On the square that was never a square – well at least not knowingly. The corner shop is now a hairdresser filled with gleaming chrome, mirrors and bright lights where once stood the bacon slicer, the butter pats, cheese and the cutting wire of the marble slab, blocks of table salt, and paper bags of tea ready to be measured out by the ounce according to how much people could afford. The zebra crossing is still there with its orange globed belisha beacons reminding us of the smell of Christmas for some strange reason. The pillar box red phone box that stood to one side of the zebra crossing is gone. So is the pagoda styled bus shelter, with its Ladies and Gentlemen’s toilets on either side. The Hospital that overlooked and dominated the village – a workhouse that became a hospital – so feared in people’s memory that no one mentioned its past.
The painting of “Partridge Square” illustrates Ernie Zobole’s defiance of perspective but also of realism. It depicts four “zebra crossings” when there was only ever one over what was quaintly named Princess Louisa Avenue but was in reality a road running through and below tips that were higher than houses overlooking Ynyscynon, Trealaw and Pontrhondda. There’s also a street lamp in the centre of the so called Square which was never a Square. I hesitate to call it a roundabout – this place that had once began life as a tram terminus at a time when not a single terraced house had been built – except the Black House (but that is another story for another day). The old Saint Cynon’s church on one corner is the old tin shed church.
One could say that the people of the Square were strangers to realism. Old man Christmas, the foundling left at the gates of the workhouse on a Christmas Day morning – a place of dread that stood above the square. And Mr Christmas or Chris as he was known was given a job, and he lived and died in the place he’d been found. Or Mansel who directed the traffic but caused one too many accidents and so was taken away never to be seen again.
And the sprawling brawling drunken fights after the Dog and Muff closed its doors every Saturday night. Men fighting over who had said what about the other’s girlfriend; who was caught with another boy’s girlfriend behind Lloyd the Milk’s stables; and women fighting and rolling round on the street pulling lumps out of each others hair and all over a boy. There are more untold stories. Reality?
I drive on through my past. Golden Cross steps and another corner shop that sold cut macaroni and my grandmother would only buy it from there – the steps a short cut between the longest street in the valley and the bridge to cross to Methodists Central Hall and Trinity.
All gone to be replaced by supermarkets and car parks.
The tyranny of perspective indeed!
With thanks to YSTRAD STORIES.