Tag Archives: Foryd

Rhyl Regeneration: The Promenade

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Like most seaside resorts, Rhyl has found the regeneration journey a difficult one in the last decades.

For many years, much was talked abut and little achieved. In recent years, a number of initiatives are at last coming together and the pace of change has turned decisively, I hope.

These pictures show the Promenade of Rhyl at night. This was a scene once dominated by the massive ice cream white dome of the Pavilion Theatre, with coloured lights  playing on it as selected for the cover of the Beyond the Reso book.

 
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Now the Promenade is looking spectacular again with coloured lights highlighting all the features from the Foryd Harbour, with the Dragon Bridge all the way through to the Garden of Remembrance in the East End.

 

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The lights are more sophisticated than the illuminations on the characters from Disney that used to stand no more than four foot high on the grassy area near the road in the East End!
BtR

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Freshers! In praise of all those off to higher education shortly, and all those who supported them.

The fateful day in August when I went up to the High School to receive my A level results remains one of the most significant in my life. It opened up opportunities and experiences that I would never otherwise have accessed.

There is always a little excitement when the A level results come out in August and a new generation, for the most part, have all their hard work rewarded with a place at their chosen institution. In homage to this year’s crop, and all the parents, family and friends that have helped to deliver them to this point, an extract from Resolution…

 

Resolution cover jpeg

 

Fresher

So this was it: University life. I’d made it. Apparently I was now a Fresher.
Fresher was not a term with which I had previously been familiar. It had a distinctly American feel to it. It seemed to be plastered all over the Goodricke notice boards now though. Exhortations to attend a formidable range of events and social gatherings arranged to meet and greet the new first years, ‘the Freshers’.

It had been placed over the ‘official’ notice boards with their dark blue letterheads with University of York embossed on them in that classily distinctive flowing font. Eric the porter would no doubt be having an official conversation with the member of the Junior Common Room who had made so bold with his, or her, fly posting.

At that moment a thin, reed-like boy in flared black jeans, worn baseball boots, red polo-neck jumper and plain black glasses burst past me carrying ‘Fresher Ball’ posters, a pair of scissors and a box of drawing pins. I resisted the temptation to shout after him, “Don’t you know not to run when you are carrying scissors?” in the manner of my primary school teachers.

The Fresher Ball posters were also in the correct place on the ‘Ents’ Noticeboard, obscuring the Captain Beefheart poster donated by some musically progressive student and next to the elaborate floral poster for that Friday’s upcoming concert at Central Hall, the spaceship-like edifice which rose out of the lake opposite Goodricke College.

The concert featured Steeleye Span, the folk / electric combo who had recently been in the charts with ‘Gaudete’, a song that had the style of a Gregorian chant. It seemed a long way from the only chart band that had deigned to make a stopover in Rhyl in recent years, the Sweet.

I’d deliberately avoided going to see the Sweet as, along with bands like the Rubettes, Mud and the Bay City Rollers, they encompassed all I hated in popular music and could be linked directly to the nadir of bad taste in music, Middle of the Road’s 1971 minor hit, ‘Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep’.

I must have had toothache at the time because I can’t recall its pointless tune and lyrics without a feeling of deep and hollow neuralgia. It was the summer of standing in the High Street at the front of a shop selling rock in the shape of false teeth, and cheap plastic crap imported in horrendous bulk from Hong Kong for tourists to amuse their friends and family with on their return home.
What did these presents say about their purchasers and the people who would receive them as valued friends and family?

“I’ve been on holiday to the Welsh seaside, was wandering aimlessly along the High Street when I came across a massive set of false teeth fashioned out of reconstituted coloured sugar, and thought immediately of you. Without contemplating the irony of the tooth decay eating such a confection would promote, I bought them for you anyway, such is the esteem in which I hold our friendship.”

And every day ‘Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep’ would be played incessantly through the odious patter of Tony Blackburn on ‘wonderful’ Radio One. It was the one time that I didn’t mind him jabbering through the introduction and end of the record – that truly was how much I despised Middle of the Road. Five weeks it spent at number one, five long, miserable weeks. Again and again it was played until on the Thursday of the fourth week of the holidays I’d had enough. I waited until being paid my week’s wages (having learned from previous experience to take the pay before walking away) threw down the blue nylon jacket with the Barney’s insignia on the breast and buggered off home without a word of explanation.

“You walk away from my shop and you won’t work in this town again!” shouted Barney after me. I couldn’t think of a time when I was less perturbed.

It was a blessed relief to be away from that tune and that job. I enjoyed a leisurely rest of the holiday and was ecstatic when Mark Bolan replaced the record at number one with ‘Get It On!’

