…is (still) blocked by caravans and lorries. Back to Aber for the weekend. Some grey clouds, but patches of blue sky, the day slowly warming up and turning pleasant before squally showers blew in later that evening. By then, we were sat in the bay window of our room at the Marine Hotel, drinking and occasionally telling the most junior Research Assistant to go to sleep.
Given the choice, I’d contentedly wander the streets and back streets for hours, counting the changes and the not-at-all changed, bumping into ghosts on every corner - one of them myself, looking younger and slimmer and walking with a somewhat lighter step, or occasionally staggering. (Look at him: he thinks he has problems. Chiefly girls, I imagine - the lack of. He’ll learn. And then wish he hadn’t.) Unfortunately, or not, my Junior Researchers much prefer the beach and the playground at the castle so idling time is severely curtailed. Should I have left? Even now, I wonder. As I wrote in Tuna and Waffles, in one of the few new passages:
Staying in the same dead-end place could prove stifling and claustrophobic as you sink slowly into mediocrity, unappreciated and undervalued by those around you and growing increasingly bitter and disappointed as each unchanging year drags monotonously by. Whereas in Aber, at least you get a sea view and a constant parade of eighteen year old females.
I know people who stayed, and appear to have built themselves a cosy, sufficient life in this isolated seaside town. But they were academic, research-oriented types. The department would probably have kicked me out after another couple of years if I hadn’t shown the inclination to start publishing (and I wouldn’t have). Or I could have chanced my luck in moving sideways to Information Services, but the personalities and politics there were so extreme that if being barking mad wasn’t a job requirement, it must have been the reward for long service. At the time, I didn’t want to stay. Now I’m not sure why I wanted to leave, even if I didn’t have much option. Water under Trefechan bridge. One day; retirement perhaps.
The prom is looking cleaner and brighter than ever now, bar one shabby block between the Bay Hotel (recently closed) and the nasty “Kings Hall Carvery” (also mercifully closed). Round the back, the Whore’s Bed (Boars Head) is in mid-demolition, the little panelled front window revealing a pile of rubble and newly opened space out back. (The Scarlet Martyrs played there once, you know. And TJ’s, which burnt down. And the Fountain, which closed a long time later in scandalous circumstances. And the railway station concourse, which is now Wetherspoons. Let’s hope the Curse of the Martyrs doesn’t extend to Rummers.)
The big Woolworths store is still empty, and likely to remain so while it, and the rest of the adjoining row, are under threat of demolition to make way for a new arcade-style commercial development on the site of the old Royal Mail depot. The affected leaseholders are trying to drum up opposition - “it’s just not Aber!” In the tiny Jessops, I seek a packet of 35mm negative sleeves. “We don’t stock them anymore, but we might have some left…” I’m in luck - possibly the last set in any Jessops anywhere, or at least in Wales. Elsewhere, Andy’s Records has moved back to its original premises further up North Parade. Cheaper rent, presumably - a sign of the recession, or the impact of downloading? Unfortunately for Andy, I still don’t want any new music so I decline to go in, but it’s good to see him back in the old place.
Outside the Clocktower Bazaar at the top of Great Darkgate Street, they have a set of wind chimes with an immaculately carved dragon on top, whose suspended head bobs and weaves with the gusts of sea breeze. My Glamorous Research Assistant immediately wants it. “Lovely, but it’ll get wrecked in the first Valleys gale!” I say. Spoilsport. Later, she spots a “Sunnydale” hoodie on a girl in the Varsity, and settles for coveting that instead. In the Marine, meanwhile, they’re setting the function room for a birthday do, while in the bar, a young and foolish lad has become drunk and argumentative with his mate. We have an extremely indifferent bar meal in the Varsity - slow to arrive, too hot for the kids while mine is barely warm, as the waitress crashes dirty plates in the background and hisses the accumulated grievances of her day to the doorman. She’s had enough, she’s not going to stay here and put up with this - neither are we. Neither should anyone else in there, apart from those that deserve to.
We watch dusk fall over the prom as a few stragglers scurry past, heads down against the showers. Tomorrow will be breezy and still showery, but fresh and invigorating. We will pack, kill the morning and patronise the Spar for snack food, before heading home behind miles of caravans, transits and motorbikes in a torrential downpour.