So now, not only had I gone back a year in school, but due to my time in hospital, I was not going to be able to start at University straight after finishing my A Levels, as planned. I had a place in Reading (if I’d got better grades, I’d have been able to go to Bristol), and my dad did take me to look at possible accommodation. But I was not going to be ready in time, so I had to take a gap year.
Jer had a few ideas and one suggestion was that I went on a kibbutz, so I did that. That was quite good fun, I suppose. I was there from about January to March, 1993, I met lots of different people from around the world. I shared a room with a guy from South Africa. There was different work to do, whether it was picking apples, or packing apples, or machine assembly work. Sometimes you had to be up at about 4am, but at least the hours weren’t excessively long so you had a good amount of time to do other things after finishing work.
Twice a week there was a disco, with free booze, so we all used to get pretty sozzled. We were also given free cigarettes if we smoked, and a small amount of pay. Most people’s favourite brand was Noblesse, if only for the comedy value in the name.
Even though we were in Israel, it was right up in the north, so was actually pretty chilly sometimes, especially at night. I think it might even have snowed once. Occasionally, there were scares of a bomb raid.
It was while at this kibbutz that I cheated on Helen for the first time. She’d done it to me countless times, so I decided, what the hell? There was a girl, also from South Africa, who I had a little thing with. Nothing serious. But anyway, my dad decided he was going to come and visit me. He’d come over round about Valentine’s Day and had brought a Valentine’s Card for me from Helen. It was a very nice, hand-painted card depicting the Owl and the Pussycat, which I’d never really thought of before as being romantic. We’d never spoken about the story that I could recall, so I wasn’t quite sure why Helen chose this scene. But it was a very nice card, nonetheless.
Anyway, I spoke to Helen on Valentine’s Day on the phone. She did ask me if I’d been with anyone, and I did confess I had kissed someone – I didn’t tell her more than this. She seemed to be accepting enough.
I think I then spoke to her again a couple of days later. Maybe this time I owned up that I’d had sex. I can’t quite remember the exact order of events. In one of these conversations, Helen also told me she was pregnant. Obviously, this came as a bit of a surprise, and was not the best timing. Helen had started Uni in Leicester, and one time when I’d gone to visit her, she had said something about wanting to have a baby, and we’d had unprotected sex. I don’t think I’d necessarily taken her that seriously.
Well, anyway, I don’t quite remember, but I think I was a bit mean to Helen on the phone saying it wouldn’t be a good idea for her to keep it with us going to different universities, etc. Helen did decide to terminate the pregnancy, and I suppose I regret that now, as now, speaking as a forty-seven year old, childless man, who is unlikely to never now have children, I probably do wish I had had a child, and Helen, I’m sure would have made a great mum. I only found out exactly how Helen terminated the pregnancy a few years later when Julian told me, and I’d rather not speak about that.
I spent the last couple of weeks of my time in Israel in Eilat which was a lot different to being on a kibbutz, obviously a lot warmer being in the south. It was a reasonable break all in all, a good way of clearing my head a bit.
Helen and I did carry on again when I got back – in fairness, Helen was fantastic the way she stuck by me even while I was ill, in hospital, etc. but when I started Uni in the autumn of the same year, we started to drift apart.
My first year in University was quite a fun time, filled with friends, parties, drink, drugs, but not much sex. I was in Halls for my first year. We were expected to attend a formal dinner at the start of the first term. For some reason, everyone was asked to stand to sing the national anthem. I was not going to sing God Save the Queen so I remained seated, and a guy from Shrewsbury called Iain who I’d befriended and was sat next to me also refused to stand and sing.
I made friends with a slightly older mature student called Richard who was American. He was quite a big dope smoker. I sometimes went round to his room first thing when he would “wake and bake” (roll a joint). I was turning twenty-one just a couple of weeks into the first term, when most students were not even nineteen yet, but a lot of them helped me celebrate. Maybe the fact that I bought a crate of beer and took it to my room helped.
One time, a few friends and I were smoking in my room. I had gone out for a couple of minutes, only to get back and find one of them had set fire to the carpet! They were just calmly sitting around as if nothing really had happened. We were all cautioned, and I think the guy who started the fire was billed, but I don’t think he ever paid.
Of course, you’d also meet people from other halls when you went to lectures and seminars. There was a girl from a nearby hall that I got friendly with within the first few weeks and I think she came out with us on my birthday. We were just friends though.
A couple of guys and I did of course indulge in the common practice of going on hall crawls to meet new people. One time, we went to one hall, and across the room from us was a girl I’d had my eye on a few times in Philosophy lectures. I’d named her the “Secretary Blonde”. This was my chance to actually go and talk to her. However, I made the fatal mistake of inviting my friend Mark to come with me.
The two of us went to talk to this girl, who turned out to be called Kirsty, and her friend, Kathryn I think. But Mark struck up a conversation with Kirsty and would not stop talking to her! I was left to chat a little with Kathryn. This was definitely not the plan at all!
