- Well, I got a job, so I int complainin.
- Yeah, but f'r ow long?
- Ow d'yew mean?
- Seen the News? Companee that owns yewer place 're goin bust!
- What? I don' bleeve yew! There's loadsa orders left!
- It's true, mun.
- Bloody ell!......on'y experience I got is slaughterin animals. Oo's gunna employ me?
- Yew could always apply yewer skills t ewmans......join the S.A.S.!
In a week when yet another factory closure has been announced in my home town of Merthyr (300 jobs at forklift truck company Linde) , I was fully intending to write a diatribe about the Westminster and Cardiff Bay governments abject failure at dealing with unemployment.
I was all ready to show a picture of the old Dole Office in Pontmorlais and depict its utter dereliction as a symbol of what has happened to our once great town.
However - without wishing to minimise the dire employment prospects of so many here (particularly the young ) - I was drawn by a stark contrast in Pontmorlais itself.
The so-called 'Circus' there was once the hub of the town, a bustling Piccadily of Merthyr. It's now full of boarded-up ruins, from the old YMCA building to the Theatre Royal.
Yet, I was drawn by Flooks (pronounced as in 'looks'), which is a listed building and remained closed for years after the well-known jeweller's closed down.
It's opposite the promenade, with its vista of dilapidation: facades of buildings (like the old Dole) which have become nothing more than pocked stone faces, wooden-eyed and mouthed, with trees and bushes sprouting haphazardly like unkempt growths of hair.
Yet the facade and essential character of Flooks remains. If it was once a portmanteau word for 'fading' and 'looks', then now it is 'future' rather than anything negative, because it is a symbol of a small re-birth in Merthyr.
Run by a charitable trust, its windows are adorned with the craft work of local designers, artists and, yes, jeweller's.....all for sale.
I was drawn, however, by the 'Cafe' sign outside and the prospect of coffee and cake. My stomach having magnetic properties!
Inside, the renovated Flooks is so much more than an enticing cafe and shop.
It was opened in October 2012 by our A.M. 'Ewge' Lewis, on one of his rare visits to his distant domain.
The cafe is certainly excellent, with home-baked cakes and a wide selection of drinks, breakfasts and veggie options at very reasonable prices.
However, this building is a veritable Tardis of ideas and ambitions, of care and creativity.
There is a meeting room which can be hired, surrounded by a small exhibition by local artist Lee Price. There's free internet access to counter 'internet poverty' which can hamper people when looking for jobs. There even a kiln and opportunities for workshops.
Upstairs are flats which house young people who have found themselves homeless and which give them a stepping-stone back into the wider world.
Two young people have been given full-time employment here, while several others are being trained, working at the cafe, which has state-of-the-art equipment.
The plans are numerous and especially involve reaching out to young people and involving them in a place which can give them a real sense of belonging.
Their finance comes from both private and public sources and they are -as a social enterprise - a real example of what can be dome to empower people and make them feel valued in a society where they are increasingly cast as 'failures' by the education system, or simply never given an opportunity of working.
At the Red Poets recent gig at the Castle Hotel, Tredegar, I found myself saying again and again ,in introductions, that an artist hailed from Merthyr. It made me very proud to think that this town has indeed produced so many talented individuals.
Places like Flooks can give anyone a chance to discover new talents, whether they be artistic, practical or IT-related. It can also be a haven for the young homeless and refuge for abused women.
Every estate and village needs a Flooks : a bridge, a leader, a giant of purpose, even in such a small space.
PLACE OF HOPE
In the place of hope
a giant lies down :
not for the sake of war
any longer, but the tread
of desperate youngsters
and beaten women ;
might reach the other side.
His eyes are screens,
keys of his finger-nails,
he rests on owl-cushions
they've fashioned for him,
he's warmed by quilts
they have carefully designed.
In the place of hope
he holds a tiny tree
of abundant leaf-wishes ;
they sup at the river
and he clutches them
in case they fall in.