It’s funny. When you lose somebody, you expect that there will be certain dates where you miss them more than other days, when their absence is suddenly all the more noticeable.
I’m talking about their birthday, Christmas, the anniversary of their passing.
What I didn’t expect and which hit me really hard last year, was how much you miss them on your own birthday.
And so here I am, turning another year older tomorrow, and very aware that the day will not be blessed with any contact with my friend Llŷr. No spontaneous phone call, no text, WhatsApp message, no nothing.
My mind floats back to happier times.
The problem with having your birthday so close to the end of the month, is that more often than not, it falls just before payday, so everyone is too skint to do anything to mark the occasion.
Worse still, when it lands on a pre-payday Monday, as it did one year when Llŷr and I were living in The Flat of Filth in Cardiff. Post-work, I was slumped in my recovered-from-the-street-washing-up-bowl-for-a-seat chair, idly flicking through the TV channels, when Llŷr barrelled into the living room.
“Happy birthday dude!” he chirped, and I was aware that he was standing next to me, holding something out for me to take.
“Cheers,” I said, before adding, rather confused, “why have you got my coat?”
“We’re going out. Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“Out. Come on.”
“It’s Monday. There’s nowhere to go.”
“Yes there is,” he persisted. “Come on.”
Still befuddled, I got to my feet, took my coat from him, followed him out the door. Confused as I was, I knew it wouldn’t be anything bad or that would cause me pain or embarrassment. I trusted him.
We walked into town, him still refusing to give me any clues about what the night held for us. Arriving in the city centre, we called into The Rummer Tavern for a pint or two. He kept checking his watch all the time we sat there.
Then, eventually, he necked his pint, encouraged me to do the same, and beckoned me outside again. “Come on, time to go.”
And off we set again, this time stopping at the doors of Clwb Ifor Bach, where he pulled two tickets from his wallet and handed them over to the indie girl at the desk. Next thing I knew, I was following him as he bounded upstairs, heading to the top floor, with it’s tiny stage and even tinier bar (this is not a criticism, by the way. It’s precisely because both are so tiny that Clwb is such a special venue.)
Another pint thrust into my hand, Llŷr led me through the sparse crowd to front left of stage, where he finally turned to me and, when I asked, again, who we were here to see, he grinned the words: “Art Brut”.
This would have been a few months before the release of their debut album in 2005, but we had both fallen in love with their debut single Formed a Band which we’d caught, and he’d doubtless recorded knowing him, numerous times on one of the many music channels we subscribed to.
Here’s the original single version which came out in March 2004; it’s a little scuzzier, less polished than the version which ended up on the album, which fits the lyrical content better to my mind:
They played an absolute barn-stormer of a set that night, playing pretty much every song which would end up on their brilliant Bang Bang Rock & Roll debut album. We danced and drank and whooped and clapped and cheered and joined in with songs we didn’t know, most memorably the chant of “Art Brut – Top of the Pops!”
After the gig, we made our way back to the bar, where I waited as Llŷr popped to the gents. Sensible lad, it’s along walk home. I did what I always do in such situations: looked around and thought how much older I looked than all the bright young things milling about me, speculating whether they thought I was there to collect my offspring, or whether I was security. I wasn’t sure which was worse.
As I stood there, like the biblical parting of the waves, a lanky man with a side-parting, moustache and skinny black tie, sweat dripping from every pore, forced himself through the crowd: Eddie Argos, lead singer of Art Brut. I instinctively offered my hand, which he took and shook. “Great gig!” I heard myself saying, which earned the reply: “Thank you. Thank you very much. Is this the way to the dressing room?”
I don’t have adventures like this anymore.
So, yeh. What I mean is: miss you dude.