Extracts from: “The Diary of an Ordinary Man”

Saturday

Despite the sobs, I am not sad. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of the black dog, as Churchill called it, but that’s not what I feel right now. It’s more a sort of extreme frustration, like seeing the taillights of the last bus disappear on a cold, rainy night; the mobile phone’s battery is dead and there’s no money for a taxi anyway.

diaryIt all came to a head in the Asda car park after a silly argument about shower curtains. We’re poor you see. Buying a new shower curtain is a luxury I can’t contemplate, even if it was only ten quid, and would have brightened up our gloomy bathroom, adding a little light to this dark phase of our lives.

Fuck off, she said, just fuck off. So I did. I got out of the car and walked. I cried all the way home.

It’s all about front, about face. We’d parked in a side street, to avoid paying for the multi-storey cap park. On the edge of the town centre when I was naively calm, (I can’t stretch to happy) we met a woman from the village, getting on a bit, but still with a certain charm. She was hiding in the lane behind the market, smoking a cigarette, dressed in perfectly respectable clothes I thought, but embarrassed at being caught in town, shabbily dressed.

That must have started the thought process going, the process that led to the argument in Asda car park. This village, where I live is in Wales, a few miles outside Llanelli. My name is Ianto, my wife’s name is Beca. So, this village we live in is like . . . hmm, what kind of village it is depends on your outlook on life and on many other things as well, I suppose. There are those who love it here, young people even. It’s kind of self-contained, with the mini-supermarket open from seven in the morning until ten at night, and there’s a nice park sort of place.

Thing is, I hate it here. Nearly everyone else who hates it here has already left, but I’m still trapped. I’m so trapped that they’ll probably carry me out in a casket. When they do, I want my ashes to be scattered in the sea somewhere. I don’t care where exactly, just in the sea, and I don’t care how either; I don’t want some pseudo ceremony like the fat guy in Twin Town or anything. You can even chuck me in a river, or flush me down the toilet; it doesn’t matter, because bits of me will end up in the sea anyway.

Even if you don’t chuck my ashes into the sea it doesn’t really matter because I know that even then parts of me will still end up in the sea. I read in a book, called The Dancing Wu Li Masters that every time we breathe we inhale a few molecules of Julius Caesar’s dying breath, that’s how homogenous the world is.

What it is, I see all these people in this village, in this town, they have all applied certain rules to themselves and if you’re one of them you’ve got to abide by their rules too. Like the woman hiding in the lane behind the market, it’s all about face, there’s a certain type of dress that’s acceptable for a trip to town, it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be ironed, it’s got to be modest, at least something that comes from the mid-range at Marks and Spencer, otherwise you lose face.

It’s got to fit into their rules, like the shower curtain, like the lampshade for the hall that we actually did manage to buy, albeit a cheap paper one. It looks good though, like a big warm paper moon.

It’s been an unhappy day, full of tears, full of head banging, but it’s all right now. A nice meal, a couple of spliffs and even the ‘X-Files’ becomes watchable.

Nos Da

Good Night.

Sunday

6:30pm

I’m as feminist as the next man but there’s something to be said about gender roles. Sunday today and to avoid getting even fatter and more useless I prised myself away from playing Jezzball on my PC and made an effort.

Me and Beca sat down with a cup of coffee and a copy of The Observer after a leisurely morning and discussed the options. We’ve both got a busy week ahead, well Beca has more than me. She has to go out to work every day and dispense books at a community library, to, how can I put it, ‘interesting specimens of humanity’, but that’s another story, perhaps Beca will keep her own diary one day, perhaps she already does?

I work from home so I get to do as much or usually as little as I want or feel myself capable of. Trouble is, this approach doesn’t bring in the dosh, so I’ve resolved that for this coming week I’ll make much more effort, starting today.

Option 1, and at the time the most attractive option for me was to take a drive to Cardiff and mooch around the residential areas trying to soak up the ambience of different areas and streets so that we can decide where to move to if that day of escape from this village ever happens.

Option 2 was to drive to the coast around Llanelli where millions of pounds have been spent to create the Millennium Coastal Park and a good job they’ve done too. The best feature is the miles of cycle paths, but we haven’t got bikes so it would have to be a walk and a little picnic,

Option 3, and this is one option that I didn’t actually voice – was for me to just hang around pretending to write the next blockbuster movie or the next million selling novel, while playing Jezzball in between scenes or chapters.

Option 4, the one we eventually settled on, was to tidy up the bedrooms in preparation for the impending visit of our daughter and her partner who are coming to spend a few days here next week and visit the area where she grew up.

