How do you catch a lynx?: when buying a zoo goes horribly wrong

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

When the Tweedys bought a zoo in Borth, west Wales, it was a dream come true. But it soon turned into a nightmare of escaped animals, deaths and family feuding.

You might just be thinking that I have a fascination with zoos that became a nightmare for their owners, and maybe that’s true, but this article grabbed my attention because in my Aberystwyth years I spent many a happy afternoon at Borth Animalarium and saw the lynx in question. I was aware that the mini-zoo had long been plagued by various hardships, but I never knew quite how bad it was until I read this article.

11 years, 11 days.

This article is a repost promoting content originally published elsewhere. See more things Dan's reposted.

The escape is imminent. I am leaving Aberystwyth (with Jim soon to join me) for Gloucestershire. I am greatly looking forward to several things: Access to proper shopping More live music More comedy Multiscreen cinemas! Having disposable income Being nearer to some of my closest friends There are, of course, things that I’ll miss: The…

Claire and I broke up in 2009, and I left Aberystwyth shortly afterwards. It look her a little while to complete her PhD and be ready to leave, herself, when she made this blog post.

On This Day In 1999

Looking Back

On this day in 1999 I sent out the twenty-eighth of my Cool Thing Of The Day To Do In Aberystwyth emails. I wasn’t blogging at the time (although I did have a blog previously), but these messages-back-home served a similar purpose, if only for a select audience. You can read more about them in my last On This Day to discuss them or the one before.

For technical reasons, this particular Cool Things Of The Day appears to have been sent on 27th October, but in actual fact I know that the events it describes took place on 5th November 1999. The obvious clue? The fireworks! I knew that Cool Thing Of The Day as shown here on my blog was out-of-sync with reality, but this particular entry gives a great indication of exactly how much it’s out by. And no, I can’t be bothered to correct it.

Back in 1999 I started as a student at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University), moved away from home, and had a fantastic time. One bonfire night, I called up two new friends of mine – Rory and Sandra – and persuaded them that we should wander over to nearby Trefechan and climb the hill (Pen Dinas) there to watch the fireworks. It was a wild and windy night, and certainly not the conditions to climb an unknown and occasionally-treacherous hill, but we weren’t dissuaded: we set out!

You know those films or sitcoms where the protagonist (usually through their own stupidity) ends up on a date with two people at the same time, trying to keep each unaware of the other? That’s what I felt like at the time: because (though neither of them knew this at the time) I had an incredible crush on both of them. Of course: back then I was far shyer and far less-good at expressing myself, so this remained the case for a little while longer. Still: my inexperienced younger self still manged to make it feel to me like a precarious situation that I could easily balls-up. Perhaps I should have better thought-out the folks I invited out that night…

A storm blew in furiously, and the fireworks launched from the town scattered around, buffeted and shaken and only occasionally still flying upwards when they exploded. The rain lashed down and soaked us through our coats. We later found ourselves huddled around a radiator in The Fountain (under its old, old ownership), where the barman and the regulars couldn’t believe that we’d been up Pen Denis in the

Looking Forward

A little later, I got to have a ludicrously brief fling with one of the pair, but I was fickle and confused and ballsed it up pretty quickly. Instead, I fell into a relationship with my old friend-with-benefits Reb, which in the long run turned out to be a very bad chapter of my life.

Trefechan – exotically across the river from the rest of Aberystwyth – didn’t seem so far away after a few more years in Aberystwyth… only a stone’s throw from Rummers! But for three new students, just a couple of months into their new home, lost and drunk and fumbling their way using an outdated map and seeing by firework-light, it was an exciting adventure. In 2004, SmartData (my employer at that time) moved into their new premises, right over the road from The Fountain and in the shadow of Pen Denis. The Technium turned out to be a pretty good place for SmartData, and it suited me, too. Some days in the summer, when it was warm and sunny, I’d leave work and take a walk up Pen Dinas. It wasn’t the same without the fireworks, the company, or the mystery of being somewhere for the very first time, but it’s still a great walk.

Sometimes I’d go up there in the rain, too.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

On This Day In 2005

Looking Back

On this day in 2005 (actually tomorrow, but I needed to publish early) I received an unusual parcel at work, which turned out to contain a pan, wooden spoon, tin of spaghetti hoops, loaf of bread… and an entire electric hob.

