Monday, 21 November 2011

Can you believe this pool has been empty for over 20 years, and just left to disintegrate? It's right in the centre of town - the heart of the war memorial park, which is my favourite haunt.
The changing rooms, shelter and other surrounding buildings are Grade II listed.

Presently, the shopping centre is undergoing a very expensive facelift. The giant concrete cuboid, formerly 'Taff Vale Shopping Precinct' has been demolished. 

The tax office which was encased in this architectural masterpiece is slowly being taken apart (good old asbestos). 

 Plans for Next, Debenhams and other such retail giants to open stores here in 2012, promise to lure cash-splashing shoppers back to Pontypridd.  

The precinct used to house 'Rainbow Records' "no love, I haven't got that top 20 album, I can get it by Monday?" (Monday never came, though I did buy some great stuff from there in the early nineties)

The barbers was by far the jewel in the precinct's crown though.
The couple who owned it won the pools in the 70's, and went on an intensive hairdressing course before they bought the shop. 

The same apron was used for every customer, they only had 2. The 'gold'fish were suspended in slime, like a smaller, rotten version of Hirst's Cow

The couple offered no small-talk to customers, never decorated the place, or took down the 70's posters, and never gave anyone a decent haircut. It was always busy though, I think the price structure had a lot to do with it.

The ultimate insult to throw at a boy would be "did you have your hair cut in the precinct?"

gone, not forgotten

The design template for most of the departmental buildings in Pontypridd (built post 1950) follow this pattern: get a ruler, draw a straight line, then another, and join up the sides.

Only 2 floors left to demolish now, this was September.

The other major re-development currently under way is the building of a Sainsbury's supermarket on the former Brown Lenox site.

Brown Lenox was a chain/anchor works, constructed in 1816. 

In junior school, lessons in  local history  tended to feature two things; coal-mining, and the chainworks. The image of Isambard Kingdom Brunel standing in front of the giant chains is iconic for me.

We walked through the indoor market on Saturday, the boys love it in there.

I bought 2 bras for £1 each from the beautiful stall Shapemakers - take a look, and imagine what shape you could create. 
The second-hand book stall is chock-a-block with working-class favourites; My Life Has Been Utterly Shite, I Met a Nice Man and he DIED, I am a copper and I DRINK NEAT WHISKY all day - you get the picture? I didn't buy a book.

However, I will mock the market no more. It's improving month by month, and  I remember getting excited about going shopping there as a child.

I'd buy a few ounces of coconut mushrooms ("why do you always choose the heavy sweets Lucy?") and look at the toy stall. I once bought a little doll inside a matchbox from there, it seemed  a perfectly sensible purchase.

Recently, four ladies my age  opened stalls, one (the market owner's wife) has a lovely delicatessen/butchers, another sells hand-made cushions, bags and  decorative items, the third - an organic fruit and veg stall,  and finally, a stall selling paper goods. 
Tasteful, contemporary, quality, maybe things are looking up?

If we stay in Pontypridd, I hope the boys won't remember it as a dump. It's  home. 

My parents aren't from Pontypridd, neither is Rob, but I feel settled here, even when some of the sights get me down.

I was discussing 'inspiration' the other day;  it recently dawned on me that you don't need to go far or be surrounded by stereotypical examples of beauty to feel inspired. 

I do feel a change of scene is important to keep your mind fresh and add intrigue, but when you're in the right frame of mind, a walk down a well trodden path, one you've frequented all your life, can feel new and exciting.

I refuse to feel depressed about a supermarket and various chain stores taking over the town.
I'm on first-name terms with the lovely elderly ladies at the 'Truck Stop Cafe' in the market, and the young ladies starting new ventures. There's room for optimism, as well as dismay (though, I revel in the latter).

What makes 'home' for you, and why?


  1. Sounds just like the market/town I grew up in-Rotherham, minus the cool new stalls with promise!
    Here, as there it is always the hedges and trees that make me feel at home. here the mix of the english and the exotic, the hawthorn in flower (the smell of damp walks in spring and my grandads garden) alongside cabbage trees-kiwi palm trees full in summer with rioting birds and circadas buzz that made me fall in love with NZ.

