Every year, round about Reading Festival time, a slender magazine plops through the letterbox. It is the Bangoriad, the yeary update for graduates from UCNW Bangor, or plain Bangor University as it now is. I flick through it, gaze across the bits in Welsh and see which words I can puzzle out (like most English students who go there, I (perhaps shamefully) never learnt more than a smattering of the language), read about a few new developments and new appointments, flick over the obituaries just in case someone I knew from then is mentioned, flick through only partially interested, and vagualy thinking of my time there, twenty years ago. This year, however, one thing caught my eye: mention of Y Seren, the student magazine, which has now put all the archive editions online. Going to the website, I spent a good hour looking through the editions between october 1986 and 1989, the time when I was involved in it as gigs and events photographer, occasional columnist, sometime scurrilous letter writer and one time spectacularly bad poetry contributor (however, the poem does have a message concealed, not very secretly, in it). I won't say 'the memories came flooding back': perhaps more accurate to say the memories lapped gently at the knee, and I thought with a wry smile of myself, loitering around the Students' Union building and avoiding lectures.
I got involved with Y Seren during Freshers' week, when I went up to the magazine stall and introduced myself as a photographer. There was one problem: I hadn't actually brought my camera kit ( a Pentax Spotmatic F plus various lenses) with me, and had to wait before my dad turned up a few weeks later before I could actually start shooting. Once I started, I realised I had hit upon almost the perfect way to get into events without paying. I could get into all the gigs free, then I would go backstage with the bands afterwards, do impromptu interviews, and drink their rider. However, this left those occasions where my services as a photographer were not required. In order to circumvent the paying for things problem, I became a member of Ents and RAG, and a member of Stage Crew. This meant I could either be sitting on the door stamping hands and taking money for an hour, then go into the event free (mostly the wednesday and friday discos), or I would help coordinate something and again free entry, or I would be the DJ. Failing that, I would be involved in setting up and taking down the stage equipment: This latter strategy meant that I could indulge in some late night drinking - this was well before 24-hour drinking was introduced, and indeed only just after North Wales allowed people to drink after the ungodly hour of 10.30. In fact, I did almost all of these tasks while enveloped in a warm boozy haze. This fogginess may be the reason why the memories do not exactly flood back.
And why my wry smile? Well, I can't help thinking now of what else I might have done had I not spent so much time living the student lifestyle, and if I had been more confident in my own abilities, especially when it came to going out into the big bad world. I ask myself: What if my 40-year-old self could go back in time and talk with my 20-year-old self? What would I say?
I think it would be something along the lines of this:
'First up, don't worry what other people think of you, ever. You can only be yourself, and this is your life, not anyone else's, and only you can live it. If you screw up, if you do something bad, then you are the one who will judge yourself most severely. Being cool isn't all it's cut out to be: A lot of the time, it's away of doing absolutely nothing, but with style. Just be easy on yourself. Next, don't bother with being shy, and stop hiding behind booze and fags. Express your ideas and opinions, even if others don't agree - remember what I said first? People will respect you the more for being honest in your ideas.
Third, do more study - you're just coasting at the moment, and yes, you're doing OK, but you can do so much, much more. If you don't, you'll spend years feeling frustrated at yourself and blaming yourself and the world around you for your own perceived failure. Remember, Carpe Diem!
Last for now - it's not a crime to enjoy life - live it, even when you don't have any money! Believe me, you won't be rich in the future either. Oh, and fame is a load of bollocks. Now, let's crack open the Merrydown and Red Stripe, put the needle to the record and do put away those fags...'
..and the image fades. And this leaves the question: What would my 60-year-old self say to me now? Since the key to the future always resides within the present, perhaps it's a matter of finding the balding, grey-haired bloke within. Just as long as he isn't wearing beige.