Kirsty and Kathryn started to hang around with me, Mark and Richard. There was also a friendly Belgian guy called Fred. We were a bit of a gang. But I was still hoping that I might start going out with Kirsty. Helen and I were more or less over by now, though still friends. She came down to visit one time, and got to meet Kirsty, which maybe wasn’t the brightest plan either as I think this might have put Kirsty off.
After maybe a month or so of us all just hanging about together, one night, I thought I’d go and visit Kirsty on her own and ask her if she liked any of us, and if so, who, etc. This was a bit of a silly thing to do. It was just awkward and didn’t go well. I remember around about this time, Kirsty and Mark were getting on a bus to go to London together. I don’t think they necessarily minded me coming with them, but it seemed as if I shouldn’t, so I didn’t get on the bus. Maybe soon after that, Kirsty and Mark became a couple.
Again, I don’t recall the exactly when, but during one holiday, when I was back in Bridgend, I did get quite a nice letter from Kirsty which made me think I might still have a chance with her. Because we sometimes called her Crusty, I sent her back a short note on a crust of bread. Can’t remember what I said, but I think she thought it was quite funny.
I must admit, Kirsty was not the only girl I fancied in Uni, or should I say, was desperate to try and get into the knickers of. There was Helen (another Helen!) who was in my hall. We were encouraged to join societies while in University, and I had started a pretend society called HelSoc, which was supposed to be the Helen appreciation society. Helen did not like this. At least I did get off with her once when she was drunk, I think.
There was a girl in a different hall who I liked, partly simply because she was Welsh, but also, she was pretty and a bit of a music fan. But I never had any chance with her. She was one of three or four girls that I labelled as Targets. I appreciate this will sound incredibly sexist. But say she was Target No.2, well there was also Targets No.1, No.3, and No.4. I don’t think there were more than four. Kirsty was probably Target No.1, I can’t quite remember. But I might discuss these targets with my friends when we were having our meals in the canteen. “I saw Target No.2 in the bar at the Union today,” I might say for example. Or Simon might say, “I think I saw Target No.3 buying fags in the Spar earlier.” It was like I had spies working for me. Feel free to chastise me for this, but on the other hand, with this sort of attitude, you can appreciate why I wasn’t getting any action.
There was a fantastic club in Reading called Checkpoint Charlie. It was a techno club, held once a month on a Thursday in a small venue called The After Dark. I’m not sure at what stage we started going there. But once we started, we went every single month without fail. The atmosphere was absolutely superb, and they got some pretty big name DJs, even though it was a small place. They never announced the DJ until the night, which made things doubly exciting. The likes of Carl Cox and Mr C played there, but our favourite was a guy called Billy Nasty. Anyway, it might have been at Checkpoint Charlie that I first spotted Zoe.
Zoe, I would discover, was a second year Philosophy student from Newport. She was very pretty with short hair, so I imagined she probably also liked indie music. The most incredible thing about her though was the way she danced. Most people at Checkpoint would be raving away, arms flailing all over the place, just like you see in videos from the time. But Zoe’s style was unique. She would just go left to right, left to right with her feet, nothing more than that, all night. It was quite hypnotic (I’ve just recently learned that this is technically called “two step”). Sometimes, I’d be in a corner, arms and feet flailing away, but sometimes, I’d edge closer to Zoe, and copy her style for a bit. She was another person I was a bit too wary to try and approach. She seemed a bit too cool.
Richard and I took our first E at a house party, probably later on in the first year. The first time, we took just half each. But we definitely enjoyed it and got a buzz from it, and from then on, we’d usually take a whole one each, maybe about once a month. They were about £15 a time in those days, and quite strong. There was a really nice guy called Toby, a real wide boy, who we would score speed off occasionally, maybe pills as well.
Although I’d originally thought that going to Reading would mean visiting London a lot, I didn’t actually go to London all that much while I was in Uni. One time though, we did go to Club UK in London. We did Es there, Toby was there, it was a good time. I remember us staring at a poster for the Orb’s Pomme Fritz as we were coming down from the E on the platform of a station in London.
But I would encounter Zoe on a couple of other occasions. I’d gone to see Pulp Fiction in the cinema twice. The first time, Toby and his mate Simon were there and we were drinking and smoking and having a laugh. The second time, I went to a different cinema I think and I went with Richard. We went in and found a seat. Then I looked to my left, and there was Zoe, just a couple of seats away from me. Well, surely this would be a reasonable time to say hello, I thought. But I just didn’t. I somehow managed to go through the whole film without saying anything to her. We saw her and her friend outside afterwards, and I still stayed mute.
One good thing was that a friend from school, Stu (from Andrew’s year), was also at Reading. I think he started the same year as I did. He was in a hall right the way across the campus from where I was, just off campus. But I’d pop across to see him quite often. Stu was pretty good at making friends, and did have quite a few friends, including female admirers. He liked a bit of a drink. He used to joke about holding the record for the most wanks in a day. We were not necessarily that close as friends while in school, but now we were in the same Uni, we did become quite firm friends.
