So many things I missed about Swansea:
Richard Skinner who didn’t know you needed water to boil an egg but got a First in Russian, learnt Welsh on principle, went on to teach English in Sweden and became a doctor in Sweden through the medium of Swedish. Mercifully he regarded my more puny wit with amusement and a degree of benevolent tolerance, even though I was the one who taught him how to boil an egg.
Richard and Ruth Lewis who showed me that life could be comfortable and introduced me to Newport, a pint of Stella at the Green-man on the outskirts of Cwmbran followed by Sunday dinner, and, sometime later tea, with Paul Murphy, a future Secretary of State.
Peter Lloyd, now a script-writer, then an academic pursuing a PhD in Tudor History. I know he introduced me to Edward Hall’s Chronicle and a phrase that has lodged itself indelibly into my head. ‘History is the sucking serpent of ancient fame.’ Though, if you don’t have fame to begin with, you’re unlikely to be bothered by sucking serpents. Maybe the odd slow-worm.
Nick and Ness who showed me how rich life could be in a damp labourer’s cottage and later a caravan.
And last, but not least, Swansea University’s Refectory, its lamb curry, and spaghetti bolognaise. I sometimes dream about them at night and wake up hungry.
When you leave university it’s very much like jumping off from a fast moving merry-go-round. If you’re lucky you remain standing but most definitely disorientated. Certainty evaporates.
All I was certain of was an urgent desire to live in or near Swansea. Fate buggered things up a little.
A half-hearted application for a teaching post in Newport met with a polite rejection, until, a week later, the young woman who’d got the job discovered she was pregnant and withdrew. A polite rejection letter was followed by a swift request – we want to see you.
And so, despite mistaking the Head Teacher for the caretaker, and speaking with a still thick Liverpool accent, I got the job.
I’ve always been lucky in loving the places I find myself in. Aberystwyth was perhaps an exception, though the perpetual rain, a knife-wielding psycho, and a teaching course that bored me silly might have had something to do with that. But now I was in Newport, a vital, seedy place with its own dark magic. It suited me down to the ground.
The elegant hippy to the left is me. How on earth did I get this job?
To my right are: Alan Hicks, Mike Farley, Alan Kethro, Andy Phipps, Peter Williams, Mr Norville, (the real caretaker)and Danny Flynn, someone else with a Liverpool accent. Front row are: Mrs Oakley, (known as Annie) Judith and Judith (forgive me). The man sitting in the middle is Bernard Dunne, (Head teacher, not the caretaker,) Gerry Drewett, Paddy Landers and Mia Richards. Behind us is the school, now demolished; and behind that is the famous Newport Transporter Bridge, not yet demolished, hopefully never.