WHAT?!


What are they pumping into the Vale?

It runs on through not absorb in shale!

They take the good then dump the spoil

above your school, your girls, your boys.

The heavens had opened on this land of ‘song’

for days the deluge had carried-on!

Yet they kept on pumping into the Vale,

expecting water to be absorbed by shale

.

On a foggy day a mountain moans

as streams beneath a sonami forms

now well lubed, the shale gave way and 

down it crashed onto a new school day.

A road runs through it 50 years on

The pit and spoil all long since gone

The greening of the Valley’s hides their violent past

but of this lost generation the memory lasts.

images

RIP

JSB

Aside

TRIUMPH AND DISASTER


How far back can you remember?

My earliest memory is of 1966, I was 3 years old.

Most people in the UK are aware of the importance of 1966 but not necessarily for the reasons you may think!

For England, 1966 was a sporting triumph, winning the FIFA World Cup, but, to the people of Wales, in particular the people of a small mining village in the heart of the south Wales valleys, 1966 brought disaster of monumental proportions.

On the 21st October 1966 at 9:15am, just when first lessons were about to start in primary schools through-out the Country, a slag-heap above the village of Aberfan, south of Merthyr Tydfil, came crashing down, engulfing the local primary school, a farmhouse and some terraced houses, claiming the lives of 144 people, mainly children, not much older than me.

I recall in, vivid detail, standing outside the front-door with my mother, watching the lorries trundling up the road with their cargo of spoil from the disaster area. There was no talking, no idol chit-chat, just silence, as they made their way to the steelworks where the spoil was to be burnt in the mighty furnaces, no talking, no idol chit-chat just a deep sadness for the loss of 144 souls, 116 of whom were children, all of whom had been engulfed by this very same spoil.

Some 15 years on, I was working for a furniture manufacture and helped deliver a three piece to a home in a village near Aberfan. The home-owner had her elder sister with her, she was suffering from mental illness. The home-owner explained how her sister was a survivor of the Aberfan disaster. She had been buried up to the chest, her cousin, who was with her at the time, lost her life.

A mind damaged and a generation lost.

 

jsb

Aside

CALIFORNVACATION


The holiday period comes around far too quickly for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike holiday periods, how could I, there’s nothing better than having the ankle-biters off school, being bored for weeks on end. No! I don’t dislike holiday periods, I just can’t afford them!

For many years, we would spend our holidays alternating between Wales and Norfolk, my two favourite places in the whole World. One year, we decided to have a change.

We thought long and hard about where we should go, we wanted somewhere different. Having thrown-out the idea of Spain and the Mediterranean, we decided to take the kids to… CALIFORNIA!!!

Having forked-out a small fortune for this holiday, all too quickly departure day was upon us. Four kids, two adults and three wardrobes full of clothes, or at least, that’s what it felt like.

I didn’t think they would let us on with all this baggage… but they did!

We sat in awe, as the jets flew over-head, at the end of our journey, as we awaited our transport to the holiday centre.

‘Dad!’ ‘This place looks like Great Yarmouth’, my daughter pipes-up, ‘Don’t be daft Amy!’ ‘This is ‘California!!!’…

‘Great Yarmouth is 3 miles away!’

For the record, we all had a great time! 😉

JSB

Aside

I’VE NEVER SEEN THE BEACH AT ABERAVON


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!

jsb