watched his show and enjoyed it very much. On the 10th of March, Dave Armitage and Chris from Aviva further interviewed me. I moved offices on March the 23rd. On the 22nd of March, I watch comedian Andy Pasrons at The Lowry. Comedy like music and football was my escape.

On March the 7th, I stood watching lapwings on derlict carparks by the City of Manchester Stadium, before City Youth beat Norwich City 1-0. I was soon transferred to work for Norwich Union (Aviva) at Albert Square. In this month, on the 10th, high school mate Leigh Kenyon and I went to a players’ evening meeting then-City manager Mark Hughes, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany.


Other notes from my spacious and almost bare diary.

April 2009

13/4/09 – Easter event, Highfield Country Park

16/4/09 – City 2-1 Hamburg

23/4/09 – Mark Radcliffe book signing

10/4/09: is watching City v Fulham on Sunday, then has an Easter event at Highfield on Monday before the big one: City v Hamburg on Thursday. We will play much better. We can do it.

16/4/09: City v Hamburg

Greenfields to Standedge tunnel to Manchester along the Huddersfield Canal & Ashton Canal, 18/4/09.

25/4/09: Everton v City

30/4/09:  £369 for my 2009/10 seasoncard!

May 2009

Walked with Dad, Christina and Shaun around Hest Bank, 10/5/09

16/5/09: Spurs v City

June 2009

7/6/09:  Heaton Park.  Free Peace, Twisted Wheel, Kasabian, The Enemy and Oasis. I went to the urinals and a girl whipped her knickers down to have a pee next to me. Classy girl.

12/6/09:  The Doves tomorrow, then running the Pants in The Park 5K (28mins) run tomorrow on Sunday followed by Bill Bailey at The Lowry.

July 2009

5/7/09:  CITY OF MANCHESTER 10K (1hr9mins)

13/7/09: is off to Hyde U****d v City Res on Wednesday, training Thursday evening, at Live For City gig featuring Doves/Kid British/Twisted Wheel on Friday then off to Aberystwyth v Leev-urrrr-poooohl on Saturday.

23/7/09: cannot run the Moonraker 10K this Sunday, cannot train for a week more and is generally pissed off with this fecking reaction to one fecking bite!!!!

24/7/09: is recruiting a shovel/spade to did a hole and bury himself. This fecking bite has detroyed my fitness, moral, and left leg. New leg needed.

July 2009: Live from City.

August 2009

Morecambe, sunset. Saturday, 15/08/09. The night before I ran the Cross Bay Challenge half marathon. (2hr 31mins and 54 secs.)

30/8/09: went off to Portsmouth (v City) at 5am-ish. Bit far to travel for a pie, pint and some sea air…

September 2009

4-6/9/09: Bingley Live Festival/Ponden Guest House camp site [4/9/09:  the Undertones; 5/9/09: Doves; 6/9/09: Calvin Harris, Rev And The Makers, Futureheads, VV Brown, The Editors]

Stopgap Dance Company 19/09/09, Stopgap in Piccalilli gardens

24/9/09: has just opened his wardrobe door, grabbed a shirt and realised the wardrobe is purring. That pesky cat!

October 2009

7/10/09: first trip to Clacton-on-sea

19/10/09: has 2 days of work, then a muddle of running, music, cycling, British Track cycling championships and football. Perfect.

25/10/09: is off t’ footy t’ see t’ City v t’ Fulham, c’mon t’ Blues!

28/10/09: lonely birthday meal in Asda, City 5-1 Scunny in League Cup

30/10/09: wonders how Horseflies track him down. 3, That’s three bites this year! At cycling World cup which is awesome’

November 2009

1/11/09: HELLRUNNER. Delamere Forest. OFFICIAL FINISH TIME OF 3HRS, 5MINS AND 12 SECONDS!!!! RESULT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WAS 1428TH OVERALL OF 1521. – a stress fractured foot, a bruised knee, torn calf muscles, blisters but it was worth the ride

6/11/09: Paracycling, Manchester Velodrome.

December 2009

11/12/09-12/12/09:  work do/haggered bar tour with Anthony and his brother Steve. Great night!

12/12/09: Bolton v City

18/12/09: Tapas (Deansgate), Doves, Manchester Central.

What happened in 2010?

Sunday, 5/9/10: Rider number 45. Manchester 100 cycle ride, left 0730hrs, halfway check in 1230hrs.  Departed 1310hours, arrived 1530hrs finish line. Route: Wythenshawe Park, Knutsford, Northwich, Norley, Tattenhall, Nantwich, Middlewich, Wilmslow, Styal, Wythenshawe Park

January 2011

1/1/11 – City 1-0 Blackpool, went with Dan / Cinema: Gulliver’s Travels

2/1/11 – Day in DVDs

5/1/11 – City v Arsenal

7/1/11-9/1/11 – A trip to Plymouth

15/1/11- Revo Cycling after City v Wolves

February – April 2011

23/2/11-27/2/11 – Nikki up North

24/2/11 – City v Aris, with Dad and Uncle George

15/3/11-18/3/11- Nikki up North

16/3/11 – Manchester Cathedral, Cherry Ghost

9/4/11-10/4/11 – Colchester

14/4/11-18/4/11 – Colchester

23/4/11 – Newtown v Aber

28/4/11 – Court date regarding rent at place in Manchester

May-June 2011

5/5/11 – Reserves v Chelsea

14/5/11 – FAC Final: City v Stoke City

21/5/11 – Blue Square Final, CoMStad

22/5/11 – Bolton v City

4/6/11 – Avenue Q

July-August 2011

1/7/11 – Leaving do, Manchester

2/7/12 – Left for Norwich, departed 0742, arrived 1233, moved in same day

4/7/11 – Willow House, Norwich city centre – interview

7/7/11-16/7/11 – Cornwall

29/7/11 – 1/8/11 – Dublin

5/8/11-7/8/11 – London, Community Shield

15/8/11 – City v Swansea

16/8/11 – NCFC v Blackburn Reserves

27/8/11 – Spurs v City

31/8/11 – MEN, Arcade Fire

September-December 2011

16/9/11 – Holiday

5/11/11 – QPR v City

6/11/11 – Mark Watson, Colchester Arts Centre

8/11/11 – Andy Parsons, UEA Playhouse

8/12/11 – Shapi Khorsandi, UEA Playhouse

11/12/11 – Ross Noble, Colchester Arts Centre

16/12/11-19/12/11 – Dusseldorf

J5: University Challenged

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

The Marine Biology field course arrived, and with my tooth being so painful I really struggled with the work.  I submitted an incomplete report, managed to attend all the trips, but really struggled to motivate myself for the work.  It was not all doom and gloom, as I met Nicola Brown, well kind of.  I was feeling something completely different.  Her vibrant smile met my eye. I barely spoke to her but could not stop thinking about her throughout the field-course.  I felt I had to get talking to her somehow, someway, someewhere but chance never came my way, my injured tooth ruling out possibilities, and my lack of confidence to talk with her.  I did find her name via a friend, Rob Palmer, who was also in her Marine Biology field course group.  Nikki, Lisa Bates, and Rob soon hung around together very often.

 

My own football would go well for me, post tooth-extraction.  Having only managed three university Dig’s league games, a 4-2 win where I hit the woodwork twice! A 2-1 win, here I bagged my first university strike in ages!  And, a 2-1 win where I had to come off as my head was killing me!  On the 18th of November me and Rob, went to see Scouse comedian, Jeff Green (From A-Z) live at the Art’s Centre.  As comedians go he was the bee’s knees!  Rob later gave me the live at the West End DVD for Christmas, equally wonderful!.  On Saturday the 20th of November, I was working behind the bar, my first full night of being in charge.  The place only bloody had a fire (in the lounge bar, not the function room we were working in).  Anyway, Jonathan (Buzza), me and the two bouncers evacuated the Club house even though we extinguished the first fire.  Sadly, the fire must have reignited whilst we had been clearing the building.  Before long the lounge bar was devastated!  A sad day for the football club, and its interior decorated in historical memorabilia. I remember the sad eyes of Rhun Owens, then-long serving and devoted club secretary when he arrived to the smouldering remains.

