Full moon, full circle
Last night was full moon. I was driving back late, an awful wet night, but occasionally the clouds parted and let her smile through at me. Made me think of who else might be looking at the moon right now in the world.
Dave Pearce was featuring 1987 on the Dance Years programme on Radio 2. Can there be any more coincidences? Alexander O’Neal’ ‘Fate’, the beginning of Stock, Aitken and Waterman, Pump Up the Volume, Eric B and Rakim. Familiar tunes from the year I started at Aberystwyth. The maths of it being 27 years ago seems almost inconceivable but there you go.
This weekend, by sheer coincidence, some old Aber student friends and I are meeting up after years of Christmas cards saying ‘This year we really must..’ At least we kept in touch. Last week I miraculously reconnected with others I knew who I’d lost touch with completely, a bunch of wonderful leftie drama students we were, who I made post apocalyptic type drama with in the 1st year, anti-Thatcher, anti-poll tax, anti-Clause 28. Now we’re all 40-something on Facebook, some have had illness, we’ve lost parents and peers, some have nearly grown-up children. Life going on. Still, witty and gorgeous as ever, it’s been wonderful fun to reconnect with them. I wonder, why did I lose touch with those people? I think my confidence was so low at that stage that I didn’t believe anyone interesting would miss me slipping out of their orbit, and in fairness they probably didn’t. I wasn’t at my best at Aberystwyth.
It is obviously a devise of my story that I have not been back to Aberystwyth since I left as a student. I’ve been a few times, not least pursuing this story. But when I go back next week to do the show it feels subtly and hugely different.
When I left Aberystwyth in 1990 I felt crap, I had lost part of myself and couldn’t get away fast enough. If I’m honest I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to recover from that fracture and pursue a sense of wholeness. Some people pursue career and family with adulthood – good idea, I’d have loved those things – but almost despite myself, finding peace with myself has been the predominant task. Which isn’t a pointless task let’s face it. Am I there now? It’s possible I’m as close as I’ve ever been. As I go back to Aberystwyth now something profound seems to fall into place, circles crossing each other, threads woven back together. My Dad’s story forced me reluctantly back to Aberystwyth, back to dark places in myself – and now finally perhaps, out the other side.
I may not have the conventional tick-box list of achievements, but on the long road I’ve been on since, and out of the personal, spiritual and creative process I’ve been on, has come this project – a medicine which has brought me back to myself and through which I’m discovering what my work is and what I can do for others; creative and teaching work I can do that makes me feel peaceful inside, like a proper grown-up, not someone whose pretending or trying to be.
On Saturday I saw it was Yom Kippor in my diary, the Jewish Festival of Atonement. 4 years ago I was in Romania for Yom Kippor, on my travels the year after my father died, the trip the show is about. I would never have known it was Yom Kippor because of Dad – he wasn’t a traditional person and didn’t bring us up with any of the festivals or anything.
4 years ago I sat in the beautiful pale blue, white and gold synagogue of Braila, the city where my grandmother was born, where I’d been searching, not very successfully, for family roots. I sat on the women’s side and didn’t know what was going on as the rabbi intoned on, probably not merely because it was all in Romanian. Still, it was peaceful somehow, and I sat beside Nadia, who had the best English in the community and looked after me and whispered what was going on from time to time. People turned round to ask who I was and most chattered fairly consistently through the whole service, I was quite taken aback. Occasionally everyone was shushed to give the rabbi some sort of courtesy but it seemed to be the style. I could understand why my Dad rejected what might seem purposeless attendance without engagement in religion. He wasn’t a religious man. You’ve got one life, he used to say.
Last night, nearly home late, I drove past Blackburn Hospital as the rain and moon took it in turn to show themselves. That was where my father’s life came to an end. What strange and vivid moments they are aren’t they, being with the dying? I remembered a 24-hour shop somewhere near here, at a similar dead-of-night, looking for dog food, my dog forced to tag along with me, holed up in the car with the occasional walk those strange few days of vigil. What that the shop? But I whizzed past on near empty roads, keen to get home. I’d driven 4 hours each way to Maryport in Cumbria to do a presentation of ‘Aberystwyth’ for a rural touring launch; the journey goes on. I had the lonely cat, work tomorrow, and the rest I need before Aberystwyth next week on my mind. I’m in my 40’s now, I can’t shlep around doing all hours like I used to.
And so back to the 27 years, and oceans and tides that have passed since I was young and at Aber. Connecting with old friends, looking at photos, rewinds and fast forwards me between then and now. And it’s so exciting, being where I am now, going to Aberystwyth, now! I don’t know who will come, a few old friends and contacts, hopefully others. It’s hard work doing the marketing from a distance. I hope the town will embrace a story that took place there, and forgive my adolescent moaning. Aberystwyth was never the problem, it never is.