diamond geezer

 Monday, January 16, 2023

The day before you came (Friday 16th January 1998)

I must have left my house at eight, because I always do
Actually I used to leave my house at seven and walk down to the bus station to catch the quarter past. I was always one of the first into work because that meant I could get more done before everyone else turned up.

My train, I'm certain, left the station just when it was due
But on this particular Friday, atypically, yes I caught the train. For highly unlikely reasons (which would prove life-changing) I'd been allowed a day off to attend an event in London, and even better work was paying the £29 for a peak ticket. My train, I'm certain, left Bedford station at half past eight.

I must have read the morning paper going into town
Not on this particular Friday. Normally I bought one from Forbuoys in Greenhill Street, assuming they'd raised the shutters early enough, and would then flick through the first few pages on the bus. But today my routine was very different, plus I had company on the train and it wouldn't have been polite to read throughout the journey.

And having gotten through the editorial, no doubt I must have frowned
Oh come on, Brits don't buy newspapers whose editorials they disagree with. I don't know what the editorial was that day, but I do know I read it because I picked up a free copy of my newspaper at the event later in the day.

I must have made my desk around a quarter after nine
If I'd made my desk at 9.15 on a normal day then I'd have been told off for being very late. On this particular day we made it to the event just after ten and collected our badges from reception. I confess I'd showed off along the way by knowing how the tube worked better than my companion.

With letters to be read, and heaps of papers waiting to be signed
That wasn't how my job worked... although ABBA were right, everything was paper-based in those pre-email days. My unusual Friday involved acquiring paper rather than processing it, but I did manage to enter a bit of data into a spreadsheet because 1998 wasn't entirely behind the times.

I must have gone to lunch at half past twelve or so
Quarter past twelve actually. We looked at the venue's price list and were so aghast we made do with just soup, not that we were ever able to work out what kind of soup it was.

The usual place, the usual bunch
The usual place for guzzling down my packed lunch was separate from my colleagues. They'd perfected the art of taking a full hour off but I didn't feel the need to join them chatting and gossiping, I was more into using every minute to make sure my afternoon went smoothly.

And still on top of this I'm pretty sure it must have rained
Ah I know this one, no it didn't. Inexplicably someone has uploaded the BBC weather forecast for Friday 16th January 1998 to YouTube, and I've watched it and the skies were mainly clear that day with no showers due until Sunday.

The day before you came
Technically it was the other way round, you stayed put and I came over to yours. But yes this was indeed Day Minus One, and I had no idea of the pivotal tipping point due to occur in approximately 24 hours time.

I must have lit my seventh cigarette at half past two
Heavens no, I've never puffed on a cigarette in my life. I have other unhealthy habits but not that one. I was never tempted not least because I had no desire to smell constantly like an ashtray. If you'd been a smoker I don't think our upcoming rendezvous would have got much further.

And at the time I never even noticed I was blue
I wasn't blue but I was in a rut and I genuinely hadn't noticed. I had very few friends, mainly because most people at work were much older than me, so I plodded on alone because that's how I assumed my life was going to be. A big social jolt lay immediately ahead.

I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day
On a normal day business might have dragged but this was anything but, I was on the loose in central London with a budget and making executive decisions all by myself. On a typical day work was all about clockwatching but this felt like unbridled freedom.

Without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away
Given the choice what I'd rather have done was stay up in London for the evening and made the most of its multiple opportunities, but I couldn't because my work colleague was heading home to his family and I was expected to tag along. That said if I hadn't gone straight home I'd never have made the phone call that led to tomorrow, so thanks colleague.

At five I must have left, there's no exception to the rule
No I was usually out of work well before then, mainly because if I left it until after five there wasn't a bus home for ages. On this particular day we escaped the event before half past three, mainly because we could but also because it was a long trip home.

A matter of routine, I've done it ever since I finished school
I don't think I've ever worked in a job with a fixed hometime, not since I was at school. Admittedly in my last job I did eventually get to the stage where my terms and conditions said I could leave at four so I invariably did, and a lot of people who didn't realise I'd been in since eight must've thought I was a total slacker.