 

On the 27th of November my-then brief ex-girlfriend Lisa Bates held a video night at her house in Borth.  She had provided enough of a buffet spread to serve a Glastonbury crowd twice-over, alongside enough spirits and wine to provide Borth with a new pub.  There was at one tsage twelve people watching movies in her lounge.  By sleeping time, Claire and Paul had gone to use Lisa’s bed, Lisa had gone to her spare room, Nikki, Rob, Rich and I were camped in the lounge.  I fell asleep the soonest; shattered by incessant tooth pain.

 

The funfair used to arrive in Aberystwyth on the last two Mondays of November, and the first Monday of December.  Never-the-less, Nikki, Rob, Lisa, Louise, Laura and Wyn joined me for the final two Mondays.  The Crazy Mouse rollercoaster (it claimed to be the largest mobile rollercoaster in Europe) and the extremely high G-Force were brilliant but I enjoyed going on other smaller rides, usually with Nikki, who was the most daring of the group! Our group being who they are we went on some fairground stalls and won some raffles.  I won three Caterpillars (of which I asked Nikki to mind one) and Rob, Lisa, Louise, and Nikki all won cuddly toys ranging from unicorns to monkeys. I never had luck with these stalls, usually.

 

The 7th of December arrived.  The day the tooth was to be removed.  I was so nervous I couldn’t eat breakfast.  At 12pm, the dental surgeon/devil was deep into the process of making me feel as uncomfortable as possible.  I have to say, that day was one of the scariest days of my life.  Did it hurt?  IT BLOODY WELL DID!  Half hour of X-rays, 15 minutes of assessment, 10 minutes of numbing my jaw off, and the final quick extraction, followed by a click as a crack in the jaw slammed shut, alongside me fainting on the way downstairs, did not make for an entertaining day.  The headache I had upon to then, for at least 4 months vanished immediately, and I will admit I was a tad dazed, confused, and physically tired.  Mentally I was shattered, but that didn’t take much.  That day I was driven back to Aber, via Bangor City versus Aberystwyth Town’s games (shhhh!), after all I just wanted my own bed, and to get back to normal.  On arrival back into Aber, I went round to Nikki’s and chilled with her and Rob.  I didn’t want to be alone.  I wanted to see Nikki, and get a good hug!  The next day I missed the 1-2pm lecture, favouring sleep.  I was going to for a gentle stroll in the evening, but decided on going to training with Penparcau FC.  You know how it is.  That was the best three-hour evening session I’ve ever done.  In reality, I was back, back and ready to go.  After that session, Nikki came around and gave me the best hug I had ever had, lasting a good few hours.  For some unknown reason we watched Santa Clause 2, The Aristocats, and GCSE Bytesize until 4am.  I let Nikki use Nige’s room (whilst he was away) for some sleep, as I collapsed in bed.  On Thursday night, Nikki came around again, which was wonderful, as she is great company and really friendly lass.  Yet again we watched DVDs into the early hours, but this time the hug was more warmly, and the urge to kiss her became overpowering.  However, all the signs were there for a kiss, but I didn’t want to risk our friendship.  I mean I’d fancied her since I set eyes on her in September’s Marine Biology field course.  Hands were close, arms wrapped around each other, heads leaning by each other, cheeks rubbing, and eventually the courage came to share a kiss.

On Saturday, I played for Penparcau out in Llanrhystud, scoring a crucial extra-time goal, we won 5-2.  That evening Nikki invited me to her friend Krissey’s roast dinner.  We went all the way to Trawsgoed.  The journey was a pleasant drive through the backs and beyond of Welsh countryside.  An excellent meal cooked by Krissey and her boyfriend later, a long chat with Nikki’s mates Harvey and Deanna before setting off back to Aber under the cloudless black sky. On the Sunday I missed playing football for the UWA Greens in the Dig’s League.  I took Nikki for Sunday lunch at Harley’s.  Things felt amazing.  I mean I’ve had strong feelings before for particular ladies, but at that time it was off the Richter scale.  On Tuesday night, Nikki made me stir-fry at mine.  It certainly beat the pasta I made for her on Wednesday night!  Ah, Wednesday night, a night of torture in training.  A 20-minute beach shuttle-run session, and long jog just to punish players for not turning up to training, proved to tire me out.  I could feel the aches and strains long into the evening!  I always give my excuses in well before not turning up!  But still teams get punished not individuals, but it does make you feel a damn bit fitter!

On Friday we went out for Nikki’s birthday, dressed as angels and devils.  Naturally I’m an angel, so I fancied a change and was as a devil (even though I hate red!).  We started at Nikki’s flat drinking Taboo etc.  In the Academy we met Gav Allen and a few other footy lads.  Not many drinks later we arrived at a heaving Varsity, where I lost my white-chocolate-vodka-virginity.  Interesting drink, looks like Rhino semen, tastes like rubber-chocolate.  In the Cambrian we had a few cocktails, as Laura and Debbie chatted up the bar stewards.  One taxi journey uphill later, and into the Union we went.  Good old Move night, and a great night.  Eventually 12am came And Nikki turned 22.  An amazing night and the Union managed an extra half hour of Christmas songs post-bar-closing.  On Nikki’s birthday we went for a cooked-breakfast, and then we strolled up the seafront and generally enjoyed the day.  I cooked a pizza (cheating with pre-made bases this time!) and we watched a film, and then Match of the Day. A leopard can’t change spots for stripes.  On Sunday, we separated for awhile.  Nikki had to tidy her house, and I had to tidy mine.  On Monday morning Nikki went home (Cornwall!) and so did I – for Christmas!   Over the Christmas holidays, I was mostly working on my University project work, and ringing the land of pasties to see how Nikki was. The easy thing about being with Nikki was we both allowed time to get to know each other and never rushed into anything.  The hugs and kisses we shared made me tingle and feel wanted; something I cannot claim to have felt before sharing these special moments with Nikki.

I haven’t really described Nikki, but even if I did, so I might as well try to remember her bac k then.  Nikki was kind, caring, interesting, articulate, cheeky as a monkey, lovely, warm, gentle, and everything a dream about a great partner would contain.  Nikki spent a year away from University working in New Zealand and seemed an expert on there!  Nikki and I got on so well because our interests were alike, she loves comedy as much as I do (but she quoted Little Britain more than I cared for!).  She was sporty (plays netball, watches rugby etc), and I’m football crazy, football mad!  There were lots of things for us to do, see and learn, and at the time I believed Nikki would be the one! At one time I was a city boy, lost in its vastness and devoid of any feelings for someone, but in the town of Aberystwyth I fell for Nikki.  That secluded spot revealed that I was no longer concealed behind a window, peering out at the views below and across. For then, I was free from that prison, free to dream once more, free to feel hope and push aside fear.  I didn’t feel like the luckiest guy in Aberystwyth, more like the luckiest person on Earth, or maybe the Universe, because somebody believed in me and cared for me, in ways that I hadn’t experienced.

