In which The Author doesn’t see a historic event
It’s lunchtime on a cloudless, rather hot Saturday in Aberdare. The roadworks which have been causing traffic chaos for the last month were finally completed on Wednesday. Traffic is flowing normally around the town centre. People are able to get about as usual, with only slight obstructions here and there as the pavements are replaced.
Ten miles to the south, the Olympic Torch was scheduled to pass through Pontypridd at 10.40. One of my Facebook friends said it was running slightly late. Over the mountain to the east, it was expected in Merthyr Tydfil at 11.09. At 13.04 it’s meant to be in Treherbert, across the next mountain. In the middle of Day 8 of the grand UK torch-bearing relay, as you can see from the map, it will have to pass through the Cynon Valley.
As I type, photographs are appearing on Facebook of the torch in Pontypridd. Friends who’ve made the journey to Pontypridd or Merthyr are posting status updates about how excited their children were. People were lining the streets to see the relay runners as they made their way along their respective stretches of the route. The last time the Olympics were held in London was in 1948. Very few people still living would have seen the torch in those days. Now it’s making its way around the UK, supposedly coming within an hour of 95% of the population. The London 2012 website boasts We have done our best to make sure each Torchbearer carries the Flame in, or near to, their local area to help friends and family cheer them on along the way. Except in the Cynon Valley, it seems.
According to the same website, the official Torch is stopping for lunch (or maybe refuelling) at Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr before proceeding to Treherbert. I can only assume that it will be transported along the Heads of the Valleys Road and over the mountain to the Rhondda, just about clipping the Cynon Valley at its northern end. Certainly, from the doorway of the pub where I’m sitting typing this in real time (12.49), there’s no indication that anything exciting is happening in Aberdare today. It’s just a representative Saturday afternoon.
And that brings me back to the situation I detailed in Connecting People
. Possibly the biggest national event in a generation is happening on either side of us, and if anyone happened to be travelling around the Hirwaun roundabout fifteen minutes ago they might have glimpsed a van coming from the direction of Merthyr. That would have been the Olympic Torch! I hope they didn’t stop to take photos – that could have caused a serious accident.
Pam lives outside Bristol, and on Wednesday she posted some photos of the Torch passing the end of her street. She told me that the local authority had kept residents informed at every step of the way, with leaflets and posters telling them what to expect and when to expect it. I saw two A4 posters in Aberdare Library this week, telling people what would be happening in Pontypridd and Treherbert today. But there was nothing about Aberdare.
Neither was there anything in this week’s Cynon Valley Leader, which I picked up this week. (No, of course I didn’t actually buy it! Someone had left a copy on the chapel wall around the corner from the Spar in Trecynon. They’d obviously managed to read everything of relevance in the fifteen seconds or so it had taken them to get that far – so I literally picked it up.) On Wednesday afternoon I arranged to use the upstairs window of this very pub as a vantage point for photos as it came through Aberdare. On Thursday, we discovered that I needn’t have even bothered asking.
And yet the plot continued to thicken. On Wednesday evening I had a pint with Martyn E. He told me that his niece was part of the relay squad coming through Trecynon, and his boss was part of the relay squad between Mountain Ash and Abercynon. He promised to get me the details and timings the following day. In the event, neither of us were any the wiser.
It’s 13.13. By now the Torch should be in the Rhondda Fawr Valley, making its way south towards Treorchy. I’ve got a new camera and was really hoping to bring you some pictures of this once-in-a-lifetime event. But you’ll have to look elsewhere, I’m afraid. After all, the people of Aberdare have already had our exciting thing for this particular forty-year block of history, when Crass played their final gig at the Coliseum (11 July 1984). The time before that was when an RAF pilot named ‘Tich’ Havercroft ditched his aircraft on the Maerdy Mountain during the Second World War. Prior to that, Caradog’s statue was unveiled in Victoria Square, in 1920.
The teenagers walking around town probably don’t even realise that an event of national importance is going on barely five miles away as the neutrino flies. Wouldn’t they all be out and about with their cameras if they did? The photos would be something to show their grandchildren in years to come. Instead, Aberdare – the Land That Culture Forgot – has settled back into its customary invisibility, its inhabitants have resumed their normal oblivion, and nobody (certainly not the Powers That Be) seems to give a flying fuck.