Thank you for coming back, brews at the ready, lets get going again.
I had been working on my music with no job for a few weeks now. I had no job and plenty of time on my hands. I was still living at home with Mum and trying my hardest to prove I could do this... Not for my sanity, but for hers.
I would spend hours and hours writing lyrics, crossing them out, re-writing them, then throw a paddy and finally launch my book across the room. I was slowly going insane. Days were turning to nights at an alarming rate and I was still locked in my room forcing music out of my self. Moving painfully slow between chord progressions and trying to develop my finger picking style. The lack of progression drove me crazy so I decided to travel more for inspiration. Despite not being a well travelled man, I'm pretty proud knowing that there is not a back road or country lane I've not followed through South Wales. Forever in search of a place to find peace and quiet while writing. I still visit these hidden spots when it's time to think.
During this time of unemployment, my fathers side of the family decided to sell the business that directed. We were all extremely lucky to hold shares in this business. When the final papers were signed, we were all graced with a fairly large amount of money each. You'd think this would be an awesome thing to inherit. It was, don't get me wrong, but it swayed me to follow a path of self loathing and destruction.
At first I was really sensible. I went to meetings with bank managers to try and invest my money in the safer areas of the stock markets. The talk of percentages and banker jargon made my head spin. I was eighteen, without a father and pretty angry at the world. Rather than doing what I'd do today, I decided to let my frustrations get the better of me. I'd kick up a fuss and claim I had no options but to harbour such money, that nobody was willing to help me. In turn I just started spending. I mean really going for it. I spent a period dressed in expensive suits, designer clothes and looking like a complete pillock.
I was pissed off with everything. Pissed off I wasn't getting anywhere with my music. Pissed off that I didn't want to work with food any more. Pissed off that I had no worth while education. Pissed off that I couldn't stop spending money despite how good it felt. Money had become the one thing that made me happy. Made me feel like someone. Crazy nights out where every body in the bar would get a shot would follow. Picking up the bill for everyone getting fucked up with me. It's amazing how may people become your friend when you have money for stupid shit. It was out of control and I was fast becoming a state.
It wasn't long before my antics had made a considerably sized dent in my bank account. Fearing I'd lose all my money and the "happiness" that was attached to it, I decided to get my ass a job. Jobs weren't going to help me at this point. I worked for All Saints for a while and hated every minute of it. I hated how pretentious it was and how the management team acted like royalty due to the brand they were associated with. This was the point I realised that getting fucked up and showing up to work hungover wasn't very retail. The only place I knew I could get away with this shit was in the food industry.
I landed a job in Woods Brasserie in Cardiff Bay. It matched my lifestyle perfectly for a brief moment in time. I was cooking high end food and rubbing shoulders with some of the most amazing chefs I'd ever worked with. Listening to their first hand stories of working with Gordon Ramsey over a few drinks every evening made me feel like I'd landed on my feet. That I was part of an elite lifestyle. I had money, a prestiges job and felt comfortable in a really (s)wanky scene. Yup, you guessed it. History repeated it self. Soon I was miserable being back in the food industry. This drove me to get even more fucked up every evening. I knew I was becoming out of hand when I'd spend the breaks of my split shifts getting shit faced on spirits in the bars close to the restaurant. There were countless run ins with the police at this time. Mainly due to being a shit faced prick. Looking back I can only roll my eyes.
The constant suppression of grief and inability to cope with death and my own mortality was dragging me down. No matter how hard I worked on something I could never quite find happiness... Not without being half way through a bottle of rum and various other substances. This was the time to fall back to music. To bury my head in the sand and claim I was working on a "music mission"... Shudder. Since inheriting that money I had bought a few things other than expensive suits and booze. These were things that actually proved beneficial to me in the long run;
1 x laptop, 6 x stringed instruments, various longboards and a camper van. As you do.
It was now time to escape to somewhere further from home. To leave the country in my van and head to where ever I could until the money ran out. Hopefully to return with an album worth signing. The original plan was to drive to Europe and make my way to Scandinavia. Explore everything worth exploring before catching a ferry back to Scotland. Then leave Scotland on a container ship and head across the pond to the states. Drive for miles, set fire to the van when I was done and return home a fuckin legend...
Granted this never happened.
I was being a fuckin dick and Abi had no problem raising this issue with me on countless occasions. I would kick up a huge stink and claim she was being unfair and preventing me from doing something I needed to do. Only in hindsight I realise how fuckin selfish I was acting. Instead, I made various solo trips up and down the coast of Wales often sleeping in my van in lay byes or on deserted beaches. This was when I was finally starting to work things out. Being on the road for hours on end gave me an amazing ability to work out my problems. Admittedly there were still nights I'd get pissed up to get to sleep in sketchy areas. My selfish behaviour was still prevalent despite realising that I had been acting a cock for so many months. It was time to change. It was time to make a final push to escape who I'd become. During this time I'd put Abi through hell and decided that the only way I wasn't going to drag her down with me was to break up with her. I fuckin hated myself for this.
A few months in the run up to christmas, my family were planning on travelling to New York. I decided to opt out of this and travel to Ireland alone. It was here my love of exploring was being rekindled. I'd drive all morning to reach the next destination. Spend the afternoons looking around and writing songs. Then evenings were spent playing music with the locals while drinking pint after pint of local brew. Living like this was a blast. I was a nobody, with no shame, a guitar and a few stories. The local pubs were filled with older gents and women playing the most beautiful music. They were all so welcoming and would often share similar stories to mine and give sound advice. These older men and women were like councillors to me. A debt I will never repay. It was when I reached the South coast I started to feel grounded. I was blown away by the beauty of my desolate surroundings. My troubles were working them selves out and I was free to explore. I then planned to make it round the whole coast back towards the north in a full circle route. From there I'd decide whether or not I'd go home or ferry my way across to Scotland to continue the adventure.
