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 barbecue/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
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 barbecues 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
Satoko and Paul

As the light grew dim I recited a poem that I’d thrown together earlier that evening, for the occasion, 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:


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”.


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 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 foreseeable 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?

Sam, both Rorys, Gareth, Jimmy and Claire× Satoko and Paul× JTA× The Training Room at Aberystwyth Samaritans×

All Along The Watchtower

Ruth, JTA, and I have found our way to Earth – our new home, in Oxford – after the most exhausting house move I’ve ever done. Particular challenges in getting things to Earth included:

  • My mountainous quantities of stuff, and in particular the things that I own that are of awkward shapes for packing into a van, such as my bike, collection of wheelie-chairs, and the more-challenging bits of furniture I own.
  • All the subsequent cleaning, tidying, repainting etc. that was required at The Cottage, most of which couldn’t be done until the van was loaded up. Huge thanks to everybody who helped out with this monumental task.
  • The fact that we were also moving most of Paul’s stuff. In order to minimise the number of van rentals we collectively need, we rented a large van and tightly packed into it as much as possible of Paul‘s possessions, too. Which, of course, meant more to load, unload, and fit in, as well as the logistical challenges of picking up things from two different locations and still packing things in a logical (big heavy things at the bottom, fragile things in tight spaces, etc.) manner.
A very full van
A Very Full Van
  • The journey: wow, it’s a long way from Aberystwyth to Oxford (or, in fact, from Aberystwyth to just about anywhere). Conveniently, it can be just a case of getting on the A44 and heading East until you get there, as Earth is only a stone’s throw away from the “other” end of the A44, but it’s still a trip that drags on and on.
  • That I kept standing on sharp things: while loading the van (without shoes: there was my mistake) I managed to tread on a drawing pin which went right into the muscle at the ball of my foot. While unloading at the other end, I managed to stand on an upturned nail which was longer than the drawing pin by just sufficient to counteract the thickness of my sole, puncturing my other foot, too. I’m now limping.

But that’s only the beginning of the problems.

Paul's room here on Earth looks just like his flat in Aberystwyth used to: full of boxes!
Paul’s room here on Earth looks just like his flat in Aberystwyth used to: full of boxes!

My Sister’s Mystery Illness

Arriving in Oxford, we were all exhausted, so Ruth, JTA and I worked on unloading the minimum possible amount from the van (enough that I’d have bedding to sleep on and that the computers could be stored safely indoors) while my dad and Jenny – who’d been driving the van – went to check into their nearby B&B. Having reached our goal, Ruth, JTA and I sat out in the garden of our new house with a beer each and, exhausted, congratulated ourselves on a successful day. Unloading the rest of the van could wait until the morning.

That’s when my dad reappeared on our doorstep, looking flustered. He’d just received work that my sister, Sarah, had just been rushed into hospital with excruciating abdominal pains, and he needed the van back to get up to her in Preston ASAP. Quickly we formed a bucket chain and rapidly unloaded the entire van, without regard to where anything belonged, into the garage, freeing up the van.

So, yeah: the garage is a little full, now.
So, yeah: the garage is a little full, now.

Oh, and JTA stabbed me in the hand with a penknife. In order to remove those things which were roped-in to the van as quickly as possible, he began slicing through them with his Swiss army knife, and, in a moment of ill communication about which of the ropes that I was holding needed cutting, he ended up gouging a big hole in my thumb. Which goes nicely with my punctured feet, making me look like the result of the least-effective case of crucifixion ever.

My dad got away, and my sister seems stable and safe, by the way, although the hospital still aren’t sure what’s wrong with her.

Network Issues

An important part of my unpacking plan was to get my study set up so that I’d be able to get back to my day job – which I’m working at remotely – as soon on Monday morning as possible. It was during this set-up that I discovered that I was completely unable to connect any VPN connections. This later turns out to be a fault in the latest firmware of the ISP-supplied router. For those of you not fluent in Geek: the magic Internet-box we were delivered wasn’t very good, and needs downgrading to make it useful.

Not a problem, I think: I’ll just plug in my old router and configure it to work, instead. Great plan, sure, but unfortunately JTA’s desktop PC didn’t want to play nice with my old router, and took some kicking to get working. Meanwhile, I’d started experimenting on getting the new router working, and before you know it, we’ve had half a dozen different (but similarly-named) wireless networks floating about, all with different passwords and settings, and nobody has a clue what’s going on.

Magic Internet-box one, bottom right, hates me. Magic Internet-box two, on top of it, hates JTA. And yes, that phone does look familiar, doesn't it.
Magic Internet-box one, bottom right, hates me. Magic Internet-box two, on top of it, hates JTA. And yes, that phone does look familiar, doesn’t it.