Regular phone talk of when we would see each other again, and desires for the day to arrive carried us through the Christmas period.  We had arranged to spend the New Year in Aber.  The last hours of 2004, and the first few of 2005 were to be spent in the Glengower.  New Year’s celebrations at The Glengower’s Western Night were quieter than we all anticipated, however with me and Nikki, Rob and Lisa, Laura and Wyn, and Susan it was a fun night.  I was content with spending those moments in Aber. Back home, my one-time secondary school friend Emma looked at a picture of Nikki.  Em accused Nikki of being just a pretty face, which wasn’t fair as Nikki had a great arse and lovely legs too!  Nikki departed Aber on the Bank Holiday Monday of the 3rd; the day Penrhyncoch Reserves beat Penparcau 2-1 (They did field four Cymru Alliance players and a Welsh Premier player! It was a hellish hard game.).  Nikki had to finish her family holiday away. At least at home in Cornwall, she could concentrate on revision without having Mr Procrastinator 2001-4 distracting her. My personal revision was chugging along slowly.  One exam was so mentally hard, because I had tunnel-vision and desired to read up on other subjects too. I’d even spent hours writing a season of ideas for Aberystwyth Town’s football programme. I was not cut out for studying… or focused…

TO BE CONTINUED

J4: North Trafford to Aberystwyth

College began.  North Trafford College was not like school.  I had friends, of genuine qualities.  These friends would not think of me as someone lower than them.  I was an equal.  I was to enjoy great friendships with Alexis, Becci, Gemma, Danny, Serena, Jill and Darran over the coming years.  Outside of college I had my friendships with Dan and Rob.  Life seemed to be shaping up well.

Mum brought me City’s new laser blue strip for my 17th birthday, and I enjoyed a night out at Laser Quest with Dan and Rob.  I was really enjoying life.

On the 17th of November 1999 my best friend Pup died.  He had been around me for 17 years of my life.  Whenever I needed to hug, he was there.  He would always listen, and he would never judge me.  He was always there for me.  The news was heart-breaking.  I was in shock.  The Kangaroo-like, bounding, mongrel had finally passed away.  His back legs had failed him one day, and the Eccles RSPCA vets (where Rolf Harris was starring in Animal Hospital) had decided the humane thing would be to put him to sleep.  No longer would his floppy-great ears, his clumsy wagging tail, his facial glow, and his super temperament grace my presence.

I ran to my room, a tear shed for every fond memory of Pup.  So many memories of him licking me, chasing after me, fetching branches and sticks that I had thrown for him, playing outside together, and Pup sat on my lap in Dad’s car on long journeys.   Pup will never be forgotten.  He touched so many around Newton Heath and my family.  I even saved him from a fast-flowing stream in Clayton Vale one Saturday afternoon.  Pup was fearless, and so gentle.  You cannot compare him to any dog alive, or that has lived, but if you did then he would rank up there with the Red Dog of the Australian outback.

At college following a Christmas drunken kiss with Becci, things went rather unusual.  Becci was my college tutor, Elaine Lamb’s daughter.  This could have become rather complicated, but after the drunken kiss we both knew to go any further would be bad, especially seeing as Becci had a boyfriend.

The over-hyped Millennium eve came, and went.  In January 2000, I started a two day work placement at Blackpool Zoo.  This would happen every Thursday and Friday eventually curtailed by March’s foot and mouth crisis.  Soon I left my part time job at Co-op to work for Glynwebb DIY store (convenient alongside footballing commitments).

A new child was born into the Acton family in 2000.  Christina Acton was named after my late Nana.  Christina was born on Valentine’s Day, February the 14th 2000.  I now had two sisters.  Christina was born to my Dad’s partner Bernadette McWilliams from Greenock Morton.

Whilst at Blackpool Zoo however I met Caroline Wadsworth, during March 2000.  I travelled to Scarborough for a night out in her hometown.  Caroline was a Restaurant manager at a local hotel.  We met at the station, and went for a drink at a Wetherspoon’s bar.  We walked back to her flat.  We discussed our planned night out.  I would sleep on her sofa when we returned.  Caroline was five foot two tall, long black hair, round, slim build, and aged 28.  I was only 18.  That night we visited a few bars, and a club.  By midnight Caroline was extremely drunk.  We boarded a taxi and went back to hers.  On arrival I put her to bed, removing her leather jacket and covering her up with her duvet.  I could see no spare blankets.  I went to her lounge, and curled up on the sofa, draping my jacket over me.  I fell asleep. I was quite cold.

I made the text below smaller and lighter because I have been a tad graphic. But, flip it. I am not hiding anything. It has to be written.

That morning I was awoken by Caroline.  She lifted my jacket off me, took my hand and said I should have curled up with her.  She led me to her room and lay down in bed, pulling me up alongside her.  She thanked me for not taking advantage of her.  She undressed me down to my boxer shorts, and then undressed and placed a long t-shirt on.  A lengthy kiss followed.  I could feel my boxer shorts being removed.  She grasped my penis, and pulled it back and forward.  I decided to explore her with my hands, softly and carefully.  Within minutes she spoke, “Make love to me.” 
Being a virgin I panicked a little.  Once the trusted condom was on, my penis slid easily into her wetness.  I was inside her.  I could feel so much, tight around me.  She moaned and grasped my hair as I found myself going deeper and harder into her.  Her breasts were bright red with sweat.  She pushed me out of her.  Had I done something wrong?  She put me on my back, and then climbed onto me.  I slid right into her with ease.  She bounced so hard, moaning more and more each time, her breasts bouncing up and down.  She screamed and started to shudder, as I released myself.  I had lost my virginity and cum at the same time she had reached orgasm [I didn’t think that was even possible].  That day I had my breakfast.  Not long after she had elevenses.  In fact she made sure I had lunch, snacks, tea and supper for the two nights I stayed.  My penis was sore with overuse.  It had never been used before this trip to Scarborough!  The sex was amazing, and varied.  She performed oral sex, shown me many ways to make her orgasm, but I was beginning to feel used. 
The next weekend I visited again, all we did was to stay in and had sex.  We never chatted on the phone before my visit, I felt used.  It may seem like a typical blokes dream to be used, but I wanted more emotion.  I’m not just an object and detest being used as one.  She had achieved what she wanted, and boosted the local pharmacy sales of condoms but I wanted more. 

My final work placement for college was at Clayton’s Millstream Animal Sanctuary in 2001.  Here I assisted with cleaning kennels, and catteries.  I would also assist with feeding General the horse, and several goats.  I was also lucky to assist tame an extremely aggressive black rabbit.  The male rabbit had a small white patch under its neck.  It apparently was vicious to people, and had a history of biting people.  I lifted it straight up, sat it on my knee, as I sat on the floor inside the main building.  Bugsy as I affectionately called him responded well.  It never kicked out at me, or bit me once in the few months I was there.  Bugsy eventually responded well to other humans and found a home.  2000 being the year Dad had a second child with his partner Bernadette.  Shaun Paul Acton was born on the 28th of March.  I now had three brothers.

Back at Millstream, a cat named Aurora, a beautiful tortoiseshell cat, had to be kept close to the veterinary room.  Aurora suffered from a liver disease and needed regular medicine doses.  Her history was from a background of being mistreated.  She was not an ideal cat for homing, because she was so aggressive to human contact.  Within days of working up her trust, she clambered from her pen, and walked over my shoulders.  She rubbed my head with her body.  She would not allow me to touch her by hand.  This usually responded with a prompt scratch to my arm or head.  Aurora took weeks to allow me to pick her up, and stroke.  She was a beautiful cat, and I would have loved to given her a home.  Mum would not allow another cat because we already had Tigger and Sparky (Tigger’s mother).  I also had Sarah my tarantula (named after a girl I had a crush on, even if she was out of my league); Gizmo and Stripe my Russian Hamsters (who would often try to kill one another, thus resulting in me pulling them apart).  Gizmo and Stripe were adopted from an animal sanctuary.