A parcel from Paul, containing everything required to make a "proper" plateful of spaghetti hoops on toast.
A parcel from Paul, containing everything required to make a "proper" plateful of spaghetti hoops on toast.

This turned out, as I describe in my blog post of the day, to have been the result of a conversation that the pair of us had had on IRC the previous day, in which he called me a “Philistine” for heating my lunchtime spaghetti hoops in the office microwave. This was a necessity rather than a convenience, given that we didn’t have any other mechanism for heating food (other than a toaster, and that’s a really messy way to heat up tinned food…).

It was a different time: a time when the lives of many of my friends were still centered around academic persuits (Siân was working on and handing in her dissertation, as was Liz, Claire was getting results back, Ruth was stressed out by a useless student on her team, Paul took things too far, and even JTA was suffering: struggling with his wordcount of an essay that he considered handing in late). It was a time when our evenings were being consumed watching Knightmare (my blog posts mentioning: the first series, first half of second series, second half of second series, Ruth’s commentary) or at the Ship & Castle (both, sadly, without Sian). It was a time when Andy worked at the cafe under The Flat, like we were all in some kind of sitcom or something.

It was clearly a time when we were all blogging quite regularly: apologies for the wall of links (a handful of which, I’m afraid, might be restricted). Be glad that I spared you all the posts about the 2005 General Election, which at the time occupied a lot of the Abnib blogosphere. We were young, and idealistic, and many of us were students, and most of us hadn’t yet been made so cynical by the politicians who have come since.

Another shot of the parcel. This wasn't posted, mind: he lugged this over to my office by hand, and dropped it off at the reception desk.
Another shot of the parcel. This wasn't posted, mind: he lugged this over to my office by hand, and dropped it off at the reception desk.

And, relevantly, it was a time when Paul was able to express his randomness in some particularly quirky ways. Like delivering me a food parcel at work. He’s always been the king of random events, like organising ad-hoc hilltop trips that turned out to be for the purpose of actually releasing 99 red (helium) balloons. I tried to immortalise his capacity for thinking that’s not just outside the box, but outside the known Universe, when I wrote his character into Troma Night Adventure, but I’m not sure I quite went far enough.

Looking Forward

It seems so long ago now: those Aberystwyth days, less than a year out of University myself. When I look back, I still find myself wondering how we managed to find so much time to waste on categorising all of the pages on the RockMonkey wiki. I suppose that nowadays we’ve traded the spontaneity to say “Hey: card games in the pub in 20 minutes: see you there!” on a blog and expect it to actually work, for a more-structured and planned existence. More-recently, we’ve spent about a fortnight so far discussing what day of the week we want out new monthly board games night to fall on.

There’s still just enough of the crazy random happenstances in my life, though. As I discovered recently, when I once again received an unusual and unexpected parcel in the post. This time, it wasn’t from Paul, but from Adam, who’d decided to respond in a very literal fashion to my tongue-in-cheek suggestion that he owed me tea, and a keyboard.

Several boxes of fruit and herbal teas.
The second of the two unexpected parcels I received from Adam.

I got the chance to live with Paul for a couple of years, until he moved out last month. I’m not sure whether or not this will ultimately reduce the amount of quirkiness that I get in my diet, but I’m okay either way. Paul’s not far away – barely on the other side of town – so I’m probably still within a fatal distance of the meteor we always assumed would eventually kill him.

We’ve turned what was his bedroom into an office. Another case of “a little bit less random, a little bit more structure and planning”, perhaps, in a very metaphorical way? Maybe this is what it feels like to be a grown-up. Took me long enough.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

On This Day In 2003

Looking Back

On this day in 2003 I first juggled with flaming clubs! But first, let’s back up to when I very first learned to juggle. One night, back in about 1998, I had a dream. And in that dream, I could juggle.

I’d always been a big believer in following my dreams, sometimes in a quite literal sense: once I dreamed that I’d been writing a Perl computer program to calculate the frequency pattern of consecutive months which both have a Friday 13th in them. Upon waking, I quickly typed out what I could remember of the code, and it worked, so it turns out that I really can claim to be able to program in my sleep.

In this case, though, I got up and tried to juggle… and couldn’t! So, in order that nobody could ever accuse me of not “following my dreams,” I opted to learn!

About three hours later, my mother received a phone call from me.

“Help!” I said, “I think I’m going to die of vitamin C poisoning! How much do I have to have before it becomes fatal?”