Pity, I thought not for the first time, not to have been a decade older, when the Beatles, and a whole string of the Merseybeat bands had included Rhyl in the places they could play and get back to Liverpool in their battered Austin and Morris vans in time for work in the morning.

Yes, I thought, I’d follow the instruction to beat a path to the university shop and purchase a ticket for Steeleye Span. Fleetingly, I wondered if I could afford the £1.50 for the ticket and then remembered the thought of the night before which, by an incredible feat of synchronicity, Pol Pot was having at about the same time,

“Today was day one of a completely new start.”

So how was my new life going to pan out?

The Fresher reception was to be held in a room numbered G101. In wandering around the gloom of the campus to get my bearings, I’d worked out this code. It was hardly rocket science, but I’d grown up in schools where the room was always associated with a particular teacher. This was a first floor room in Goodricke College and I made my way up the stairs opposite the porters’ lodge to find it.

One thing I had not got used to yet was the peculiar sprung floors in the college. Being of CLASP design, all the superstructure of the building hung off an internal steel structure and this meant that the floors all had a distinctive spring to them, exacerbated by the thick lino used to cushion the effect. This meant that negotiating your way along any corridor in the college felt like walking across a trampoline and the staircases vibrated as excessively as you ascended them. This was very much an acquired taste.

There was no mistaking G101 judging by the buzz of earnest conversation and the shining faces of the reception committee drawn up outside to meet and greet. I didn’t feel particularly confident in such situations but fell back for a few seconds on something I’d read in the summer to strengthen my resolve.

I finally knew I was coming to university at York when a thick envelope arrived about a week after the ‘A’ level results came out. In it was the confirmation letter, a sheet about Goodricke, the College to which I’d been assigned, and a chunky reading list running to several pages from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

I perused the reading list with studious intent, then read the total of books included on it. I would have to read at a rate of more than a book a day to complete the reading list before starting at college. Not wishing to fall at the first hurdle, I’d resolved to keep to this frantic reading schedule.

The resolve lasted less than an hour.

I decided to trim the list to what seemed the more interesting books, but on that basis I’d probably not touch any of the statistics and economics tomes, so I deliberately ringed one from each of those sections. By far the most interesting books appeared to be in the Sociology section and one in particular caught my eye, Erving Goffman’s ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. It seemed an enticing title, and appeared next to ‘The Naked Ape’ by Desmond Morris, who I knew from his zoology programmes on the television. Desmond’s was the only tome on the list that I had read, so I thought I’d give Goffman a go.

The next day I was at Rhyl library, beneath the clock tower of the Town Hall. As luck would have it, it was undergoing another episode of underpinning caused by general concern that the clock tower was leaning and would eventually topple forwards, demolishing either the Midland Bank, the Police Station or the little pub between them. As was becoming habitual, I had to negotiate a hastily erected structure of dusty scaffolding to enter this repository of free learning in Rhyl.

I was becoming something of a celebrity reader at the library. The librarians had heartily approved of my reading in support of my ‘A’ level English studies in the previous year when I’d gobbled up Vladimir Nabukov, Anton Chekov and Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. In fact, having hoovered up most of Nabokov, the head librarian suggested to me that I might like to sample the delights of ‘Lolita’ and reached underneath the counter for a pristine copy. That saved me having to request it like a teenager asking for contraceptives in the chemist. I think they considered that I was a cut above the usual requests for westerns and romances by Barbara Cartland and could appreciate ‘Lolita’ at a cerebral level, which I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t.

I handed my reading list over and the head librarian who caressed the embossed University of York letterhead with reverence, in much the way that I had, before consulting the pages of recommended reading. She was now a long way from the day her reading list for university had arrived, but realised that this represented a significant rite of passage.

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Her eyebrows knitted in frustration as she realised that she would be unable to supply most of the list, even after consulting her micro-fiche machine to pull on the additional resources in the newly created Clwyd archive. She was personally mortified not to be able to service the list but she booked Erving Goffman’s tome for me as she was familiar with it and thought reading it would repay the investment. I went to pay the charge for ordering a book from the central catalogue, but she brushed my hand aside magnanimously. Any child of Rhyl requiring such books for university would most certainly not be charged on her watch.

copyright:  Ambrose Conway / David Hughes 2011
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Colin Jones’ Blog Spot on Rhyl

 

jklmlPhoto from Colin’s blog of a pre war Birmingham family enjoying themselves on Rhyl Beach

 

I’m not the first to have a lasting affection for my home town that has turned online.

One of my inspirations has been Colin Jones’ blog, which has been a constant source of amusement, memories and enjoyment.

I feature in one of the posts together with the Rhyl Junior High School Rugby team of 1969. My abiding memory of that team was playing on a frozen pitch at Glyndwr (then the Junior High School) and performing what others described as a ‘brave’ blockage of a long kicked ball with a rather sensitive part of my anatomy. I knew I had dome some serious damage, but it was thirty seconds, due to the cold, before the agony kicked in.