With a new found freshness present in my mind, things were starting to look up. Maybe I'd be able to make it state side after all. An adventure was truly starting to unfold beneath the wheels of my van. It became a challenge to make it to as many destinations as possible through out the day. Even if it meant driving for hours and hours on end. The route I made for my self hugged the Atlantic. The scenery would changed hourly. One minute it would be lush green fields, the next would be rugged rocks that bared the scars of many storms. The next corner could never come quick enough. Each one presenting another breath taking view.
One morning I woke up to a view of snowy mountain tops. It was clear and crisp. A perfect day to get some miles in and make it to Inch Strand to witness the big swells rolling in. I set off after watching the sun rise and blazed every road ahead. Soon evening had taken over the days duty and put the sun to rest. I remember stopping for a while to get some food in me and have a cuppa. I was parked in a gravel lay by that sat smack bang in the middle of a road that resembled something from the midwest. Telephone poles followed the road side and below it, a low verge separated the tarmac from carpet like grass. This was all I could see for miles.
Enjoying the emptiness of my location, I sped away from this lay by watching the dust fill the road in my mirror. It was honestly like something out of a movie. This place was epic and completely empty. I had a chance to see how fast I could get the van moving here. Soon I was hammering along with out a care in the world. I left this road and entered a small village named Bally Longford. Probably moving a little to fast I heard a huge thud followed by the steering wheel desperately trying to follow an anti clockwise motion. I pulled over to see what the fuck was going on. Turns out I'd hit a pothole and completely fucked the passenger side of the van. One of the alloys had dented causing a puncture and the rear one had cracked. I was up shit creek now.
As I was struggling to jack the van up I was questioned by a gentleman with an accent so thick I couldn't understand a word he was saying. After a few frustrating exchanges of words he left in a hurry. Soon to return with a gigantic trolley jack to help me. When we finally had the van up in the air he explained how the damage underneath was a big problem and that I shouldn't drive any further. He then stared at my wheels for roughly five minutes with his arms crossed whilst giving out a few sighs. He then ordered me to get in his car. Truth be told I was shitting myself. We were off to visit a friend of his. No doubt a friend with a few gnarly dogs and a fuckin gun. Conversation was strained as we sped through endless country lanes and farm roads. Soon we reached a house that stood in the middle of nowhere. It had pristine white walls and huge black gates that were opening when we arrived. This was it. Some mob boss was about to cap me and I had no other option to comply... What was really happening was, this stranger was helping me get a new set of wheels. This house was owned by someone he knew who owned a limo service. Sure as hell, there were limos every where and pimped out 4x4s with wheels that matched mine. Fuckin sorted.
There was sadly nothing on site that we could take away but this limo owner had already called his boys from the garage to go and check out the vanto see what needed to be done. As we departed the phone rang. It was the garage guys saying that they'd be with us first thing in the morning to take the van in and sort every thing out and potentially sort out some new wheels. That was that. The return journey consisted of me not being able to thank him enough and him questioning me on my love for Gordon Ramsey. Upon arrival back to my van, another car had hit the same pot hole and suffered the same fate. All the neighbours were out with cups of tea and plates of sandwiches as others changed her wheel and insisted the car owner go inside where she would be warm.
After meeting most of the residents over a good cuppa I went back to the van to sleep for the night. Much to the disliking of my new Irish family. They had offered me a bed and a proper cooked dinner. I was too polite to take them up on their offer as I was already dumbfounded by how welcoming they'd been already. Nothing was an issue for them. I was then woken just after the crack of dawn and invited inside for a solid Irish breakfast. A full plate of bacon, sausages, black and white puddings, eggs, mushrooms and some thick cut toast. Their hospitality still genuinely surprises me to this day. The van was then picked up and I was set to make the journey with the daughter of the family into the main town to arrange cash for repairs.
After a full day of seeing the sights and arranging cash we came back to the house. One of the mechanics was finishing up his work on the van. He insisted there was nothing I could do and that I should go inside to warm up. It was almost christmas remember. The air was bitter outside. Inside the house was warm and filled with the scent of peat from the fire. I will never forget this smell. It smelt like home. Not my own home but home. A warm earthy burrow almost. We shared one last pot of tea and I smoked at the back door whilst listening attentatively to their stories of the land that lay behind the house.
Sadly I had to say my good byes and make my way home. The van was still fairly unfit to make the rest of the journey I had planned. I think this was my Dad and Grandad's way of telling me to go home and clean up my mess. As a thank you I gave the mother a christmas card, bottle of wine and a huge thank you and well wishes for christmas. I had also snuck a fair bit of cash in the card as a way of trying to repay them for everything they had done for me. Just as I set off she rushed out of the house and chased me down the street. As I stopped, thinking I'd forgotten something she came bounding up to the window and threw the bank notes back at me through the window. She was adamant that I didn't owe them a thing. I will never be able to thank these guys enough for helping me out. They made my whole trip around Ireland into something incredible. They were amazing.
After writing this I've managed to track down their address via Google maps and street view. Rest assured I'll be sending them another christmas card this year.
More to follow
Next I will cover gigging, deli life and job hopping.