“What?” she asked, “What’s happened?”

“Well: you know how I’m a big believer in following my dreams.”

“Yeah,” she said, sighing.

“Well… I dreamed that I could juggle, so I’ve spent all morning trying to learn how to. But I’m not very good at it.”

“Okay… but what’s that got to do with vitamin C?”

“Well: I don’t own any juggling balls, so I tried to find something to use as a substitute. The only thing I could find was this sack of oranges.”

“I think I can see where you’re going wrong,” she said, sarcastically, “You’re supposed to juggle with your hands, Dan… not with your mouth.”

“I am juggling with my hands! Well; trying to, anyway. But I’m not very good. So I keep dropping the oranges. And after a few drops they start to rupture and burst, and I can’t stand to waste them, so I eat them. I’ve eaten quite a lot of oranges, now, and I’m starting to feel sick.”

I wasn’t  overdosing on vitamin C, it turns out – that takes a quite monumental dose; perhaps more than can be orally ingested in naturally-occuring forms – but was simply suffering from indigestion brought on as a result of eating lots and lots of oranges, and bending over repeatedly to pick up dropped balls. My mother, who had herself learned to juggle when she was young, was able to give me two valuable tips to get me started:

  1. Balled-up thick socks make for great getting-started juggling balls.  They bounce, don’t leak juice, and are of a sensible size (if a little light) for a beginning juggler.
  2. Standing with your knees against the side of a bed means that you don’t have to bend over so far to pick up your balls when you inevitably drop them.

I became a perfectly competent juggler quite quickly, and made a pest of myself in many a supermarket, juggling the produce.

So: fast forward five years to 2003, when Kit, Claire, Paul, Bryn and I decided to have a fire on the beach, at Aberystwyth. We’d… acquired… a large solid wooden desk and some pallets, and we set them up and ignited them and lounged around drinking beer. After a little while, a young couple came along: she was swinging flaming poi around, and he was juggling flaming clubs!

Fire poi! They look fantastic when they're flying around you; scary when they're flying towards you.

I asked if I could have a go with his flaming clubs. “Have you ever juggled flaming clubs before?” he asked. “I’ve never even juggled clubs before,” I replied. He offered to extinguish them for me, first, but I insisted on the “full experience.” I’d learn faster if there existed the threat of excruciating pain every time I fucked up, surely. Right?

Juggling clubs, it turns out, is a little harder than juggling balls. Flaming clubs, even more so, because you really can’t get away with touching the “wrong” end. Flaming clubs at night, after a few drinks, is particularly foolhardy, because all you can see is the flaming end, and you have to work backwards in your mind to interpret where the “catching end” of the stick must be, based on the movement of the burning bit. In short: I got a few minor singes.

But I went home that night with the fire still burning in my eyes, like a spark in my mind. I couldn’t stop talking about it: I’d been bitten by the flaming-clubs-bug.

Looking Forward

I ordered myself a set of flaming clubs as soon as I could justify the cost, and, after a couple of unlit attempts in the street outside my house, took them to our next beach party a few days later. That’s when I learned what really makes flaming clubs dangerous: it’s not the bit that’s on fire, but the aluminium rod that connects the wick to the handle. Touching the flaming wick; well – that’ll singe a little, but it won’t leave a burn so long as you pull away quickly. But after they’ve been lit for a while – even if they’ve since been put out – touching the alumium pole will easily leave a nasty blister.

Me juggling flaming clubs at the barbecue I mentioned, in 2007. I almost look like I know what I'm doing. And more importantly, I feel like a badass.

Still: I learned quickly, and was still regularly flinging them around (and teaching others) at barbecues many years later.

Once, a Nightline training ended up being held at an unusual location, and the other trainers and I were concerned that the trainees might not be able to find it. So we advertised on the email with the directions to the training room that trainees who can’t find it should “introduce themselves to the man juggling fire outside the students union”, who would point them in the right direction: and so I stood there, throwing clubs around, looking for lost people all morning. Which would have worked fine if it weren’t for the fact that I got an audience, and it became quite hard to discreetly pick out the Nightline trainees from the students who were just being amused by my juggling antics.

