As I walked into my new home, the Halls of Residence, I knew I’d made it. Or, at least I was on the right track. The early part of the year had seen me signing on the jobseekers joke and being unfairly singled out because I was a student and couldn’t work full-time. All those wasted days. All those times that I was told I’d never amount to anything, given wary and scornful looks by authority figures just because I was a young lad in a parka, were erased for good by acing my A-Levels and getting into university.
Whisper it quietly but I managed to blag my way to Germany for my brother’s stag do despite the jobcentre telling me if I left the country that I would be “heavily sanctioned”. Blood is thicker than dole queues, to be honest. The springtime German adventure went by in a blur of steins and stollen. We gave him a good send-off before he went sprinting down Matrimony Lane. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked into the German version of a pound shop and asked how much things are in there but it’s actually very funny. They didn’t see the funny side and we swiftly went off to do something else to amuse us, for me that was a ridiculous attempt at trying to impress a German girl on the club dancefloor. I don’t speak the lingo so it was a bit like an extra-terrestrial in a monkey jacket desperately trying to make a girl in a black dress understand language from Planet Whatthefuck. Good times. They just keep rolling.
“You will never achieve what you want to achieve by sitting around all day not applying for these jobs.” I’ll tell you what, the ‘jobs’ in question were almost non-existent. It was harsh times for me. Those first steps into the land of being an undergraduate represented a huge leap. The eagle had landed. I had made the right choice at the fork in the road.
It was easy to be distracted by my new-found love of Breaking Bad and obsession with reggae music. I even wrote an essay at college, or possibly even one of my first at uni, about one of the biggest things 2014 had to offer: the small, wooden character Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. I can’t quite recall exactly why it came up, but it was something to do with my Film Studies coursework. It was easy to be horrified by turning on the news as well- ISIS and terrorism seemingly on the corner of every street; military occupations by the Russians and, perhaps worst of all, music by Justin bloody Bieber.
Buckling down and getting things done does actually work. Who knew? I was a chief procrastinator and it hindered me, I admit that. My new home was in Crewe. My new life had jolted into life like jump leads to a stalled engine. My outlook on the world, although still cynical, had blossomed into shape. The Stone Roses playing as I unpacked my universe from a suitcase had me in a mood of vibrant voice. The past was yours but the future’s mine. Never had the sulky, silver skies of Cheshire promised so much.
It was all to play for.
Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac
This is the One by the Stone Roses
I’m glad you’re still with me for the continuation of this magical history tour. We are at the top of the helter skelter, heading downwards towards the fools on the hill. Okay, enough with the Beatles nonsense, we have reminiscing to do.
You say you want a revolution, but this was the year that David F*** C*** Cameron was re-elected Prime Minister. Somehow. That shiny forehead obviously appealed to people more than helping children out of their forced poverty. It was a baffling act that I remember being absolutely furious about at the time and apparently, I still am now, judging by the tutting and the general tone here. To make matters worse, Grimsby Town sent us into golden slumbers by reaching Wembley for a chance at promotion back to the Football League…
…and lost on penalties. I still have visions of Jon-Paul Pittman skying a spot-kick into orbit. I heard that the ball was found, deflated, on the ice-capped moon of Jupiter a few days later. My first year as an academic had gone really well, I’d made loads of mates and memories. All set to a backdrop to of yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum. I ventured out on holiday to the sun-drenched paradise of Zante. Greece is the word!
There was something weirdly liberating about getting absolutely zonked in Zante. I’m not proud of necking cocktails like water and then coming to terms with the pulsating pop and fizz going off in my head. I’m not ashamed of it, either. It’s a good story to tell. Seeing the sunlight blazing down on the white-hot pavement as you wake up from (passing out I assume- I still don’t have full memory of that first night) a heavy session and walk the short distance back to your hotel. To find your mates completely left you and all ended up fending for themselves. As sure as the sky was azure, that was what we had in store.
A group of lads dripping in paint and foam, eyes looking like ping-pong balls with a black dot in the middle, giving it big licks through the Greek night was a truly lovely experience. From having nothing to look forward to and not two pennies to rub together, to meandering what felt like halfway across the universe was bliss. It showed the personal progression of my life in glorious colour. Memory lane is in my ears, and in my eyes.
