I’m starting to feel the pull of home again.
It’s only a slight tug right now but I know that, come October when we actually fly over, I’ll be almost rabid with a desire to see my home town.
It’s not just seeing the family either, though that obviously plays a major part in it all. Through Facebook I’ve found a couple of friends from my school days, a rook of mates from the army and a couple of new people who I have never met before, but stumbled across on FB through other people.
Then there’s the council estate where I grew up, Tan y lan. It’s changed so much since I left home in the Autumn of ’83 and it’s hard to reconcile the neighbourhood now with the rundown ghetto I knew as a kid.
(OK, that’s not fair, but in my defence it was never known as the posh end of Colwyn.)
The council has sold a lot of the properties on to the residents and all in all Tan y lan is now a nice neighbourhood. However, in my time as a young street urchin, it was the pits.
In 1971 my father left the army and having no immediate place to live, (my Mam and Dad were stationed in Germany at the time of his demobbing) they went back to stay with my Gran in Colwyn Bay until something could be found.
The train journey along the North Wales coast takes the traveller through Rhyl to Abergele and then into a tunnel that opens up to the magnificent panorama that is Colwyn Bay. In the 70’s Colwyn Bay was a popular seaside resort town and it looked the part. A smart white pier stretched out into a miraculously blue sea which set off nicely the golden sands and row of pastel painted seafront hotels and restaurants. As hard as it is to imagine nowadays, people actually flocked to spend their summer pennies on ice cream, donkey rides and the one armed bandits of the North Wales Riviera.
After leaving the tunnel, immediately on the left is Tan y lan council estate. He was probably smiling when he said it; because even the Gods couldn’t be so cruel as to plonk his little family into the mad warren of dilapidated buildings before him, but my Dad naively nudged my Mam and said, “Hope they don’t put us there.”
Famous last words.
Eight months later we moved in to our first house. It was damp, infested with earwigs, cold in winter and exceedingly small, but it was ours, (well, not ours on paper but ours morally).
Tan y lan was full of the working poor at that time. It was where the council put people who didn’t have much money and so young families were shoved there to raise their kids as best they could.
Nearly every father on the estate worked in Hotpoint, a huge factory the other side of Colwyn Bay, (an almost impossible distance to travel every day to my young mind) and most of the mothers stayed at home or did part time work. That was the way it was then, we didn’t have much but mothers could afford to stay home in those days.
We kids played footy in the street or war in the “Quarry”, the “Tip” or the “Camp”; the three areas of waste ground around the estate.
The Tip was a field and still is, though nowadays it has swings and the like. The Quarry, well I’m not sure if it ever was a quarry but it had a couple of scrapped cars and was totally cool to play war in, (and totally out of bounds to me and my brother, not that it ever stopped us).
The Camp was supposedly once a holiday camp; though I have never given that claim any credence what so ever. There was also an old house everyone called, “Alex’s house” which was meant to be haunted. It was knocked down around 1975 or so, I’m not sure, but that just made it even more mysterious. Some swings, a climbing frame and a lot of porno magazines. I never understood where they came from but every six months or so a new batch of porn would be found and all the kids would read it and discuss the various topics illustrated therein.
The Camp is now built over with a parking space where the swings used to be and also where Alex’s ghost used to haunt.
There was always a good community spirit in Tan y lan and the Tan y lan kids were proud to be known as the Tan y lan Bootboys, (I was never a Bootboy and I never knew anyone who was, but one of the signs for Tan y lan road had, “Bootboys” spray painted onto it and the name stuck.). It wasn’t a youth movement as such, more of an unspoken belonging to the group that has followed some of us into adulthood. Facebook has a Tan y lan residents group and there’s also an “Old Colwyn East residents society”, which I think is great. The picture above is of Colwyn Bay, (hence the name, “Boy from the Bay”) but in the foreground is Tan y lan as I knew it in the early 70’s. You can just make out the roof of our old house next to the blue sign with, “About” written on it, bottom left of the picture.
This picture is so close to my heart. The motorway that scores itself along the coast nowadays isn’t there and that was the Tan y lan I remember; the Tan y lan I look to visit every time I fly home but never manage to see.
So now you know peeps, that’s why I called my Blog, “The Boy from the Bay”.
Take it easy.