(I actually wrote this on Saturday)

Well since my choices, just at the moment, appear to be “further bloody packing” or “draft blogpost” I thought I’d go with the latter. And, yes, I know I’m kinda running three months ahead of the curve, here, but I thought I’d lash up a quick retrospective on the last twelve months or so, which is more or less the time since I moved down to Wallingford.

Wallingford is a really nice town; it’s got a lot of the “proper” English town feel to it, which I’d previously assumed still existed everywhere, and which got me really depressed when I realised that, actually, no, everywhere’s either conglomerated and horrible, like every town in Telford, and their soulless repetitions of Woolies, Aldi and First International MegaBankCo (formerly Local Market Friendly Society, LTD) .

Wallingford’s a bit better than that. It’s got a Waitrose (and dear God I am going to miss Waitrose when I’m back in Aber. (Quite apart from selling absolutely everything, at a moderately viable selection of prices, they contrive to have the largest collection of ‘Female till staff qualifying for the adjectives ‘young’ and ‘nubile’ that I’ve ever seen in any shop, ever, which really takes the aggravation out of queuing for twenty minutes while the old lady in front of you buys a bottle of gin with pennies…)

But, in addition to Waitrose, we’ve got a really strong local choir, which kept Ruth busy, a bunch of bell-ringers who were all very cool and friendly, a Pizza Express that Dan and Claire got us more or less kicked out of (In that we were in the back bit, and they started saying, in loud and pointed tones, “Should we shut the back now?”), a brilliant dude in Threshers, who never seemed to mind when we went in and asked for help picking white wine (“What are you looking for?” “Well, crisp, dry and refreshing, really…”) and my favourite bus company in the world, ever, Thames Travel.

Thames Travel, alone out of every bus company I have ever travelled with, have, to my knowledge, never been more than three minutes behind schedule. Except once. And, on that occasion, Ruth and I spent the entire delay saying how amazed we were that the bus hadn’t come yet, and wasn’t that weird, perhaps there’d been an accident and they’d had to shut a road?

(This is in incredibly stark contrast to Stagecoach in Oxford, who are the only bus company I have ever used where, when you stick your hand out to flag down the bus, the driver stops, opens the doors and then, as soon as you are on the bus, says [and I’m not making this up] says, in sarcastic tones, “O, thank you very much for making me stop. I’m really going to get into town on time now. I’m running late already, you know!” – Which, of course, held us up even longer, because I was so preoccupied trying to work out if he could have really just had a go at someone for using his company’s shoddy late service that I didn’t bother to tell him where I wanted to go, and asked him to repeat himself instead. But I’m going off on a tangent again. Sorry.)

Wallingford also possesses the Corn Exchange, a great little theatre-cum-cinema, owned by the local Am Drams, the Sinodun Players (Who also mostly comprise the local Choir, and every extra in the background of a Midsommer Murders ever), with whom I did Panto for the most exhausting January my life has ever compassed.

The only problem I have with Wallingford, really, is it’s terminal shortage of anyone I care about, beyond the people in the house. Caro and Jerry are great people, and frequently very fun to be with, and I’m very fond of them, and, of course, Ruth, when she was here (as opposed to hiding in Norfolk) has an amazing talent for making everything seem better… Beyond that, though, I don’t really know anyone. I know that my amazingly well paid boss (in contrast to me, at least) lives round here somewhere, because she’s caught the bus with me a few times, and I’ve always assumed that if she wanted to have anything to do with me outside work, she’d make the approach, and have thus treated her more or less like everyone else on the bus, ie, I’ll smile if we happen to meet each other’s eyes, but otherwise I’ll not attempt contact.

I know a few people vaguely from Panto, but not very well; I’ve had a few proper conversations with them, as well, but I don’t really have any actual friends down here. I think that’s party why I started to hate my job back in November (The main reason, however, was that I kept making really stupid errors – due, as it eventually turned out, to the fact my glasses were actually working against my eyes, which probably only I could manage – and Gail, who was supervising me, got increasing impatient and voluble in her criticism of me, which made me incredibly reluctant to interact with anyone in the office, ever. [If, as seems amazingly unlikely, Debbie Hazel is reading this from somewhere in Canada, I’m sorry I didn’t have the guts to go to your leaving party; I didn’t realise it was happening until everyone else was already there, and I didn’t have the courage to walk into a room full of people who spent about five hours a week listening to me getting called thick and incompetent. It wasn’t personal, and I’m sorry if you thought it was]).

