Image for post
Image for post

Ian ‘Jungles’ Jones was a one off. I first got to know him when he over zealously pogoed out of a window to the Skids on the jukebox at the Half Moon Inn in Garnant. He picked himself up and carried on pogoing outside in the beer garden until the song finished. “Into the Valley”, I was impressed.

He was a natural clown, the first you’d call when arranging a night out, assured to be never less than doubled over with laughter. But sadness also followed him around like an evil ginger twin. …


My roles in life in chronological order

Image for post
Image for post

Being, infant son, apple of their eye, grandson, nephew, cousin, citizen, Cymro Cymraeg, enforced Christian, toddler, mother’s chocolate pudding, patient, small boy, wonderer at the world, dog owner, watcher with mother, visitor, learner, little artist, reader, playmate, passenger, Bampa’s little horse, schoolboy, cinema goer, chapel goer, third wise man, friend, dirt collector, bychan Arthur Goss, singer, reciter, Barbara Goss’ boy, Gran’s little bugger, football fan, owner of treasured Geoff Hurst autograph, street games afficionado, den builder, Auntie Maria’s nose borer, Tufty Club member, day tripper, televison watcher, European Citizen, reluctant choirboy, horse rider, Panini card collector, Atheist, rugby fan, consumer, swimmer, secondary school boy, local adventurer, failed fisherman, part-time labourer, military modeller (Airfix division), Hornby Railways enthusiast, winner of silver jubilee drawing competition, Stanley Gibbons Stamp Club member, daydreamer, member of the National Geographic Society, mountain man, Mayfly Boy Scout, royalty refusenik, pen-pal, book club member, chess club member, theatre goer, music fan, record buyer, disco dancer, park bench snogger, pub-goer, punk rocker, sixth former, reluctant prefect, Thatcher hater, young adult, driver, jogger, passport holder, overseas traveller, boyfriend, lover, painter, print maker, mourner, worker, tax payer, student, gym goer, squash player, weight trainer, summertime dole boy, lodger, fleeting rugby player, car owner, prospective son-in-law, fiancée, technical illustrator, tenant, tutor, premature male-pattern-baldness victim, usher, overworked designer, singleton, man about town, jetsetter, lodger again, nightclub denizen, toy-boy, almost traveller, head-over-heels-in-lover, groom, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, surrogate cat owner, patchy beard sporter, globe trotter, circumnavigator, freelancer, homeowner, Destroy-It-Yerselfer, part-time builder/ gardener/ electrician/ carpenter/ decorator, orphan, father to Evan, landlord, rugby sufferer, ad hoc design draftsman, commuter, house seller, house buyer, dad to Megan, Bachelor of Arts (Hons), graphic designer, part-time lecturer, qualified lecturer, self-employed designer, website designer, sole trader, father to Gareth, employer, launch guest, business partner, director, father to Bryn, resident of Derwen Fawr, custodian of oak trees, Sarah’s Sweetheart, archer, designer of the Scarlets logo, post-graduate student, he-who-may-be-sat-upon-by-cats, Swansea Digital Futures steering committee member, Dunvant RFC committee member, Labour Party member, ex-Labour Party member, Swansea Civil Service Cricketer, Master of Arts, second home owner, landlord again, cricket scorer, writer, portrait artist, Remoaner, published author, desperately sad former Citizen of Europe, member of Yes Cymru, befuddled middle aged man, hopeful rejoiner, prospective Santa. …


Confessions of a Boot Boy

Image for post
Image for post

While cleaning my wife’s little boots yesterday I began thinking of how much I’ve always loved the task. It’s a satisfying process to scrape off mud and detritus, to brush vigorously before applying polish, waiting for it to soak in for a few minutes, then buffing to a high shine with a soft brush and cloth. I sometimes indulge myself further by applying a layer of Dubbin, a greasy salve that helps waterproof and further shine and protect the shoe.

When my four children were little it was my Sunday afternoon job to polish their school shoes in readiness for the week ahead. I loved the whole process and the reason for doing it. It was a tangible symbol of my love for them and a demonstration of it to the world I was sending them out into. It had a value akin to that of clothing them in a warm, waterproof coat in winter, evidence that I was doing my job as a dad. …


Image for post
Image for post

One of my favourite photographs of my mother is of her smiling, alone in a windswept pac-a-mac and headscarf in front of a rocky outcrop. On the back it says “Snowdon Summit. Sept 58” in her clear handwriting that is still so familiar to me. She obviously liked the photo enough to have labelled it, anchoring it in time and place.

