Tag Archives: Avebury

Stoned Again

In which The Author has a night at home

Having missed a day of NaBloPoMo on Saturday, I’ve decided that there isn’t much point in trying to post every day for the rest of the month.
I’d certainly given up all hope of being to post in Aberdare Library following last week’s blackout. However, here I am, fully connected and (so far, anyway) able to post without any problems. I’ve been a little bit sneaky and used a back-door method to get in, and I’m surprised that it worked. Maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate and tell you how I did it, just in case …
Anyway, I didn’t even bother trying to access the blog in the Library yesterday. I had a few things to do, so I decided I’d go to the pub in the evening and post a quick one there, as I’ve done the last few times. In the event, though, it was so bloody cold that I decided to stay in and watch a DVD.
I’m indebted to my friend Neil R. for this one. After I wrote Getting Stoned a few months ago, Neil was able to get his hands on the original TV series Children of the Stones. He put it on a DVD for me, and I watched it shortly afterwards, Last night, on a whim, I decided to watch it again.
It was made by HTV West in 1976, but apart from the fashions, cars, antiquated scientific equipment and some very ‘stagey’ acting and direction, I think it’s stood the test of time quite well. Next time I catch up with Thomas, I’m going to invite him to watch it with me. I was ten years old when it was broadcast, and he’s a bit older than that now, so I think he’ll appreciate it. (Incidentally, I’ve just checked online and it’s available on DVD – certified 12. That’s very unusual for a children’s TV show!)
It’s a peculiar and disturbing mix of hard SF, parapsychology, paganism (with echoes of The Wicker Man), fantasy and mystery, quite unlike anything I’ve seen since. A scientist named Adam Brake and his teenage son Matt arrive in the village of Milbury, in the centre of a Neolithic stone circle, and it’s apparent from the outset that all is not well. Most of the villagers are ‘Happy Ones’, with fixed smiles and perfect manners, rather like The Stepford Wives.
The pupils at the village school also fall into two groups: the newcomers, who are completely out of their depth in the maths class, and the rest, who tackle advanced differential equations without turning a hair (echoes of The Midwich Cuckoos). The curator of the village museum and her daughter are also aware that something unusual is going on, and together with Adam and Matt they set out to explore the mystery at the heart of the village.
From this strange set-up the story unfolds, involving the stones themselves, a strange oil painting, a network of ley lines, a black hole in the constellation Ursa Major, and the manor house at the centre of the village. People appear and disappear; stones apparently move around; an old poacher (played in typically over-the-top fashion by Freddie Jones) claims to be ‘protected’ by an ancient talisman; new arrivals to the village suddenly become ‘Happy Ones’, and the owner of the manor house seems to know far more than he’s letting on.
This last character, Raphael Hendrick (superbly played by Iain Cuthbertson), is almost a Crowleyesque figure, a retired academic with a background in astronomy and a compendious knowledge of ancient rituals and beliefs. A bizarre sequence of events leads Matt and Adam to Hendrick’s home, where his regular observations of the black hole build to a shattering climax.
It probably wouldn’t get shown on TV again these days. It’s a low-budget, low-key, low-tech affair which would look quite out of place alongside Doctor Who. Furthermore, I’m not sure that Adam’s fondness for whisky would get the approval of the Mumsnet generation. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of good stuff in there.
Children of the Stones was the programme which made me fall in love with Avebury in Wiltshire (where it was filmed entirely on location). It intrigued me and infuriated me, because there were so many elements thrown together that it was very difficult to unravel at the time. Even after nearly four decades, it stands as a unique piece of TV drama. Like the fictional Milbury, the series is somehow simultaneously both of its time and apart from it. It was definitely worth missing an entry for.