So we did start to sort the bedrooms out, but to be honest it did my head in and my body came to a shuddering halt. I nearly cried again. Then Beca suggested that I just get out of her way and relax, those weren’t the exact words she used but you get the picture. I dug deep then and somehow found the will to attach the hedgecutter and the strimmer to the electricity supply and went for it in the garden. How I sweated, but I did it, I managed to make an impact on the unkempt jungle.

In a pause for a roll-up I glanced up at the bedroom window. Beca was there busily hoovering and dusting and there I was sweating and strimming. We smiled at each other, both of us doing our gender duties to perfection. A few hours later, a bath a shower and a spliff and a lovely meal to look forward to, I feel as if I’ve achieved just a little success out of today.

Monday

3:30pm

Thirty minutes ago – a library building in the middle of a housing estate, where Beca works, a twenty-something man, shaved head with patterns cut in it, clothes trendy but now very shabby. The man is staggering towards the library and leans on the outside wall to take a few more sips from the can of lager he’s clutching in his trembling hand. In his other hand a carrier bag, no doubt containing more cans.

Me, in my parked car, getting ready to move off after dropping Beca off. Suddenly a splat sound. I turn around and see the drunk looking very puzzled and clawing at his clothes. It’s an egg, from across the road in a small block of flats; teenagers duck inside giggling. The egg-covered drunk moves away and shuffles up the path; he stops and begins cleaning his clothes obsessively.

The egg-throwing teenagers come across and sympathise with him, saying: “Have you seen any kids messing about, throwing eggs?” They snigger behind his back. I want to tell them that what they’re disrespecting is their own futures, the drunk used to be like you once; he was probably a bad sort himself – evil bastards.

11:45 pm

Jezzball, that’s the game of the month. The damn game that sucks the life energy from me, who says computers save time? They’re time stealers, time wasters, not time savers. Last year it was tri-peaks, I played that evil game for months thinking it was a harmless pastime, until I got driven, very quickly, to the hospital’s emergency department early one morning in excruciating pain with RSI or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Thank god it seems to have sorted itself out now; I thought I’d never tap a computer keyboard again.

I found out a bit more about the drunk earlier. First off, it wasn’t lager he was drinking but a strong cheap cider – White Lightning. It’s the sort of stuff 14 year olds drink down smelly alleys on Saturday nights. Apparently his girlfriend dumped him and he was trying to drink himself to oblivion, if that didn’t work he’d promised to kill himself later. I don’t know if he did or not, expect I’ll read about it in the local paper later in the week. Talking about local papers, my son, the one who still lives with me, that’s Tomos, or Tom as he likes to be called, has got a holiday job in the local violin shop before he goes off to study music in university in the autumn.

Tom wants to play for one of the big orchestras after he graduates – still, the local shop selling, amongst other things, concert-grade bespoke violins could be a good start.

I didn’t make much progress in getting paying work today, I made a few calls and thought very hard but nothing transpired, so we’re still very poor. At least I’m not blowing my head open with cheap cider and getting pelted with eggs by evil children.

Tuesday

4:40pm

Don’t know whether it’s the lack of work and money or maybe just because it’s Tuesday, but today, so far, has been like walking through wet mud in heavy sodden clothes. Where’s that magical spark of energy? Where’s that positivity? Where’s the light today?

Perhaps tonight will be different. In the meantime I’ll continue the trudge through the sludge . . .

Wednesday

9:15 pm

Hardly remember the rest of yesterday, went to bed quite early for me, i.e. before midnight. Today continued to make more effort to extract myself from the quagmire and think I made some progress.

Did a plot outline for a sitcom I’m working on with a group of people. Later got a phone call from a guy I do some work for occasionally and he’s thinking maybe we could do some stuff together with computers. Then got a call from a customer in Cardiff for some minor updates to a program, there may be a couple of hundred quid in it at some stage.

Read and reviewed a pilot episode for another sitcom, the spelling and layout were rubbish but I found myself smiling a lot while reading it.

The guy who threatened to kill himself the other day, didn’t. Not yet anyway. Saw him hanging around again, dressed in some really naff but expensive sports gear, no wonder he’s a loser.

The rear-view mirror keeps falling off the windscreen and we keep sticking it back with double-sided tape. The brakes feel and sound as if they’re down to the metal, and there’s a hole in the exhaust, so I booked it in the local garage tomorrow. Haven’t yet worked out how I’m going to pay for the repairs.

12:10 am (therefore tomorrow)

Nos Da.

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