Growing-up in the Valleys of south Wales in the 1960-70s, it was not the norm to go off on holidays. True, there was always the ‘fortnight shut-down’ at the steelworks and at the collieries; I can hear people shouting up the garden… “get your washing in Mrs Blackmore… the orange cloud is coming!”
The fortnight ‘shut-down’ at Ebbw Vale steelworks referred to the shut-down of just about the whole plant and a time when essential maintenance was carried-out to, among other things, the Bessemer converters; the furnaces which gave people driving through the valley the thought that they were entering the bowels of hell. After cleaning the furnaces they would be fired-up and an orange cloud would hang over the valley, a lot of it would find its way onto any unsuspecting washing-line that happened to have washing on it at the time. In a jealous fit of rage, the river Ebbw would deposit even more tar on to the rocks that we, as kids, would use as stepping-stones. The colour orange was something of a defining characteristic of my home town, if not the sky then the river.
As I was saying, it was not the norm to have holidays away, it was more likely that you would have day trips out to the seaside or to Bristol Zoo, trips put on by the churches and chapels and the pubs and clubs; if your dad was a member of one of the workingmens clubs, then, the children would get an envelope of money to take with them and use on the fair or to get some sweets. Egg, cheese and ham sandwiches were the norm in our house, that and flasks of tea.
I have many fond memories of those trips; trips to the Gower or Porthcawl and Barry Island (Yes! I know! that’s where Gavin and Stacey was filmed!) to Western super-mere and Bristol Zoo. I’ve seen them all and had great fun at all of them, yet, every time we went to Aberavon the only thing we would see was the bus… and the wheel of the bus if you needed the loo!
You see, I have never seen the beach at Aberavon, every time we would go to Aberavon the heavens would open, and, as if getting us back for polluting the sky with orange clouds, it would not stop raining until we hit the heads of the valleys road on the way home to Cwm. Aberavon rain is in a category of its own, rarely have I seen rain that comes close to it, it’s a big droplet, cold… very cold, eye closing, blustery wetness. In these conditions the inside of the bus and a view of the car park through the windows, was ALL we would see. This wasn’t a one-off either, this was every time I have EVER been to Aberavon, I have NEVER seen the beach at Aberavon.
Aberavon beach is three miles long situated in Swansea Bay, popular with surfers due to the large breakers along the shore… or so I’m told!