  2. Ah, the old independent record shops! I spent far more time and cash in those places than I care to remember. Like you I've always loved that pic of Brunel - he looks such a little, self-important and confident chap.

  3. Ponty sounds just like Walsall, beautiful historical buildings left to rot and the memory of long-forgotten independent shops. Even the underwear stall on the market looks scarily similar.
    We've got a Primark opening next year, something the locals seem ridiculously excited about. We're probably the only town in the UK with two branches of Asda, Greggs and Poundland in the high street, they're the only businesses that flourish.
    It feels like home here, too. If I was to leave it would be to live abroad. It may be shabby, rough and unfashionable but the people are friendly and it's cheap. x

  4. Despite the many places in Wales named for a bridge (the 'Pont' bit, for non-welsh readers) I still can't get used to anywhere other than my home town (well, village) being known as Ponty!

    It's a tricky one, I spent my formative years thinking that my nearest towns (Swansea and Neath) were complete dumps, an opinion which hasn't massively changed today. Ironically I've ended up in an area of South London which isn't exactly gentrified. Independent shops and stalls sound like a good thing, unfortunately round here they tend to be dubious phone unlockers/calling card sellers, and back in Swansea they might have sold rugby or sheep related souvenirs, loud and flammable looking. Mumbles is really nice however, and there are some signs of improvement elsewhere.

    What I like about living in London though is not having to constantly apologise for having moved away from where I was born (inexplicable to loads of locals) and not being called 'posh' or Sais' for not having a Welsh accent. The tedium of this was one of the reasons I left in the first place. Nevertheless, I do sometimes think what it would be like to move home again...

  5. Last time I was home the most bizarre shop had opened in the village. In one of the tiny terraced front room type shops, a husband and wife team had a new business. She had half the premises and sold wool and crochet hooks etc (a pretty paltry selection). He had the other half and was selling smoking accoutrements - you know, stash tins with unicorns etc painted on them. It was utterly peculiar - if only I could remember what they'd called it!

  6. Good post - you are right - it is the little places and the memories that make home for most of us.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  7. I moved right away from my home town. When I was young, Romford town centre was a miserable dump. Since then, it's been modernised, enclosed and is quite pleasant to walk around now. The market hasn't changed much but still has some good produce for sale, though not as good as Swansea market.

    Home for me now is being near everything and having as few red lights between me and the places I have to get to. It's peaceful and nice to look at, and the boys can roam free. It's the little things that make all the difference.

  8. It occurs to me that you could possibly have been a child wandering rounf the market when I was there buying my weekly veg. I liked the market. I thought it was the best bit of Ponty, apart from the railway station platform.
    I never went to the barbers though. We used to get out hair cut in Rhydyfelin at the tech college where the hairdressing students did a splendid job for 50p. In fact, i had my first proper haircut there when it went from shoulder length to "short" for the first time. That was bloody cold, I can tell you.
    Its a shame about the pool. I remember it being well used on theose few sunny days that constituted summer back then. But that said, it was always bloody freezing and I think that may have put people off from using it.
    My own home village, I care not to think about. Its a middle-class enclave now anyway and everyone comes from somewhere I only used to know about from telly sitcoms as a kid. Except Liverpool.

  9. What a shame about that pool, in a more monied area it would no doubt have been lovingly renovated into a fabulous lido.
    Ponypridd sounds like lots of poor towns, with their crumbling 1960s precincts ands attempts to spruce themselves up with a Primark or a Bon Marche...
    I was brought up in rural Buckinghamshire, with Aylesbury as the nearest town - it had one of those precincts too, with its Etam, Timothy Whites and Our Price.
    Sheffield is definitely home now, having been here for almost 30 years (apart from a brief time in Manchester). When people say what they like about it, they usually mention its proximity to the Peak District, as though the only reason for being here is the ability to get out and go somewhere nicer.
    I like it though. My area is middling, not rough but not posh, with a preponderance of off-comers like us and left-leaning public/voluntary sector types. When we were house hunting, we used to play Spot the Guardian in the houses we viewed, there usually was one! It's definitely the people that make it home for me - I get fed up of the scruffiness and the dog shit and the vandalism in the park, but my network of friends and neighbours are great, and the thought of living in some smarter area and having to start all over again among the posh folk makes me value what we have here!
    PS. Small world - Other Half is from Mumbles, his family are in Swansea, so we go down there to visit, and know the joys of Swansea market very well! OH insists on eating his body weight in cockles and laver bread whenever we go!

