The good, the bad and the Mumbles
I’ve landed in a foreign town, not far over a bridge that cost nearly £7 to cross. They speak another language. Welsh.
They speak a lot of Welsh too – I feel a bit like a teenage Exchange student trying to make sense of the pithy garble in perplexed excitement.
The Telesgop TV office is next to a giant Amazon warehouse, slap bang in the middle of a business park that is very much in the midst of major plastic surgery (the bit where the doctor draws dotted lines around the chubby bits, then prods and stretches the skin to work out what to do with the mess in between his fingers). On the other side of the park is a film studio unit where an American production company regularly practice explosions that rock the foundations.
My colleagues at work chortle and cuss in their native tongue, and I thoroughly enjoy hearing the rollicking tones and try rather unsuccessfully to guess what they’re on about.
Swansea is an odd place.
I find it apt that Swansea’s most outstanding export (Dylan Thomas) brandished it the “ugly, lovely town”.
A contradiction, but an accurate one.
Dylan was born but only a mile away from where I’m staying and yet the modern Swansea landscape is pitted and scarred by many a horrendous architectural malfunction and years of abject disrepair.
It’s a bit of a wasteland with smidgens of joy to be found it you’re prepared to poke around a bit.
I like poking around. And I have a new bike.
It’s obvious that Swansea has been through some very tough times. Much of it looks cheap and poor – residential parts remind me of Channel 4s ‘Benefits Street’. Only there appears to be a Benefits Street lurking around most corners. Kids playing tennis across the middle of the road, not even stopping to let me pass safely on my bike.
I notice that the council don’t even provide residents with black wheelie bins. As I set off on my bike on collection days, the rubbish is piled high in plastic bags: thin cheap ones that are prone to sea gull attacks.
It’s a coastal city – at least for protection against the razor-sharp beaks of sea gulls – give these people some bins!
You can’t fault Swansea in other respects, mind. The ‘friendly-smiley’ barometer points high up the scale, as if the city’s people (like many Eastern Europeans) have come through the oppression and can't help but put a brave face on things, an outward projection of strength – things are (slowly) on the up-and-up here.
Things are on the up-and-up. There’s SW1 and a new Uni being built near the marina.
You can buy two meals and two alcoholic drinks for under 20 quid (that's without stepping foot in a Wetherspoons I hasten to add!!)
You also have some spectacular coastline and hills at the periphery, the Mumbles and Gower beyond. I’ve peddling past volley-ball matches on the beach, a boarded up pier not quite ready for summer, yet bristling with gaudy promise.
And there’s been some sun. I wasn't expecting that. Especially after a local taxi driver proudly informed me that Swansea is one of the UK's wettest places.
I suppose, like Dylan T, I have been inspired by the Swansea landscape, inspired to write this.
So Swansea, you still have the propensity to encourage creativity.
Dylan T speaking beyond the grave??
P.S. I'd strongly recommend the Dylan T exhibition at the Swansea Museum. There is a replica of his favourite pub inside. And you can sit in the very spot where Thomas took many a boozy afternoon snooze (on the cold stone museum steps).