After completing work placements at Heaton Park with college, Holland’s Exotic Pets in the Coliseum, Manchester Pets and Aquatics, and Blackpool Zoo I felt ready to take on a career.  I decided to apply for the Fire and Rescue Service.  The last few weeks of college loomed and Gemma hosted a sleepover at her house in Sale.  Becci, Danny, Alexis, Darran and I stayed.  We watched Lake Placid (Crap film) and numerous other films and gabbed whilst eating and drinking in Gem’s lounge.  Later on Gemma went upstairs to bed, Alexis fell asleep, Danny and Darran fell asleep minutes later.  I curled up in my blanket.  Becci lay behind me.  Becci kissed me.  I kissed her back.  My hands strayed, beneath her blanket, and below her jeans.  Becci was very quiet for the first five minutes.  All of a sudden she screamed and the others awoke.  She told them she had had a nightmare.  The flustered bright red face clearly lying but that beat admitting to what was really going on.  She lay back down, turned away and fell asleep.  Becci was always the selfish member of the group, insecure, and confident she could win any man’s heart over.  She would never win my heart. I am glad to have heard since then that she has grown up well.

In May I had my mobile stolen; in July I’d seen the band Wheatus again with Danny; and at this stage I had been forced to make career choices.  After passing several fire-fighters exams and tests I had a contract arrive in the post from Greater Manchester Fire Services.   On the same day I received an offer for a place in Aberystwyth University.  I had to decide between university and a career.  The decision was not easy but a few years at University would not prevent me reapplying for the Fire and Rescue Service.

During August I also returned to Barmouth for a holiday with Mum, Paul, Paul junior, and Astrid.  We stayed in Tudor House holiday flat overlooking the harbour.

On the 22nd of September 2001, 11 days after the atrocious attacks by terrorists on the U.S.A., I had departed for Aberystwyth.  Manchester City F.C. had beaten Sheffield Wednesday 6-2 at Hillsborough under the helm of Kevin Keegan. Dad’s packed Citroen headed east, packed full to the rim. Having been lost in Shrewsbury (possibly the only town populated by more roundabouts than people), we set across Eastern Wales and its many shades of grey clouds.  Many urination stops later in several bleak farm tractor entrances, and we arrived in Aberystwyth.  I and Dad unpacked all my gear into Cwrt Mawr Block B, room 15 – my home to be for an entire academic year.

Post-unpacking my Dad took me to Cwrt Mawr bar located next door to Block B.  Dad brought me my first pint in Aberystwyth.  Guinness, naturally, and served by a rather busty bar lady.  Talent spotting looked to be a good idea in this town.  Time was soon called, and we returned to my room.  Dad kipped on my bed, and I curled up under a blanket on the rock cold tiled floor.  Ah, luxury!

For Sunday morning we searched for a café or breakfast bar in the town at the foot of Penglais hill, no such luck.  We made do with Spar’s finest sausage roll and breakfast barm.  No sarcasm intended.  Dad drove me back to my highly institutional-influenced room, before he headed off for Manchester.

As I slowly unpacked, my new flatmates passed by my room.  Feelings came over me, pure shyness and unsure whether my flatmates would take to me.  I was feeling alone.  The day seemed to last forever, as I customised my imperial-institutional cell.  I fell asleep, tired and alone, wanting to escape, far from home.  Tears ran from my eyes.

The first Monday of the University term brought brighter light.  I met Mike, a fellow resident of Institution Block B, or Cwrt Mawr (if you like a more romantic tone).  We went to the students union and entered a Headways Group treasure hunt.  We started late on, overtook many teams, and still managed to finish first.  The secret clues were difficult, but we made it through to the Outback bar on the Llanbadarn campus.  I could see Mike doubted my navigational skills, but he could tell I doubted his knowledge of biology as we discussed our similar study schemes.  At the Outback, a free barbeque was provided, and we also won a £5 student union shop voucher.  This sweetened the burning sensation on my aching feet.

Many hours later I had returned to my room.  My head plummeted into my pillow.  I slept like I had not slept for a long, long, long time.  My day’s explorations with Mike, the square headed, spectacle-wearing Midlander had been fun.  To imagine what Mike looks like, simply watch the film Ghostbusters and look at Egon Spengler.  Mike was however around five-foot ten.

A night passed before Mike had arranged for a night out with several girls from Cwrt Mawr Block A (the other block next door).  Our other flatmates Dan, and Yaz joined us for a few drinks at The Glengower on Aber’s North seafront.  The girls from next door were Jen (a Southerner), Jenny (an American International Politics student), Lynette (a Brummie) and her room mate Kim (also a Brummie).  I wasn’t really interested in any of the girls (even if the theme night was Pimps and Whores night).  Naturally I wore my favourite purple shiny-top and silver dragon trousers.

The next day I met Kez (Environmental Scientist) and Mel (Drama student!), two more flatmates.  There was also Victor (computer scientist) and Lorenzo (an Italian International Politics PHD student).  That morning Mike and myself went to Block A to meet Kim and Jenny.  Lynette had been feeling unwell, and wanted to return to the Midlands and her parents’ house.  By the end of the day Kim’s double room was more spacious, as Lynette headed home from the University for the first and final time that year.  Really, I think Dan scared her off the night before at The Glengower.

Pretty soon lectures had began, and before long I and Kim were seeing each other.  Before long October popped up. POP!  On return to Manchester, I and Rob met up to watch Scary Movie 2 at the cinema.  At this stage I realised that most of my friends had moved on, William was in New Zealand, Dan was in the army with the Scots Dragoon Guards, Becci at Leeds University, and Alexis at Chester College.  It was a pleasant return to Manchester, and easy to get news.  I bloody well didn’t get much news in Ceredigion!  I rarely watched television.  I had to go on the net to discover most things or return home to watch the football (by football I mean the great Manchester City F.C.) My Manchester City FC were doing excellent and well on course to a return to the top flight where I was sure they would stay up this time.  At the time City were the best goal scorers in the U.K. football leagues too!  There was ONLY one pub in Aber which screened ITV Sports!  The Mill public house was tiny and packed solid if any game was on. 

By the end of the month, as is a tradition on my birthday I had added another year to my age.  I thought celebrating my birthday away from home would be awful as I turned 19.  Mel and Kez treated me to Profitero’s and presents.  That was very kind of them.  I was not used to surprises, so it was different and thoroughly enjoyable.  Kim returned from the Midlands with a cuddly Tigger and some chocolates.  Yummy.

During the month of October I also became involved with Aberystwyth Town F.C., a team from the then League of Wales (now Welsh Premier).

Everything seems to take 15 minutes:  getting ready to go out, cycling to work, an evening jog, having a quickie etc.  Yet getting to lectures from Block B took at the most 5 minutes.  This was convenient and had no excuse to be late.  The first year of University life wasn’t so academically productive.  I fucked up big time.  I did however enjoy University life, football, and the region so much that I would retake my year.  If I was to relive life in Cwrt Mawr Block B, there would be some brilliant or strange memories.

For a start my room was right by the kitchen, so every Tom, Dick and Harry who fancied a late night snack would likely disturb me.  We did not have a Tom, Dick or Harry living in our flat as I am aware.  Worse still, the toilet was located adjacent to my room.  An ancient proverb, probably would go as “he who sleeps lightly, be disturbed by the loo flushing.”

Our estranged flatmate Victor was proving to be rather unusual.  Several knocks on my door at 7a.m. revealed why.  Victor was revealed to be a campus stalker, who was eventually expelled from University.  This wasn’t the only trouble in Cwrt Mawr, bats in my wardrobe, and the Police calling at all hours, and this e-mail from a warden says it all: 


The University has a very strict Rule that forbids the possession of any form of weapon on its premises and grounds. Of course, this includes any form of gun or imitation weapon. Yet, I have been handed and have confiscated 3 “pistols” this term already! At least one is a BB-gun that potentially is very dangerous.  These disregards of a University Rule came to a head in the early hours of Friday, 1st February, when a student in a balaclava brandished a “gun” at another student “as a drunken lark”!
The man was arrested and may be prosecuted! Even if not, he will be subject to University discipline; as will any others caught in possession of a weapon! BE WARNED: Anyone in possession of weapon must dispose of it immediately or face the certainty of at least University discipline if caught!
Dr.R.B.Kemp, Warden.