Eventually, we got together an Internet connection that not only works for everybody but follows all of the standards we care about, and not just some of them, but it was one more challenge than I’d have liked when I’d hoped to do a house move without taking any time off work. Which is in itself, it turns out, a silly idea. Next time I undergo this mayhem, I’m taking at least a long-weekend to do it.

I’m sure there’s a lot more to say, but I’d better get back to work! The short of it is: I’m on Earth, and it’s mayhem.

A very full van× Paul's room here on Earth looks just like his flat in Aberystwyth used to: full of boxes!× So, yeah: the garage is a little full, now.× Magic Internet-box one, bottom right, hates me. Magic Internet-box two, on top of it, hates JTA. And yes, that phone does look familiar, doesn't it.×

Aberystwyth Escape Velocity

It’s been said that Aberystwyth is like a black hole, and that once you’re sucked into it, you can never leave. Sure, it’s okay to fly-by, so long as you keep it at arms’ reach for, say, three to five years… but if you get caught in the pull of the place, it becomes harder and harder to ever leave.

I realised this early on. When I visited Aberystwyth on a University open day, back in 1998, I was so impressed with the place that I came down for a second open day, in 1999, even though I’d already decided that this was where I wanted to be. Later, after I’d settled down, I promised myself that no matter what, I’d get out of here before ten years was up. That was the personal limit, I’d decided, to the strength of the emotional rocket boosters required to reach escape velocity once you’re spiraling into the Aberystwyth black hole.

It’s a nice place to live for a while, as anybody who’s spent any amount of time here knows. And I’m sure it’d be a great place to retire, too. But sooner or later it’s time to move on: time to escape from the dodgy brownouts and the shaky Internet access, to go somewhere where there are transport links and cinemas with more than one screen and shops that don’t close on Wednesday afternoon. Time to live in a place where English is the only language of which a long-term resident is expected to have a working knowledge and where graduate salaries actually appear on the same scale as the national average. Time, in short, to move on.

It feels like the end of a chapter. Give or take a few years, it feels like I’ve divided these almost-thirty years of my life into three distinct chapters, each set in a different locale. Each new chapter feels like a fresh start, like opening a brand new diary for the first time, and each brings new challenges, new experiences, new friends, and new opportunities. And that’s almost as exciting as it is terrifying.

For the greatest time, I never expected to be here this long. When I was doing my degree, I couldn’t have forseen that I would stay here for long after I finished my degree – perhaps to hang around in academia for a few more years, or perhaps not. But by then I’d met Claire, and that was a game-changer for me: the end of her (extended) degree would have conveniently put me close to my ten-year limit, but when she was offered the opportunity to stay on and do a PhD, funded, in the specific area of her choice, that gave me reason to rethink. Eleven or twelve years can’t be so bad, can it?

Of course, after Claire and I broke up last year, my plans changed, and it wasn’t long after then that I announced that I’d be leaving town in 2010. I spent some time considering all of my various options for habitation, work, and the like, and it’s only this and last month that plans have really begun to become concrete. So here’s the plan:

I’ll be leaving town in the first fortnight of next month, and moving to Oxford. There, Ruth, JTA and I (and later to be joined by Paul) will be living in the house that we’re renting, a little to the North-East of the city. Ruth will still be working where she is now, and – confusingly – I’ll still be working primarily for SmartData, here in Aberystwyth. While everybody else in the world is looking at living where it’s cheap and working where it’s expensive, I’m going to be doing exactly the opposite, at least for the time being.

That’s our new house! And for those of you of a The Sims-playing bent, there’s a floorplan below for you to print out. You’ll have to make your own dollies of the four of us to play with in it, though. You freak.

I find myself filled with apprehension and anticipation at what seems to be an exciting new step forwards in my recent life, but also with an almost-overpowering sense of nostalgia for everything that’s happened here in Aberystwyth. In a way, this blog so far represents precisely that – the Aberystwyth chapter of my life – the last decade. I’ve had some great times with some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met: some of them since moved-on themselves, and others still here, caught in the Aber tractor beam. Packing up the remnants and artefacts of my life here, it’s easy to let my mind wander, find my way back to all the things I’ve done and been.

It’s a happy chapter, overall. And this upcoming move, next month, is a fitting end. When you heard the tone, please insert the next CD to continue the story.

Oh, and now the important bit: we’ll be having a fire on the beach (probably including all of the furniture that we don’t want!) on the evening of Friday 28th May, instead of Troma Night. This will be the “goodbye Dan & JTA (and Paul, later)” party – I’ll be around for another week and my final Troma Night in Aber, the following week, but JTA will be gone. Anyway, I’d love to see you there, whoever you are. I’ll announce more details closer to the time through the usual text-message based channels, but if you don’t usually receive those and you would like to come, leave a comment and let me know. Ta!

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