Cymru Culture

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The snows of yesteryear (December 2012)

(December 01, 2012)

But, where are the snows of yesteryear? *


Boyd Clack (Photo- Ben Hussain)Boyd Clack (photo - Ben Hussain)


I was brought up in Tonyrefail, in the Rhondda, in the fifties and sixties. It was an intense and, in many ways, beautiful culture. Everyone was working class and our joys and dreams were drawn from the same well. The air smelled of romance, women and girls had sparkling eyes and men breathed out Woodbine smoke. Christmases glittered with fairy lights and falling snow. There was heartbreak and madness and violence of course, but I was a young man and the light outshone the darkness.

This was a country, a society, at a very particular time. It wasn’t that long since the Second World War had ended. The valleys were thriving in its aftermath. There was work for everyone who wanted it. A lot of men worked in the mines, in Coedely Colliery, though backbreaking, it was well paid and the very nature of the work created a camaraderie and interdependence that carried on into our social life. Friendships between families were tangible, practical realities. We holidayed together in Porthcawl, two weeks of monsoon rainfall in the caravan park in Happy Valley, days spent on Coney Beach or wandering around the fairground.

The churches were full. The melancholic sound of their bells added to the delicacy of the long Sunday evenings. Tragedies and comedies were shared. There was illness, of course. The sight of skeletal men, white as laundered sheets, leaning on a windowsill in the street, gasping for their breath was commonplace. Cancer was ever-present. Illnesses like diabetes and polio, one treatable, the other almost extinct now, were killers then. We even had a smallpox outbreak in 1961. I remember a house opposite Ton pictures being isolated; a blue mark painted on the front. The disease and illnesses just bound us closer together though. There but for the grace of God … we knew what it was like.

It seems to me that the air was different then - lighter, chiller, sharper, more exhilarating to breath. The seasons were more distinct, the winters colder and darker, the summers hotter and more brilliant. The countryside was green and delicate. When I die I’d be happy to be buried on the Glyn mountain, where I spent so many happy days playing with my friends Gwynne and Mel. I’d be happy to think of my soul resting there above the village. There was a mood, a feeling of timelessness, that is impossible to describe. Many people had lived through the entire century. They kept the old ways alive.

We were isolated. It was a place out of time; and strange and beautiful for it. We didn’t want to join in the race. The race, of course, came to us anyway - and change came unbidden. Television news beamed into our homes by satellites brought the worldwide social revolutions to our well scrubbed doorsteps, and our strange little fairy world was swept away. I was a dreamer, a Grammar School hippy, I was the Poet Laureate of despair, I was a dandelion growing in a back garden.

There were others like me. We saw a brave new world and we wanted to be a part of it. The old world was left to wither on the vine. It is strange then that that old world, that old Wales, should be with me to this day. That it has moulded me so, been so intrinsic to everything I have done since. This Wales is all but gone, all but forgotten. There are those alive who still share that distant memory, and its ghost lingers on in our general psyche, but it grows ever more faint. It fades with every passing minute. I find myself kicking against the inevitable dying of that light. I hold it so close and deep in my heart that I cannot, and indeed, do not want, to let it go. The new Wales is one of technology and fashion. It follows worldwide trends and sensibilities. It is a modern society keen to be accepted by the outside world on their terms. This isn’t a bad thing but it is a homogenising agent. Our uniqueness lies only in our history and heritage. Don’t rush into the brave new world too quickly without thought. Remember who we are. We don’t need to seek the approbation of the outside world so desperately. We are a great, fascinating people living in a beautiful mystical land. Don’t throw out y baban with the bathwater.


Boyd Clack, 1 December 2012


* Mais, où sont les neiges d'antan? (But, where are the snows of yesteryear?) taken from Ballade des dames du temps jadis (Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past), a poem by François Villon (c. 1431–1463)


This month, Boyd Clack will be reading the one man play, I Am Angela Brazil by Lucinda Coxon.


     Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff - Tuesday, 11 December 2012, at  20:00, tickets £4.00
Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea – Wednesday, 12 December 2012, at 19:30, tickets £4.00
The Riverside/Glan yr Afon, Newport – Thursday, 13 December 2012, at 19:45, tickets £4.00

Boyd tells us: "I wear a dress". Good luck with that!



Also from Boyd Clack: 

     The snows of yesteryear; September 2012

     The snows of yesteryear; June 2012

     Interview with Boyd Clack; September 2011


Boyd's new website is

Boyd Clack's latest album, Labourer of Love is available in Tesco and ASDA stores now, or online from Amazon - as a CD at £8.99, or mp3 at £5.99. We interviewed Boyd last September - fascinating reading - read it here: Boyd Clack interview, September 2011.


Boyd Clack - Labourer of LoveBoyd Clack's latest album, Labourer of Love


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