Saturday, 28 February 2009

Memories of the Bont

Pontarddulais is the name of a small town in South Wales famous for a few things including a male voice choir that played on a Roger Waters album, riots which destroyed Toll Gates and introducing Welsh lessons back into schools.

The riots were carried out by men wearing their wives clothes and were led by a fella called Rebecca.  This is the place where I spent a large formative part of my life and probably explains my current mental state.

The spelling has changed as it used to be Pontardulais when I lived there but apparently it was spelt incorrectly for many years, the name is translated into English as follows.

Pont = Bridge, Ar = On, Du Dark and Lais is the name of the river.

Since I left the place a lot of changes have taken place, Domachi's has gone, the Dulais Glen has gone, the SWEB showroom is now a charity shop but two of the most important parts of the Bont are still there. These small parts influenced me in my early years and of course I'm talking about Elias the TV shop and Noakes the bakers.

These bastions of life in the small town are still there and the pasties are as good as ever. I will make another pilgrimage there soon and on the way will purchase a tin jug, this tin jug will be taken to the shop and I will once again sample the strange delights of a Noakes' faggot in strange watery gravy. Of course, anyone in the US reading this may get the wrong idea

The Bont was a wonderful place to grow up in, I used to walk home from my grandmothers in the dark as a young lad with no worries and my mother seemed to know everybody. You got coal from Tom the coal, meat from Harold the Butcher, hair cutting was carried about in a small shed by the side of the river by a man who didn't actually style hair but sort of attacked it and hopefully you came away with your ears still intact.

Spot Office is still there and still sells a strange variety of goods, I'm sure some of the stuff on the shelves was there when I was young. And on a Saturday evening we used to go to Mary Billy Phils (I think) and purchase a selection of sweets to munch on while watching TV.

In later years I frequented a pub called the Dulais Glen, this was run by an effeminate chap called Mike the Dill (short for Dulais). He never opened in time and very rarely shut on time and I can recall going into the pub in the daylight and coming out again in the daylight, these were not necessarily the same day or even the next day.

The pub was a meeting point for many of us and occasionally visited by the wonderful Dai Flwsh. Dai was our local tramp, his real name was Idris and he was named Dai Flwsh as he used to clean the toilets somewhere. He had more or less given up on life and meandered around the town making a nuisance of himself, peeing in the middle of the road and refusing to leave shops until he got fed.

One of the signs of modernisation in the Bont occured when a chinese restaraunt opened up. At that time, my sole exposure to chinese food was courtesy of packs of Vesta Chown Mein. So shortly after the opening, I went in and ordered my meal. What I got bore as much resemblance to the Vesta meal as a Bugatti Veron to a model T Ford, the only similarity was that you had to use a fork to eat it.

One other characters whose name I will not mention also used to work as a part time fireman. The old fire station used to be on the main road next to Ralph's DIY shop and when the alarm went off we used to rush down to watch the site of the old red fire engine rushing off to put out a fire. The afore mentioned character decided that the fire men needed more pratice and used to light his own fires so that they were called out more frequently. One side effect to this is that he got paid more and eventually was detained at her majesty's pleasure.

Visiting the Bont these days is a strange experience as the place is still recognisable but has changed in so many ways. Going past the house where I was brought up or my grandmothers without being able to go in and visit just doesn't seem right.

In many ways I would like to move back there again, I suppose it's the old comfortable slipper thing really but life there wouldn't be the same again.