Letter to home…

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It is October 2nd 1975. Carrying heavily-laden cases, I’m on my way to University in York for the first time. The A level results had gone particularly well and I managed to get into my first choice of University.

My mum insisted on coming with me as far as Manchester on the train, in part to check I don’t leave my cases anywhere, also to make sure I eat the stack of sandwiches she had made early that morning. My mum, in my lifetime, had never felt the need to travel to Manchester for some urgent shopping, but on this day she does. Perhaps it is the thought of the second born flying the nest.

I can’t work out if my trepidation trumps my excitement. I’m assuming the next few days will be difficult. The torrential rain as we arrive in Manchester Victoria does little to improve the mood and we both get soaked as I see my mum off the train. She is crying, which she claims is the rain. I have butterflies but try to sound breezy. In the minutes before the train’s departure she reels off a list of things to remember, of which the old chestnut of changing my socks and underpants every day features, together with the command to ring that night after seven, to be sure she is home to hear about my progress.

I wondered if my dad had received such lavish attention when he left home to fight in World War Two. I doubt he had as many corned beef and pickle and egg and tomato sandwiches as I was carrying, unless he was expected to feed his whole regiment.

All this comes to mind as we were discussing family history with my uncle Glyn this weekend. In honour of his and Janet’s arrival, I had blitzed the attic trying to find artefacts and photos from my parents, as he is the family historian. Eventually I was able to find a biscuit tin from my youth which dates from about 1960 and shows a little girl in a snowy scene wearing a red scarf and hat. The girl’s face has outlived its usefulness as it has been covered by my mum’s faded, yet distinctive writing on a heavily sellotaped piece of yellowed paper.

The Premium Bonds alluded to on the cover note have long since disappeared, but all the other contents, Army Records, Important Letters and the catch-all Bits and Bobs, were present and correct.

Amongst the salubrious company of the Important Letters were two written by me in my first weeks of University. As my mum had provided stamped letter cards, all I needed to do was to find time to write the one page letter and locate a letter box. It would have been churlish not to have completed those two tasks.

I had not seen the letters in over forty years, and did not remember writing them. Immediately on reading them though, I was back there on my first morning as a student following a restless night’s sleep in my new room. I can remember the emulsioned breeze block that cooled my back from the incessant heat of the central heating system, which had a default position of breathlessly hot, even when turned off. I’d grown up with ice on the inner windows of my bedroom and this central heating would take some getting used to. The letter was the first task after the morning shower as it gave me the opportunity to wile away some time with some purpose.

The letter was inordinately positive and breezy, which was not quite how I felt in those first few days away from home. I was going to be able to fully enjoy and indulge myself in student life, but for now the butterflies had not subsided and I was already exhausted from the charade of looking positive and confident when I felt the opposite.

It was a relief when I teamed up with my first university friend, Davy from Belfast,  who seemed to have both direction and momentum and was patently not lacking in confidence. I must have come across, or at least I hoped I did, as mean and moody in those first few days as I tried to re-orientate myself to this new life. In fact I was melancholy and disorientated in my new surroundings.

I suppose we have all experienced similar feelings on our first forays away from home.

What were yours?

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I did… you can! My life in 45 minutes

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I was recently interviewed by my good friend Phil Crompton for his I did… you can podcast. 

What the podcast revealed about me was both surprising and encouraging. I had viewed my career as something of a train crash with forces beyond my control derailing me at various points… I had not realised that others viewed it differently and I came away form talking with Phil with a much more positive attitude.

Listen to the podcast here… 

David Hughes I did… you can. 

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Rhyl in the early sixties…Gareth William’s childhood.

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This video brings back very pleasant memories for me of the Rhyl of my youth.

The little boy featured in the cine film is my old friend from secondary school Gareth Williams and I would say that this film was taken in 1960/61.

It features the hairdresser’s, the Marine Lake, Punch and Judy and the Beach, just as I remember them when I used to go to the fair with my family on Easter Monday.

Gareth was a gentle soul who is alas no longer with us. He followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Merchant Navy.

I first came across this film a few years ago when Mrs Gaynor Williams, Gareth’s mum, gave us permission to use it as part of a community film and documentary. Mrs Williams retains the copyright on this film.

Gareth Williams as a child in early sixties Rhyl

Rhyl Reflections… extract from a community film

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A few years ago I was involved in the development of a community film with TAPE which brought together memories of Rhyl in its heyday.

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See an insight into those times here… Rhyl Reflections 

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All images courtesy of Tape Music and Film
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The lost art of boredom… and the books to invoke it

The Reso - A Sixties Childhood

Boredom is a wonderful and creative thing. When there are no expectations, the mind becomes clear for peregrinations in open skies.

When thoughts and speculations are allowed to meander some original thinking is developed, as well as an awful pile of meaningless dross.

I perfected the art of boredom as a primary school child in the 1960s. I could spend hours staring at the sky or the sea just mind wandering. Growing up on the coast gave me a massive watery canvas on which to work and a chant of waves to induce the trance.  Mostly I was just wandering, but sometimes, I fleetingly viewed a nugget of an idea which was streaked with genius.

Beyond the Reso

Short of a coastline, the best way to induce this trance like state is through books.

How I used boredom to profitable end, and the trouble it got me into, are outlined in my Reso trilogy of books. Some indication of their enduring popularity can be gleaned from the fact that the library in my hometown no longer stocks them as they are the most stolen volumes from their shelves- that is the ultimate in back handed compliments. Only the ‘I read your book, it was wonderful and hilarious and brought back those times so well. We’ve passed it round the family and all agree it is a superb read!’… you are allowed to buy more than one book… you could give it as a Christmas or birthday present for heaven’s sake!

The Reso begins the story in the 1960s, Beyond the Reso tells the seventies tale of secondary school, and Resolution focusses on the university years and beyond.

I had to use a pen-name as David Hughes is perhaps the ultimate beige name in Wales – several hundred of them are already in print! I chose the surname of a particularly fondly remembered teacher, John Ambrose, and my mum’s maiden name. The name has garnered hoots of derision over the years, but it tends to be memorable.

The books are particularly suitable for a school age readership from upper primary onwards and deal with many of the trials and tribulations of school, as well as the transition to the world of aspirations and careers beyond school. 

They are suitable for anyone who has had a childhood, particularly those who can’t remember it, or those who can.

The books are available to order from all good bookshops, or online here  

Resolution

 

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