Stu was not heavily into music, although he was partial to The Smiths. But the main thing we had in common was a love of football. I think I can rightly claim to have got Stu into following Cardiff. We were able to go to a couple of away games while in Reading, such as Wycombe and Barnet. Stu usually had a girlfriend, and one of his girlfriends came to a game with us once. There was a red headed girl who was nice, but very Christian, and Stu couldn’t quite go along with her churchiness.
Helen from Bridgend was a redhead too, and in fact for a while, it was almost as if I had a thing for redheads. I went out with a girl I’d known from school, Emma, for a short time. She came up from Bridgend on the train for my birthday once when I was in my second year, and now living in a shared house, almost falling off the train drunk. She was quite nice – an excellent artist – but it was never really meant to be with Emma. Jesus did she scream when having sex though! It was just too much.
Problems started again once I was into my second year. I shared a house with American Richard, Mark, Martin, and Martin’s girlfriend (now wife), Catherine. I had the smallest room on the middle floor, at the back. Mark had a large room directly above me. I would regularly hear Mark and Kirsty having sex above me, which was pretty torturous. And then when I was asleep I would even dream that it was me shagging her!
I had an Oasis poster on my wall, but I went off them after the second or third single, I think because I’d heard them say they were going to be bigger than The Stone Roses, which I didn’t like at all. I also had a picture disc on the wall by the band, Shampoo. I made it quite a colourful room.
We’d gone to the pub for Martin’s birthday. They made him down a yard of ale. It was the night “Love Spreads” was going to be aired on Radio 1 for the first time, and the pub was playing the radio in the background. I strained to listen to it. Obviously, there was a great deal of anticipation, with this being the first new song by the Stone Roses for over four years. It sounded pretty awesome, with Led Zeppelin influences as had been talked about in the music press. I remember when it was released, I was listening to the charts with Richard, telling him it was going to enter really high and he didn’t believe me. It went in at No.2. Even so, I was a bit disappointed it didn’t make No.1.
When the album, Second Coming, finally came out a couple of weeks before Christmas, I went to the record shop in Reading and bought it on cassette so I could listen to it on the way home on my walkman. I certainly did not instantly fall in love with it, but it definitely grew on me, and was appalled that it was given the mark of just six out of ten by the NME. I wondered whether this might have been as they had originally given the debut album, now considered to be one of the best albums of all time, a mere seven out of ten, and felt they couldn’t give this album the same, or a higher mark.
The following year, I went to see Oasis live in Cardiff. I had definitely gone off them by now, so I don’t know why I was going really. I went with my younger brother Ade, and a friend of his, Iolo. Before I met them, I’d hand-made these silly leaflets saying “Hail The Second Coming” on one side and “Burn Your Oasis Albums” on the other which I would later give out after the gig. During the gig, I was near the front shouting obscenities at Liam Gallagher. I was a bit of a twat really, as Liam himself pointed out when he said, “I hope everyone enjoyed the gig, except for that dickhead over there,” meaning me.
But anyway, what were the problems? I suppose drugs were still a bit of a problem. One time the house decided they wanted to do some acid. For Martin and Catherine, I think it was their first time. I kept clear while the rest of them did this. But I was still smoking too much weed probably.
When we came back after the Christmas break during the second year, there was something definitely not right with Richard. He was saying some strange things and acting a bit oddly. I think he told me he’d had a bad E while he was back in the States. Richard also liked Kirsty. One time, he’d gone to a club with Mark and Kirsty, and I’d got left behind somehow. I went on the next bus to join them, and I decided to punch Richard in the face. Shortly afterwards, he hit me back. So there was a bit of tension. I think I also had an E which had a negative effect.
The really bad night though was one time when I was round at Toby’s house. There was a club night in the students’ union that night which I was intending on going to. I’d had a bit of speed I think, and then I had a bong as well, while at Toby’s. This knocked me for six, and I went upstairs for a lie down. Then my head started really going, and I went to leave and left my wallet behind for some reason, intentionally.
I walked home, feeling very strange, passing a couple of Kirsty’s friends on the way I think. I got home and went up to my room. The next thing, it was like God was flooding back to me again, but in a different way to the time before. This time, it was as if He was showing me all these visions of possible futures, and at the same time, I think He was giving me a ticking off for going astray. This went on for some time.
Eventually, I decided I would try to go to the students’ union. I bumped into Toby and his girlfriend coming back from it as I got closer. We exchanged a few words. I got into the club, and Zoe was there. I took off a couple of layers to intentionally show my Love Spreads t-shirt which was just the Newport shield, with no words on it. I don’t know if Zoe noticed it. And then I think I just went home.
Again, the following day, I felt a bit lost. I went round to Toby’s, and apologetically asked for my wallet back, which he gave to me, no problems at all. Everyone was a bit concerned for me. For the next few years, I would be stuck with these bloody visions. What should I do to make that happen? Should I do this to make this happen? Is this the vision happening now?
