Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Childhood memories of Tanrallt Terrace, part 1

This a photo I took last year when we visited Blaenau Ffestiniog. This is Tanrallt Terrace where I grew up in, and our house is the one with the flat roofed porch, the second house on view from the left hand bush. It was 1967 when we moved here and we left in April 1982, to live in Llandudno. When I looked at this photo last week I was reminded of so many memories.
Where do I begin? Well, the rock from which this photo was taken semed to attract kids. Whether it was to climb it or slide down the side of it or what, but many a time I would look out of my bedroom window and see someone attempting to climb it. This was our Everest, it had easy faces and of course difficult ones, but even the simplest route to the top could have easily ended up in tragedy. If you carried on walking in the direction the photo was taken, there was a slide to our left, but also a precarious route to get to it. This was the way I often went, but I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had missed my footing. The more adventurous of us would tackle even scarier ways up. For instance to the right of this photo was a drop to the High Street. I can remember seeing a lad named Derek Jones actually succeeding to climb up this way with the traffic going by below him! And this was with no equipment, harness and no hooks. Just relying on his feet and hands! Why did people do such things? I presume because the rock was there, and it was sheer luck (and skill I suppose) that no one was killed.
The road outside our house was used for sports matches as well as a car park. God knows how we managed to find the room to play matches on it I will never know! But play we did, football, obviously, and cricket. The neighbours were nervous wrecks worrying if their cars were going to be damaged! Everytime someone hit a windscreen or the top of a car, we would all turn our faces with grimaces on them and expect the owner to come out and tell us off. We were so sports mad we would play anywhere. See that rock in the distance just beyond the top row of houses? Well we would play football there! The unfortunate and annoying thing about the place was the fact that at one end of the pitch there was a sheer face, and if someone happened to kick it wildly that way (or score a goal with a hard shot) the ball would sail over the edge and down to the bottom field. If the ball didn't catch on something, like a ditch, it invariably continued to roll down Richmond Terrace and beyond! Of course, the one who initially kicked the ball over would have to retreive it, which meant running down the grassy side and trying to get to the ball before it reached the Terrace below. The architecture of the terraces where we lived was so zig zagy that the poor unfortunate lad could end up right down to where the main road was, and believe me that was some climb back to the playing area! By the time he got back up there he would either collapse with exhaustion or find that the rest had got fed up and gone home for lunch! By the end of the game, everyone would have had to go through this as we all had a wild shot in us during the football game, and not only we had our fill of football practice we also got in a dose of athletics as well!
Another playing area we used a lot was the patch of field at the end of Tanrallt Terrace. This was a multi-purpose area for the community. It served as a place for the mothers to hang their washing to dry, and there would be up to at least 5 different sets of washing. In the middle was the street cricket pitch, and even this would be prone to disaster. To the right of this patch of grass would be the back doors of the houses in the high street, and almost all of one would be enclosed. Except for one! And that was the end one, right where mid on (cricket term) would be. This would be a favourite shot for most and if you got it right it would mean that it would head towards the exposed edge of this end house, and if this was the case the cricket ball would trickle down right to the bottom where their back door would be. And to make things worse there would usually be a sheepdog down there! At the time, being bitten by a sheepdog at the age of 4 was still a fresh memory for me (this story I will relate at a later date), so we would hope that Dafydd (the owner) would come out and give us back our ball. If not, and we didn't have another cricket ball, then game over.
I had an unfortunate encounter with one of those washing lines. On one occasion I was running about the area, I jumped across the ditch that surrounded the washing line field and didn't see the steel wire that was hung from one post to the other that was the washing line. I didn't see the wire as it was probably camuflaged with the dull, grey sky that seemed to permanently reside over Blaenau. It caught my throat and swung me into the air and I landed on my back on the field. I was lucky I wasn't decapitated! Fortunately I was ok and a little shocked more than injured.
I also saw my taid Hughes for the last time from this field. It was February 1974 and I saw him on his way home to Hafod Druffydd and we waved. He died a week later of a heart attack. Unknown to me at the time he was suffering from heart problems, ever since he saw me being mauled by a farmer's sheepdog back in 1967. It happened right in front of his house and unfortunately he witnessed this event and obviously was shocked at what he saw. I will post some more of my taid in a future post.
More later...

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