The train back home again
That'd be the four fifteen from St Pancras. It'd be another three years before my commute home again involved a train, and this shift would ultimately be because of the meet-up I was about to have tomorrow.

Undoubtedly I must have read the evening paper then
No, I read the morning paper instead because I now had a copy, and because my colleague had thankfully succumbed to tiredness and fallen asleep. Also the Evening Standard wasn't free back in 1998 and I had no intention of buying an unnecessary copy.

Oh yes, I'm sure my life was well within it's usual frame the day before you came
I really can't emphasise this enough, my 'Day Before You Came' was about as atypical as it ever got.

I must have opened my front door at eight o'clock or so
I have never understood why Agnetha took an hour and a quarter to travel to work but three hours to get home. Today I managed to open my front door about five o'clock, which wasn't bad after whizzing back from London but later than I normally allowed on a Friday.

And stopped along the way to buy some Chinese food to go
Fish and chips would have been more likely, given it was Friday. On the Wednesday I had in fact stopped off for a double cheeseburger because Burger King had them on special offer. But what I actually had this particular Friday evening was a tasty pork chop, as whipped out from my fridge and lightly grilled.

I'm sure I had my dinner watching something on TV
That'd be TFI Friday, with this particular episode featuring special guests All Saints, Barbara Windsor and Neil Tennant. Or if I was eating slowly it might have been Top of the Pops, with Jayne Middlemiss introducing the Lighthouse Family, All Saints and Robbie Williams doing Angels.

There's not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn't see
It was Brookside I never ever missed, although tonight's episode was interrupted by my brother ringing up about our upcoming trip to Eurodisney. We'd left it so late to book that the only alternative was first class on Eurostar and a plusher hotel than we'd have liked, but needs must.

I must have gone to bed around a quarter after ten
If I'm ever in bed that early I am seriously unwell. On this particular evening I was online at ten chatting to my potential date for Saturday, trying hard to explain that I really was interested even though I was 80 miles away. In due course I was going to end up being the one that did almost all the travelling, but I didn't know that yet.

I need a lot of sleep, and so I like to be in bed by then
I never have needed a lot of sleep, I'm much more a half twelve kind of person. As things turned out I wasn't going to get a lot of sleep the following night...

I must have read a while
No, I wrote my diary instead. I always do, it helps to summarise a day, and how brilliant that I did because I now have a perfect snapshot of how mundane my life was the day before everything changed. It's also invaluable to have a record of the two years that followed, mainly to remind myself that it was rarely perfect and all the warning signs were there.

The latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style
I've never read a Marilyn French. I've also never read a Barbara Cartland, as per the Blancmange cover version. Both could probably have offered wise advice about rogues and relationships, but instead I was about to discover all this first hand.

It's funny, but I had no sense of living without aim
And there in a nutshell is the brilliance of an ABBA lyric. Back in 1998 I was totally 'living without aim', merely getting on with things with no thought of where I was heading. I could easily have carried on in a risk-free furrow - adrift, ambitionless and socially inert.

The day before you came
Instead I gave change a try and bingo, by the end of the year I had new friends in a completely different part of the country, a new job in the bag, a new car on the order books and big plans to move house. I would never have believed any of this the day before you came.

And turning out the light I must have yawned and cuddled up for yet another night
No no no, there was no cuddling, I had nobody to cuddle, it'd been almost a year since I'd last managed an overnight cuddle. There's a lot to be said for having a double bed to yourself but also, as I was about to find out, also a lot to be said for sharing one on a regular basis.

And rattling on the roof I must have heard the sound of rain
No Björn, we've already established that this metaphor for misery never happened. Plus I wasn't miserable, merely underachieving at everything other than work.

The day before you came
Given everything that was about to happen, I really wish you hadn't. And given everything that followed on afterwards, I'm bloody glad you did.

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