I went round to Toby’s again with Richard this time. I think Richard was expressing some concern about me. Then it seemed as if, for no reason, Toby suddenly launched into a long explanation into the meaning of life, along the lines of Karl Marx! And Toby didn’t even study Philosophy, it was really bizarre. Toby was saying about how he and his girlfriend were going to clean up their acts and get jobs. It sounded like a good idea to me. There was one guy in the first year who’d dropped out to pursue a career as a music journalist.
The next week or two were a bit strange in general. Kirsty actually broke up with Mark, and I probably hoped I might be able to start seeing her instead, but there was really no chance of that happening. One time, I rolled up a joint in the students’ union. You could smoke indoors back then, but obviously not weed. I took the joint to where I’d seen Zoe sitting with some friends. I’d heard she’d also recently split up with her boyfriend. Anyway, I just went up, lit up the spliff, started puffing away and talking nonsense. I offered her the spliff, and they all just stood up and walked away.
I had started up another joke society based around the game Pass The Pigs. I even had a stall on the Societies day at the start of my second year, with badges and leaflets and everything. It was a ruse to try and meet girls really, probably. But anyway, I had written off to the makers of Pass the Pigs, and along with some foreign editions of the game, they’d send back a big Pass the Pigs mobile (all too late for the Societies day) with large cut out pigs that Catherine one day decided to put all around the living room. It was just a bit odd. But anyway, we were all sitting in the living room, watching Blue Peter I think, and I’m certain that for no real reason, I suddenly blurted out a fairly ridiculous piece of dialogue which one of the Blue Peter presenters then related back, word for word, immediately afterwards. I’m sure Catherine then said “Did that just happen?” and no-one really knew what to say.
But anyway, inevitably, soon after, the proverbial men with white coats turned up, in the form of my dad, to cart me off to hospital again. I had one night at home, and decided I’d try and make a run for it. I nabbed my dad’s car and drove all the way back to Reading. I went to Toby’s house and he had a couple of friends there who I had a bit of a chat with. Sooner or later though, somebody caught up with me and I was taken back to Bridgend.
This time I was on a ward at the Princess of Wales hospital. There were two relatively new mental health wards attached to it. I met a couple of odd bods here. There was a guy called Jason who wrote some pretty out-there poetry, but he did inspire me to try and start writing poetry, as I’d planned to. There was a woman who I thought was sort of “meant” to be there. At one point she speculated that Richie of the Manic Street Preachers, who had recently disappeared, would probably turn up at our hospital. A week or two later, I walked past someone in a corridor who did look exactly like him. I didn’t say anything though, expecting I’d see him again. However, later that day I saw this person being driven away in a large limousine, so I will never know if it was him.
When I got out of hospital, I do also remember having a dream where I met Richie Edwards in a bar on an island, something like Fuerteventura. Spookily, a week or two later (I was back in Reading, resitting my second year by this time), I read a story in the NME about Richie Edwards actually being spotted on an island, exactly as it had happened in my dream.
My dad has said that he did once treat someone who gave his name as Richie Edwards. But he’s never said anything more than that. He’s probably not supposed to, patient confidentiality and all that.
What I can tell you, is that if God ever speaks to you, inviting you to see into all your possible futures by way of a series of elaborate visions, tell him, you’d rather not. It can really fuck you up.
I had one day on the ward that one of the nurses referred to as my “naming a God day”. I think I tried to envisage a time thousands of years into the future, when Woody Allen had been replaced as God and others took His place. Early on in the day, I decided that the next person to be God should be one of the nurses on this ward, a red-headed guy called Steve. Steve was a funny bloke, quick witted, an expert table tennis player, just a generally nice bloke. I imagined that when Steve took over as God, the world would quickly change. I imagined skyscrapers being built in a flash, and other amazing things. This would be not too far into the future and I vowed that when Woody Allen died, I would have to tell Steve that he was now taking over. I still think I need to do this even to this day. I think Woody Allen would still be some kind of “supreme” God, but Steve would take the reins to some extent. God knows what he would think of that.
I named other Gods throughout the day. When I said “Toby’s God”, I’m sure I instantly heard a bang in the sky, so considering this could be a turbulent time in the world, I quickly switched back and said “Woody Allen’s God”. I envisaged the first female God, and named the patient on the ward. It was generally a pretty silly day. Clearly, I was barking mad. The next day, it was as if nothing had happened.
I do remember a young girl on my ward who one morning, before I’d even got out of bed just came up to me and simply said “God’s gone to the sea”. There was one time when another patient and I envisaged underwater palaces that would wage war on each other which we talked about, good-humouredly.
It was while I was on this ward that I first imagined I could talk to other people telepathically. I thought they were giving some of us drugs that enabled us to do so. It wasn’t really a very pleasant experience, allowing others to have access to your mind. One time, I thought they’d called me in to discuss how this worked. It seemed to me there always had to be three people involved for it to work. Again, quite possibly I was just barking mad.
So I was back in Reading to repeat my second year, Things had apparently not gone well in my absence as Richard had even tried to strangle Mark. This time, I moved into a shared house with Stu and three first years. I think I liked the advert that specified “We smoke”. One of the three first years was Joe, who looked like a bit of a punk, and who Stu and I called Joe Smokes, or just, Smokes. Smokes hated being called Smokes, but we never stopped calling him Smokes. There was also Turtle, who I think was a heroin addict, and a girl called Alex.