Around Christmas time our flat shared a Christmas dinner.  Kez, Mel and Mike cooked, whilst muggings here had to wash up with Kim and Yaz.  That night I and Kim set a cuddly-musical toy, namely Frosty the Snowman, off outside Kez’s room, much to our amusement and Kez’s dismay.  Practical jokes dried up soon after Christmas.  There was only so much blown-dry cling film under toilet seats, washing up liquid down toilets, and booby traps that could be taken in one semester at University.

At the time, my attitude to life had changed, and I settled into the University life with ease.  I tell you what when I left University it was a shock to the system.  I had to get up at 6am, rather than go to sleep then.  Having sex in a single bed was absurd.  There was more food than beer in my fridge.  My fantasies of having sex with three women with lesbian tendencies was soon replaced by fantasies of having sex with anyone at all.  I no longer sought to volunteer for clinical trials at the local hospital.  I then knew all of the people sleeping in my house.  The bank manager didn’t be threaten as in previous years.  My friends soon would marry and divorce instead of getting together and breaking-up.  I went from 130 days of holidays to around 20.  Jeans and a jumpers no longer qualified as ‘dressed up’.  I didn’t spend half my day strategically planning pub crawls.  I even joined the campaign to “hate scrounging students”.  I no longer had a strange attraction to road signs when I was under the influence of alcohol. I no longer took naps from noon to 6 p.m.  A £3 bottle of wine was no longer ‘pretty good stuff’.  I remembered the name of the person I’ll wake up next to.  I actually ate breakfast foods at breakfast time.  Either Way University was easier to understand than most things – okay the work was extremely hard and often led to bouts of depression, and insomnia.  It is not as cheap as I thought it would be, survival of the fittest, or Darwinian Theory is thrown full blown into contention. Not that any of this paragraph is accurate. University was different to life afterwards.

My second semester lectures started in early February and already the lectures were engaged on revision and exams.  I tried my hardest but felt a little unconfident the moment any chemistry or mathematics was thrown at me.  It was not easy being a John, but someone had to do it.  I had already signed up with 5 friends (Mike, Kez, Mel, Yaz, and my new friend Tom) for a building in the next year in town (on Baker Street), it worked out about 15% more expensive (plus electricity bills) than my first University accommodation, but second year students did not get any priority in accommodation next year.  The Baker Street maisonette was located in farting-distance of the station, town, and seafront.  It was, however, a mile from my lecture rooms on the Penglais campus.  This University has the fittest University students in the U.K.  No surprises!  It also boasted one of the U.K.’s highest suicidal rates, not really that nice a prospect.  For the second semester I had more practical work scheduled, more hours of learning (about 24 in 5 days ) and several trips to Borth Animalarium (8 miles North).

One Wednesday in February I had a football match at 2.30pm (at Blaendolau) which I seemed to dread for the fact that the team I played for (Officers’ Training Corp FC) appeared to be the most unorganised club ever.  They were 12-0 down when I came on for the second half against Gents’ Society UWA FC, we lost 12-1!  It was awful.  However, when it came to playing for University teams over the years I’d find more disorganized units as time flew by.  However the next match we won 4-0 in the league against the Beerkeepers’ FC.  I got 90 minutes to run around and chase the ball.  We played a friendly against the American Welsh FC and we were winning 5-0 when I was badly tackled.  The two players sandwiched me as I ran though on goal.  The ball left my feet and hit the net, I was crushed.  I had a bruised rib, dislocated knee, and several bruises.  They both received straight reds, we won 10-0.  I never got to play in the league or cup matches until just before Christmas where I made a start.  My knee was still troubling me a little, but seeing as only 11 people turned up, I had to fill in at Left-back position…. Well for 15 minutes until my legs were taken.  The player was only yellow carded.  I hopped around for the remainder of the game, made the odd challenge, no subs were available so I did my best – we lost 6-1 against a side we beat 4-0 (Beerkeepers’ FC).  Luckily it was only a cup game.  I managed another few games that season for the Officers’ Training Corp F.C. as we progressed to the quarter final of the Dig’s League.

Me, Mike and many other students regularly went down to Park Avenue and watch our adopted local football side Aberystwyth Town F.C. in the League of Wales; it was fun and Rhodri Giggs (brother of Ryan Giggs) played for them, and he was surprisingly good.  It was a youthful side, some old City players have been here with other League of Wales squads and Malcolm Allen played there too!  This seemed pretty amazing for a club I had never heard of, let alone seen until I came to Aberystwyth.  Aberystwyth finished 9th in season 2001/02 having beaten Connah’s Quay on the final day of the season.  Connah’s Quay had a postponed game the week later to move above Aberystwyth Town and qualify for the Football Association of Wales Premier Cup. Aberystwyth Town didn’t, but they put on a good end of season.

The Aberystwyth Arts Centre had an excellent exhibition programme and was one of the few venues in Wales acknowledged by the Arts Council as a Centre of Excellence.  It also offered you an excellent programme of exhibitions and many courses in art, drama, dance and music.  But for those who enjoy the outdoors, a bracing breeze and horizontal rain, with a football between your feet naturally.

The University playing fields represent the jewel in the crown of U.W.A.’s sporting facilities and are located on two sites.  The nationally renowned Vicarage Playing Fields, some 16 acres, are home to the U.W.A’s. first football, rugby, tennis and cricket teams.  The immaculately maintained facilities are the flagship of excellence and have been the envy of visiting teams for years, plus they were bloody good to score upon. Such was the quality, that the University was able to attract prestigious external user groups such as the Ian Rush Soccer Tournament, and even professional football teams.  The other, and larger, site is at Blaendolau where equally impressive pitches occupy some 34 acres.  Here, in addition to the many UWA team fixtures, was the venue for the Digs’ League football.  A further asset of both sites is their close proximity to the main campus, the town and student accommodation, thus making for easy accessibility.  Also, many goals were to be scored on this field.

Kim finally visited Manchester in May 2002, and we went to watch ET re-released at the cinema, and Kim met some of my family.  I had shown her the local Highfield Country Park, where somehow I managed to get splinters in my bottom-cheeks.

There was one particular walk which began like any other ordinary walk during May 2003.  Kez, Kim, Alana, Mike, and I were all walking along the south beach of Aberystwyth.  At the time I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.  The sun was beating down keeping me very warm.  I had my sunglasses around my neck and a baseball cap on.  Tethered around my back was a small bag with a juice bottle, my mobile phone and other small keep-sakes in it.  Mike and I decided to speed up a little and explore this newly acquainted area.  We then went around the most southern point of the cove.  There before us lay rocks and crags at the foot of tall cliffs.  The cliffs looked strong.  Mike and I looked around the rocks finding the lower left mandible of a sheep and a few strange shells.  I then started to ascend my way up a sloping cliff (elevated around a 150-degree drop).  The bottom ten metres proved to be easy to climb.  The mid-section was not as easy but at the same time not too difficult.  I reached a point about five metres from the summit of the cliff face.  The ledge I was stood on became un-easy as if ready to collapse.  I turned around ready to descend slowly to the foot of the cliff.  The ledge collapsed.  Rocks tumbled beneath me.  The rocks bounced off crags in the cliffs, spiralling into the air dramatically before impacting the pebbles and crags below.  There and then I felt I could get myself back to safety.  I gasped hold of the protruding rocks to my right (southerly direction).  They crumbled.  The sea below hitting the pebble beach viciously became drowned out.  Panic had hit me.  To my left (just north) I could see Kim, Kez, Mike and Alana chatting and relaxing on flat area of rocks at the base of the cliffs.  The loneliness set in.  I thought fast what I should do next.  I waved with both hands as if needing help.  No response from the happy people below.  I signalled with nine fingers flashing them repeatedly.  Still there was no response.  I then took the extreme of launching my bag high into the sky and letting it drop half-way up the cliff.