Chairman of the Bored

 In which The Author wants to do something different

In two weeks’ time, my home village of Trecynon (and the wider area of the Cynon Valley, in fact) will resound to the relentless drone of motorcycles. The National Road Races have taken place in Aberdare Park, only a tyre’s throw from my house, since I was in my early teens. When I lived in my old house, it wasn’t too bad. I was too young to go to the pubs anyway, and if the Park was out of bounds for one Saturday a year, it wasn’t any great loss.
When I lived in Llwydcoed, we were more or less within earshot, but we still didn’t get the full effects. I was working in Pontypridd, and later on in Cardiff, so I generally managed to be out of the house before the first wave of bikers arrived in the village. When I got back in the evening, the pubs would be full of people winding down after the day’s event (see Motorcycle Emptiness.)
My young friend Cath P., was in Cardiff one day and called into the shop. We made our way home on the train, and I invited her to join me for a sneaky libation at the Welsh Harp when we got to Trecynon. She was marginally underage, but we could sit outside and she wouldn’t get asked for ID. To nobody’s great surprise except Cath’s, my old friend and bike enthusiast Stuart Cable was hosting an informal party in the beer garden. Cath got very excited when she saw him, but I told her to just act naturally. Stu might have been a big music star and a famous broadcasting personality, but he was still one of the lads in the pub.
When he spotted me, he rushed over and gave me a big cwtch (a Welsh word technically meaning ‘hug’, but conveying much more) as we hadn’t seen each other for ages. I introduced Cath as my niece (which she isn’t, but I only have one niece and she lives in Nottingham), and Stu immediately greeted her like an old friend. She was thrilled to bits, and texted all her friends to say she’d just met him. I introduced her to former Tragic Love Company guitarist Simon Collier and arranged for him to give her guitar lessons. The whole stopover made Cath’s weekend.
But now that I’m unemployed, the Bike Races mean that I’ll be woken very early on Saturday, the noise will continue all day, and then the same thing will happen again on Sunday. As a consequence, I’ve been wondering about taking a little break out of Aberdare for the weekend. I still need to revisit Avebury (see Getting Stoned), so I’ve spent a couple of hours online wondering whether it’s do-able by public transport (if at all.) I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll probably be stuck in Aberdare after all.
I can get from Cardiff to Swindon by train for a very reasonable £6.50 – if I book the ticket today. Coming back will cost me a tenner, plus a £1.50 booking fee. Obviously, the later I leave it to book, the more expensive the tickets become. (For example, yesterday I could have done the return leg for only eight quid. I also need to pay a fiver each way between Aberdare and Cardiff. Then there are the local bus tickets, which seem to be fairly expensive (£7.70 for a Day Ranger ticket in Wiltshire, and not much cheaper when you add up the singles from point to point.) After shelling out for campsite fees, food and drink when I’m there, and odds and ends like admission to attractions, it wouldn’t be as economical a mini-break as I’d hoped for.
Anyway, the Circumlocution Office is virtually guaranteed to fuck up my money, which is due the day before the races start – the very day I was intending to travel. Dr Mahmoud was only able to issue a new Paper last Friday, the 12th, and the DWP wanted it back with them ‘by 13 July.’  As soon as I left the surgery, I went straight to Aberdare Jokecentre and asked a nice lady if she could fax it to the Caerphilly office, simply so they had a record of it on their system ‘by 13 July.’ She told me that they were under instructions to send everything by post. She gave me a prepaid First Class envelope to use (rather than the Second Class one I’d been provided with), which was very kind of her.
However, even taking into account the fact that the office is closed on weekends, some fucking Government Jobsworth will almost certainly use the missed deadline as an excuse to delay my payment. So it looks as though Avebury will have to wait for another time.
Alternatively, I could jump on a Stagecoach bus with a day out ticket, and go wandering. If I caught the first bus from Aberdare to Merthyr and change there, I could be in Hereford by mid-morning. I wouldn’t need to be back in Cardiff until 10.30, just before the last train leaves, so even if I came back the long way round, via Pontypool and Newport, I could still have a nice day out for £12.00 or so plus extras.
That only leaves the Sunday to get rid of. It’s Mother’s birthday – her 70th – so I should probably make the effort to go and visit her. As long as The Piss-Artist Formerly Known As My Brother doesn’t have the same idea, it could turn into a nice day. On the other hand, we could descend into another argument about his neo-Nazi ideology. Mother reads the Daily Mail, so it’s a given that she supports his side of the argument. It might not be worth the risk.
Maybe I should try and convert the Avebury weekend into a Herefordshire & Gloucestershire weekend instead. I started watching Dennis Potter’s masterpiece The Singing Detective again last night (the BBC TV version starring Michael Gambon, not the piss-poor US remake.) Philip Marlow’s childhood flashbacks reminded me of some of the picturesque villages which Huw F., Gaz and I travelled through when we went to see the Severn Bore a couple of years ago (see Time and Tide.)
I’ve had a quick look at the websites for the Monmouthshire and Wyedean areas, and there seems to be fairly comprehensive coverage by bus and/or train – even on a Sunday. With a bit of effort and legwork, I might be able to convert the ordeal of the Bike Races into a much-needed weekend of country air, exercise, and relaxation in a village pub to round the day off.
Of course, all these ideas could quite easily crash and burn. My new anti-depressants have some weird side-effects, including very vivid and intense dreams and an occasional feeling of light-headedness (which I’ve got at this very moment. I imagine this must be what it feels like to be a bit stoned, in fact. It’s not pleasant. I can’t see the attraction, myself.) Yesterday I only managed two pints before admitting defeat in the late afternoon and going home in time for the 6.00 news. I also managed to piss off an old friend on Facebook, for which I’m publicly apologising here. I don’t know whether it was the unpleasant heat, or the usual standard of ‘conversation’ around me, which made my temper fray.
The fact that Aberdare life is incredibly dull and monotonous is reflected in the topics for discussion in the pub on any day of the week. For instance, on one occasion a few months ago a small-scale scuffle broke out during the lunchtime session. This non-event was over within seconds; even so, the Barflies got considerable mileage out of analysing it to a degree which even the most hardened of Rugby Pundits would have found unnecessary (see Bugger Rugger.) Once the novelty had worn off, they were able to return to their old favourite subjects: nostalgia, sport, and racism.
I’m sure a lot of the people in the pub think I’m being rude when I don’t join in their jolly banter. The fact is that they’ve got fuck all to say which is worth listening to. Meanwhile Martin H. and I carry on our Free Jazz Conversation and have far more constructive afternoons than they’ll ever be able to imagine.
Rhian is working in the pub now, and she and I were both highly amused by a picture which circulated on Facebook last week:


