The plan was simple… Do a massive, multi-stop train journey across north Wales and stop at various places along the route. I’d walk some of the Offa’s dyke path at Prestatyn, visit the castle at Flint, stop off in Llandudno and see the zoo in Colwyn Bay. I might even recline on the beach at Abergele or dare to walk the streets of Rhyl. That, however, was ridiculously expensive. It is impossible, without paying over the odds, to jump off and on from the British rail system. There are multi-journey tickets available but for what I wanted to do one of them would cost me over a hundred pounds. Even with individual tickets the prices were ridiculously expensive, and I couldn’t get them as advances either- Not for between certain stops anyway. So the plan changed. There would be only one destination and I would take the opportunity, whilst there, to do some video filming and maybe climb a mountain or two… Once again I was going home. I was headed for Bangor…
I am, as I travel along the coastal line, on the wrong side of the train (unfortunately) so I don’t get those glorious views out over the sea. Instead I get the more boring, landscape side which doesn’t perk up until you reach the Afon Conwy. Then you get mountains. But to make up for it, for what might be the first time in my life, I’m on a direct train. I’m quite certain that there never used to be any direct trains at all- You always had to change over somewhere along the route. But this doesn’t happen this time for obvious reasons and I can remain where I am, all the way home! I film some of the scenery out of the window on the way and things are just grand.
Once in Bangor I make a beeline for the High street and my first stop is to buy a coffee and a brownie. I go for the most insane coffee on the menu, one filled with whopping amounts of cream and a great load of marshmallows. Indulgent? Why not… It isn’t everyday you come home after two years away! That coffee, it turns out, is to eventually become my first taste of something, my first glimpse of a potential new life, a life which at that point is just rising off in the distance, and one that involves ridiculously indulgent coffees. I don’t know that it is coming yet but it is approaching fast and it is, very soon, going to tap me on the shoulder and start dancing in my face. But in the meantime I just take in the scenery, the busy coffee bar and enjoy my ridiculous drink. I go in a few shops afterwards, some of which are new. Bangor now has a USC and a Blue. Inc and the prices in them seem reasonable too. I see a couple of T-shirts I would definitely buy but don’t as I need the money in my wallet for the remainder of the weekend.
I wander the city, its streets and byways and visit a few of my favourite places, filming as I go and at one point getting attacked by a spaniel (which sadly wasn’t filmed!.) I climb up Bangor Mountain where I do an introductory scene overlooking the city and I end up on the other side of the valley, at the university building. I’m not brave enough to go inside and nose around (scared of who I might meet) so I just stand on the terrace, take a couple of photos and get some filmic shots. Then I head off to what I want to call the city’s rural quarter, between the main cluster of university buildings and the Menai. First it’s up to my favourite spot, Roman Camp, and then down to the stone circle and the shores of the Menai. By the time I’m done it’s getting close to half two and so time for me to check into my room for the weekend.
I’ve been in this place many a time before, The Tap and Spile, down by Bangor Pier, but I had never really thought of staying there until a friend of mine (Marc) mentioned that they do reasonably priced accommodation. So a few weeks before I rang up and although I initially wanted a room for the night before as well, I did get a respectable room for the three nights I’m here. It’s not luxury, not by a long shot, but it will suit my purposes as a place where I can go and have a bit of privacy. There’s a double bed too, which is always good. But not only that I have a great view out over the pier and the Menai Straits towards Beaumaris. The only issue I have is that the bathroom is across the hall but this is a minor problem as far as these things go. So I relax here for a couple of hours, listening to some music and doing a bit of light work before heading off elsewhere.
I’ve arranged to meet some friends down the road at another pub, The BV, but when I get there I am in for a shock. I haven’t been in the place for four years but I am still expecting the place to have the quaint, old and rustic charm it always did. I expect all the battered armchairs to still be there and I look forwards to easing into the corner with a pint of ale whilst I wait. I head through onto the good side, which has battered old armchairs and is almost heaven, only to find the place has seriously changed. Gone are the old armchairs and the rustic charm and instead it looks… It looks like some sort of a restaurant! But having only seen one side I think the other side will be better, more pubby and more like the place used to be, but no. This has changed too. The chairs for some reason are metal type things and they look like they belong in some beach front cafe. The pool table, which resided in an alcove at the rear, has gone and there’s nothing left but a huge empty space. I am, disappointed. This pub, once one of my favourites, is not the same. I get a beer and I seat myself at a table all the same…
And then Marc arrives and I soon find out that I could have probably picked a better weekend to come back. Most of the people who are usually around Bangor are either busy or detained elsewhere… It’s nothing that could be foreseen, these things happen, but it means that things are going to be a bit quiet this weekend. But hey… It’s good to see the people who are around, especially as I haven’t seen them for two years. Marc’s new girlfriend Lowri turns up… I’ve never met her before but she’s nice. I like her! Later on Tud turns up for twenty minutes but then he has to go again because he’s unloading vans… Which as I said at the time, sounds like something incredibly dodgy- Although it isn’t… It’s for the Summer Ball. We have conversation, a good time and we order some food… And for the first time I discover one of the harsh realities of being vegetarian. There isn’t a lot of choice when it comes to eating out. There are only one or two vegetarian items on this menu and I don’t particularly want either of them. I’m not vegetarian but I’ve already had my meat quota for this week. And considering I recently found out I have high blood pressure I really have to now stick to keeping my meat intake down. Fortunately I can compromise on the meat thing and I go for a pepperoni pizza. A few slices aren’t going to do much harm after all. And then I leave my drink at the bar and don’t realize for ten minutes… What makes this all the more comical is that Marc does the same thing later on, only for someone to bring the drink over whilst assuming its mine.