Stu and I spent a lot of this year watching football in the local pub, the College Arms, or as Stu called it, The Jarms. I should point out that Stu has a fantastically good sense of humour. Practically everything he says will somehow relate to some form of joke.
We also spent our time eating beans on toast with cheese which we could Beans Supreme, or just Supreme, and drink cheap red wine from the Co-op, or as Stu called it, wiiiiiine, in a whiney way. Sometimes we’d splash out on a Snappy Tomato pizza. These were square, and the most popular choice among Reading Uni students. It was always pepperoni with extra pepperoni for Stu, and vegetarian for me. I was a vegetarian at this time. It seemed like the right thing to do, to become veggy, after studying moral philosophy.
We also spent a fair bit of time in a little box room that had a TV, mainly watching the quiz show, 15-1, hosted by William G Stewart. It was a tricky quiz, but Stu was very good at it, getting a lot of questions right. He should have applied to go on it.
Stu was now going out with a girl called Vicky, who had quite big horsey teeth. I think Stu himself did not even mind her being referred to as horsey, so apparent was the feature. I was still girlfriendless. I might have still seen Emma occasionally, but I had failed to pull a girl in Reading. After going into hospital, I had kind of broken off friends with most people like Kirsty that I’d been friendly with before. Things had actually just got a bit too weird. I did go to a rave that Toby and Zoe were at. I finally got to have a relatively normal conversation with Zoe, so that was good.
Stu and I both struggled for money. Stu borrowed a fair bit off me as my parents gave me money, but his didn’t. During one holiday, I’d gone home to Bridgend, leaving my cheque book behind in a draw in my room. When I came back, I discovered that Stu had been ordering Snappy Tomato Pizzas using my cheque book to pay for them. Naturally, I was somewhat displeased about this. Not long afterwards, at one time, I decided to put all Stu’s possessions out on the street outside. This was a testing time for our friendship.
Another time when we were skint, we tried to make some money by playing fruit machines. There was one particular bandit in this fruit machine place in town that seemed to pay out a lot, so we made a bit initially, but inevitably, we soon lost it all and were then even more skint than before.
I got a job, I think it was in a bookshop, but I only lasted a couple of days. I seem to remember I was late on just the second or third day, possibly due to going to a Charlatans concert the night before, and I was sacked.
Stu and I were probably doing just about enough work to get through our second years. I can’t quite remember if Stu was now in his third year, or if he was also repeating his second. I know he struggled with a dissertation, but this might have been after we’d left this house. Uni work was really not a top priority for us as students.
By the time we got to the end of the year, although we were still friends, it was clear that there was no way we were going to be living in the same house for the following year. I looked for a new place to live. I went to the University accommodation office and saw an ad written by three girls who were looking to share with one other. I seemed to remember a vision about living in some house with three women, so I decided this would be it, even though it wasn’t in exactly the right area of Reading that I was thinking of.
I went to go and meet the girls. I was greeted by a friendly Welsh girl, whose name I don’t recall. We seemed to get on ok. I’d left it a bit late, and did need to move in somewhere, so it was decided I could move in, and my brother, Jer, who was living in nearby Basingstoke at this point, helped with the move.
I met one of the other girls, then a week or so later, the third girl was also back. This was Caz, who I took an instant like to. She was pretty, but also seemed quite understated. There was just something about her.
Anyway, it wasn’t like when I was living with Stu where we were always doing things together. In this house I was kind of an outsider. But one weekend, the other two girls were both going away, leaving me and Caz in the house on our own. This was a bit of a turn on for me! We decided we’d go out for a drink. I took Caz to a bar I quite liked. We were having a nice friendly chat and everything seemed quite normal. I asked Caz what her dad did for a living. “He’s the head of MI5,” said Caz. “What???!!!” I said, alarmed, amazed, incredulous. “Yeah, he’s the head of MI5.” said Caz. She did not appear to be joking.
I think I decided to just take Caz at her word. The moment she’d said it, I’d looked around, and there was a stocky looking guy at the bar who I suddenly imagined was something like her security guard. I didn’t know how to react, really. It was just such a weird thing because it almost seemed to take on extra meaning. I’d always had this weird suspicion that my dad worked for MI5, and the last time I’d been in hospital, I’d gone around telling people this. But that was just me being mad, I suppose. I had always sort of thought about MI5 though. It did seem to make sense, that I was right after all that I should have moved into this particular house. But at the same time, I suddenly felt slightly protective of Caz – surely what she’d said was not supposed to be common knowledge?
There were a few people I knew in the bar, and I decided to get up to talk to them, on a couple of different tables, making a point not to mention anything about what Caz had just said about her dad.