Nowadays, I don’t find much time for juggling. I keep my balls to-hand (so to speak) and sometimes toss them about while I’m waiting for my computer to catch up with me, but it’s been a long while since I got my clubs out and lit them up. Maybe I’ll find an excuse sometime soon.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

First Class Film

Last week, I saw X-Men: First Class at the cinema with Ruth. The film was… pretty mediocre, I’m afraid… but another part of the cinemagoing experience was quite remarkable:

There’s a bit in the film where Xavier, then writing his thesis at Oxford University, and a CIA agent are talking. As they talk, they walk right through the middle of the Bodleian Library, right past my office. It’s not just Morse and Lewis and the Harry Potter films that make use of the Library (at great expense, I gather) for filming purposes! “That’s my office!” I squee’d, pointing excitedly at the screen.

Needless to say, the student-heavy audience cheered loudly at the presence of parts of Oxford that they recognised, too. It’s been a while since I was in a cinema where people actually cheered at what was going on. In fact, the last time will have been in the Commodore Cinema in Aberystwyth. But cinema-culture in Aberystwyth’s strange anyway.

Idiocy Repeats Itself

Two years and one month ago to this day, I made an idiot out of myself by injuring myself while chasing cake. Back then, of course, I was working on the top floor of the Technium in Aberystwyth, and I was racing down the stairs of the fire escape in an attempt to get to left-over cake supplies before they were picked clean by the other scavengers in the office building. I tripped and fell, and sprained by ankle quite badly (I ended up on crutches for a few days).

Last week, history almost repeated itself, and I’m not even talking about my recent head injury. Again, I’m on the top floor of a building, and again, there’s a meeting room on the bottom floor (technically in the basement, but that only means there’s further to go). When I got the email, I rushed out of the door and down the stairwell, skipping over the stairs in threes and fours. Most of the Bodleian’s stairwells are uncarpeted wood, and the worn-down soles of my shoes skidded across them.

The prize! Baskets of fresh sandwiches (fruit, but not cakes, are off-camera: around here, cakes go very quickly...)

You’d think I’d have learned by now, but apparently I’m a little slow. Slow, except at running down stairs. As I rounded the corner of the last stairwell, my body turned to follow the route but my feet kept going in the same direction. They took flight, and for a moment I was suspended in the air, like a cartoon character before they realise their predicament and gravity takes hold. With a thud, I hit the ground.

Perhaps I’d learned something, though, because at least this time around I rolled. Back on my feet, I was still able to get to the meeting room and scoff the best of the fruit and sandwiches before anybody else arrived.

Is this really worthy of a blog post? Dan doesn’t have an accident is hardly remarkable (although perhaps a little more noteworthy than I’d like to admit, based on recent experience). Well, I thought so. And I’ve got a free lunch. And I didn’t have to hurt myself to do so. Which is probably for the best: based on the number of forms I had to fill out to get root access on the systems I administer, I don’t want to think how complicated the accident book must be…

It is Windy in Aberystwyth

We don’t get wind in Oxford: not wind like this, anyway. The air is passionate and angry, full of bitter sea salt and wild energy. It smells like Aberystwyth… and still a little like “home”.

But this time I’m here as a visitor, of course. Just another tourist: and that’s a very strange and alien feeling, to me.

On This Day In 1999

Looking Back

On this day in 1999 I sent out the fourth of my Cool Thing Of The Day To Do In Aberystwyth e-mails. I wasn’t blogging at the time (although I did have a blog previously), but I felt that it would be nice to do something to help keep in touch with my friends and family “back home”, so I came up with Cool Thing Of The Day To Do In Aberystwyth. Every day I’d send back a bulk e-mail about something that I’d gotten up to during my first months at the University. Some of them were pretty tame, but some were more spectacular, like the time some of my hallmates and I tried to steal a golf course, piece by piece. Many of them just appear dated, like the one where I balk at having over 3.25GB of digital music. I was having a great time, and I wanted to share it with my friends, even when my college-mate Richard wrote to say that he didn’t believe me.

When I finally got around to re-integrating my old blog entries (well, the ones I could recover) from the last millennium into my new blog, I also decided to include the Cool Thing Of The Day, with a few minor amendments.

The dates on many of them aren’t actually accurate, because when I re-imported them I made the assumption that I sent one every day, which wasn’t the case (it was actually one every two or three days, and they went on into 2000, which isn’t correctly reflected any longer). However, the date for this particular one is pretty close. On this day in 1999, I bought tickets to see Craig Charles during his Live On Earth tour, at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.