The conversation then turns… Marc mentions something incredibly interesting. It is the first whisps of that new life forming… I’m not so certain about what he is suggesting, and to be honest at the time of writing I’m still contemplating whether that is really worth going for, but the seed has been planted. As the night goes on I start to like the idea… There’s one aspect of it I like very much and that aspect, eventually, will form the basis of my potential new life. The life itself hasn’t formulated yet but it will soon enough, as the weekend wears on that is.
As time passes Tud has go back to being dodgy and Marc, Lowri and myself leave the BV and head back to the Tap where we join up with my former housemates; Ryan, Adam and Ellen. Living with those three was not the greatest thrill in the world, especially not when I was going through what I later realized was a major depressive phase towards the end of my third year. Then again I suppose I wasn’t the easiest person to live with myself. But any bad feelings that might be left over from those times have all but vanished with the intervening years… Marc and Lowri head off after a bit… Marc is meeting up with other friends whom I don’t know but his and Lowri’s company was good whilst it lasted. That leaves just four of us and we spend most of the night in the Tap, just talking and drinking. Were it not for the fact that a lot of people who normally would be with us on such a night out are scattered far and wide it would be just like the last four years hadn’t happened.
But I forgot how freaking LOUD Ryan could be… In first year he used to come into my student flat and almost every time he would either wake or annoy the girl who lived opposite by sheer virtue of being the loudest thing in the vicinity. And oooh god is he being loud tonight. It might be made worse by the fact that he is a bit drunk (A bit drunk? Try quite pissed instead James!) He is, in fact, the loudest person in the entire pub… He can be heard right at the other end of the bar, and this isn’t exactly a small pub. It isn’t what I would call large either, but its large enough. And Ryan is being so loud that it is embarrassing. He does admit he’s being very loud though. So that’s something.
Later on we leave to go to another pub (much to the relief of those in the Tap) and view the old homestead along the way… I did film the old place on my phone (and a bit more where we snuck up a friend’s back alley) and I had the intention of putting it in the video but the footage was so poor it was practically useless. We only have one drink in this other pub (The Mostyn) which is tucked away down the back streets and I’m pleased to say that it hasn’t changed a bit. But all too soon the drink is done and as it is getting late and everyone is tired and I have a mountain to climb the next day it is time to say goodbye. It’s quite sad that the night is over. It is one of those nights I want to go on forever. I head back to the Tap, visiting another old haunt of mine along the way… The Petrol Station. Ok… I didn’t hang around here because that would have been weird but I would frequently walk up and buy a chocolate bar, quite often at night, whenever the mood took me. That hankering for a chocolate bar hits me now. I buy a big HERSHEY bar, mostly because I’ve never had one. I pay for it, start eating and I’m walking back to my room for the night when…
My potential new life smacks me right across the back of the head and demands attention. It’s not saying ‘look at me’ but it is saying ‘you can’t go on as you are.’ Things have to change… Part of it is due, I think to the night being so good. This has been one of the best nights I’ve had since, perhaps, the last time I was in Bangor! The earlier conversation with Marc is also still fresh in my mind and although I like the sound of what was suggested I wonder if I really should go for that. Is it the right thing for me? Even though I like it do I really want to do it? What will I get out of it? How will it help? Combined with the other factor I end up sooo confused and unsure about anything or what I’m going to do. It all goes around and around in my head, making it worse. When I get back to my room I set my camera up on the TV stand, sit on the floor and have something of a ‘moment.’
I sleep on it… Actually I don’t. I can’t sleep. The whole thing is going around and around in my head and I just can’t shake it. I can’t stay where I am… Things have to change… LIFE has to change… But how? As the weekend wears on it comes to me. I know what I must do. I see it… There is a road I have resisted for the last few years but now I decide that it is time to take it. If life is to change I must take that road. And I know what I want… By the time I leave Bangor my new life has taken a shape (a shape which does involve ridiculously indulgent coffees) and I like it very much… Whether or not I will take the suggestion that arose from the conversation with Marc I don’t yet know, but the new life leaves room if I decide to take the option. I don’t want to say just what it is yet (or what I’m doing to get there) but I’m excited for it, for what it might lead to. Even the road to it is exciting!