Now they noticed me!  Then I realised that I had thrown my phone downwards inside the bag.  Luckily, Mike clambered up the cliff within four metres of me.  I could smell his aftershave.  I told him about the situation I was in.  A messy situation I was in.  He tried to tell me his situation but I exaggerated the situation I was in.  He phoned the emergency services.  As he was phoning my right foot slipped from beneath me.  The ledge had crumbled further.  I had only one place to put my left foot and use my right hand now to prop me up.  Below me loomed a fateful place to land.   I could do nothing but hold on.  Keep holding on.  Nothing else could be done, I had to hold on.  Mike chatted to me (upwind) although little of what he said registered.  My right arm was numb.  It had to support over ninety kilograms.  My left leg seemed to be slipping continually.

I constantly had to find a new footing.  Slate and stones were crumbling around me.  Rocks were tumbling down below.  I tried not to watch them.  Mike told me how the emergency services were on the way.  Kez, Kim, and Alana were sat there on the smooth rocks safely.  Even as I held onto my life I had to direct somebody to stand on the road around the side of the cliffs to wave down the emergency services.  Looking at my watch it was 1700.  I had been there around 15 minutes already.   Mike laughed, “at least it’s sunny!”  Then I looked out to see.  The sunlight became covered by clouds.  Briefly a beam of light shone through.  I pictured it as a stairway to heaven.  It felt so surreal.  I imagined a voice beckon aloud, “this way John”.  Then I imagined the Earth below tear apart to the sound of Take That singing “Relight My Fire”.  Should I choose Heaven or hell?  I’ll choose… life!  It was becoming cold; I shivered, petrified of the fall below, nervous twitches rocked my left leg repeatedly.  The leg I needed to hold myself up was numb and shivering rapidly.  It slipped off several times.  Only my quick instinct recaptured my stance of security on the cliff.

The emergency services came at 1740.  A police car led three fire engines, an ambulance (to reassure me – they told me it was a precaution), and a mountain rescue jeep.  The sound of sirens will always remind me how warm I felt as they came down the seaside road.  Within minutes, two firemen were below to my right unable to reach me.  One was above (also, unable to reach me).  The Mountain rescue team had set their winching equipment up and an abseiling man descended downwards to me.  He stood in front of me.  They than fastened a belt around me.  He hooked the belt onto the abseil line.  We both slowly walked upwards with my legs spread apart painfully to balance the weight.  I looked down at my extremely pale legs, cold.  It was very cold.  A few scratches displayed blue tints around them.  My skin was icy.  At last I reached the summit.  It was better late than never.

An RAF Air Sea Rescue Sea King thundered around above me and the rescue workers.  The noise drowned out the sea below.  Air thumped downwards causing me to collapse.  A paramedic greeted me.  He wrapped shiny tinfoil over me. The down-thrust from the helicopter above unwrapped the shiny tinfoil.  The helicopter moved into position.  A winch man manoeuvred downwards.  He hooked the paramedic onto the winch and sent him up alone first.  The winch man comforted me as we waited.  Then the winch came down empty.  He hooked himself on.  He strapped me in with two harnesses.  I loosely lay (almost floppy) as we winched up slowly.  A down thrust of air hit us, the cable span around causing me to hit my head on the helicopter.  My mouth caught on the winch man’s jacket.  Blood ran out of my mouth as I pulled forwards to avoid further injury.  They placed my on a seat in the helicopter and we thundered off to Blaendolau fields where we touched down.  They carried me to the ambulance and placed me on a stretcher.  The ambulance raced off to the hospital.  I was in a hypothermic state and tachycardia.  I had a sore head but nothing too serious.  By 1920 hours I was in hospital and being warmed up.  I was lucky.  I owe my life to my friends, the fire brigade, the RAF helicopter rescue service (coastguard), the paramedics, and the mountain rescue teams.

The 6th of June was the date that everyone looked forward to at the Student Union.  Wheatus’ tour passed the seaside town, my Wheatus album overplayed, and the atmosphere heated up.  Me, Kim, Kez and Mel were first in the queue, and the over-enthusiastic I was right at the front.  The band did not disappoint.  The disappointment came when Kez, Kim and Mel left straight after the concert.  I wasn’t confident enough to stick around asking for autographs on my own!  At times like these I wanted to escape University and join the Amy.  That was not a spelling mistake; just I’d rather have met an Amy than been with Kim.

In summer, I wanted to return home.  Home is where the heart is, and at that time my heart must have been in Sesame Street.  And then, when I did return home, I ended up returning back to Aberystwyth for the summer period. In June 2002 Mike, Yaz, Kez, Mel, Tom and I moved into a new maisonette on Baker Street.  This would be our accommodation for 2002/2003 during term.  Mike immediately started work in Clarach alongside me.  His irritating jokes, easily wound up and over competitiveness got too me.  I left work within days.

I started a job at Spar on Terrace Road, and Mike would eventually leave the Showboat in Clarach opting for work at Caffi Morgan in town.  My friend Em visited from Oldham in summer, she left having been freaked out by Mike.  She told me how he tried it on with her after she had left Aber.  This surprised me, knowing Mike and Alana had been going out for a few months.  September soon arrived, and Mike set about making me feel small.  Our new flat mate Tom steered clear of Mike.  I tried my best to avoid competition with Mike, but he insisted on reminding me how I had failed my first year and he was now a successful second year.  He was in charge of the Biological Society and was even a player for the new UWA Greens F.C.(which I had invited him to play for us).

Tom and I became good friends, and we often walked to Clarach on our free afternoons.  Tom was originally from southern England but had been living in Newport (West Wales) with his mum.  Tom studied Computer Science, enjoyed movies, liked to talk, and was ambitious.  He was also a good person to have around in order to build my confidence up.  Tom was planning on moving to Canada once he left university in 2004.

As a flat we had our Christmas lunch together.  Kim and Alana were both invited.  I was called immature by Mel for wearing my Christmas Hat on my ear.  I was pretty much told to grow up.  For some unknown reason the entire flat was turning against me.  I would walk into the lounge and a conversation descended into silence.  An argument with Mel, about a CD that had gone missing (and I said Mike had it) resulted in Mel telling me to drop my grudges against Mike, and grow up.  I said some pretty harsh words at her.  We both slammed doors, I smashed a glass.  Later Mike returned the CD to Mel.  The grudge was now in full flow.  The grudge was against Kez, Mel and Mike.

In January 2003 when there was only me and Mike at the house we cycled to Devil’s Bridge.  This took our mind off revision and allowed us to keep our friendship intact as there were many heated moments prior to this.

In May 2003 I went to the May Ball.  It was supposed to be just me and Kim, but Kez, and Mel joined us for most of the night.  Mike shown off on the bungee jump, and anywhere he could when he was with Alana or any of the girls.  The only thing I enjoyed was seeing the Blues Brothers Tribute Band, and Kim did not seem too keen.  I was made to follow her around all evening.  Kim and I were hitting rocky waters.  I was tired of being ignored when she came round, and tired of having to go to Kim’s for quality time together.  At Kim’s house on Prospect Street she would go off to talk to Jenny and leave me alone in the room.  I felt ignored.

I turned to football and watching DVDs with Tom.  At which stage Kim accused me of not wanting to spend time with her.  I wanted to escape the relationship.  I would not however as her best mates Mike, Kez, and Mel lived in my flat.  I did not want a potential split to cause repercussions in the flat – it was difficult enough already!

