This week’s blog is about the Welsh village where we lived when Russell was born. We revisited on his birthday this year; it hadn’t changed much apart from the loss of the Post Office and the addition of a Tesco Express. Oh, and someone has built a very large extension on to our old house.
We moved to the village of Creigiau in Mid Glamorgan in December 1980 – it was raining, and it continued to rain every day until March. The day after we moved in the doorbell rang, we opened the door to a small dark-haired lady called Margaret who turned out to be our neighbour. Her first words to us were “Can you sing?” Well, that confirmed it – we really had moved to Wales! Margaret was a member of Cantorian Creigiau– the village choir that really was far too professional for our poor English voices. We didn’t join but did go to many of their performances; I believe they are still performing to worldwide audiences. It was Margaret’s daughter, Estelle, who found us a kitten after our cat died a couple of years later. Matey, as the kitten became known, grew into the large fluffy black cat that moved to Great Kingshill with us many years later.
Creigiau is a small village nestling between the Welsh Valleys and the Vale of Glamorgan, about half an hour from the centre of Cardiff but very much in the country. At the time it seemed as if we’d moved to the end of the Universe; we had been used to hopping on a train for a night out in London, and here we were in the middle of nowhere, living in a road whose name we couldn’t pronounce, in a village whose name we also couldn’t pronounce! However, we soon got used to the slower pace of life (once it stopped raining) and quickly made friends. We took advantage of the Welsh nightlife – Cardiff turned out to be a pretty good city for this, as well as the beautiful countryside on our doorstep – the Brecon Beacons, Gower Peninsular and the footpaths around the village.
In days gone by Creigiau had been on the main railway line between the coal mining valleys and the docks. The railway tracks had been removed but the lines were left as footpaths through the fields and woods and were home to many birds and wild flowers. Above the village was a disused quarry – I believe the village got its name from the quarry; the word Creigiau is Welsh for “rocks”. The quarry was another haven for wildlife and a favourite for Sunday afternoon walks in the summer. Each November, a spectacular firework display was held on the former station platform; this always attracted hundreds of people.
One lasting memory of our time in Creigiau is the winter of 1981-2. This year the weather came up trumps, instead of the usual grey skies and endless rain we got SNOW! Loads of it! It snowed for almost 48 hours without a break. It was as high as the hedgerows. There was absolutely no chance of getting out of the village to go to work – we were cut off! After it eventually stopped snowing we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine and an unexpected week’s holiday, yay! After four days, the Creigiau Inn (the village pub) ran out of beer, so we ventured further afield, to the Caesars Arms that had both beer and food. It was also during this week that we got to meet many more friends within the village. But the fun had to end sometime, and after a week someone sourced a JCB to dig us out and it was back to normal.
Back in the early 1980’s there were quite a few businesses in the village – the Post Office and general stores, a greengrocer and flower shop in a small wooden hut by the railway bridge, a garage that had stopped selling fuel but still did repairs and the Creigiau Pottery. This was a favourite with all our English visitors, there are probably still many “Creigiau pots” living happily in Buckinghamshire. But top of our list in the days before children was the Creigiau Inn – the only pub in the village. In those days it was a very basic pub, no food apart from crisps or peanuts and warm cloudy beer; but it did us proud for many years – a few pints in the pub before the traditional Friday night out in Cardiff followed by a curry at the Paradise Tandoori in Cowbridge Road – is that still there? I do hope so. I do remember an incident when my friend Jenny and I ventured further afield to the Kings Arms in Pentyrch (the next village) one evening on our own. As we walked through the door a crowded bar fell silent. It turned out that in Pentyrch it just wasn’t usual for two young women (yes, I was young in those days) to go into a pub without a man to chaperone them! That was rural Wales in the early 1980’s.
There wasn’t a great deal of nightlife in Creigiau, but once we got used to village life we managed to find things to do. As it was a company move that brought us to Wales, there were several others from our place of work living within the village and surrounding areas so we were never short of friends for a night out. A summer favourite was the open air Shakespeare performances at Dyffryn Gardens; at least a dozen of us would start with a picnic in the gardens followed by the play, and for dessert we’d be back to the Paradise Tandoori for a late-night curry! There was one year the weather was so bad we abandoned the picnic for hot soup and blankets over our knees, but we still managed to watch the performance despite the thunder and lightning.
Winter weekends would be spent at the beach (it was far too crowded in the summer) Nash Point was a favourite with its rock pools and fossils. A more traditional form of entertainment was the Welsh Ceilidh. Very similar to our English barn dance where you have a live band and a “caller” who shouts out the moves as you are dancing, with one very significant difference…… the caller only ever spoke in Welsh. Its quite difficult not to demolish the person dancing next to you when you can understand what you are supposed to be doing; its virtually impossible not to when you can’t understand a word that’s being said and you’re being thrown around the room at what seems like 90 miles an hour!
Well, this was our life in Wales until 2nd May 1985 when we metamorphosed from a couple into a family.
To be continued………..