Tag Archives: Trecynon

Waifs and Strays

In which The Author does his good deed for the year

This morning, in rather grey and drizzly conditions, the Cynon Valley Plaid Cymru gang convened outside B&M in Aberdare once again. On my way there, I passed Ann Clwyd’s pop-up shop in Canon Street. There were about a dozen of the Labour Party faithful in there, probably wondering what the weather was going to do.
I met David Walters as he was heading for the rendezvous, and we staked our claim nice and early. Even though we’d got there first, we were soon outnumbered (considerably) by the Labour crowd. They’d obviously decided to try and stake out the prime spot – and failed again. Even so, there was hardly anyone around. Most of the people who passed were the same people we saw a fortnight ago. A combination of weather and a Bank Holiday weekend seemed to have emptied the town centre.
David and I chatted about the morning’s headline news – yet another royal baby, perfectly timed to distract the public’s attention from the real issues. David commented that he’d been annoyed by the way the TV schedules were cleared to give blanket coverage of Diana’s death in 1997. I told him that saturation coverage of her death had also overshadowed the news of Jeffrey Bernard’s death, just a few days later.
Then I glanced across at one of the Labour Party supporters trying to hand leaflets to the few passers-by in Commercial Street. She was an elderly lady, standing near the shop doorway with a piece of red cloth draped over her head and shoulders. I couldn’t resist making my next remark.
That reminds me,’ I said. ‘Mother Teresa of Calcutta died that week, too.’
Ann Clwyd arrived a few minutes behind her outriders. She took a fall while campaigning a couple of weeks ago, and injured her wrist. This morning she had her arm in a sling. Maybe, as more than one person has suggested, she was going for the sympathy vote.
Brian arrived next, closely followed by Peter (the election agent). Gwyn and Joyce turned up, and immediately one of the Labour people tried to give Joyce a leaflet. In return, Joyce gave her one of Cerith’s. If you’ve been involved with small-town politics as long as the rest of the group have, it’s inevitable that everyone knows everyone else. Elections here are always good-natured, with a lot of friendly banter between rival supporters.
Peter, Brian and I grabbed some leaflets and set off towards the Black Lion again. Peter had already covered his end of the town, and after my blitz a fortnight ago (see More Nooks and Crannies) we were just left with the remainder of Daviestown and Foundry Town. It didn’t take us long to polish off Wind Street, then we split up and I took the area between Monk Street and Ynysllwyd Street.
It’s laid out as an orderly grid, far more logical than the older part of Trecynon. Even so, Daviestown is an area where I still get lost easily. It once took me about twenty minutes to get to The Morning Star for a quiz one dark Sunday night. Even worse, Sam H. and I once took the best part of an hour to find Liz and Nigel’s house when they were hosting a party one Xmas holiday. The following morning I emerged from their front door and saw the Catholic church at the end of their street. My first thought was, ‘Where the hell did we go last night?’
All the streets of Daviestown are named after members of the same family: John, Mary, Elizabeth, Griffith, Jenkin, Rachel, and a couple of others I can’t remember. Once again, you’ll have to wait until Geoff and I publish our Street Names Project to learn the reason why. The advantage to leafleting that area is that most of the front doors open straight onto the pavement. I only came up against a handful of steps or driveways; instead Brian and Peter, who were working their way through the rest of Foundry Town, had those delights to contend with.
I came across a pleasing number of Aberdare Local Board of Health nameplates, which I need to photograph for my collection when the weather improves. I finished all of the right-hand side (going uphill) in pretty quick time. I was starting on the return leg when I spotted the others finishing off in Herbert Street. We polished off the rest of the area in less than ten minutes and headed back into town.
David rang me just as we arrived back at B&M, to say that they’d called it a day as well. We met up in Canon Street and discussed a plan for the next leg. They’re going to attempt Glandare. Best of luck to them! It’s all gates, steps, driveways, and the occasional external letterbox (if you’re lucky!) I had enough of that nonsense in Park Grove and Ash Grove. Glandare is many times bigger. It’s not a mission to undertake lightly (or single-handedly).
I’ve somehow managed to double-book myself this weekend. I told them I’d finish off the waifs and strays on the Gadlys and return any surplus to David tomorrow. I had a chat with Cerith on the way towards the Library car park. Elwyn, the webmaster of Aberdare Online, has asked him to ask me if I’d write something about the local election campaign. I haven’t bothered with his site for ages, so I’m in two minds. He might be able to twist my arm, but I doubt it somehow.
The few streets I’d missed on my earlier travels weren’t the only waifs and strays I encountered this afternoon. I was walking up the slope from the Library car park when a dog shot downhill past me. It was a really nice-looking Staffordshire Bull Terrier, wearing a harness, galloping towards St John’s Churchyard. I couldn’t see anyone following him, so I tried to call him back. He was well and truly in the zone, though. I was worried in case the dog decided to head into the town centre, with heavy traffic on all sides. At the top of the slope I met a man who was heading into town, but he wasn’t the owner. By now the dog had vanished behind the Jobcentre. He could have gone anywhere from there.
The first of my waifs and strays was Afon Dar Close, a cul-de-sac of big new houses adjacent to the St John’s School playing fields. The street name doesn’t make any sense to me, being a bizarre hybrid of Welsh and English elements. I’d never set foot in it before, and I don’t envy the local postman. There are two houses side by side as you enter the street, then a big house which is Number 4. (I looked in vain for Number 3 before pressing on.) Number 9 is opposite Number 8, then there are another ten or so houses which count up from the one at the entrance to the estate.
I was on my way back to the main road when the dog rocketed past me again, heading towards the end of the new houses. I tried calling him again, but he didn’t veer from his intended target. I decided that his owner probably lived in one of the new houses and thought no more of it.
I was back on the main road, making my way towards Lidl. Suddenly the bloody dog sauntered out of a side street and strolled casually up the middle of the main road, paying no attention to the traffic. I tried calling him again, but he was completely focused. Then I lost sight of him as he dived into another side street.
I leafleted Wayne Street, and was heading along Wern Row when I met a tall worried-looking chap holding a lead in one hand.
‘You haven’t seen a dog running around, have you?’ he asked.
‘Brown staffie, wearing a harness?’ I smiled. ‘I’ve seen him three times.’
The chap explained that he’d come over from Merthyr to visit his girlfriend on the Gadlys. The dog (whose name was Lucky) had managed to sneak out and go walkabout. Unfamiliar with the area, Lucky must have been having a great time exploring the nooks and crannies of Aberdare West, as I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. I promised I’d keep an eye out for him.
The chap gave me his girlfriend’s address and phone number, just in case I came across Lucky when I was finishing off the area. I didn’t see him again, though. I called his name several times while I was walking around, but he could have gone anywhere. I came into Aberdare, called into the Glosters, and put an announcement on Twitter and Facebook. Kath S. replied a few minutes later, to say she’d seen him legging it down Oxford Street. A number of my friends shared the status too, so we soon had a dragnet out.
I hope Lucky turns up safe and sound. If he makes his way home courtesy of someone who’s seen my status and/or Tweet, we’ll have proved the value of social media again. All my efforts (and everyone else’s) to get Cerith elected to Westminster might fall on stony ground. Even so, if we can help to reunite a worried man with a lively dog then my afternoon hasn’t been entirely wasted.