The blog is a compendium of  key places, events and people that makes up the historical fabric of the town. Strange to think that so much of what was our daily lives as children now forms historical records, of which, without people like Colin, would be lost in faded memories.

I send Colin my thanks and best wishes as he scales down the blog and concentrates on new challenges. Thank you for your research and insights into our great town.

Visit Colin Jones’ Rhyl BlogSpot

 

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Smells like Rhyl teen spirit…

 

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I had a conversation with a friend this week and we were talking about the evocative nature of smells which linger on the memory. It got me thinking about the smells associated with growing up in Rhyl…

My first is a general one which most of us shared up until August 1968 and that was the smell of sulphurous, hot oil and coal associated with steam trains stopped in the station at Rhyl. It was the smell of adventures as everyone in those maroon carriages was off somewhere, whilst I was stuck with a 1d platform ticket on the up line of the station. Luckily you can still re-live this in Rhyl by simply popping down to the Rhyl Marine Lake Railway and standing next to the engine before it sets off. Steam engines smell slightly differently today because they no longer have access to the Welsh steam coal which once powered ships across the globe. 260338_10200119901071348_901371961_n[1]

The second is a more distinctly Rhyl smell, that of donkey poo on the beach or on the journey from the beach to their overnight quarters. It was a distinctly fragrant and sweet smell, not, of itself, at all horrible. It whiffed of summer, sun, jelly sandals and ice creams.

 

My third is the smell of fresh baking at Reeds on Vale Road. I well remember popping in regularly for a 1d Hovis mini loaf which had both novelty value and a rich malty texture and smell. It was the essence of the smell of baking for me. I never minded queueing up in Reeds as you got to snort in the baking smell which quickly had you salivating like a dog in a butcher’s shop!  I later graduated to a regular habit of pineapple tarts which were sweet and tangy. I’ve never found any which came close to those from my youth.

You couldn’t think of Rhyl without smelling that concoction of caramelised onions, and candy floss that permeated the length of the west end. It smelt of summer adventures and fun. Possibly if you chose your ride badly at the fair,  the Rotor or the Mad Mouse for example, you might get a second chance to drink in this heady aroma later in the evening.

At the Foryd end of the town on a damp day, the smell of the wet seaweed and the incoming tide with a foamy head was very evocative. I’ve dreamed of that smell and woken up feeling homesick. I missed it greatly when I lived away from Rhyl.

Whenever we had relatives come to stay, which was often, we always ended up walking up the promenade and visiting the Lifeboat House. When the boat and tractor were in and the mechanic was working on them, the smell of the heavy deep blue lubricating oil was a rich smell I’ve only smelt in other Lifeboat stations.

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One of the least pleasant smells I associate with the town comes from the small beach next to the Foryd Bridge. I was drawn there one day, whilst playing along the river (and in the bushes between the river and the Marine Lake, from where my mother had warned me to stay away)  by a horrendous smell. It was the smell of rot and decay, yet I was drawn to it. I found a large tope, a type of shark, some eight foot long with the colour drained away from it so that it was almost indistinguishable from the sand and line of seaweed. It had been caught as a fishing trophy and dumped there once a photograph of the proud fisherman had been taken. What a waste of the life of an awesome fish I thought. It  was both scary and fascinating to be so close to this, by now eyeless, sea monster, the focus for millions of flies.

 

I spent an hour just looking at it and poking it with a stick to ensure it was indeed dead. The tope had probably been there for several days judging by the way the flies were entering a cavity opened up in the gut. There was little chance now that it was  simply sunbathing. Eventually the angry flies and overpowering dank odour drove me away, but I remained fascinated that such a beast had been swimming off the beach of Rhyl.

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Dank odours bring me to another distinctive Rhyl smell… the grotto that was the changing room at the open air pool on the promenade. The smell of wet mortar impregnated with almost fluorescent saturated moss was never forgotten. Those changing rooms were washed down by a firefighter grade hose pipe on a daily basis. The regular soaking the walls received only encouraged the tropical rainforest of moss and wet rot that climbed from the floor to every wall in each of the putrid cubicles. How I now miss that smell and the excitement it heralded.

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Rhyl Funfairs 1959

This video encapsulates the Fairs as I remember them from family outings.

Look out for the Gaff… the walkway up between the two fairs where Les Williams had his stall and budgies – I managed to work a week there before succumbing to the flu!

The Satellite, the fast moving rocket ships, was a particular favourite. The Mad Mouse was a particularly vicious ride – see how the riders are jerked around the corners…

Thanks to Michael Theaker who produced this little gem…

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