HOW GREEN WAS MY DUFFEL COAT?
By Peter S. O’Neil
Dan-y-Bont. It’s not the same as it used to be and, I’m afraid, it never will be again. A lot of the terraced house are boarded up now. People have passed on or moved on and no-one has come to replace them. Only ghosts live in them now.
That one there was Selwyn Davies’s house, the one who played second-row into his sixties. If you look closely, there’s still a bit of a blood-stain above the door. Old Selwyn never remembered to duck when he came home after a few pints down the Bonters. His two children moved away to England. Nobody talks about that though.
The end house on this street is where Ffion Thomas lived with her children. Seven she ended up with. She relocated to a caravan down in Porthcawl which, they say, she paid for with thousands of books of Green Shield Stamps. I don’t believe that for a minute, they definitely didn’t do caravans.
Next door is Dai the Grass. He’s still there, him and Rhian, I guess. He saw to Ffion’s lawn a few times, if you catch my meaning. Ffion’s youngest works in the garden centre in Pyle. Go figure.
Opposite is the Jenkins residence. Empty now, all dead. I haven’t mentioned the Jenkinses before, have I? Big rugby family, they were. Generations of the Jenkins boys played for the Bonters. My dad went to school with Idris Jenkins. Idris and his wife, Mair, had six boys. Now, Idris was a huge lover of the old westerns. He was crazy about them. John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Audie Murphy… Well, he named his oldest Jeronimo, with a ‘J’. Mair wanted to call him Tom, after her dad, but she made the silly mistake of letting Idris go to the Registry Office by himself. Needless to say, she went with him for the others – Tom, William, Gwyn and Rhys followed. Then, after a legendary, cornet-wielding, domestic bust-up at the ice cream van which eye-witnesses referred to as the ‘Thriller in Vanilla’, Idris and Mair reached a compromise between Huw and Cochise and the fifth was named Shane. It really made no difference, all the boys were known as ‘Jinks’.
This is the old Post Office, with the red pillar box outside. Mrs. Lloyd, the last Post Mistress, lived in the upstairs. I think someone must be living there now, there’s glass in the windows.
Next house along is where Rhodri Preece grew up. His parents are long gone and Rhodri was never going to stay in the valley, not with his college diploma. He’s a manager now at a motorway services Starbucks. If the primary school was still open they’d probably put up another plaque.
The Patels still have the corner shop. Third generation, I think. You can still buy stamps but it’s mostly booze, fags and greetings cards. Everything you might need for a person’s special day.
Abigail (Alice Evans) Lindqvist has the old police house, of course. There’s gossip that she’s after buying the chapel and turning it into an exhibition and gallery. I know a few of the old ministers are buried in the cemetery behind and might have something to say if that happens.
I’ll tell you who else is there too. Dickie Dwt. Old Sergeant Lewis himself. I never knew that he’d been buried here. After his ‘retirement’, he went to live with his brother in Portugal. Apparently, he didn’t want to be buried over there because it was too hot. I’m glad. He belongs here with all the rest of Dan-y-Bont’s old ghosts. They’re all here. You can sense them. In the same way as the smell of coal seeps out of the ground when it rains, they’re all here, just beneath the surface.
Well, it’s time to say goodbye to Dan-y-Bont now. It’s been a nice little visit and maybe, one day, we can come back again. For now though, let’s let the old ghosts rest.
Nos da, Dan-y-Bont. Cysgwch yn dawel. (Good night, Dan-y-Bont. Sleep peacefully.)