It comes from a battered biscuit tin full of old photographs. The box is dark green with a leaf and fence pattern that reeks of the late fifties. I’ve known it my whole life. Through my childhood it sat in the bottom cupboard of my mother’s reproduction Welsh dresser. When she died it came to our house in Swansea and was put up on a shelf with our own albums for a while. We moved soon after and the box found its way into my uncle’s old pine dresser in our dining room. As the stack of school photographs of our children grew, the box was eased out of place and found its refuge for the last fifteen years on the top shelf of my back office. …


Image for post
Image for post

As the intro began I caught a deep, unmistakable whiff of 1982.

“Primary” by The Cure. When I hear it now, I am transported to the back bedroom of my parents’ house that looked out over their lovingly tended garden and my dad’s greenhouse.

It was a bright, airy room I’d decorated myself — buttermilk walls with salmon pink woodwork and a frieze of tulips around the window. What was I thinking? But then I’d also installed some blue spotlights that gave the room an eerie atmosphere and made it impossible to read in without another lamp. I had a bed, a portable black and white TV, a bureau and a wardrobe (both of which I’d also painted and stencilled). I’d often sit in my late grandmother’s Edwardian armchair I’d somehow acquired, with my drawing board on my lap. The windowsill was full of cacti and houseplants I’d had a brief fascination with — the ubiquitous Mother-in-Law’s tongue, an Aluminium plant, Peperomia, Rabbit’s Foot and a Rubber plant. …


Read the graffiti about slashed seat affairs
()

Image for post
Image for post

All through my childhood I travelled by bus. My father was a very reluctant driver, so if we were going anywhere (over ten miles) we took the bus. As my mother didn’t drive we went everywhere by bus if my dad was working. We took tortuous journeys to Swansea, shopping trips to Ammanford or just down the road to my grandparents or my aunties if it was raining.

Apart from these everyday journeys we would also have gone on the annual summer ‘Club Trip’ from the Working Men’s Club in Brynamman to Tenby or Porthcawl (we even went on an ambitiously distant day out to St David’s once). These were interminably long journeys on comparatively plush coaches packed with nattering mothers and their overexcited children. The reward of a glittering seaside, ice cream, and sand in every orifice by the end of the day made the journey worthwhile, just about. The trip back with sunburn chafing against the velour seats with only a daubing with calamine lotion to look forward to when we got home was less enjoyable. …


Image for post
Image for post

I had been driving (off road) for as long as I could reach the pedals. My dad was a stonemason and I worked with him in the school holidays. He liked me to ferry him from the churchyard gate up to the grave site we were working on. He got a kick out of getting out to open the gate while I scooched across to the driver’s seat before leaping onto the bonnet for a ride as I reversed shakily up the access road.

As soon as I was old enough he took me up the Black Mountain to practice and I soon got the hang of the winding country roads. I had a few lessons with a gentle soul called Mr Pitman and our neighbour, Tomos Charles, would take me out in his car of a Sunday morning for a spin to Swansea Airport. He’d play his easy listening eight track cassettes of Mario Lanza and James Last all the way down and we’d have a full English in the airport café before driving home. …


Image for post
Image for post

My wife, in typically stoic fashion, returned to work just six weeks after giving birth to our first son. Back then Sarah was manager of a group home for two Down’s adults on the outskirts of Swansea so had to do shifts, which included sleep-ins.

I was working as a part-time lecturer at the local college and also as an ad hoc draftsman for an engineering company in Llandeilo. This meant I was out three days of the week but home every evening. …


Image for post
Image for post

It strikes me now how little I knew my Auntie Vi.

My father’s older sister lived with us for the first thirteen years of my life and was an ever-present in my childhood. But I never really knew her, despite her kindness to me, which I took for granted.

She and my dad had moved in to a new council house from their lifelong family home in the fifties and when my parents got married, spinster Violet stayed. She had the front bedroom, my parents the back bedroom and I was in the boxroom.

It must have been a difficult arrangement for the two women to get used to but I was never aware of any friction, although I’m sure there must have been some. The two women appeared close and when I came along they shared in their fuss and doting of me, a circumstance I was not massively keen on and have been resistant to ever since. They went to the English Congregational Church together on Sundays, Vi driving my mother nuts with her enthusiastic and often mispronounced renditions of the hymns. Vi helped with the Sunday dinner afterwards, but I don’t remember her cooking otherwise. …


Image for post
Image for post

The house, council built at the end of the fifties, was unremarkable. It sat in a neat cul-de-sac of similar semi-detacheds which, for most of their existence, had been chock full of low to middle income families.

His parents had led a happy if unambitious life there, achieving their goal of successfully raising their son and eventually owning their own home following a sell off of stock by the local authority in the eighties. They’d invested a substantial part of their savings into refurbishing the property soon after completing the purchase but had died well short of enjoying it in retirement. …

About

Simon Goss

All this, and still European too.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store