Our Close is quite remarkable. We have been living here, above Merthyr, for over 30 years and a good number of the residents are the same ones who were here when we first moved in. It's also quite unusual that, in a village where many houses are up for sale, so few ever go on the market in this street.

   At present, there are many retired couples, widows and widowers. When I first arrived quite a few worked for nationalised industries: a bus mechanic for Merthyr Corporation next door, fitter for British Gas up the road and Welsh Water manager opposite. During the 80's these were all privatised and now only the manager has moved out to a big house not far away.The few new residents tend to be self-employed, reflecting the inflated price of property even in Merthyr.

   It's hard to work out why so many have stayed. It's not as if there's a great community spirit, indeed there have been serious disputes about left-open gates and even an assault case brought before Merthyr Crown Court last year, involving families who had previously been friendly!

   Some families are chatty, open and laid-back, while others are sticklers, not giving balls back and moaning about kids playing on the street. Last weekend, my young daughter and her mates decided to go car-washing along the Close, to make a few bob. While some were generous, others shooed them away like stray dogs.

   .....or sheep, cows, horses......all of which used to wander into the Close and remain in gardens, because of our proximity to grazing land, which is no longer fit for animals and signed as a DANGER!

   The stability must be down to other factors. For one, the Close is on its own, not part of any sprawling estate like nearby Shirley Gardens (a friend from there is always bewildered how a once great iron town could have such a prissy estate name). On the map our Close is a question-mark, without the dot.

   The answer also has to be its nearness to the Waun, an area now overgrown, but once cropped short by the aforementioned farm animals. The Waun leads out from the long curve of the question-mark, opening the street onto moorland of foxes, wild flowers, streams and oaks.

    Though there's a new Primary school built directly onto the backs of some houses, the overall atmosphere is one of prevailing quiet. People do turn their cars at the bottom  and parents park to pick up children, but it's nevertheless a haven.

   It's a Famous Close as well, as evinced by this week. I met the film actor and former presenter of 'Soccer Sunday' Jonathan Owen standing outside his parents' house, where we discussed Cardiff City for some time. X-Factor runner-up Lloyd Daniels walked up the Close last weekend holding an acoustic guitar and heading for local pub The Red. Rock band The Blackout ( who hail from Heolgerrig) played an acoustic set the other day at their old school's fete within hearing distance, if it hadn't been pouring!

   There are a few fanatical car-cleaners and one made me think of my old mate Pete 'Doc' Smith, who lived on the main road up here while teaching in the same school as me in Merthyr. He was a public school educated leftie who'd attended the same school as Attila the Stockbroker. He wore Doc Martens to school when they were banned and trousers torn at the knees. He got away with it because his posh accent always impressed the Deputy Head. He once read a poem of mine about car-cleaning and ( as a Freudian) declared - 'It's obviously about masturbation!' I dread to think what his thesis on R.S. Thomas might have come up with.


All day and all evening
he has rubbed and shone
from hub-cap to roof
with his sponge and chamois.

My Freudian friend 'Doc' Smith
would've relished interpreting
this shiny-headed policeman,
this multi-gym body-builder :

what his wife would've done
for all that attention,
from purple-painted toe-nails
to spring catch of tongue;

how he stooped and bent
to alloy wheels, how he swept
his cloth across the windscreen,
how white foam flowed down the drain.

11/25/2010 17:29

What a nice day!


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