Anyway, back in November, when all the bad stuff was going on, Gail (fairly reasonably, as assumptions go) decided that the reason I was making errors was because I’d periodically tab into IRC, and see what the Aber people were saying. She promptly forbade me to go anywhere near the thing, which had two effects: firstly, my productivity went absolutely down the tubes, because work ceased to feature anything remotely approximating to light relief, and secondly my alertness fell to nothing, as well, because I stopped drinking coffee in my coffee breaks, and instead used them to catch up on scrollback and say hello to anyone about at the time. That was unfortunate, but I got over it in the end, and sacrificed large bundles of flexitime to take two-hour IRC-laden lunches instead.

It’s only now, thinking back, that I realise I was actually really lonely. How weird. I don’t really remember being lonely ever before, although I must have been because when, years ago, people who didn’t like me at school demanded to know who my friends were, I listed names of people I’d been at primary school with, and hadn’t, in fact, spoken to for ages [which I did, of course, because I didn’t have any friends. I used to sit in the Library and read Jennings and Molesworth]. Also, a memory has just surfaced of me faking a couple of signatures on the cast I got when Tom Perry broke my wrist, which is literally pathetic… Well, anyway, it doesn’t matter now, because I’ll be coming back to Aber – brilliantly described by Ruth’s smarmy kid brother Robin as “Ah, Aber! Land of plenty!” – in a few days, and everything will be better.

I think, on balance, I like my job, even if it’s ruined my eyesight [I used to loathe the idea of glasses. It is probably very fortunate that I happened to first need them at the same time as we were all watching Evangelion, and I suddenly realised glasses could look cool (providing you can get the light to bounce off them so nobody ever sees your eyes…). The only real quibble I have with them is the way they seem to get laden with smears even when I’m really careful not to touch the lenses. And I do like the people in the office, and I’ll miss the crazy politics, and the almost stereotypically mental decisions of upper management (my favourite ever was the one that said “Will all staff please not that being unable to attend work as a result of the recent heavy snow is unacceptable…”) I think I could grow to like working in an office…

So, really, it will be strange, I think, to be leaving. It will, however, be brilliant to have the Uberflat, and some actual space to ourselves, where we can loll on the sofa and eat TV dinners if the mood takes us, without displacing Caro and Jerry’s desire to watch the West Wing (I still think I could really grow to like that show, but I’ve no desire to start watching it from the middle of series five, I’d be horribly confused!)

And it will be good to be living with Paul, I think (our last attempt to do anything of the sort got kyboshed by the Porters, and then Elaine Watkin forbade him to live at Hafan, with the words “I know Paul very well, and I’m very fond of him, but he never listens to a word I say, so I’m telling you: if you have this accommodation, Paul is not allowed to sleep there, understood?”).

I’m looking forward to Troma and Geek Nights, as well, and, well… everything. Except for the bit where I cease to have a) a job, and b) a thousand pounds paid into the bank every month. That’s going to take some adjustment, I think. Also, faintly tragically, looking forward to buying furnishings and things for said Uberflat and generally making it “ours,” rather than “random cool-looking flat I looked round once, for ten minutes.”

Of course, first I have to finish packing, and I can’t properly do that until Friday morning (Once everything else is loaded into the van, I can pack up the computer and stow that, as well). Current plan is to leave Wallingford by 10:00 at the latest, swing, incredibly briefly by Newport, to load up whatever the Hell it is from Hafan that’s left in the entry (and the proper speakers for the computer, and possibly the SVGA monitor for the DOS box, which, I guess, the Rev will take to Aber in November, if not before) and then be away from Shropshire by 15:00. So I should be back by the evening on the 28th, barring accidents (yes, I have used my last remaining day of holiday to go home a lone day earlier than previously planned. Shut up.)

It’s been a great year, it has. It’s just some of the really best bits (the Real Ale Ramble, the narrowboat holiday, Cropredy, Edinburgh, and so on, have all been bits that didn’t happen actually here. Mostly what’s happened here is that I’ve commuted, learned to sleep on buses without fearing for my actual physical safety like I used to, and counted down the days until I get paid again. It’s not been unpleasant, but it’s been very tiring and the payoff hasn’t always been grand. I think as long as I can get something to keep the money coming in, I’ll be happier in Aber.

Bring it on, then, y’buggers. Bring it on…

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  1. On September 24, 2007 Jon says:

    You needn’t miss Waitrose. They do home delivery under the name Ocado. http://www.ocado.com.


  2. On September 24, 2007 Mister JTA says:

    Not to Aber, they don’t. If only they’d bought the Morrisons in Newtown, they might’ve bothered, but at the moment I think the nearest one is Newport… Hm. Might be able to get my mother to ship stuff over, now I come to think of it…

  3. On September 24, 2007 The Pacifist says:

    There’s one in Abergavenny which is only 50 miles away, but unless you’re driving it’s going to take you a couple of hours to get there….