My old pal Mark W. suggested last week that I should try the pubs in Merthyr for a change of scene. I told him that I didn’t see the point – the faces and names might be different, but the people would be the same.
 I’ve got a theory (which I first came up with about twenty years ago) that small town people are the same all over the country. That’s why TV soap operas are so popular – everybody who watches them can relate to most (if not all) of the characters portrayed. There’s always the self-made businessman who forgets his roots and proceeds to shit on everyone from a great height. There’s the slag who goes from bloke to bloke without ever becoming seriously involved (or pregnant.) There’s the pisshead who fights the world after half a lager. There’s the single mother struggling to raise her kids with no help from her parents. There’s the middle-aged married couple who come to the pub and provide everyone with a bit of light relief in the evenings. There’s the barmaid who really, really wishes she was somewhere else instead. There’s the guy who’s worn a steady path from bar to bookie’s and back again. There’s usually at least one ex-squaddie who’s a racist bastard. And there’s a handful of background artists who sit in the alcove and rhubarb to each other, waiting for the day when they finally get a line and take a step towards their priceless Equity card.
There’s hardly ever a drop-out student who just wants to be left alone to get with things; who doesn’t care about the agenda for the current debating society meeting; and who finds the whole proceedings tedious beyond belief. Of all the people in Aberdare who’ve had a gutsful of the whole place and the people who inhabit it, I must be pretty near the top of the pile. In fact, in the words of Crass, I’m the Chairman of the Bored.
It’s high time I grasped the fucking nettle and did something to broaden my horizons, even though I can’t afford a proper holiday, and even my proposed trip to Avebury is receding the more I look into it. However, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be in Aberdare when the Bike Races get underway a week on Saturday. It might well be the case that the good folk of Hereford are the same stock characters who populate every Valleys town, only with accents closer to The Archers than Nuts and Bolts. But at least they won’t know me or anything about me, and therefore I should be nicely exempt from every tedious fucking conversation which breaks out. Wish me luck…