Intriguing as the information she’d given me was, in some ways it spoilt the evening a little, as this information became more of the focus for me perhaps, rather than trying to have a good time with this girl that I fancied. As we walked home, Caz needed the loo, so I suggested we stop off at my friend Simon’s house on the way back. While Caz was in the loo, I decided I would finally break the news to someone, and told Simon about Caz’s dad. I think I said something like, “I’m probably not supposed to tell you this, but…” I think Caz was ok with it.
The following night, I was in The Purple Turtle with Stu, playing table football. We played a lot of table football. We would usually play doubles, and I was the defence, with Stu in attack. I say I was in defence. I mean, I manned the goalie and defenders. But believe me, with my lethal left hand, I scored a lot of goals as the goalie.
Anyway, Caz was also there, and I had also told Stu about her dad. Stu didn’t believe me, and said to Caz, “Nick told me your dad’s the head of MI5” in a disbelieving way. “He is,” said Caz. “He’s going to be in the Sunday Times tomorrow if you don’t believe me.” It seemed even more likely, in that case, that Caz was indeed telling the truth, something which I had not doubted myself.
And so the next day, a Sunday, Caz and I went to buy the Sunday Times. And there, just as she said was an article about Caz’s dad, Stephen Lander. She read through the article, and laughed a few times, saying that he was nothing like the way he was being portrayed in the paper. It seemed that because he had only recently been appointed the role, and was going to be made public, such as in this article, Caz’s dad had had to tell his daughter where he worked. Later that day, I was due to have lunch with my brother. I invited Caz along, but she didn’t want to, which I was a bit sad about. We did spend a little bit of time in Caz’s room, playing on a computer game. I really wanted to kiss Caz, but it never happened.
Around this time, I’d decided to stop taking my medication. I was sick of it anyway. Not sure what I was taking at the time, but I never got on with my meds back then. I was taking lithium at one point and that really didn’t agree with me. But it wasn’t just that I got side effects. I just really did not want to have to take medication while I was “well”. No-one had ever told me how long I’d have to be on medication. I kind of assumed I’d have to take it for a short time, like anti-biotics, and then just come off it. I did consult with someone about coming off my meds, and they didn’t think it was a good idea, but I did it anyway.
Inevitably, this was a big mistake. I quite quickly became quite psychotic. Every night, I imagined I was able to talk to my three housemates telepathically, and in the morning, I assumed they knew all about the conversations “we” had had. I was listening to Led Zeppelin at this time.
At around this time, The Stone Roses split up. The previous summer, they’d performed an awful gig at the Reading Festival, which I witnessed. It was really bad. The break up seemed fairly inevitable. I seem to remember Guns n Roses splitting up at about the same time, but I may have got this wrong. I remember a friend asking me what I thought about the Stone Roses splitting up. I straight away said, “We haven’t had the second comeback yet.”
I had posted up the lyrics to The Second Coming on the walls all around our living room. I started to see deep meanings into the lyrics. I was studying religious philosophy at the time, and started to read things into texts I was reading. I saw Stone Roses lyrics leaping out at me from other books in the library, maybe Cynthia Plath.
Disturbingly, I started to imagine the lyrics related to me directly. There was one day when all the girls were out, and I was thinking about why Caz couldn’t be my girlfriend. I thought, if she was not going to be my girlfriend, I should chop off my ring finger. One of the girls in the house must have been a big Beatles fan as there were loads of Beatles DVDs. I put one of them on at random, and there was a scene in which one of the Beatles was going to cut off his ring finger. That was a bit bizarre. I burned a book of my poetry. I stood outside and ate a five pound note, I think in view of our neighbours, perhaps trying to signal to them that all was not right.
Once I start becoming psychotic, my belief structure goes completely off the scale, and I start to believe all kinds of ridiculous things. I think I might have thought Caz was actually my sister, in reference to the lyrics to Love Spreads. I was out one time, and came home and couldn’t get in. Maybe they’d even changed the locks as they were now frightened of me. “Caz! You’re the resurrection!” I shouted through the letter box.
Soon after, once again, the doctor was summoned, and my dad was there again. I was to be taken to a hospital near to Reading. I wanted to just say goodbye to Caz, but this was not permitted.
It was the middle of the night, and I was just left sitting on one ward. I imagined I was talking telepathically to the other patients in the smoking area. I had been designated a bed, but I didn’t feel like going to bed. I had read some of the Koran, and thought it tied in with the Stone Roses somehow. I went around the ward shouting “The Koran! The Koran!”, throwing water over things like the pool table.
I was taken to the ICU. I was kept on there for at least a fortnight without being allowed off the ward once. It was quite a scary time. There were some real fruitcakes on this ward. There was a guy who thought UFOs were landing outside. There was a guy who wanted to have a swastika tattooed on his back. I implored him not to do this. “If you do that, they’ll bring back the death penalty” I said to try and deter him.
One day, at meal time, one older patient started singing a song about somebody throwing a tomato. For no real reason, I decided to throw a tomato at him. For this, I was taken to the detention room, and pinned down by, I think, six nurses, for many hours. It was a really horrible nightmare of a place. I recall just one friendly nurse who was Welsh.
