I met David, or ‘Dai Neath’ as I prefer to think of him, when I first started working in my current job. David described himself as an awkward sod who liked winding people up. He then proceeded to demonstrate this by annoying and/or entertaining everyone in the staffroom. We called him Dai Neath because he was born in London and is completely besotted with life in the capital and with Tottenham Hotspur. His family moved to Wales, specifically to Neath, when he was 8 and he never really forgave them. If someone dislikes Wales that much, finds themselves forced by circumstance to live here, has a great Welsh name and gets outrageously wound up by being called Dai, well, what can you do?
There were some great people in that staffroom at the time. I don’t think I’ve ever known a workplace quite like it. We spent a lot of time together and loved every minute of it. Conversation was sometimes vulgar, outré and in poor taste, but it was always clever, well informed and best of all, very funny.
Between the one liners and wind ups, David is very perceptive. I trotted out an often repeated line – that I hadn’t realised I was the centre of my own universe until my first child was born and dislodged me from that position. David pointed out that this 50 lunches odyssey is me putting myself right back into the centre. He wasn’t being unpleasant either, he was really happy with the ‘positive energy’ I’m generating and was amenable to taking part.
We talked a lot about circles – of energy, of creativity and most alarmingly of all, karmic circles. As usual, I found a waspish remark never far from my lips and was tempted to let my cynicism have free rein, but then David would come out with a really insightful gem and I would be forced to shut up and think.
Turning the negative to the positive is a common theme for David and when giving advice to me, he’s really good at it. Odd how a single, childless man can be so aware of the dynamics of family life. He really helped; it was great to talk to someone outside the whole complex situation who was able and willing to give me a kindly but honest opinion.
We spoke about our ambitions – mine are prosaic – see my kids settled and pay off my mortgage. I liked his a lot more – to have a season ticket when Spurs take ownership of their new ground in 2018.
We also talked about books – I had given him a spare copy of Wolf Hall and we had both just finished reading The Goldfinch. We agreed that it is a masterpiece and I was interested to note that David made similar points to those reached after an evening of discussion in the reading group I go to. I’m not saying he’s as clever as a roomful of lady book clubbers, but he’s not daft. Well, not completely daft.
13 March 2015
Cafe Saporo, Picton Arcade, Swansea city centre
David is vegan which limits the choice somewhat. We had planned to go to Govinda, a vegetarian restaurant near school, but on the day David decided he wasn’t hungry enough and took us off to his favourite cafe instead.
The cafe turned out to be in Picton Arcade which is just about the only bit of Swansea shopping centre which is at all attractive. It’s nothing compared to the beautiful arcades in Cardiff, but it’s all we’ve got. The cafe had changed a lot in the years David was in London and was now a not unpleasant but pretty nondescript producer of packet paninis and adequate coffee. The staff were friendly and there was plenty of room to sit and chat privately, so I’m not complaining, but I wouldn’t seek it out for another visit.