Looking Forward

When we actually went to see Craig Charles, it was after a couple of heavy nights partying all around the UK, to celebrate the birthdays of my friends Andy and Reb (Reb would later go on to become my girlfriend, although we had a friends-with-benefits arrangement going on for a long while before then). We started the party in a few London pubs and a club, and then Andy and my friend Gary sobered up as fast as they could to drive back to Aberystwyth, arriving just before the sunrise, while Reb and I took the train behind them.

Cool Thing Of The Day died in January, after I became bored of it and was finding it harder and harder to do new and cool things that would justify keeping it on. Many of my friendships with the people who received the newsletter waned, but I still keep in touch with most of the recipients of it, albeit only occasionally.

Craig Charles was pretty good. He later went down to the Glengower Hotel bar and apparently got into a fight with a local.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

Troma Night Adventure

Because I promised you some Aber-nostalgia.

Do you remember the RockMonkey Wiki? Many years ago, Ruth bought the domain name rockmonkey.org.uk as a gift for Andy K, who’d been nicknamed “Rock Monkey” for longer than anybody could remember. He decided that what he wanted to host there was a wiki engine, and I helped him get one set up. Soon, every Abnibber and Troma Night veteran was using it, filling the pages with all kinds of junk.

Soon, Jon launched the wiki’s first WikiGame: a maze exploration game using littered with Dungeon Master Java screenshots and monsters aplenty (monsters like Tubgirl and Lesbians and The Splurg). This kicked off a series of other WikiGames, mostly by Jon, Andy R, and myself (although Andy K started about a dozen of them and Ruth got some way through developing her first).

My biggest contribution was probably TromaNightAdventure, a text-based adventure in which the player attempts to explore Aberystwyth to collect (at least) three Troma Night stars, some pizza, some beer, and some films. It was an epic quest, far larger than I’d meant for it to grow, with multiple non-linear ways to win and a scoring system that told you exactly by how much you’d beaten it (some, but few, people managed to score the maximum number of points).

The screenshot above isn’t from the RockMonkey Wiki. It’s from my relaunched version of Troma Night Adventure. That’s right: I’ve dug up the final backup of the RockMonkey Wiki, extracted the relevant content, knocked together a mini version of the wiki engine and the WikiGameToolkit, and re-launched the game. It’s read-only, of course: this isn’t a real wiki; the real wiki is long-gone. But it does have a few extra features than the original, like a pictorial inventory and a nippy Ajax-powered interface. If you’re looking for some nostalgia about the old RockMonkey Wiki or about Troma Nights back in Aberystwyth, here’s your ticket:

Nostalgia And The Aber Effect, According To Other People

Strokey Adam just realised, in only his fifth blog post in the last 12 months, that it’s now ten years since he first moved to Aberystwyth. I remember when I came to the same point, last year, and sent a scary e-mail to the new student who adopted my University username. In Adam’s blog post, he talks briefly about his experience of leaving home and going to university, and now says that he’s “…realising that life will probably never be as much fun again as it was in Aber.”

Now I’m a huge fan of nostalgia, but I’m going to take Kit’s side on this one. Kit pointed out that “…a massive chunk of the Aber effect is the people…”, and he’s right. It took until only a year or two before I left for that to start to become clear to me, and it never really became true until I thought about it in hindsight, after moving to Earth.

Earlier this year, Rory announced out that for him, at last, “It’s time to leave Aber,” going on to observe that “Most of the people reading this have either already buggered off or are making preparations to do so. Expect to see plenty of moving related drama from us all as we rip up our roots, climb out of our ruts and generally start fleeing for more fertile pastures.”

He was right. The exodus had already begun, as many of the people we’d gotten used to seeing on a week-to-week (sometimes day-to-day) basis had already left. In the case of Rory and I, among a few others, we’d seen this all before – over the course of a decade you’ll see a lot of people move away from a university town. But there was something special about the last few years in Aber: for the first time, we were finally seeing all of the “hangers-on” beginning to disappear. The people who you’d begun to suspect were never going to pack up and go were at long last moving on.

Coming back to Strokey Adam’s thought: I don’t agree with the notion that everything in Aber was whiskers on rainbows and kittens in the sky. Sure, it was fun, but like Kit said: what made it fun were the people. And the people still exist! I’m not denying that there’s things I miss. Liz recently said to me that she missed that time “…when you could make a phone call or send a few texts… and within half an hour you could be sat in a pub with all your closest friends,” and I miss that too. But it’s not as if all those people fell off the face of the Earth. There’s always some excuse, just on the horizon, for people to get together again, whether we’re talking about the West Blockhouse excursion, Murder Mystery parties, or any of the many, many weddings and similar parties that seem to just keep on cropping up (why is everybody getting married? I don’t know, but the parties are fabulous!).