Eventually, I think it was arranged that I should be taken to Whitchurch in Cardiff. I was driven in a car with a nurse either side of me and we did not stop once. I remember the Happy Mondays being played on the radio as we set off.
It was nice to be home, in a sense, even if I was in a hospital. The night I was brought back to Cardiff was the night of a Cardiff v Swansea derby. I was allowed to listen to it on a radio. It sounded like quite a dramatic game, although I seem to remember Cardiff lost something like 0-3 and I imagined all kinds of shenanigans happening in Cardiff town centre that night.
Everybody here in Cardiff was very kind to me. I only had to stay on the ICU here for one night before I was put on a regular ward. I still had to be on good behavior so I wouldn’t be put back on the ICU, but things became calmer then. There was one female patient who I was certain worked for MI5, but of course, this was probably purely in my imagination.
One significant thing that happened was that I stopped being vegetarian. My mum had brought me a Gregg’s cheese and onion pasty, and I instead asked if I could have a big Mac, so she instead got me one of these. The staff said that because I’d eaten meat, I could no longer be served vegetarian food, which I simply had to accept. From a moral point of view, I wish I was still vegetarian, but I must admit, I do now enjoy eating meat. Can’t beat a Wetherspoons mixed grill!
I must have gradually worked my way out of hospital, but there was now no way I could go back to Reading, so I never completed my degree.
My twenties were generally fairly forgettable. I was still plagued by my visions which didn’t help. I was by now a big Cardiff City fan, and a regular at Ninian Park, along with friends I had met like Neil, and also his friends, Nigel and Blakey. I had a job working at a stalls for NTL (now Virgin Media). It was a pretty tedious job. After six months or so, I felt like I needed a break and took myself off on my own to Barcelona, with nobody really to go with. I watched a Barcelona v Man Utd game, wearing a Stone Roses t-shirt (I was sort of a secret Man Utd fan due to a. The Stone Roses supporting them, and b. the fact that they had Welsh players like Hughes and Giggs). I saw PJ Harvey there, with Gomez in support.
But I didn’t last the job out for longer than about a year. I had an idea that I might like to try setting up a record label. I read the KLF’s book called “How To Have A Number One The Easy Way” and set about trying to follow their advice. I got a dance track produced in a Cardiff recording studio. As the book said, I simply needed to find a decent studio that had a decent sound engineer who would basically make the track for me. At this particular studio was a guy called Rohan who had produced Jean Jacques Smoothie’s Top 20 hit, “2 People”. He made a dance track for me, as requested, based around The Stone Roses’ “Standing Here”. It was a cool tune, with only the bass-line letting it down (this was the bit he got me to do myself). I paid a vocalist just ten pounds to record the vocal. I got a popular Cardiff DJ to do a remix, and it was all going quite well.
The only snag is, a lot of the advice in the book is along the lines of “get a promotions company to promote the tune like hell and tell them they’ll be paid once the record hits Number One”. In reality, things didn’t seem to work that way as companies wanted cash up front. But I had a great tune, and a great remix, paid for via a small grant from the Prince’s Trust.
In case things didn’t work out, I did also look for other work. I actually applied for a job with Cardiff City, in their marketing department I think it was. To my amazement, I was given an interview, and at the interview, my interviewer basically seemed to be telling me that he thought I was the best candidate for the job, even though to my mind, I had virtually no experience. I’m pretty sure I could have accepted the job, and potentially this was one of the stupidest things I ever did as I declined the job saying I really wanted to concentrate on trying to set up my business.
Truthfully, I think I was just too lazy to accept a decent full-time job. Even more truthfully, the reason that I’d applied to work for Cardiff City was because I thought I’d actually had a vision of being a player for Cardiff City (this despite the fact that I had no skills, no fitness, and was now about twenty-seven), so this job was not quite what I had supposedly “envisaged”. Like a complete clown, I accepted the far more inferior role of matchday programme seller!
So for one season, I got to meet a few of the players, and made friends with a few other fans. It was a bit pathetic really compared to what I could have been doing, and inevitably my ambition of becoming a record label owner did not come to fruition.
For some reason, I decided that there should be an elaborate launch party for my single. Once again, I think I thought I had “envisaged” this. There was a warehouse in Splott that held “illegal raves” and I decided this should be the venue for the party.
I booked a Stone Roses tribute band to play at the event, when tribute bands were still not really that big a thing. This band even toured with the real Mani from the real Stone Roses as a DJ. Too good an opportunity to miss I thought, though it was not going to be cheap. No problem, I thought, I’ll sell loads of tickets, it’ll be great. But I had no real clue how I was going to sell the tickets.
The venue said that, to elude the law, there could be no posters or anything like that for the event. I got some flyers produced, but I hardly did anything really in terms of distributing the flyers. I was not even allowed to give details of the exact location, instead simply giving a phone number on the flyer for people to ring for info. I mean, in theory, it all sounded kind of cool. And rest assured, no worries, I’d had the vision, it was going to happen, there’d be no problem.
But of course that’s not how it happened at all. No fucker turned up except for a few friends who didn’t even pay cos they were on the guestlist. And just a handful of others.
