I’m struggling with this a little. Last time out, when I did that blog about benches in Louth – which eventually got collated into this book – I had a way in. A set of personal connections. There was a conceptual map that held it together as a project (at least as far as I was concerned; your mileage might vary) that gave it some cohesion over and above the whole set-in-the-same-place thing.
In other words, geography isn’t enough by itself.
And maybe neither is history. With Louth, I had my own history, a personal past to play with, so that there were both geographic and historical vectors working together; the personal history of self and the wider history of record and of context articulating with place. Here I don’t have that.
I can look stuff up. The building opposite is the police station, for example, built around 1870, and which at one time at least housed both a court and a coroner’s office. It’s still staffed for at least some of the day, which is pretty good going for a town of this size. Behind the bench is the town’s museum, a sixteen-sided building that opened in 1971 as a purpose-built library to replace the one that had been in the Town Hall. The library’s now around the corner in Castle Street. Sixteen sides makes it hexadecagonal. I don’t think looking stuff up is enough though. All that does is give some background, a touch of the objective to add to the subjective.
Anyone could do it. Which means that there’s not a compelling-enough reason for me to. I need to regroup, basically. I’m not sure “angle” is the word, but I need something to get to grips with this.
The museum’s not bad, though. I went in once and had a quick scoot about. Like many local history-specific places, there aren’t always concessions to the total noob, so not all of it made immediate sense. That said, I bought a charmingly-put together locally-published book on the town’s pubs and breweries past and present. It’ll come in handy, I’m sure, as I get my head around this place. I mentioned this blog to the fella in the museum. They were kind enough not to press the hidden silent alarm under the counter. No shutters came down. No SWAT came a-running. I even got a little bit of insider knowledge about the bench outside. I’ll not betray confidences here.
It’s in a good spot, the bench. Parade Street is part of the one-way loop that the buses get sent around on. The bench is by the dropping-off and waiting point. Then they pull along twenty metres or so to the pickup zone by the bus shelters. A simple-enough system, but effective. So the bench is busy. Somewhere to wait for the 5 to Wrexham or the T3 to Barmouth if perching on those slanted arse-rests that bus shelters too-often have isn’t your thing.
Much of the year, too, it’s a place just far enough off the main drag of Castle Street to pretty much ensure a seat. You could get five or six on the bench at a push, and there’s no shortage of ice-creams to be bought and eaten in town.
Opposite, there’s the back of the Town Hall and a parking spot for a police car. More than once I’ve seen an indulgent copper stick on the blues and twos for a delighted toddler. If you squint by the Town Hall, there’s a spare bench tidied away. Maybe it’s been decommissioned; taken out for repairs or an upgrade. Perhaps it’s a leftover. Could have been borrowed from council stores as a prop for amateur dramatics; the Town Hall has a stage, and musical theatre isn’t totally unknown here.
Parade Street isn’t long. Maybe one hundred metres. Next to the police station, a former school that’s now an international language school. Seems to be EU-funded; enjoy it while you can. On this side of the road, an extreme sports place, and the silver band meeting huts. Parade Street then turns left, becoming East Street. Old maps I’ve seen indicate the road used to carry on straight, following the river. There’s a path there now. It’ll take you as far as Aldi and Home Bargains, maybe a mile upstream.
There is a parade, however. The street’s on the route of the procession of competitors that’s an integral part of the annual International Eisteddfod. The road predates the event, though; if there’s a reason for the name I’m yet to find it.
I linger here a few minutes more. Still trying to get my head quite around how to approach this. Perhaps this is it. All there is. No matter. At least I’m sat down, and there’s a place or two that’ll flog me both local organic farm artisan ice cream or else a soft-serve stale-Flake 99 (crushed nuts and monkey blood with that, please) straight from the machine, like it ought to be.