I think that there’s a tendency for many people to remember their youth in a particular way. Nostalgia is an important part of our identity, and it’s valuable for people to be able to point at the happy events of their past and say “That’s me. I am that person, who did those great things.” But for me, defining myself in terms of the past seems to be a little bit too much like tying myself to it. I want to be able to move on, to keep exploring, and to find new and exciting things to be involved with and to be happy about. Sure, I’m sickeningly nostalgic (comes with age), and I love to spin a yard about the more-ludicrous things I used to get up to during my university days… but I’d like to think that what defines me better is what I’m doing now. Like Marty McFly, we can visit the past, but we shouldn’t want to get stuck there. Unless you really like Huey Lewis.

If you’re looking to steep in a little more nostalgia and navel-gazing, I’ve got two more nostalgia-laden blog posts planned for this month: one coming later this week, hopefully, when I have a change to kick the magic box that will make it work, and the second scheduled for the end of this month, when as part of my On This Day series I’ll be looking back to my first year at Aberystwyth, too.

Further reading:

On This Day In 2006

Looking Back

On this day in 2006 I’d just come to the end of a long weekend of coding and socialising. The code project was, of course, Three Rings, and Bryn and Gareth were helping out with the big push to make the initial release Three Rings 2 a success.

Three Rings is, of course, a project to streamline the administration of helpline services (like  Samaritans) by making it easier for them to manage their rota and volunteer resources. I kicked the project off back in 2002 (based on an idea that Kit and I had discussed as early as 2000), initially only for Aberystwyth Nightline – with whom I was then a volunteer – but it quickly spread and within a few years had become the de facto system for Nightlines everywhere. Later, my work with expanding and enhancing Three Rings comprised a part of my University dissertation.

Among the problems with that early version of Three Rings, though, was that it had never been designed to scale, and so eventually the time came to throw it out and develop a new one, from scratch, in the then up-and-coming Ruby on Rails framework. Gareth was a huge help in the early development, and Bryn got burdened with the task of coming up with a means to convert the data between the old system and the new system, migrating our users across: a horrendous task, because the two systems used completely incompatible data storage mechanisms, and the old system was riddled with quirks and workarounds. This weekend, back in 2006, was the cumulation of that work: Bryn hacking away on his Project: Rosetta system, a stack of Perl programs to translate the data… while Gareth and I made progress on redeveloping features for the new system.

It wasn’t all work, though: we also all took a trip up to nearby Ynyslas, a little way North of Aberystwyth, for a barbeque on the sweeping sand dunes there. As my blog post for that weekend reveals, this involved a fantastic prank in which Claire and I “hid” Jimmy by burying him under the sand, covering his face with an upturned cardboard box, and then frightening the shit out of Gareth when he – having been told that Jimmy hadn’t come – lifted the box to find Jimmy’s disembodied head staring back at him.

Looking Forward

Since that day, Three Rings has continued to grow and expand – it’s now used by a number of charities nationwide, and exists as a company in it’s own right. Gareth and Bryn are no longer directly involved with the project, but parts of their code live on in the system, ticking away in the background.

Ruth now plays a major part in the development of the system, and it actually formed part of her dissertation, too, meaning that my dissertation (which Bryn still has, after he borrowed it to help him write Rosetta) was actually cited as a reference in another document: something which pleased me inordinately.

Claire and Jimmy got together a year and a bit ago, and they’re now living together, still in Aberystwyth (not that you’d know from reading either of their blogs, slackers that they are).

And we haven’t had a barbeque yet since moving to Earth, but weather-permitting, the plan is to do so this week!

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.

Saying Goodbye

Just thought I’d briefly share all of the different ways I’ve been saying goodbye to Aberystwyth and the people there, along with some photos:

Goodbye Friends

I’d hoped to make a proper blog post about the barbeque/bonfire we’d had to “see of” JTA and I (and later Paul, who’s leaving later this year, and sort-of Ruth, who’ll now be visiting far less-frequently), but I decided to wait until Rory got around to uploading the photos he’d taken. He still hadn’t done so by the time I left town, so, you’re stuck with the handful of pictures that I took.