And Another Thing…

In which The Author opens a can of worms

As soon as I posted the previous entry Profiling the Present I realised that it was the 451st item in this blog. That struck me as significant for a couple of reasons.
Ray Bradbury’s cult novel Fahrenheit 451 is about exactly the sort of thing I’d been discussing – the importance of preserving written documents. As you’ll know if you’ve read the book (or seen the film, come to that), it’s about a ‘fireman’ whose job is to burn books which are seen as subversive, or the contents of which run counter to the prevailing ideology. (Its title comes from the fact that 451º Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper ignites.)
Also, the first gig I went to featured two of my mates from school, Darren Broome and Stuart Turvill, whose band was called Farenheit 451. (The subtly-altered spelling was an attempt to sidestep the unlikely event that they became huge, and Ray Bradbury sent Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne after them.) When I said that Crass was my second ‘proper gig’ I wasn’t counting the boys’ gig. It was upstairs in The Conway in Aberdare, after all. When I saw The Cure (also with Darren and a gang of our pals, on Darren’s eighteenth birthday) they were in the Colston Hall in Bristol. I think that counts as my first ‘proper gig’, if you see what I mean.
Anyway, I made a comment to this effect when the link fed through to Facebook, and then returned to the pile of documents on my table in the Library. A brown envelope labelled only with an accession number caught my eye, so I tipped the contents out. The first thing I saw was this:

Rose Terrace

See what I mean about opening a can of worms?
Now, I know from bitter experience that the apostrophe in my family surname has a habit of going walkabout. In fact, it took the Halifax Building Society (pre-carpetbaggers) no fewer than eleven attempts to get my name right on my cashpoint card. Therefore, I’m not sure whether this rent book relates to my late uncle Pat O’Gorman, or to someone whose surname was just Gorman. (See Dave Gorman’s very funny book Are You Dave Gorman? for his own experiences of tracking down people who share his name.) Pat and Vilda certainly lived at a Number 23, but it wasn’t ‘Rose Terrace’!
I’ve got the bound electoral registers from 1961-2 in front of me at the moment, covering the period when the rent book was in use. Pat and Vilda were living in the house which I always remember them living in. Dad and his first wife were living at 1 Economy Cottages (see A Little Economy) at the bottom of Meirion Street. Pat and Vilda’s next-door neighbour wasn’t even named Griffiths. I’ve no idea where Rose Terrace was, as there’s no entry in the electoral register. It’s yet another lost street for the Street Names Project. The plot thickens.
I imagine one of my cousins might be able to shed some light on this. Until then, it’s a mystery, and a bizarre coincidence to boot.
That wasn’t the only weird thing about the envelope. The only other thing in there was a tenancy agreement for someone living at 24 Meirion Street – in other words, just at the top of the hill from where I grew up.
You know, some days you wish you’d gone to the pub instead.