Tonzura Koite!

So. Farewell

Home from
2003 and now

Distressingly young depiction of JTA, in Penbryn 9-31. Note the hair bobble...

(Distressingly young depiction of JTA, in Penbryn 9-31, circa 2003. Click to enlarge, whereupon you can note the hairbobble(s), the keys, and nascent beard.)

Yeah. I’m offski. And I can’t tell if I’m sad to be going or not.

Technically, of course, I left once before, and I couldn’t bring myself to blog about that either – the best the Internet got was a post about how I’d made it back to Newport – but at that point I was still hoping I’d be coming back again once Ruth finished her Industry Year, and I wanted to keep quiet so as not to jinx things.

This time, though, I’m not returning. Yeah, I might come back for a few days here and there, but I’ve come to realise that I can’t live here anymore: it’s simply time to be going. There are no jobs here, and Ruth is away in Oxford, and by the time you account for the people leaving in the next four months or so just about every friend I have in town will be gone anyway.

Most of them, in fact, have already gone: of the people I was in Penbryn with, nothing beside remains. I feel like George, in the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, and in itself I think that’s a good reason for me to be getting out.

<em>(Three of the people in this picture are off in search of Earth, two have already left Aber, and the other is a Frisbee)</em>

(Three of the people in this picture are off in search of Earth, and another two have already left Aber. I think the frisbee got lost...)

I feel like I’ve gone off Aber lately, and I blame having too much to do. This is an absolutely fantastic town to live in, but if your definition of ‘living’ has been reduced to ‘fit in as much work as you can and see if you can free up an hour or two for sleeping’ then wherever you live will have the magic knocked out of it. This town used to feel like home, and lately all I’ve been doing is counting down the days until I can get out of it, and won’t have to do so bloody much all at once anymore.

The past year has burned me out like never before and I’ve just not had time to appreciate the place – it’s the same feeling as when you get to the end of the day, and no matter how interesting the radio show, all you want to do is get some sleep. Indeed, I’ve had that feeling quite a lot lately, mainly around 04:00 when I’ve tended to realise I’ve not been to bed for yet another night on the trot. If this is the end of the day, then, it’s been a damn long and busy one.

It’s been productive, though. In my time I’ve seen what lies beyond the secret door in the balcony of the Old College Library, explored the attics of the Queen’s Hotel and been inside the excuse for a Civil Defence bunker beneath it.

I’ve eaten in Branwens and survived it, and in Ta Med Da and seen no difference. I’ve seen Alexandra Hall rebuilt, the derelict platform reconstructed, and found all three of the University computer rooms in town. I remember when there was a Dixons, and there were Pink Floyd covers painted on the wall of the Fountain, and the shop run by Cyril the World’s Most Disreputable Locksmith was still doing a brisk trade in, er, keys. I’ve watched as Galloways went down, and Harry’s turned from an expensive swanky restaurant to an expensive manky themebar and I’ve ridden the mythical Disco Cab with all the interior lights flashing.

I can remember the awesomeness of Stu, a man who used run Aberystwyth’s only 24 hour taxi service on his own, and I barely have the digits to count the number of times he came through for me at four in the morning. He got burnout too, small wonder, and yet once last year we were sat in the back of a taxi out to Morrisons and reminiscing about the days of Stu, and how we’d missed him after he went, only for the driver to turn round and say ‘It’s nice there’s still people who remember me,’ in a final glorious swansong.

<em>(I\'ve seen a type 40 TARDIS on fire <s>off the shoulder of Orion</s> out the front of Alex Hall))</em>

(I've even seen a type 40 TARDIS on fire off the shoulder of Orion out the front of Alex Hall)

Even though I’ve had seven years, I’ve managed to do an awful lot in my time. Back in the first year I even had time to do some acting with the Nomads, and delighted old James Ellington by singing Bravely Bold Sir Robin whilst being sick into a bucket (his fault for giving me whisky on top of wine. And wine on top of cider…) And then when I was too busy for AmDram, I taught myself to stay awake all night, to live on coffee, and to map my network drive from a Citrix box so I could sit in the dark and play Uplink in the quiet hours.

I’ve spent far more hours than is healthy cramped up in tiny rooms with a stream of nervous Freshers with their faces blurred into a succession of panicking expressions without a name, and I’ve spent a summer alternately commuting to pack chocolate in Tywyn and shouting down the Guild until they crawled away spattered with the gore of their own failed machinations and embarrassment.

I genuinely believe I managed to do some good, somewhere along the way, and by my standards that ain’t a small concession. I’ve certainly known good people, and I can’t help but hope that some of their attitude to life has rubbed off on me. I suspect that’s why I’ve finally managed to loosen up a bit, and to have more time for people (or at least those people willing to toe the line), and I no longer lock myself away behind austerity the way I used to: I’ve gone through more’n half this year wearing jeans, for goodness’ sake.

(<em>Probably the first photo of me in a University context. Genuinely, I am the only member of the cast wearing my own clothes and not a costume)</em>

(Probably the first photo of me in a University context. I was the only member of the cast who turned up on the first day wearing what turned out to be my costume. And I still can't stand to hear 'I touch myself' on the radio...)

