Letter to home…

 

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It is October 2nd 1975. Carrying heavily laden cases, I’m on my way to University in York for the first time. The A level results had gone particularly well and I managed to get into my first choice of University.

My mum insisted on coming with me as far as Manchester on the train, in part to check I don’t leave my cases anywhere, also to make sure I eat the stack of sandwiches she had made early that morning. My mum, in my lifetime, had never felt the need to travel to Manchester for some urgent shopping, but on this day she does. Perhaps it is the thought of the second born flying the nest.

I can’t work out if my trepidation trumps my excitement. I’m assuming the next few days will be difficult. The torrential rain as we arrive in Manchester Victoria does little to improve the mood and we both get soaked as I see my mum off the train. She is crying, which she claims is the rain. I have butterflies but try to sound breezy. In the minutes before the train’s departure she reels off a list of things to remember, of which the old chestnut of changing my socks and underpants every day features, together with the command to ring that night after seven, to be sure she is home to hear about my progress.

I wondered if my dad had received such lavish attention when he left home to fight in World War Two. I doubt he had as many corned beef and pickle and egg and tomato sandwiches as I was carrying, unless he was expected to feed his whole regiment.

All this comes to mind as we were discussing family history with my uncle Glyn this weekend. In honour of his and Janet’s arrival, I had blitzed the attic trying to find artefacts and photos from my parents, as he is the family historian. Eventually I was able to find a biscuit tin from my youth which dates from about 1960 and shows a little girl in a snowy scene wearing a red scarf and hat. The girl’s face has outlived its usefulness as it has been covered by my mum’s faded, yet distinctive writing on a heavily sellotaped piece of yellowed paper.

The Premium Bonds alluded to on the cover note have long since disappeared, but all the other contents, Army Records, Important Letters and the catch-all Bits and Bobs, were present and correct.

Amongst the salubrious company of the Important Letters were two written by me in my first weeks of University. As my mum had provided stamped letter cards, all I needed to do was to find time to write the one page letter and locate a letter box. It would have been churlish not to have completed those two tasks.

I had not seen the letters in over forty years, and did not remember writing them. Immediately on reading them though, I was back there on my first morning as a student following a restless night’s sleep in my new room. I can remember the emulsioned breeze block that cooled my back from the incessant heat of the central heating system, which had a default position of breathlessly hot, even when turned off. I’d grown up with ice on the inner windows of my bedroom and this central heating would take some getting used to. The letter was the first task after the morning shower as it gave me the opportunity to wile away some time with some purpose.

The letter was inordinately positive and breezy, which was not quite how I felt in those first few days away from home. I was going to be able to fully enjoy and indulge myself in student life, but for now the butterflies had not subsided and I was already exhausted from the charade of looking positive and confident when I felt the opposite.

It was a relief when I teamed up with my first university friend, Davy from Belfast,  who seemed to have both direction and momentum and was patently not lacking in confidence. I must have come across, or at least I hoped I did, as mean and moody in those first few days as I tried to re-orientate myself to this new life. In fact I was melancholy and disorientated in my new surroundings.

I suppose we have all experienced similar feelings on our first forays away from home.

What were yours?

 

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Rhyl 1960s a video compilation by Chris Turner

This shows a range of footage from different sources showing Rhyl as it was in the early sixties compiled by good mate and collaborator Chris Turner…  various copyrights…

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Where to find the Reso Trilogy Books

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If you are looking to buy a Reso Trilogy book, ake sure the publisher is JLB Learning Innovation.

If it shows Kings Hart Books, my former publisher, the company stopped trading a few years back and the book will be unavailable through them.

Probably the cheapest route to buying them is through Amazon marketplace, but nothing beats ordering them from an independent publisher.

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Having been vindicated by a publisher picking up the books, which for me suggested there was some value in them, and it wasn’t simply a vanity project, I decided to embark on self-publishing on a print on demand basis. I would recommend it for new writers as the big players like Ingram Spark cover all the incidental costs and help with marketing.

In theory, my books should always be available as long as you look for them under the publisher JLB Learning innovation. If you look under Kings Hart, you are likely to be disappointed.

