A place I had always associated with holidays soon became identified with the world of work and vital friendships. With my mate Dave we headed every weekend for the Ship Hotel and afterwards the adjacent Fantasia disco, followed by the nightclubs of the Island.
Apart from the Dan and Captain Beefheart, Bob Marley was in his ascendency and as we trudged ,or sometimes flew, across town and homeward bound,'My feet is my only carriage' would be our anthem. We got to see him at Ninian Park on a monsoon day, drunk on cider and playing footie with a flagon on the hallowed turf. We met Dave's schoolfriend Chalky White, top photographer for the then top music paper NME. Marley was superb despite the rain and sparse crowd. Whisperin' Bob Harris has described the vibes of violence coming from the terraces at that gig. What a load of Tosh ( Peter? )! The atmosphere was marvellous: at the end, I chanted out and another bloke replied with a 'Woy yoy yoy!'
At the famous Memo (Memorial Hall) we saw bands like Deke Leonard's Iceberg and hung around a local group who modelled themselves on Cream. The lead guitarist indulged in very long solos, but was no Clapton. At their first ever gig in the Memo,sandwiches were provided and duly used as missiles by many of the audience to show their disgust. I don't think they ever did Manics though.
After the revellry we inevitably ended up at Jim's Paradise restaurant, which opened till very late. Jim's was the gathering-place for all kinds of inebriates and dope-fiends and I once witnessed one punter ordering a plate of SpagBol only to collapse face-down into it. I don't think he was rescued either! One teacher I knew from Barry told me that Jim once accused him of not paying the week previously : to reinforce his warning he stabbed a large kitchen knife into the table, saying - 'You'll get that next time!'
In Barry I made some great friendships. Apart from Dave, fellow music fan and Bluebird, there was John who worked at the same garage and who was a Plaid Cymru supporter and socialist from the Valleys. Of similar politics and equally influential was Joan, who worked with me at a summer school teaching German school-pupils. Within a year, both died suddenly.
It was hard to accept.
I also met fellow poet Tony Curtis and we briefly formed a Writers' Group. Tony was very generous and supportive and went on to publish my first poems and stories from his Edge Press.
Every week I went to the local folk music club at The Railway Club. I had to write up events the following hungover day for the local paper and , amazingly, they only once rejected my copy as gibberish. Rod Tolchock was a regular there : one of the finest, forgotten singer-songwriters. Of course, that's not his real name, but I don't know what became of him after that, though I believe he went on to write poetry. Quite probably, he has re-emerged with a different pseudonym.
This is a recent poem which refers to the closure of Merthyr pool due to an outbreak of a serious infection. It does malign Merthyr and Barry, but they're places I love for all their faults :-
Who shat in our brandnew
all-purpose leisure pool?
There were suggestions
the disease could've come from abroad.
Two Councillors had recently
decided to join UKIP ;
when would others defect
(or should that be defecate ?).
the source of the faecal accident.
Kids still in nappies
regularly used it.
Someone after a very hot curry?
The one sure thing is
we've managed to re-create
the sensation of Porthcawl or Barry,
we've brought the seaside to the Valleys;
given the word float
a whole new dimension.
Whoever dumped their load
could indeed boost our tourism :
how about a Cholera Museum?