You didn’t ought to come out of University anything like the same person you went in as, or you can’t claim to have been properly drawn out at all, but it seems a shame that I’ve been changed into someone for whom a lot of the magic of Aber has gone. All that stuff I’ve done, and yet it feels like I did it somewhere else, somewhere less cold and less grey and somewhere… somewhere easier. I think that’s the real problem, it feels like the Aber I was in love with ain’t the one that’s here now, and in a lot of ways that makes sense. Aberystwyth is a beautiful place to be a student because it’s friendly and safe and secluded, and it gives you time to come out of school, and work out who you are, and who you want to be, and it lets you find the path between the two in your own time.

Once you’ve done that, I don’t think it’s such an easy place to stay. Sure, you can hang on, but it’s like being in the wrong gear, somehow, and you can tell you’ve overstayed and you’re cluttering up the place, and you’re left watching as all the old ways die out, and new ways get invented and you can’t help but wonder what the old guard would’ve made of ’em, and that just makes you feel lonely.

Once you’ve become a dinosaur in your own time, it gets harder and harder to stay, you have to fight all the time not to point to the next incoming asteroid even when you know it’s none of your business and might well be no such thing anyway. That’s a bloody tiring way to carry on, and every day is a bit more of a disappointment as you realise that you’re still here and everything’s moved beyond you. It’s possible that a lot of what’s given me that feeling is down to the pressures of this last year – seriously I cannot stress enough how hard it is to do a full-time postgraduate course and multiple paid and unpaid jobs – but I feel like there’s something more, too. I dunno what, but knowing doesn’t matter as much as the discontent anyway, and in some ways I feel like I already lost the place, and the sadness at leaving is just caused by admitting that defeat…

I’m not quite out of love with Aber, but it feels like this is the end of my time: the golden age is past and the sun’s setting, and I need to give Aberystwyth time to rest, and move myself on. Above all, I need to make space so that all these new people can get the room they need to work out what they’re going to make of themselves. I’m not much of a one for signs, and I’m glad I stuck the course long enough to meet Finbar, but if ever there was a sign that my work here is done it’s the arrival of a Fresher who dresses better than I did…

What I’ve got out of Aber is as much as anyone can hope to get out of a University: experiences. Some of ’em bad, most of ’em good, and all of ’em a chance to learn a bit more about myself and other people. If I’ve got some actual booklearning accidentally tucked away in there, so much the better, but it’s an incidental bonus to the value I already extracted.

I’ve still got a stack of packing to do, and I’m looking forward to reaching Earth, and I will be glad to be gone, because if nothing else I need to give my brain a rest from all the constant juggling of roles it has to keep up in Aber.

But I’ll come to miss the place all the same. I can’t be sorry yet that I’m going, because I really have been here too long, and it’s well past the time I can appreciate the place. I think I’ve done good work here, though I’m too exhausted to carry on with it and it’s time I let both of us get a decent night’s sleep. But, in the same way as I know it’s time to be going, I also know that by the morning I’ll be missing it again. And that’s all the more reason to start making a move.

<em> The War Memorial against the sunset, May 29<sup>th</sup>, 2005.</em>

The Sunset over Castle Point May 29th, 2005.

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  1. On May 29, 2010 The Pacifist says:

    Is it possible that the reason you’re feeling ambivalent about Aber is because for the last few months you haven’t actually had time to experience it because you’ve been too busy?

  2. On May 29, 2010 Mister JTA says:

    Yeah, it is. I did try to say that somewhere in there!

  3. On May 30, 2010 Matt in the Hat says:

    I really like this post.
    Whilst reading it I thought that it should be required reading for students and distributed with the Freshers Packs, but then I realised that they wouldn’t understand it. I don’t think second years would necessarily understand it and those third years that were sure they understood it would gloss over many of the details assuming that since they’d reached the end of their degree they knew it. Having read your ‘blog over these last few months (and years) this post is a beautiful final paragraph, indeed to your entire time in Aber. But I would like to add some affirmation, as a post script, if I may.

    “I genuinely believe I managed to do some good, somewhere along the way, and by my standards that ain’t a small concession.”

    I can count on two hands and both feet the number of my friends who would say something like this fishing for a compliment.
    But when I read it in your ‘blog I worry that you are selling yourself short. If you are then I ain’t buyin’. I ain’t letting you cut your own throat. You’ve done a great deal of good in that place and you’ve done it in the best way (and in the way, I suspect, that you most appreciate): the quiet way.

    You said that you’ve known some good people and I humbly submit that I might be amongst them. But, with equal humility I will say that I would not be the man that I am today without having known you.
    I remember you adding one sentence to the end of a long and protracted group discussion that totally dissolved my argument in its entirety and you did so without even *thinking* about directing it towards me but to defeat the logic of the wrong position.

    Furthermore, when I was in a bad place and acted badly towards a person we both love you handled your situation with such grace and dignity that, when I think back on it, only deepens my embarassment at my own immaturity. Whilst I only saw only one side of the character you showed during that time, it was of a measure to which I hold myself to this day.

    Aberystwyth will be the poorer on your departure.
    And if I’m the only one who feels this way then I’ll eat my hat.

  4. On May 30, 2010 Simon says:

    That’s a great blog article. Thanks for sharing. Gotta say some of it strikes a chord with me.