Sam, both Rorys, Gareth, Jimmy and Claire

You can even see Rory on the right of that first photo, taking pictures, the swine. As usual for our beach barbeques there was no shortage of food nor booze, and a copious quantity of firewood. Also a huge amount of paper and cardboard which needed disposing of before the move, which lead to one of the most violently spectacular beach fires we’ve ever had – perhaps second only to the time that Kit, Claire and I found large parts of a bar (as in, one that you serve drinks over at a pub) and ignited it , many years ago.

Satoko and Paul

As the light grew dim I recited a poem that I’d thrown together earlier that evening, for the ocassion, expressing my fondness for this place where I’ve spent the last decade or so. I’d promised that I’d put it online, so here it is:

MEMORIES OF AN OLD FRIEND AND FORMER LOVER

In nineteen hundred and eighty five,
When I was – ooh – nay high. [with gesture sadly absent when recited over Internet]
I first set eyes on this Welsh town,
It’s mountains, sea and sky.

And beach (sans sand) and shops
(now closed), and pier (missing an end).
And thought myself, “This place, perhaps,
Could someday be my friend.”

Thirteen years passed – lucky for some –
And found me here again
In search of a place to come and learn
[I had a line here about how long it takes to get here by train, but I’ve lost it!]

My open day was sunny (aren’t they all?
how do they make it so?)
As I visited the campus and
The quaint town down below

That day, as I sat on that hill, [again with the gestures! – this was Consti, of course] looked down,
And saw a pair of dolphins play
I realised I’d found a friend: this town
And loved her, in a way.

My love and I were something sweet.
My friends; they envied me,
As she and I would come back, merry,
With a traffic cone or three.

Ten years I gave her of my life,
And treasure every one.
A decade’s love and hope and dreams under
Wales’ (intermittent) sun.

But this was young love: first love, p’rhaps
And wasn’t built to last,
And so the time draws swiftly near
That it becomes: the past.

The friend I’ll think of, as I chew
A slice of Bara Brith
She’ll always be here, in my heart,
Beautiful Aberystwyth.

In other news, you have no idea how hard it is to find fitting rhymes for “Aberystwyth”.

JTA

Goodbye Samaritans

Of course, I’d hoped to say goodbye to the Samaritans branch where I’d volunteered for the last few years, and I’d hoped to do so at an upcoming curry night that had been organised at the branch. Little did I know that more than just an excuse to say goodbye, this little party had been geared up almost entirely to see off Ruth, JTA and I. There were tears in our eyes as we saw some of the adaptations to the training room.

The Training Room at Aberystwyth Samaritans

The meal was spectacular, the beer and wine flowed freely, and we each left with a special gift showing how much the branch cared for each of us. I still have no idea how they managed to orchestrate so much of this without any of us having a clue that we were letting ourselves in for more than just a curry and a pint or two.

As I left the branch for the last time, I passed the reminder sign that reads “Have you signed up for your next shift?” and thought, with a little sadness – no, no I haven’t.

Goodbye SmartData

As if there weren’t enough curry in my diet, the lads from SmartData and I went out to the Light of Asia for a meal and a few drinks (during, before, and after) to “see me off”. This felt strange, because I’m not leaving SmartData – at least not for the forseeable future – but continuing to work for them remotely in my office on Earth that I’ve taken to calling “SmartData’s Oxford branch”. But this does mark the end of me seeing them (at least in person) on a day-to-day basis, and it was also an excuse to catch up with former co-worker Gareth, who came along too.

I should have thought to take a picture.

Goodbye Claire

I couldn’t have felt like I’d said goodbye to my life in Aberystwyth without saying goodbye to Claire, who’s been a huge part of it for, well, almost eight years. She and I got together one evening in my final week, there, to break apart the QFrames (the picture frames full of mementoes from QParty). It was a somewhat emotionally heavy time, but – I suppose – an important part of getting some closure on our break-up, last year: if there was ever going to be a part of me that was perpetually tied to Aberystwyth, it’d be the half-dozen picture frames full of photos and letters and gifts that represented “us” that I was lugging around. Now, I’ve got to find something new with which to furnish the walls of Earth, and my housemates seem keen to help with this mission.

It’s been a long process – saying goodbye to everybody – but at least that’s the Aberystwyth chapter complete. Right: what’s next?