  10. I feel very sad about buildings being left to rot away (by themselves or with the help from local delinquents...)

    We live a 15 minute drive from the thriving metropolis (the city of Perth and capital city of WA) on the banks of the Swan River, it is an interesting place to live, all sorts of people. We live two doors down from the local "pyrotechnics" and lately we have been treated to a sky show nearly every Friday night (and I'm not talking about a few crackers either...when I say sky show, I mean sky show!) Quite spectacular, but highly illegal...still waiting on the police or a fire engine to turn up...
    I am also woken up every morning by "the crazy bird man" who sings Aria's, quite beautifully at the top of his lungs every morning as he walks past our house. This sometimes makes me cry because the same chap talks to the birds, I mean he thinks he is a bird! So he squawks and tweets etc.

    I've gone completely off track here Lucy. Sorry. But rather than delete this and start again I'll stop now and hit the publish button.

  11. Lucy, what a lovely post. I quite like your voice.

    'My parents aren't from Pontypridd, neither is Rob, but I feel settled here, even when some of the sights get me down.'

    This bit about feeling settled, I think for some people there's a pronounced affinity for the town in which they grew up. I always say that the air in April in my hometown smells and feels different than any place in the world, and a part of me constantly craves it. There are these crazy mourning doves that are always cooing their little birdy hearts out in the hour just before sunrise and the Santa Fe line is always passing through. That throaty keen in the dark distance always makes me feel small, again. In a good way.

    Enjoyed reading this and liked your question at the end.

  12. I couldn't agree more - even the most familiar places can feel inspiring if you take a look at them with fresh eyes. There is always something, you just have to keep you eyes open!

    It's gutting that the pool and all it's outbuildings have been left in such a way though - that could be such a lovely resource for local people - especially in the spring and summer months.

    Can't tell you how much I love the story of the couple who owned the barber's! :-)

    Jem xXx

  13. It seems so far, that 'home' is a feeling we get, prompted by an awakening of one of our senses.

    Having children settled in school, and one son who needs to be near his father are the main things keeping me here.

    At times I long to run away, but the place I want to run to doesn't exist.

    Max - loved the descriptions, it's been great getting a feel for where everyone lives.

    John - according to my parents,Rainbow Records was thriving in the 70's. It was hip by all accounts. By the 90's it was damp, tired and disappointing.

    Vix - or home towns do seem to have a lot in common. Greggs makes a killing, as do all the 'bargain' shops.Better the devil you know sometimes, eh?

    Lakota - you did the right thing escaping the narrow-minded village life. Very strange little shop, must be a front for something more sinister! The cannabis paraphernalia stalls are popular here, Jamaican themed tat, inferior Rizzla papers and lighters embossed with hemp leaves. Nobody over 16 should be interested in such crap, but they are, sadly.

    Liz - thanks. Having a house which feels like home is next on my list. This place feels like a temporary measure.

    Sarah - I think when you have children,home is all about what makes them happy. I worry that this town isn't going to be enough when the boys get older. You have that bit right from what I gather.

    Perlnumquist - you can still get a cheap haircut at Rhydyfelin college, but not for much longer - it's being demolished very soon. Yes, the pool was freezing, but it felt like summer as long as there was at least a bit of blue sky and no rain. They managed to put a roof on the lido at Porth, so why not here? Times are changing,every new family moving into the street are from another part of the country/world. I try to strike conversations up when I can, I don't want to end up saying "there's no community" without trying to be friendly.

    Curtise - seems you've found a very happy balance, and don't have to put up with too much depravity or pomposity. I'd like to move closer to the city, there are some lovely villages I could imagine offering a similar situation to yours.

    Kylie - so glad you published your comment. I enjoyed your descriptions enormously, the visual imagery left me in quite a dreamy state for a while - thanks!

