As of today, I’ve officially been back in Swansea for a whole year! It simultaneously feels like I’ve been here a much longer and a much shorter time than that – it’s gone in an absolute flash, but I can’t believe how much I’ve done in that time.
This year, I met the most incredible people – friends that I hope quite anxiously that I will keep for the rest of my life. It seems mad that I’ve not known most of them a whole twelve months, but the length of a friendship is almost entirely immaterial when considering how strong or deep it is – human relationships are far too complex to be meted out based on something as arbitrary as time.
I’ve also taken on HOWL, the poetry evening. This matters a lot to me – I agreed to take over before I actually moved, so tomorrow’s event will be the anniversary of my first HOWL back in Swansea. Before the poetry night at Mozarts was called HOWL, it was a brilliant evening called The Crunch, which I attended regularly from 2010 to its untimely demise in 2012. Without The Crunch I would never have started to write or perform poetry, as before it I stuck almost entirely to prose and had never encountered a creative community of its kind. The openness and the warmth of The Crunch, as well as the irreverent and fun atmosphere in the breaks and after the sessions, brought something out in me that I’d never had before, something that is now possibly the most meaningful part of my life. I am very very grateful to it for that, and I feel extremely lucky to be a part of HOWL, which despite being a different beast has some of the camaraderie and energy of acceptance that first greeted me when I entered Mozarts as an uncertain 18 year old.
I also regained a social life this year, which I’d been sorely lacking in Lancashire. Aside from my brilliant best friend Joe, who I’ve known for 20 years (a terrifying fact), I really didn’t know many people. Everyone had left for university and not come back, or moved for work, and I was on my own an awful lot, mooning about the house being lonely and skint and unhappy. Since coming back to Swansea, I’ve been able to go for loads of proper nights out (something I really missed in the time I spent at my mum’s), get to gigs, go to the movies and just hang out around various houses with a selection of awesome people on a really regular basis. Having had both, I can’t begin to describe how much better this is.
There were definitely low points: I’ve been ill quite a bit this year, and we’re not really much closer to knowing exactly what is up with me. This persistent illness ended up with me being sacked for being sick too often, which triggered a horrible chain of events towards the end of 2015. After losing my job, I couldn’t pay my rent (benefits just don’t cover it, I’m sorry to report) and I lost my flat. This was very, very stressful for me, as I thought I’d have to move back home and leave the life I’d built in Swansea. Even worse, moving home turned out not to be an option, as my mother moved in with her parents to save up for moving in the Spring. Luckily, I was saved by the generosity and kindness of a friend, who let me move in to her house while I find somewhere else to go.
During the time before losing my flat, I also had some problems with extensive damp and mould, which most likely made my chest infections worse, as well as spreading across a whole external bedroom wall and destroying a lot of my possessions. I spent the last month or so in that flat on a camp bed in my living room. I also lost Moomin, the little rat baby that I’d had for four years who was pretty much the most special thing in my life. I will probably be sad about that for a long time.
I have to confess that from December to February was a very dark time for me, and I was saved only by the kindness of others – my friend Chen for letting me live with her, and the incredible people of Swansea who donated to my crowdfunder to pay off my January rent. I can’t believe how generous and community spirited people can be, and I will forever feel a debt of gratitude to everyone who helped me, not only by contributing financially in a dire situation, but by showing me how good and selfless people can be, something that is hard to remember when you’re in a bad place.
I’m happy to report that I now have a job I like more than the one that let me go last year, doing similar work in a more supportive environment. Everything is starting to improve for me, and I’m really excited to see what another year back in Swansea might bring.
Highlights of my first year back:
- Taking on HOWL and having great turnouts, as well as some brilliant special guests
- Winning second place in the Robin Reeves award from the Welsh Writers’ Trust
- Goth nights at The Scene with some excellent ladies
- Having my own place (if briefly) for the first time
- Chairing a huge, well-attended anti-austerity rally
- Getting three new tattoos
- Meeting people I will probably love forever
- Laughing harder and more frequently than I ever have before
Here’s to more of the same!