Sunday, 20 July 2014

I See The Boys of Summer

Mark's cottage - St Athan
My twin brother’s recently moved to a rented cottage on the edge of St Athan. He’d moved to other rented accommodation in the village last year to be nearer to work. He’d been living in Llantrisant (unfairly described as ‘the hole with the Mint’) and driving down through the Vale of Glamorgan to Aberthaw Power Station.

The Vale is very different to the Valleys, of course. It’s green, leafy and with a glorious stretch of coast. St Athan’s different again, an RAF base, some housing estates and a central core of old village. 
A vast cement works looms close by and the Power Station squats amid banks of imported coal.
I visited earlier this summer, enjoying the cottage and its prospect of horses and cows. A brook trills by, like the one in Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas.

And the Sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

It all sounds idyllic – for all the grind and clang of industry.

West Aberthaw Farm
West Aberthaw Farm overlooks the Power Station and a field humped and bumped with the traces of a medieval village. My brother’s friends live there, a colleague from the Power Station and his wife and daughter. They’re doing it up, slowly and laboriously, seeking to retain as many of the original features as they can. Imagine that ‘Restoration Man’ programme from the telly only with more bits and pieces lying around. They showed me round – the rafters and knotty beams, the sunken floor in what had become a reception hall, the wattle and daub, the bakery and the walk-in well. There are still hooks for the hams and shelves for the cheeses. You can trace all the phases, the punching through of staircases and the levellings off of bulbous walls. You can follow the whole thing through from the medieval core through the 17th and 18th centuries to the ‘Fab Four’ wall-paper lining a cupboard in the smallest bedroom.

My brother’s friends see themselves as custodians, preserving and utilising the craftsmanship of the past. The cottage lives. To borrow a phrase from Thomas, ‘O see the pulse of summer in the ice.’