Kim told me how Mike, Kez, Alana, and Yaz were going to share 2 Pentre Jane Morgan together for their final year.  I was invited but did not want to join the others.  They had not liked me turning down their offer, over the fact I wanted to meet new friends being a year behind them.

For summer I went home to work, and relax.  I hoped the break apart would do me and Kim good.  It seemed to work.  We met up to go to Birmingham’s Sea Life Centre and Chester Zoo whilst taking it easy.  Kim even came to Llandudno with me for a pre-season friendly.  We stayed in a hotel, had a meal and went up the Great Orme.

Kim invited me to her cousin Emma’s wedding in Preston.  A wedding should bring people closer but it only made me feel more distant.  We arranged to go to Cardiff to see Manchester City play TNS in a UEFA Cup game next.  We stayed by the university and watched the football.  Kim finally met my brother Ace and my Dad.  She was very shy acting.  I could not work out why.  Kim had nothing to be shy about usually.

The end of September arrived and I moved from Manchester to Aber once again.  This time I was going to return to university halls.  I was to move into Ty Caron, room 3, flat 1.  I met Jon Hughes and Simon who lived in the room opposite my own.  Gemma and Rachael lived behind the door to my right.  Vicky and Sarah lived in the room to my left, by the bathroom and opposite the kitchen.

Jon Hughes was originally born in Northern Ireland in 1984.  Jon Hughes, nicknamed Buzza had lived in Liverpool from an early age.  Naturally he had no connection with Manchester.  Like many others in the World who are not connected with Manchester, he supports Manchester United.  Buzza was a student of English.  Jon shared his room with Simon, and International Politics post-graduate student.  Simon was from Poland, and interesting to talk to about world affairs.

As part of my 21st birthday present Kim brought me tickets for Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure show (at the Aber Arts Centre on December the 7th).  Kim did not come out for my 21st as she was ill.  I started my celebrations at noon in Yr Hen Gorsaf (the Wetherspoon’s in Aber).  Steve Lynno, Tom Foster, the twins and Stew Spink departed with me for Caersws.  In Caersws we started at The Red Lion public house.  We were met by Matt Hemsley, Sonny and Cher (real names unknown), Matt Cooling, Mark Cornock, Nige Carr Evans, Mike Watts, and many others.  I did not need to buy a drink that night!  Everybody seemed to buy me a drink.  We then staggered to watch Aberystwyth lose 3-1 to Caersws in a FAW Premier Cup game.  After the game we went to the Caersws F.C. Social Club, and departed by train to Aber. We spent a few hours in The Bay, where Claire Robbins joined up with us.  Afterwards we went back to Claire’s house to indulge into American Pie 2 and a few drinks.

I spent my third New Year with Kim after Christmas 2003.  This one was not as fun.  We did not really do much.  This boat was certainly going to hit the rocks soon.

By February and as a means of escapism I and my friend Matt Cooling decided to go for a day out up the Cambrian coast.  We visited Llanaber, Barmouth, and Harlech.

A small group of Behaviour Biology students was invited to Chester Zoo for a conference on Environmental Enrichment in mid-January 2004.  This was an ideal day out, and also a good way of reducing the travel time spent alone from Manchester.

Dad, Ace, and I watched and FA Cup game, in which City drew one apiece with Tottenham Hotspurs in late January.  City had already beaten Leicester City in the FA Cup.  The replay was screened live on Sky Sports in the Snooker Club.  Nige (City season ticket holder and university porter), Wattsy (season ticket holder at City, and a university porter), Tom (from my flat in second year), and Adriano (co-owner of Evola hairdressers in Aber, and a keen City fan) watched the replay in which City was three nil down at half time.  Joey Barton had been sent off.  City came out in the second half scoring through Distin, Bosvelt and Wright-Phillips.  City’s keeper Arni Arason (the Icelandic number one) made some superb saves to keep City in with a slim chance of reaching extra time and penalties.  Jon Macken produced a fourth goal in the dying minutes sending City through to a FA Cup at Old Trafford.  The game versus Spurs was amazing, and they did eventually bring a DVD out!

On the day of February the 18th 2004, Wales beat Scotland 4-0.  I went to Cardiff with Sidelights (who does know where the accelerator is).  We watched Wales and then returned to Aber.  Kim had a go at me for preferring football to a Valentine’s meal.  I tried explaining why I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day gives a neglectful or aggressive husband or boyfriend the opportunity to be romantic by sending a commercialised card or gift to a supposed love one.  That idea to me does not suggest romance or love.  I secretly did not want Kim to think I loved her, in case she loved me.  We were going to split up, but not whilst she was deep into her year three project work.  She did not have time to talk to me, so I was stubborn and would wait until after her work was handed in.

On the 26th I waited for Kim to come and join me at the Football Club.  There was snow knee deep, but Kim decided she would rather sledge with Mike and Alana than see me.  This created major tension. Kim handed her Dissertation work in on the 12th of March.  We split up on the 13th of March.  On the 14th of March Bangor City beat Aberystwyth 2-1 at Park Avenue Stadium.  I had found Kim’s presents for her birthday (31st of March) in my cupboard.

I decided to pass these onto Kim the day after I went to Manchester to City win 4-1 in the home derby game.  Manchester United was turned over thanks to goals from Fowler, Macken, Sinclair and Wright-Phillips.  I was sat two rows from the goal-end where Macken and Fowler had scored.  I was feet away from Macken when he celebrated his goal.  The 15th came and I met Kim on the seafront.  We walked towards the castle, I handed her the presents and some personal possessions.  Kim handed me a bag with a T-shirt and jacket I had left at hers.  We hugged and said goodbye.

Mike Bagnall came around the next night.  He was dressed up for a night out.  He asked if he could go in, I offered him a drink.  I looked outside the window to see Harry (Jenny’s boyfriend stood across the road).  I knew Mike was looking for trouble.  He wanted to know why I had split with Kim.  I said how it was not meant to be.  He started to get personal, saying how “I had to retake first year and had nothing but resentment for him.”  He even accused me of not having a best friend called Dan back home.  Because Dan worked for the Army and the Iraqi crisis was going on, Dan could not visit.  Mike told me I made him up, and he is just in my mind.  He asked to see a photograph of Dan.  I did not have one to hand.  I asked him if he was looking for a fight.  He said, “Yes, let’s go outside.”  I replied with, “If you want a fight, we will have one right here, and I guarantee you will not walk away.”  That reply must have scared him because he was quiet for a few moments.  He then said, “Right mate, I’m going to have to go, as I am going out tonight with friends.”  I liked the way he exaggerated the word friends, it reminded me how I had lots of friends from football, university lectures (e.g. Rob, and Susan), and home!  He offered to shake hands, but I would not.  He was no friend.  I showed him the door.  I had shown great resilience in my room, as he was probably the first person I have ever wanted to hit full force in the face, and then continue beating him to a pulp until he no longer made a sound.  The difference between me and him then was I’m capable yet restrained.  He was incapable yet a loose cannon, looking for a battle he could never have won.

Term passed quickly, lectures with my imaginary friends Laura Baker and Rob Palmer passed quickly.  On May the 22nd Aberystwyth Town Football Club held its annual club dinner awards night.  I received the David Pugh Sportsman of the Year and the Clubman of the year award alongside a Spar Mid Wales Winners cup.  I received these awards for helping the club progress in the previous season.  I had assisted with advertising, managing the Astroturf, helping with the matchday programme, and being available on matchdays etc.  The committee of Glan Davies, Rhun Owens, Jim Edwards, Ian Pugh “Sidelights”, Anne Jones, John Dunn, Alan Cookson, and company had voted for me to be Clubman of the year.

