Bench 2 is on my daily route. I come by here every day. Several times. Back back and forth and forth, and back back and forth and forth, like the song says.
And sometimes I stop here. For me this is a utility pause. A place to check my phone because it’s just buzzed in my pocket.
I should explain.
I used to be a teacher. A lecturer, I suppose. A decade and a half in the educational hinterland that is forever further education. Further education is the bit between GCSEs (the first time around, anyway) and university / job / whatever. A couple of years of all-but-mandatory schooling on top of the decade or more.
As the college I taught at was what used to be a mixed economy college – a chunk of FE, and a little bit of higher education on top, the courses franchised in from places with exotic names like Hull and Sheffield – I taught a bit of everything. Folk tend not to believe the lists, so I’ll not add to the disbelief now.
And I learned back in the early days of mobile phones that it paid to have your device on vibrate only. I got my first mobile about 1999, which was pretty late. Of course in those days, it was all playing Snake on your Nokia and printing off arcane screeds of code to add another monophonic ringtone to your collection. We led simple lives, but we were happy.
The upshot of all of this is that fifteen years of having a surreptitious phone in my pocket means that I’m conditioned, salivating dog-style, to respond to a soundless jiggle at my hip. That’s where the bench comes in.
The chapel opposite is the Seion Wesleyan chapel. That’s Welsh-language Methodism. It’s a decent, solid building. Built in 1905, and incorporating an earlier chapel dating from 1840 or thereabouts. I like its sturdiness. Reflective of the practicality of the faith practiced inside, I’d hope. Something to get you by, rooted in the past and the present, and not over-promising.
I’m not a religious person, but I can see how that’d work.
Llangollen’s full of chapels, some of them dark, some still shining bright. We’ll get to a few of them in due course. I can’t recall seeing folk going in and out of this one, but there’s a noticeboard on the other side of the building that’s kept up to date, so signs point to activity.
I checked in the only book of town history (Sherratt’s An Illustrated History of Llangollen) that I’ve got. Methodism hit this part of the world hard, the way Sherratt tells it. John Wesley visited the town in 1789.
Other preachers followed. One was a Mr Bryan, who in 1801 so dazzled the crowds assembled that the town’s miller, one John Jones, who was celebrated at the time for his involvement in cockfighting, came straight back from the sermon, renounced his blood sport and gambling ways, and “greatly surprised his wife by going out into the yard and decapitating all his birds, said to be the finest in the county, in order to rid himself of temptation”, according to Sherratt. Jones (and Mrs Jones) were instrumental in the Welsh Methodist Society soon inaugurated in town the following year.
We’re between the Market Street car park and Berwyn Street. There’s an oddly wide passageway between the chapel and the first of the houses. In the passage, there’s three benches, plus a bin and a little electrical junction box kinda thing. Like I said, I cut through here pretty much every day, and so this is a regular stopping-off point.
Behind me, a run of houses, hotels, and the vets. To my left, the car park, to my right, Berwyn Street. Close is the M’Eating Point caff, a regular stop-off. There’s a couple of takeaways (a Chinese and a kebab shop) around the corner; occasionally you’ll get a late-night drunk here passed out or finishing off their pizza. If there’s any mess, though, it’s gone by morning. There’s a council clean-up crew that swoops early doors to make sure the town centre’s presentable for visitors and locals alike.
I like the bench. I like how it’s different from the two opposite (I’ll touch base with them all in good time). I like how there’s this wide passageway. Maybe there were houses here once. To the right, the road side of things, there’s one of those zig-zag ironwork arrangements to make sure that pedestrians don’t run straight into the road.
I’m headed that way, as it happens. Off to Stan’s; a filling station and a mini-mart that’s an offshoot of an independent superstore a few miles away. That’s my next stop. Stangollen.