    Suze - I could almost taste that April air, and recognised the longing. You can hear and smell similar things wherever you are, but when you're 'home' they hit you like a mallet to the head (in a good way!). Thank-you for such a thoughtful comment, it's great building a stronger picture of people this way.

    Jem - I only wish there were some images for the barber shop to share with you. My mother had a haircut there once, the experience haunts her to this day.

  14. Growing up in the ever sprawling expanding suburbs of Southern California things were always new. Strip malls were our playgrounds and the surrounding canyons were our hideouts. I love how your town has a soul, a spirit that speaks of it's those who live there, now and so long ago. All the cities in SOCA look the same feel the same, so every place feels familiar but doesn't evoke much feeling. I think you have home and life figured out, it's finding that comfortable feeling no matter where you live and also keeping a fresh perceptive in a familiar place.

    I love how not only places can feel like home but so can people. Home is really where our heart's at :)

  15. How odd to read this post - just last night something (don't know what) prompted me to look up the city I spent a large chunk of my growing up years in. Home for me from when I was 7 to 20.

    I found a blog ( that has daily photos of spots about town and the environs and spent ages looking through it - completely sucked in by memories and nostalgia and "Oh WOW!! look at THAT!" moments. It was a bittersweet experience. The town looked both achingly familiar and sharply foreign. A place that was home, yet hasn't been for 25 years, but still has enormous power to move me.

    I am going to keep looking at that blog - it stirred up so much inside me and I have a feeling it might make me face a few unresolved, and deeply buried, issues.

  16. That’s a shame about the pool, but I expect it all comes down to money and running costs. Whenever I go back to Nottingham (my birthplace) I feel slightly depressed, probably because of the changes, not all of them for the better, that have taken place in that historic city. It’s probably also, because I’m not a great one for city life these days, and relish quiet places where I can reflect, meditate or just think.

  17. Krista - of all the places people have mentioned, I find your home easiest to visualise, yet hardest to fully imagine (if that makes sense?. California doesn't seem like a real place to me, just somewhere on the screen (very naive of me, I know). The meals you serve to your guests lead me to believe you have a place which feels very much like home to everyone. I'm coming to stay ASAP!

    Wendz - steady on with the nostalgia, too much can make you ill. I was interested to see what reply you left, I'm now interested to find out more about what happened after this comment...

    Little Nell - money and running costs are a huge factor, along with not knowing what on earth to do with the place. Money has been made available over the years, but there's always some excuse as to why it can't be used. A town the size of Pontypridd should have a leisure centre, it doesn't. The so-called 'deprived' towns in the valleys all have far better amenities.This really is the forgotten town.
    I'd like to retire abroad like you.

  18. You ask what makes "home", well I must be a little weird as home to me is my house and family. That's all. I don't get sentimental about places I live nor have I ever felt nostalgic about where I grew up. They are just places where I've lived. I have never felt "homesick." I'm a bit of a restless spirit and I love to travel. If I had the money, I would probably lead quite a nomadic existence. Quite where I would put my vast collections of stuff, though, I know not!

  19. Before i answer the question at the end of ur blog, i must say that i liked the part of ur piece where u say that when we are in the right frame of mind even the usual phenomena can be charming fr us. I do agree totally with this.
    As far as home for me is concerned, well, i think fr someone who lives on a rented lodging only a self owned home where u can decide at ur will when to exit, when to enter, where n when to read....... i mean u have no one to be afraid of being told by someone to live in an particular way (in spite of spending 1/4 of ur hard earned income as house rent) is home.

  20. Sorry Luce, but I really dislike towns which all have the same shops and supermarkets. There's something soul destroying about most small English towns and the Welsh towns I know are just as bad, if not worse. Knighton is my nearest, and I try to go as little as I can, although we have quite a few friends there. (we went this morning to see some of them)

    Come to Ludlow, now there's a town worth visiting. Not a Debenhams in sight and only a very small Tesco's, otherwise it's all little. individual shops and a flourishing country market three times a week.

    btw: HO HUM right back to you. I bet your family doesn't let you get away with ignoring the festive spirit altogether? But I agree, I'd never spend money on the crap in the shops.