I remember writing a short story about a boy who meets a girl, that old cliché, only for the girl to get bulldozed over by a massive lorry at the very end. I have always had that cheerful, happy-go-lucky streak to my personality, honest! It was my first-ever GOOD GRADE and I was buzzing like a hornet about it. You have to keep your dreams close and your ambitions in mind. So, hold me closer tiny dancer, we’re about to keep rolling on down the highway. The scene is set, the targets are ready to be met, are we there yet?
The Only One I Know by the Charlatans
Young, Wild and Free by Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg
What a year. Seriously. This was a time soaked in sunshine, vibes and banter. My first job, my first house, my first FIRST in a uni assignment, the first time I actually fell in love…all set to a backdrop of my beloved and beleaguered football team winning promotion on a glorious day in our nations capital and seeing the Stone Roses strut their Mancunian magic in the drizzle of a June evening.
You’re twisting my melon, man. I loved it. I was doing well in my Creative Writing course (I wonder if I could make a career out of it?) and produced a short story that got me the highest grade I’d ever had in all my life. In my life, I love you more. The lecturers were pretty impressed with it and so was I. It was the first time that pride and happiness were the overriding emotions- replacing disappointment and despondency. It doesn’t take much to knock my achy-breaky confidence. It goes to show that careers guidance and counsellors don’t know it all. It goes to show that you can climb to the top of the government-sanctioned scrapheap all by your own shoe-laces. Result.
Speaking of results, the Mighty Mariners had only gone and made the play-offs again. There was much more pessimism this time, though. The fans had seen us be the much-better team in last year’s final only to lose after that Pittman penalty that pinged onto Pluto. We were not going into it in any form. However, after a collapse at home to Braintree Town (exactly, who are they?) we looked desperate, a team of disparate parts all disillusioned and dysfunctional. Then we went and got a late penalty in Essex and Omar Bogle banged in a bullet to send the marauding Mariners faithful to the big arch at Wembley Way all over again. Up those black and white stripes. You know the score.
I remember being absolutely obsessed with Catfish and the Bottlemen, it was the start of my love-affair with their tunes. Oh, yeah, there was still the Monkeys, the Roses and Milburn to enjoy but 2016 was the year of Van McCann for me. My mate had got tickets to see the Roses in Manchester on me mum’s birthday in June and I was hoping to have secured a promotion party, a job behind the bar at the student’s union and to have sorted out a student house by then…all of that went swimmingly well. Oxygen’s overrated, I don’t even need to breathe.
Then we had that ridiculous EU referendum that still, laughably, hasn’t been solved.
Anyone who has been a regular of my blog or my website knows the story of Wembley and of the Stone Roses so I won’t bore you with the details again. Do feel free to re-read it though, I’ll link you up. The story I wanna tell you is one that doesn’t come out very often. I had a proper girlfriend for the first time. By ‘proper’ I mean, like, it wasn’t one of them ask-someone-out-on-a-dare things you did at primary school. I actually felt optimistic for the future. That was my first mistake, looking back. It was going too well. We went away to Amsterdam together and it was the beautiful place on Earth. The sun was beaming, Catfish were belting out ‘Twice’ and ‘7’ as I lay, chonged out, on the grass of Vondelpark.Vondelpark.Vondelpark.
The summer ended abruptly the minute I came off the phone, after a choked-up, charged-up conversation. Boys do cry. Something had happened, let’s say. Someone else had happened, let’s say. But, the point is this- dreams are like shooting stars, they shine at their brightest the moment they burn out.
Amsterdam was perfection. Promotion was amazing. The Stone Roses and, later that year, the Courteeners were insanely good live. My student house with my best friends was like a mansion. My first job had me in a position to flirt with all the students. I knew exactly what my final assignments were going to be: they would be about being alive and living to the full and feeling supersonic.
Heart-break may take its toll, but who cares about that when you can shake, rattle and roll?
What You Could’ve Won by Milburn
Will We Talk? by Sam Fender