The band certainly did turn up. Along with Mani. And along with their manager. And they wanted money. They had not come all the way from Glasgow for nothing.
I had even booked some security, but clearly they were not going to be needed, and they graciously accepted a small fee for just showing up, before packing up and leaving.
I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do about paying the band. I literally had no money. My friend Julian offered to lend me a bit. I tried to come to some arrangement with the band that they could receive less than the agreed amount, but they were having none of it. At one point I said to the band something along the lines of “I can’t confirm or deny if I can get the money” and they just looked at me like I was a loony.
I eventually figured there was nothing I could do but ask my mum and dad for help. They were pretty angry as you might expect, but my poor mum went round a few cashpoints getting out the required money and brought it to the grotty old warehouse. This was without question the most embarrassing night of my life. When I had envisaged a massive rave up! I gave the band the money, and they were ready to just pack up and leave, but I had other ideas. You’re here, you’ve got the fucking money, you can still at least pay you fucking cunts, I thought. Mani had still DJ’d, and thank Christ he was still being friendly in spite of the whole awkward situation. We talked about how World of Twist were probably the best singles band ever.
So anyway, this fucking Scottish tribute band did their set for the small number of my select friends who were there as guests. What a total embarrassment. But nonetheless, I still turned up at the hotel I’d also booked them the following morning to pay their hotel bill. I paid for the manager’s room as well as the band’s. I think he’d also wanted an extra room for something, but this hadn’t been agreed, so I was fucked if I was gonna pay for that.
Soon after, I went into hiding. I left Cardiff, and rented a small flat in Bridgend with the intention of simply disappearing for a while. I didn’t know how I was ever going to get over the embarrassment.
But why had I said “I can’t confirm or deny if I can get the money”? I had taken inspiration from a letter I received, on MI5 letter headed paper from Caz’s dad, Stephen. I’d sent him a letter apologizing for the way I had been when I’d lived with his daughter. He sent me a kind letter back saying he would pass my good wishes on to Caz. But did MI5 actively pursue the Stone Roses, I’d asked him? He could neither confirm or deny this. I quickly burned the letter.
I still had a bit of an interest in MI5. The internet was starting to become a bit of a thing, so I looked up their website. There was information about how in the 90s, most of the organisation’s activities revolved around stopping drug trafficking. At that time, with the IRA having more or less ceased activities, MI5 were apparently doing practically nothing with regard to preventing terrorism. This changed completely come the new millennium. There was the rise of a new form of terrorism, and MI5 stopped concentrating on drug trafficking entirely. Stephen Lander left MI5 to set up a new organization, the Serious Organised Crime Authority (SOCA), and this organisation’s main concentration was on drugs, so I learned.
Andrew had told me that because of my mental health, I could never get a job with MI5, and just to try and prove him wrong, I applied for a job as some kind of basic admin assistant with MI5. There were four or five stages to the application. I got past the first stage, then the next stage was to sit a logic test at an office in London. I was sent sample tests to try at. The test was for me, impossibly difficult, and even though it was multiple choice, there was just not enough time given to complete the test, for me at least. I think I had to simply guess some answers, and I failed at this stage. Oh well, I’d tried!
The millennium was obviously quite a big thing. One of my friends from school, Paul, decided that we should book tickets on a boat on the Thames to see in 2000. He initially was going to book us on a boat which I think was £200 a ticket, but we eventually went for one that was £100 a ticket. What we didn’t know until we boarded the boat was that the boat would be moored! So it didn’t even go up and down the Thames as we’d expected. But we still had a good time, albeit an expensive time. All the others had ordered special fluffy outfits. I was the only one not in fancy dress, but I did wear a nice suit. We took Es and watched the fireworks and drank expensive drinks. At least there were no queues for the bar.
A few months prior to this, Stu, Paul Veck and I had gone to Cornwall to see the eclipse which happened in 1999. Some people had arranged festivals to coincide with this occurrence, but the media had tried to massively play down the event and discouraged people from travelling. There were some hugely experienced festival organizers who I think lost a lot of money as a result of this, possibly even going bankrupt. But anyway, we were still there, and saw it happen at, if I recall, eleven minutes past eleven on August 11th. This was also Will’s birthday, and seven years to the day I believed God first spoke to me. So that was kind of spooky too.
I saw in my 30th birthday, again in London – I always liked travelling to London – this time with my good friend Paul Bartlett and his girlfriend, Candice. We went to see St Etienne who we were fans of. Paul also brought a friend of his, funnily enough called Claire, but for some reason, I was under strict instruction not to try it on with her. This Claire and I did get on pretty well. I was quite surprised that she’d heard of the band, The Telescopes, who I think I mentioned randomly at one point. I didn’t really know why I was under strict instruction, but I did basically try to honour Paul’s wishes.
I stayed the night in Paul and Candice’s cramped, but very expensive, little pad. Candice made me a nice birthday cake. I hadn’t really been looking forward to turning thirty, it seemed like this signalled the end of my youth, which I’d wasted a bit anyway, but at least the two of them did give me a good birthday.