  21. I remember that pool! swam there is the Ponypridd triathlon - yes, it must be about 20 years ago! And God it was fu***ng freezing - I remember having to stop after every few lengths to catch my breath it was so cold and there being no lane markers either so swimming straight was near impossible. I came our shivering and it took me ten miles on the bike to warm up - still came fifth though!

  22. Ah, Ponty. The indoor market is a real gem. Had no idea there was a lido though. With the emphasis on was...

  23. Most people live in ordinary places. But every ordinary place has its own character. I love 'Did you get your hair cut in the precinct?' The sort of thing that makes a place home.

    Mind you, I haven't been back to the place where I grew up in, er, quite a few years.

  24. Loo - I can relate to what you say,I have just come to accept this place - I'd rather be travelling. I could leave here for years and come back to see the same familiar scenes. And I would happily BURN all of my 'stuff'!

    Raman - I fully appreciate having a place of my own. Before purchasing the house I felt I was living out of a suitcase. Unfortunately, my inability to keep my home clean and tidy means it looks like I share it with a bunch of student lodgers.

    Friko - this town is hideous and you wouldn't find me dead in Next or Debenhams. Especially Debenhams, all that perfume makes me sneeze uncontrollably. I've been to Ludlow, very nice. My mother is from Welshpool and one of my best friends is from Telford - we went on a bus trip there. I love a bus trip, I'll suit being old.

    Mark - what is it with all you wimps? Of course it was bloody freezing, and badly designed. I expect no less from my town. Let's hope they don't fuck up the work on the station, enormous potential there.

    Re:think - Ponty must have been thriving in the fifties, I'd love to go back in time, just for one afternoon and see it at it's best. Bustling, fresh, vibrant. I'd have to go back as a man though - wouldn't be able to resist a pint in the Llanover Arms.

    James Russell - yep, you can find good and bad without looking too far. I mean, some of these towns full of independent shops may look quaint, but step inside and it's just some jumped-up prick trying to rip you off.

    P.s so sad about Nash's nephew dying tragically. Chilling.

  25. Shame about the old buildings, market sounds right up my alley.
    I will always call home California, i love it here but i am a family girl at heart.
    I think we will be moving to Cali. In the near future.
    I just cant see my future bebes growing up without my Mexi-family.

  26. Never been to Pontypridd but it's funny, thinking about it, I don't think I could be happy in a place that looked really ugly. Although what ugly actually IS, I'm not so sure, I can like some landscapes that others might call ugly. And I think supermarkets and chain stores are ugly. At the end of the day the people are what matter, but somehow I see them as separate from the place... funny I never really thought about this......

  27. Interesting topic, as this is something on my mind at the moment. I have recently moved house for the 51st time and have moved to a tiny little house in a seriously tiny little town, where I don't know a soul. Looking for roots. Looking for belonging. Looking to just stay still for a while. I think that's home for me. Feeling comfortable and not restless. Always so restelss...

    Sarah xxx

  28. La Dama - you need to be near familiar people when you have children, I think. You must keep blogging though, I need to see those babies.

    Jenny - interesting comment. The man-made features post 1940 are ugly, before that, beautiful. And the landscape - boy did I miss it when I didn't live here. It's not a question of 'home'I now realise, more 'peace'.

    Sarah - you need to embrace your restless spirit, it is there for us all to see and admire. You need to be seen by as many people as possible. the world needs to know the importance of embracing truly 'free' spirits. I envy your restlessness.

    Tristan - I like the short, tardy, comment

  29. What a lovely post, I feel like I know your town a little and it reminds me of my own hometown. I now its a bit of a dump but I will always love it as my childhood home and place I can only remember fondly, xx

  30. What a shame that pool left to rot - although its strangly fasinating to look at (would love to have a walk around it). I went away to uni and a lot of my friend i met there never went back to their home towns deciding to set up in the uni town after graduation. I however came back to my home town and despite going backpacking and having the need to travel away from this place I was always drawn back here and now i have my boy I couldnt imagine living in another town away from my mum.
    Great post as always hun, mwah Scarlett x

  31. Thank you for your lovely comments on my blog last week. Your kind words really meant a lot. I hope you're feeling better this week and are over your virus? Having a sore throat is totally rubbish isn't it? Big hugs, Em x


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