Tonight I’m not going to post anything about my work or an article I’ve read recently: though indeed, it’s been a while since I did either of those things, and I must apologise for my tardiness. Tonight’s blog post is based on something that has happened recently in the town where I have been conducting my research for the last two years, and where I lived prior to that for eight years. A place which is as close to my heart as my home town: more so, in all honesty, because it was the place in which I grew to adulthood and where many of my best friendships were forged and my most enduring memories were created.
No-one can have escaped the poor weather we’ve been having recently. Here in my little part of South Wales the rain has been incessant, accompanied by howling winds and hailstones. But Aberystwyth, the town that captured my heart at the age of 18 and never gave it back, has been taking a beating. High winds and towering waves have combined to batter the Victorian promenade, gouging great holes in the sea wall. The shelter where I sat with my ex partner, talking and drinking wine and watching previous, less serious storms, has collapsed into the hole torn by the ferocious ocean. The bar, which hundreds upon hundreds of students and locals have kicked (a tradition that goes back many years and which is said to ensure the person kicking the bar always returns to the town) has apparently been swept away. The seafront halls, normally so foreboding, are dwarfed by giant waves and tonight stand mostly empty, the students having been evacuated to the campus.
As a former student, as a current student, as a previous “local”, seeing the pictures and the news footage has been awful. To see the places of my youth torn up and wrecked has awoken a part of me I’m not sure I knew existed. I feel fierce loyalty for the place, and immense sadness. Watching the news earlier brought me almost to tears – I feel like a part of my history has been taken away by the winds.
But the best part about Aberystwyth is its people, and they won’t let a little thing like a violent weather system tearing apart their town get them too down. Tonight they are huddled in warm, well-lit pubs and loading up songs with lots of water-based imagery in their titles on the jukebox. They are sat on top of Constitution Hill watching the waves bear down on their little town, enjoying one of nature’s spectacles. There are students evacuated to the campus eating free chips in the Union. That is not to dismiss what any of those people are going through, but they are facing down the storm in inimitable Aberystwyth style: surrounded by friends, possibly (most definitely) with a drink in hand. And they will emerge from this storm with brilliant anecdotes of bravery and idiocy, and tall tales that should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The attached picture is by Keith Morris, the Aberystwyth photographer who charts our lives in the town: the title of the blog is, of course, from Malcolm Pryce’s wonderful novel Aberystwyth Mon Amour. I apologise for the unashamedly sentimental tone of this post, but I don’t apologise for loving the place as much as I do.
**UPDATE: The bar is alive! Updates in my comments section and via my Twitter feed seem to confirm that the bar is still standing. Hopefully it’ll hang in there as a fitting testament to the toughness of the town and its residents.