In October 2011 we loaded up the car and we crossed the bridge to Wales. It was a trip we had been looking forward to for a little while now. Heidi and I would go to see Katy Perry in concert, the following night our whole gay family would see Alan Carr’s Specksy Beast tour and in between we’d check out the gay scene in the area and do a little shopping.
I’d taken the week off work to spend with Lara for her half term and the trip we took was a mid-week one. We stayed in the heart of Cardiff, in a hotel located near all the main shops and arena we’d be spending two nights out at. It was also located next to a prison and from our hotel window you could see the inmates while they were exercising in the yard, it was quite a surreal view, so far removed from what you would see from the street level.
Heidi and I were playing rugby by this time and we had enjoyed training with our team, we had our first games coming up and we both played as forwards on the team. Heidi was in the front row and I played second row, so when we were in Wales we got ourselves kitted out for the first game. For me that meant buying the super attractive scrum cap, I’d like to say I managed to make it look cool but that would be a big fat lie.
While we were out shopping I had an unexpected call. It was the hiring manager for the job in West London I had recently been interviewed for. They were calling me then and there for a second telephone interview. It was completely unscheduled and unexpected. I managed to explain that I had been out of the office and missed their email confirming the second interview and we rescheduled for the following day. I would make sure I was back in the hotel in a quiet place for the interview at the agreed time. We were so busy over these couple of days I didn’t even have time to get nervous.
We had a look around at bars on our doorstep and found a couple that we thought we could check out while we were there. The first night there was the concert. Daryl and Lara had no interest in going to see Katy Perry so when Heidi booked the tickets she did so for just the two of us. I’m sure there are plenty of youtube videos of her performances so I won’t explain them in detail, however there are some things that will never come across in a video.
The whole place smelled like cherries or strawberries. The scent was pumped out throughout the venue to set the candy theme that ran throughout the whole performance. There were sets when Katy Perry seemed to be hovering above the audience on a cloud of candy floss. She did a mash up of an Adele classic which was surprising and done rather tastefully. I know she gets a lot of stick for not being the most consistent live performer, yet I would have to say her show wasn’t overproduced. It probably had just the right balance of fun and silliness so that she could still manage to belt her her chart hits as and when required.
All too soon the concert was over and we were had that buzzing for a night out feeling. The whole time we were at the concert I didn’t know what Lara and Daryl were getting up to. However we had hoped that they had found a nice local bar to hang out at until we were done and could join them. I honestly can’t remember even now what they were doing, but we did end up going out while we were there that first night.
We went exploring the streets of Cardiff after we’d all reunited and we found a Flares bar. It was rather quiet since it was a weeknight, however that didn’t stop us all enjoying a drink or two and hitting the dance floor when the classic disco tracks were being pumped out. We all had a second shopping day planned and with another fun filled night seeing the chatty man Alan Carr we didn’t want to get plastered and write ourselves off the following day. Also one of us had an interview to worry about or something?
So the after an early-ish night we headed back to the comfy and squishy beds of the Premier Inn we were staying in. I have to admit, if you’re going to stay at a budget hotel this is the best of the bunch. I feel like I’m qualified to say that after many stays at Travel Lodge and Holiday Inn’s, although you do have to pay a little more than the others unless you book about a year in advance. I sweat they’re not paying me to say that, it’s just true.
One of the most inconvenient things about shopping in Cardiff is that you have to pay for carrier bags. They don’t tell you this either and it’s assumed that most shoppers will bring their own bags with them. So when I was buying underwear from M&S when we were shopping and the lady at the counter asked if I wanted to buy a bag I was puzzled and said no, I never buy these bag-for-life things. What I didn’t realise was she meant the 5p charge for a plastic carrier bag… by the time I realised my mistake I’d paid for my good and had a couple of bras and no bag to put them in. This resulted in a hasty purchase at the next shop just so that I could buy a carrier bag. I won’t be making that mistake again.
When we were done shopping we headed back to the hotel for a while. It wouldn’t be long until my interview now. Lara was going to keep herself busy when we got back to our room by having a long bath. I felt a little self-conscious that she was there in the room with me so I improvised some privacy. The windows in the hotel was large and deep, I climbed up on the window sill and sat in the window with the curtain closed in front of me. I might have been looking out over a prison but I felt very secluded and I couldn’t hear Lara pottering about in the room out of sight.
I felt the interview went really well. We talked more about the role this time, I asked sensible questions about what my responsibilities would be and whether there were opportunities for further career development within their department. They asked me about my skills and experience to day, there were the typical ‘tell me a time when’ scenario based questions. However by this point I had been with the company so long I knew how to speak the language. Although it was a phone interview I didn’t let the occasional silence get to me, it only made sense that they would need a moment or two to make notes between answers and I didn’t want to run the risk of over-talking out of nerves.
The interview ended with ‘We’ll be in touch week to let you know the outcome of our deliberation’ and I honestly couldn’t say whether I had down well or not. I didn’t think I could have performed any better in that interview, however I had thought that before with the job in the Central London office and that didn’t amount to anything, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. However when I got off the phone Lara commented that from what she heard she thought it went well. I was surprised that she had listened in and for the first time we started talking about how much would change if I got the job.
We all met up before the show to go for dinner. We went to Ed’s Diner in the shopping centre just across from the venue. The guys asked how the interview went and I told them that I couldn’t tell but I’d know by next week. They were wished me luck and shortly after my quick recap we forgot about it all in the easy banter than often springs up when we were all together.
We timed our arrival at the show and sat down for a night of comedy. We had all seen his previous tour DVD so we knew what kind of humour to expect, we partly thought we’d know a lot of the jokes too, however it was all new material. I have to admit, he’s not my favourite comedian and there are many more I would rather see but we still all laughed a lot and the show seemed to be over before it had even started.
Now that the interview was out of the way I was up for a proper night out this time. In my youth I had spent one or two nights out on the gay scene in Cardiff with friends and really enjoyed it. There was a club called Exit I wanted to find because it had the disco light dance floor and was a decent size for a gay bar. Plus it was getting closer to the weekend so it was more likely to be busy and a better night out. However all we found was a gay bar on the same street as the hotel, we ventured in for a drink or two and spotted that it was karaoke, unfortunately they called last orders before we’d really settled in.
The rest of the guys wanted to head back to the hotel after a long day and I wasn’t about to go out in Cardiff on my own so I gave in too. The following morning I’d check the damage at the local car park I’d left my car in for the past two nights and then we’d make our way back to England. It’s amazing just how foreign Wales can feel at times, I think it’s the road signs that really do it, the different languages are comical. The Welsh words just seem so long and unusual and when you look at them you can only guess at how they’re pronounced. Even as I’m typing this now all that sticks in my head of the language is that ARAF means ‘slow’ and I only know that because it’s plastered all over the roads.
It had been a good break, we’d all had fun. Better yet, a week later I’d had the call back from the team in London and they offered me the job. We just had to negotiate my start date with my team in Somerset and then I could be on my way. I had to give a months notice, from this moment everything would move very quickly. I’d have to find a place to stay, fork out a rental deposit and break the news to Lara and the guys. Everything was about to change. It was exciting, it was scary and it was everything I wanted.