A brief Testament.

As I briefly pose a cursory glance over my last few years of life, I can deduce that in many ways it has been wasted, in the sense of not really having a career, or a stable method of employment. In other areas too it has been fraught with problems which I have had, or never had, any control over whatsoever. And I suppose, in hindsight, we can look back, blame others and see our own faults as not being of our own volition. But not all was wasted; in this instance I think that bringing up my children almost from day one, changing dirty nappies, feeding bottles, taking to school and all the other little rigmaroles of child-rearing were never ever in vain. I did it for several reasons; the main one was that my ex-wife had a better paid job than I did – I was not working so, in my liberal attitude towards life, with an ethos of understanding and a degree of compassion (if they are the correct words to use I don’t know at all now), did not find any problems in doing this; besides, they were my children after all! I thought I suppose that I was being the ‘new man’, whatever that term means today (post 80s interpretation), being some kind of feminist, but I did it mainly out of love, although there were instances that I nearly teared my hair out and thought I was going mad from the stress of it all, especially after my second son, Toby, was born. That was hard, dealing with both of them. Incredibly so on some occasions. But rewarding in others, seeing them grow up- for the best part of six of Harvey’s years and three of Toby’s.

So in many respects, even though I had no stable career (although my profession was in the IT field), I don’t think all was wasted during those seven years. And I did not waste myself totally however, I built the odd website, fixed a few PCs, taught as a tutor teaching people how to use computers (which I enjoyed considerably) and so on. I kept my skills up to date. But again, there were some problems in doing this. In many respects, I felt trapped; I did feel that I could be offering the world more than I was able to other than in bringing up my kids. And looking back, it was a form of entrapment. But for the love of my children, I persevered doing this task, and, as any parent can tell you, it is a task that goes without recognition in many areas, many, an unthankful task, but you try and bring your kids up to the best of your ability and teach them good manners and so on, how to be polite and caring towards others. And I brought them up in complete trust to the best of my ability, based around memories of my own upbringing and what my Mother taught me, and, at the age they are at now, they are caring, good, kids. This is one of my Testaments.

I always hoped however that one day, that delusional fictional moment in the future, things would change for me; a job would be offered in recognition of my talents (which were never inconsiderable – I can cook, write and am skilled in IT), or something might happen. The only thing that did happen was a marriage split up, a very acrimonious one at that, and that led to several months of hell. So once again, I am alone in temporary accommodation, living out a nightmare. This is like being back to 1988 when I left my family home, and in the words of Fish I am in ‘the playground of the broken, damaged, hearts’. And Psyche. Some reward. Eh?

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Memories of Innocence.

I remember looking out of my bedroom window, which was situated in a south-westerly direction, onto the large, sloping roof of the blue club directly opposite me, separated between our house and two railtracks which led to the mines and the steel works of the industrial heartland of the Ebbw Valley. Many trains would come during the course of the day, laden with the produce of work and others returning empty to be filled up once again. Directly above the blue clubs gigantic roof you could see the hill top of Machen Mountain, with its slag heaps looking like some spawn of the loch ness monster with its irregular humps of slag taken from the earth of the old pits of Risca colliery. The mountain slopes were decorated with trees, and you could pinpoint clearings through the foliage where roads coiled their way up to the television mast at the top of the mountain.

To the right of the looming roof of the club, you could see down into the village itself and the crossroads which gave the village its name. Crosskeys was a junction where both the Sirhowy and the Ebbw Valleys joined, and were fed along into one straight route south. It was quite a busy junction with traffic lights controlling the passage of traffic and pedestrians. Groups of youths would be seen hanging around nearby, wasting away the hours of the day with boredom. Directly above the crossroads rose Mynydd Lan, with its old slate quarry gouged into its side like some obscene wound, in memory of its industrial heritage. This mountain however contained the remains of a forest fire and few trees remained on its side. From my window you could see directly up the Sirhowy valley, which then disappeared from view as two sides of the valley closed in together, shutting it out of sight. Of course this direct view up the western side of the valley was put into perspective by the rows upon rows of the roofs of terraced houses, again symbolic of 19th Century Industrialisation.

The main memory of the sight outside of my window was that it was always sunny, with swallows and swifts swooping around and landing directly on top of the blue club roof for a chatter and rest. I remember their migratory patterns towards the end of Summer whereby they would fly and swoop in a great formation and land on roofs to rejoin one another and then they would fly again, all the time gathering new friends and then finally fly and not come back, gone away to their new climes as our winter approached. And it was a peaceful memory as well, having lots of friends, lots to do and a loving and caring family. I distinctly remember the long drawn out summer evenings, the sun slowly resting into the west behind the valley hills, its twilight glow casting long, red, shadows across the tops of the terraced roofs, creating a serene, calm mood. Often I would just lie on my bed reading a book or just playing, watching the birds or the people cross the road. It was, in a single expressive word, contentment.

Our house was the old station masters house in Crosskeys, which used to be part of the old train station with only the station masters house remaining as a relic of bygone days. It was a big house, with a garden the size of a small allotment which was completely wild and overgrown. Towards the rear of the garden we had our own miniature tropics – a small rise covered with Chinese bamboo–like shoots which were just an incredible weed which you could not get rid of even though you would try and dig up the roots. My Sister and I, with friends, would spend whole days building dens here in different parts and having fights and so on. The house was situated in between two train tracks; the one track led to the Ebbw Vale Steelworks – a single track – not much traffic, and the other track, a double track, would lead to the coal mines of Abercarn and Oakdale. This was a busy track, and occasionally we would see the odd passenger train come up which would excite us, but it was mainly a freight track for coal and steel.

Our garden was, as I stated, very big. There was a shed near the bottom which had, in its previous years, been used as stables. In fact, during my adolescence, I remember very frequently finding the occasional horseshoe as well as old bottles in the garden and when I would dig to any serious intent – the old green type of bottle with a glass ball in the neck. I guess this would have to be something to do with it being near a train station. I also have fond memories exploring and finding all the wildlife in the garden, the many many caterpillars, ladybirds and a whole host of bugs and suchlike, this was probably because the garden was so unkempt and quite wild which allowed for a whole array of creatures to run rampant. I also remember my Mums strawberrys amd herb garden and my (usual) failed attempts at trying to grow my own radishes and so on. They never seemed to take off which was a great shame.

Then there were the trees; the biggest was a great big sycamore situated right in the centre of the back garden which was moved from the front of the house by my Dad and other family members. My Sister wanted a tree house built in it, but that never came about, but we had fun climbing the other trees in the garden though.

All in all, I have very fond memories of growing up in that big house in Crosskeys.