As a loose limbed youth and throughout my early twenties I never once gave thought to home. When I left the safe and known bindings of my mother’s apron strings at 16, I really left home and treated the Bay like the first chapter to a troubled book. Dazzled by the martial glory of the Falklands campaign and my own longing to see a world outside of North Wales, I left the protected ennui of Tanylan council estate for a career in the British Army.
And I never went back.
I visited now and then but the young always take the support of their parents for granted and my stopovers were infrequent and often strained. It was far easier to roam Britain with my friends than go home so I just stayed away.
This blissful state of affairs continued until after I left the army. Colwyn Bay, though still a special place in my heart, was to the younger Reggie just a part of my history. My close family lived there, and I still carried with me the warm recollections of my Tanylan childhood but that was all that chained me to its charms.
It was the birth of my children that set my mind in motion as to my roots. As they grew older, the feelings for my home town developed with them and every passing year magnified the importance of what I so uncaringly left behind all those many years ago. Something minor would happen in the Bay and I would wish I was there, a family party, a Christmas market, Prom Day, meaningless and routine for my family but somehow magical and out of reach to me. The phases wax and wane with my moods but they are always there.
Now suddenly I find myself thinking about home again, about my family and past, and for a very sad reason.
Recently a friend from my youth died.
One of the few people I keep in contact with at home, we’ll call him Wayne, phoned me up to tell me he had recently passed away. His name was Eddie.
Although he was the youngest in our clique, Eddie was definitely treated as being wiser than his years. Perhaps it was because he went to a different school, perhaps it was his extremely dry wit or perhaps he just was cleverer than us all, who knows? To me, the “boy” of the gang, he seemed so experienced, (as did the others) and I was simply too naive to know if he was bluffing or not?
During the summer of ’83, in that golden summer that stretched from my last days in school to the wake up call in the Junior Army, Eddie, myself, Badger and a couple of others whose names have escaped recall, would roam the pier, play pool, drink contraband beer and generally hang around. We weren’t the cool guys or the hard guys, we were just us, a couple of lads making their way through life; being asked for ID in the pubs, telling lies about our sexual experiences, working for pocket money and pondering on what to do after the summer break. We were mates in that transient way only young men engrossed in their own role in life can accept and we did everything and yet nothing together.
Eddie was a punk rocker with a Mohican that set the smaller minds in Colwyn Bay ablaze with traumatized indignation, and he loved it. When I left to go to the army he gave me a cassette of The Stranglers, his fave band at that time. I didn’t get to hear it for at least six weeks, (no music in basic lad, only the sort you can march to…) and then when we were finally allowed the cassette player ate it. I was gutted.
He also introduced me to the delights of a very unfashionable beverage, Mild! My Dad was genuinely impressed that I refused a Lager and opted for a Mild when we went out for my last drink before I left home; and believe me, I didn’t impress my Dad very often when I was younger.
And that’s it, more I could not tell you about him. We had a lot of laughs and got to know each other reasonably well for about two months but then lost contact. We didn’t dwell on the deeper issues in life as we didn’t have to. We were young, decently intelligent and the world lay before us like a carpet of riches, (all be it an Argos shag pile with a couple of fivers dashed onto it). We told jokes and laughed at situations, at people, at life! There was no need to be serious so we weren’t, which is how people should be.
I miss that time. When I see the issues kids have today, and I look back to my youth and how uncomplicated we were, I consider myself lucky. Lucky in that I shared it with people who didn’t yearn for drama to fill their empty lives.
Anyway, I left The Bay and that was that. I lost contact with everybody except for Badger, (who joined the same unit as I was in) and my visits home became few and far between. Eddie and myself bumped into each other now and then but the last time I spoke to him was around 1989/90 and he was wearing a suit. They say the only constant in life is change so it was inevitable that he should grow up some time, (something I have yet to achieve), but Eddie in a suit, Mohican Eddie, Stranglers Eddie, in a suit…?
However, I needn’t have worried, despite the solemn dress code he still held that quirky slant on life. His affable cynicism and flippant irony were as alive as when he used to wear a rat and a Mohican around Station road and the only real change was the threads.
RIP Eddie, thanks for introducing me to Mild, shocking Mohican haircuts, guiltless derision and The Stranglers. You were one of the guys that helped colour in my life, however brief our friendship held. From now on, every time I hear the Stranglers I’ll think of those lazy, dog day summer weekends; you, me, Badger and a whole host of other bit part players who wandered in and out of that time, shooting the breeze and laughing at life.
And now, after reminiscing on a character from my other life, I face the old enemy again, (hence the title). The Nemesis to the balanced life I’ve built for myself and my small family in a foreign country: my yearning for the impossible dream of a life in Wales.
It’ll pass, it always does but I really hope we make it home in October..
I really, really hope so.