The Reso - A Sixties Childhood

 

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Beyond the Reso : The Pavilion inspired cover

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The cover of the second Reso book, Beyond the Reso, was inspired by a sight that illuminated the Rhyl skyline throughout my youth, The Pavilion Theatre on the Promenade.

The coloured lights played on it at night, making it look like a giant ice cream which changed from strawberry, to orange to lemon to lime and blackcurrant.

I remember coming home from Auntie Betty’s home in St David’s Square late at night, my mum and Auntie Betty had been talking incessantly whilst drinking tea and eating biscuits. I’d amused myself with Prince the dog, but both of us fell asleep in the muggy atmosphere created by the gas fire.

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Eventually I was awoken and told to get my coat on for the short walk home. As we drifted into Victoria Road, the playing field of Glyndwr field shone with dew and in the distance the Pavilion radiated warm and invited light. The spectacle was such that my mum and I stopped for a few moments and she waxed lyrical on the constancy of that sight which had remained the same from her childhood. She told me that both my grandparents had been involved in building the Pavilion and I felt I had something invested in it.

It later provided shelter for what my parents would have called my ‘courting days’. Hours were spent in the shelters on the seaward side desperately trying to keep warm in a full on Irish Sea wind with only warm hearts and hot lips to keep us from freezing.

I probably had a share in its demise as well because in all my days, apart from going to see the Billy Smart’s lions and tigers camped outside, I don’t believe I ever set foot in the theatre. Despite the delights of Wyn Calvin and Prince’s Circus ‘as seen on TV’ to entice me.

There was a furore when the Pavilion was demolished in 1973. It was said that it was unsafe and the pillars that held the dome in place did show structural decay. However, when the dome fell some seventy feet to the ground without shattering there were murmurings in the town that this was civic vandalism of the worst kind.

Many went to see the demolition. I didn’t, I preferred to remember happier times cuddled up and gazing lovingly at the world’s most beautiful girlfriend.

Thanks to Ben Overton and Luke Hughes for the cover design.

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Little Triker!

I’ve searched long and hard for this photo, and was beginning to think that it was lost! It is the earliest photo of me outside on the Reso under my own steam.

I’m sitting on the trike in a corner of the garden which would forever become known as Snowy’s Corner. A couple of years after this picture was taken, after asking incessantly for a dog like my Auntie Doris’ black spaniel Micky, my dad came up with a compromise and bought me an albino rabbit. It wasn’t quite the same in my opinion but Snowy spent almost a decade in a custom built hutch made with great care by my dad out of marine quality laminated wood. The hutch had two compartments, a lobby area and a main living space. The whole front of the hutch hinged upwards to allow food, water and bedding to be replaced on a daily basis. But I digress…

That trike was my pride and joy and I can remember vividly this picture being taken.  Behind me to the left is Iris Watkins garden. Her dad grew epic rhubarb and she taught me how to dance the Twist. Over my right shoulder is Vanessa’s garden. I used to climb over the fence behind me to play with her, Debbie and Mallie.

The spooky thing is that my lifelong friend Duncan has an almost identical picture taken at the other end of the Reso!

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History does repeat itself because this is my son Luke almost thirty years later in a similar pose…

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The end of the worst year of my life

Without doubt, the year 1974/5 was the worst of my life. It started quite promisingly but descended very quickly into a series of events which still make me wince when I think of them now.

To an extent, the A level results of August 1975 gave me an opportunity to start again and I was both relieved and excited to be leaving for University.

I came home from the end of the first term to find a letter inviting me to this Presentation. I was initially reluctant to go, but my parents were very keen so I went reluctantly.

It was good to see so many friends with whom I’d grown up again. We were all scattered around the country now and  this would be the last time so many of us were gathered together. I know of two on the list of A level candidates who are no longer with us and we are poorer for their absence.

Two years below us were the O level group and there are many friends in that group as well.

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Family get together 1960s

A rummage through the old family archives ( a series of biscuit tins with pictures and documents really) has led to some further belated spring cleaning finds.

This photo turned up of my Nain and Uncle Elwyn together with our overseas relatives, in the front room no less, of the old family home of 5 Geufron in Rhyl. 5 Geufron was the scene of countless family gatherings and celebrations.

I think this might be of interest to the thriving US branch of the family!

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