Monday, July 12, 2010

My Welsh Waterstones Tour - Stop 2: Swansea

My grandmother was fond of a saying about the view from Swansea and it was this. When you can see Devon over the sea when rain is on the way; but when you can't see Devon it means that rain is already there. When I was a child on holiday there - and our holidays were always there with one grandmother or another - I knew this was the truth. In Swansea it rains a lot.



Maybe it is because of all this rain that Swansea is lush. I noticed this during my short walk from the train station. Seeds take root, and like an unwanted hair they sprout forth


not just bushes but small trees


everywhere.


Waterstones in Swansea is housed in an old cinema on Oxford Street. It, together with its fellow down the street,


are the sole survivors of the blitz. It is something I imagined so intensively once that I feel I know it already: the scorched smell of a recently quenched fire; the snaking of hoses across the street; the boards covering craters; the detours of the buses and that terrifying journey to where my great grandmother lived to a partly demolished street to find her house still standing and the woman herself still intact inside.

Swansea is in my bones. Half my relatives were born, lived and died here. When I hear the voices their accent causes a sudden warm flush of recognition and fondness and I feel at home.


It seems right then that when I look at the window reserved for local books


I see familiar scenes, names and faces, and looking closer notice something else


my book! In its own little pile, in line with all the rest.


My grandmother was mad for the flicks, so mad for them in fact that she named her poor daughter after a starlet she particularly admired: Shirley Temple. So I expect this cinema with its grand staircase and magnificent Art Nouveau frontage, was where my grandmother came to dream of another life; one in which she didn't have to get up at six to work in the men's clothing factory, and her husband was Clark Gable - not Bryn Wilde with his face too tanned from the radiating heat of molten aluminium.


But now it just leads to the cafe with its view over the street, and forms a splendid backdrop to this little table where I signed a few more books, met at last my father's old friend Alan Davies and his wife Maggie. It was over too soon, and I promised them that I'd be back - and I shall.


Thank you Swansea Waterstones - you displayed my books beautifully.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

'Swansea is in my bones. Half my relatives were born, lived and died here. When I hear the voices their accent causes a sudden warm flush of recognition and fondness and I feel at home'.
I can relate to those words - replacing Swansea with my own heart-placename of course.
Thanks for writing about this trip of yours so beautifully.

Tue Jul 13, 12:27:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Kay - I think ancestry and place tends to get overlooked a little in the modern world, but still of vital importance to many of us, perhaps.

Fri Jul 16, 09:45:00 am  

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