On the 2nd day of June 2004, a good friend, Chris Howells assisted me in moving into 48 Gerddi Rheidol.  Another good friend, Nige Carr Evans was renting a spare room out to me.  My final year in University was to be spent living across the river Rheidol in Trefechan.  48 Gerddi Rheidol housed a recently decorated kitchen, a luxurious lounge with two leather settees, a cool bathroom, and my room located facing North into the town.  The view was of many gardens from a nearby terraced housing street, with a brief glimpse of the Kiln Bridge (opening in 2004, and spanning the river Rheidol).  I returned to Manchester on the 3rd in order to spend a few days relaxing at home before my new job for the University Managed & Leased Properties services as a Porter.

On the 5th of June 2004, I was supposed to watching England F.C. face the Icelandic football association team at the City of Manchester Stadium.  England would win 6-1.  But due to a few drinks the night before with Pete, and his mates this never happened.  We started off rolling dice in the Goose on Piccadilly to decide which public houses we would visit next.  As we could not collectively decide which public house to go to as a group, we decided on six towns in close proximity.  Stockport, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Blackburn and Blackpool were chosen.  After we had decided many hours later, I ended up rushing home to grab my rucksack.  I packed my clothes and things ready for my return to Aber on the 6th, as I had to start work on the 7th.

By 9pm, we were on a Virgin train heading due south for a village known as London.  We had planned to stay at Pete’s friends’ house that lived in Charlton.  By 11pm we were in a bar, and slightly tipsy (the crate of beer on the train journey not helping).  Midnight passed, and somehow I became separated from Pete and his mates.  My phone battery had died, and my rucksack had disappeared.  Somehow, I ended up lost, lonely, and with only the contents of my wallet to help me get out of this mess.  I was approached by a student called Susan, who studied Engineering at Uxbridge’s Brunel University.  She brought me a few drinks, and eventually asked me if I wanted to go back to hers for a drink (in the Nescafe sense or not, I pondered?).  We headed back to her lodgings at her university.  We seemed to talk the whole night away, and then gently fall asleep, Susan in her bed, and me on her sofa in her room.  It seemed she did not just want to jump on top of me, and given the state I was in, I did not blame her.

Also, I made the text below smaller and lighter because I have been a tad graphic, again. Like I said, flip it. I am not hiding anything. It has to be written.

The next morning I woke up, crept to her bathroom, and a quick wash, using her towel, and then squeezed some toothpaste into my mouth and swilled it round as intensely as possible.  This seemed to do the trick, it certainly felt fresh.  What about deodorant?  I looked over at her Sure fragrance free roll-on.  It did the job.  I moved stealthily back in to get dressed, and managed so successfully.  At that point her bedroom door opened and in walked Susan, already dressed.  It appeared she had already been up, dressed and been to have breakfast without me knowing.  At this stage I was fully dressed.  She came over and I said thanks, and we hugged.  Hugs led to kisses, kisses led to her feeling my back, my shirt came off, and we ended up naked.  She said she wanted me in her.  She grabbed me close; I pulled away, and said, “I’ll just get a condom from my wallet.”  I said this praying I had one there.  She said, “Don’t worry we don’t need it.”  I reached into my wallet anyway, and tore the condom wrapper open.  I placed it on, better safe than sorry.  The first time we were intimate was kind of rushed, and the second time we both reached orgasm at the same time, but the third time that night lasted hours (kind of burning) but we reached orgasm and managed to finish off the three condoms in my wallet.  That is why they come in packs of three I think.  I stayed that night, and Susan gave me a lift to Heathrow station the next morning, we waved goodbye, agreed it was just fun.  Eight hours later, and three changes I arrived in sunny Aberystwyth. 

On the 7th of June 2004 I started work for the University Managed and Leased Properties as a Porter.  A Porter is just a glorified cleaner.  The boss, a Bernie Virgin was a smarmy camp guy, obsessed with targets.  The targets were always met, but he would insist on going over the targets again even if they were perfectly clean rooms in the first place.  His number two henchman was Jane Morgan, mother of staff member Will.  Jane was equally as irritating as Bernie, but with the added attribute of treating each member of staff like a child.  This did not go down very well (not like a room full of ladies in a Mardi Gras special hotel).  Many rebellions were planned, very little action occurred.  Mike and Lynwen were related to senior management and could slack off as much as possible.  Ron, a very nice American (is that a contradiction?) left in mid-July as he set off on a round the World tour starting from Bristol at his girlfriend’s house, and taking in America and China.  He was the first to leave.  Will left without telling his Mum that he was moving to Ireland to live and work alongside his fiancé.  Will had footballing experience in Carmarthen, Haverfordwest and was a very skilful footballer, but his knee injury in 2003 cut his football ambitions short.  For some unknown reason his mum Jane, and the supervisors, be they Marina or Mrs Jones, seemed to think me and Will worked hard together.  I had been working alongside Kai (Chinese super-worker from Shanghai) for the first week, and we had done more than our quota.  The supervisors mixed me with Will next, and he taught me the key to skiving off from work.  We were supposed to clean the hallways of Aberglasney house, Plynlimon, etc. but we managed to sit on the stairs chatting all day.  One day we even managed to sneak onto the beach and watch the day go by.  Mike left next, after Will.  Jurah (a Kiwi, based in Gloucester) departed next as he wanted more time with his Taiwanese girlfriend for travelling.

Little Andy had worked there in the previous two summers, and had already learnt how to avoid work to a perfection from Will.  He was always twinned with big Andy “Dogs” who soon learnt where to skive, smoke as many roll-ups as possible, and relax away from the superior staff sights.  This was some comparison to doctorate student Julie and Lynwen who seemed to enjoy working hard all day without breaking, yet achieving the same results as the lazy many.  There was also Vicky and Lindsay, who worked slow but steadily as they were always victims of supervision.

Ouday was also working in Aber for yet another summer.  He explained he wanted to achieve his masters in Business Studies so that he would not have to return to India to a pre-arranged marriage.  Ouday may have been the quietest guy in the group but he was a very interesting person to talk to (naturally whilst skiving from work).

I, Kai, little Andy, and Jurah met up with Jon Hughes to watch the Castell Rock outdoor bands perform on the 19th of August 2004.  It was the laziest Saturday on the Aber Castle grounds I’ve ever spent with some of the friendliest co-workers I have known.  We even met up to see the odd film at the cinema, Kai especially enjoying Kill Bill volume two.  He, like me being a big kid at the time, except he was twenty-six years of age!

On the day Aberystwyth Town faced Dinaburg in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, I was selling matchday programmes (as edited by myself, but poorly assembled by the club photocopier), and trying to avoid Mum, Paul, Astrid and Paul who had travelled to Newtown to watch the game.  A parent’s partner in front of team-mates, friends, and colleagues whilst clearly under the affect of a few local bitters was funny, yet a bit irritating when all you want to do is watch the game!  Still it was fun.  Aber drew a goalless game with Dinaburg on the 19th of June 2004, but lost 4-0 away in Latvia.  Sadly, I was working that day and could also not afford the trip.

In 2004/05, I was determined to return to playing regular football one way or another.  On the 17th Of August training at Penparcau F.C.’s Min-y-Ddol began. The first session went well, however in my second session a football hit me on the lower side of my left jaw.  The impact had caused a molar tooth to crack, and had also forced the tooth deep into my jaw.  At first it was not too bad.  Eventually pieces would fall out, and the pain would be agonising beyond belief.  A constant headache was with me for a long time.  I could not find a dentist locally or in Manchester.

On the 7th of August, Matt Cooling drove me and Mike Watts up to see Manchester City F.C. in a home friendly versus Lazio.  City won 3-1.  The journey was hot, the day was hot, and the wasp that landed on my ear causing me to run 100m faster than athlete made me feel hot. A summer worked towards a close, my final year of university was due to begin…

TO BE CONTINUED.