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Feature

Letter from Barry

28 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Photo Taylor Edmonds

Taylor Edmonds

Two years ago, I moved into my first home with my partner, no more than a ten-minute walk from the streets I grew up in.

If you’d have told me this at fifteen; that the path I take daily now is the same as it was then, I wouldn’t have believed you. Back then, I felt like the town was swallowing me up. I was itching for somewhere, anywhere else to be.

After years away, I found something tugging me back to home.

Maybe it was being held by the mud-tinged water, or the way that at a particular time of year, the sun sets at the perfect point over the Knap beach. The sky glows that same peach colour as it used to, when I’d be at a bonfire or trudging my way home from a day outside, my hair smelling of seaweed.

It seems most of us have this love-hate, push and pull relationship with the places that raised us. We know them too well, have been exposed to their ugly underbelly, yet can’t help but revel the way they transport us to another place and time.

Not much has changed here, but I have. When I walk the route I used to take to the corner shop, I notice things I never have before.

The house with the tree that has the pinkest blossom I’ve ever seen. The graveyard that has a stone marked out with a wizard’s name. The elderly man that waves good morning from the same spot at the same time every day.

Pennywort

I’ve learned the names of the flowers that pop up in the most unexpected of places; foxgloves, pennywort, celandines. I know the land intimately; what to look out for and when, in the patches of wild and my neighbour’s gardens.

My house is in the oldest part of Barry. From my window, I can see the small church that my parents got married in when they were in their early twenties.

I can also see my primary school, and the bell tower that we used to be so convinced was haunted that I swore I saw footsteps shuffling underneath its locked door.

My mum tells me that when she was a girl, she’d walk to that same school, right past my house. Then, she had no idea that the daughter she hadn’t even thought about yet would one day be looking out that window.

Fifteen-year-old me would have thought of this as I failure. I failed to get out, to stretch myself across all the corners of the globe and settle somewhere different.

But now I find comfort in the small ways I am connected to myself, to my heritage, to the small patches of land that have held and provided for us.

Bluebells

One of the things that pulled me to this house were the bluebells. When we first moved in, they were already blooming in the small, wild patch of garden.

This year, I got to watch them signify the arrival of spring, and along with them, I shook off the heaviness of winter depression that weighs down on my body.

Photo Taylor Edmonds

I’d check the window first thing every morning to document their progress, like I’d grown them from seed myself. I had never noticed bluebells like that before; their purple-blue colour, their velvety texture. I’d never had a reason to pay them such close attention, until they were revealing themselves in my garden as I willed the seasons to change.

The woman who owned this house before us lived here for over twenty years. She told me that every spring, her and her son would take a photo of themselves in the bluebells, their bodies surrounded by a carpet of blue.

It felt instinctive to continue on this ritual in some shape or form. So, I sat in the garden, my body making a dent in the bluebells, forget-me-nots, dandelions and daisies.

I listened to the birds, took a slow minute to write about the bluebells and my new life in the same town.

I took my own photo. And I’ll continue to mark the arrival of spring in this same way, in the shadow of somebody else in another time.


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Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
23 days ago

My memories of Barry are cycling around the docks watching bannanas being unloaded from the Geest boats with the occassional Tarantula squished under foot, US ammo boats being unloaded onto lighters offshore and then unloaded at the dockside with the security of a solitary policeman, despite it being the height of the Troubles. Rusting hulks of steam engines with the occassional escape up Buttrills Road. Cold dips in summer at the Lido in Cold Knap and walking a neighbours dog all over Porthkerry. Looking out of the window at a now none existant school watching traffic escape the town along… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
23 days ago

Growing up in the 60’s on Cardiff a day trip to Barry with a visit to Butlins and an afternoon building sandcastles on the beach was a family ritual. Along with our  two week summer holiday at Porthcawl, which seemed a continent away from Gabalfa. To find a decent job my parents later moved to England and my 13-year-old self -found a new life or so it seemed.   15 years ago with our daughter, just six weeks old my wife and I relocated to Wales, settling halfway between Barry and Porthcawl. Our family weekends are often split between the two. Last… Read more »

Ben Wildsmith
Ben Wildsmith
19 days ago

Such beautiful writing.

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