Bench 7: Parade Street

Oh, there you are. It’s been a while. Consider this a partial return. A bit of limbering up as autumn turns to winter and as the hellscape of 2020 mutates into whatever feral thing 2021 may prove to be. We’ll need a sit down.

And it’s that need for perching places that has been recognised by the local deities. Or maybe by some council bod, who – having got fed up with the spare bit of public seating cluttering up the yard at the back of the town hall building, as noted last year – decided to get the Public Amenities (Reposing and Recumbent) subcommittee quorate so that something could be done.

And something done there has been. Bench 7, ladies and gentlemen.

Bench 7: location

Back in use! Back on the mean streets of Llangollen, and somewhere useful as well! Being directly opposite the town’s (well, only, really) main bus stop, and in being around the corner of the town hall building from Bench 5, multiple functions are immediately signified. Tourist and shopper overspill from Castle Street. Somewhere to ponder the vanilla dribble down the cone from your ice cream from the kiosk at the junction. A place to wait for the Number Five to Wrexham, away from the teeming masses in and near the bus stop itself. Or maybe there’s pressing town council business afoot, and this offers the appointee a socially-distanced place to wait before being summoned into the halls of local power. Then again, it could simply be that someone in authority who works not too far away has got fed up having to stand while they vape.

Whatever’s triggered this, it could be the single best thing that 2020’s offered the town.

I like the bench. I mean, look at it. Wooden and weathered, the Thorley Walters of benches. I appreciate that no-one thought to sponge it down after siting it in place, let alone give it a coat of paint. That would only draw attention to it in ways unbecoming. Passing itself off as a new bench rather than one that’s been repurposed, re-sited, or simply replaced. It’s entirely possible that it’s been returned to its rightful home after time way for repair (though none’s immediately noticeable). Whatever the reason for its taking away and its recommissioning, it’s all good. Benches are made to be sat upon, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

Note my coffee perched next to the street name.

This is another early-ish Sunday morning walk. I’ve been on a minor mission. My quest: sweet mint jelly. Don’t ask. But, Stan’s didn’t have any, and neither did the Co-Op. I’ll try the town’s two delis (what we lack in public transport infrastructure we more than make up for with artisan chutney retailers) later.

I’ve ended up buying some slightly pricey piccalilli, a packet of Halloween-themed Jaffa Cake bars, and a coffee. The Jaffa Cakes are “Fruity Blackcurrant” flavour. A scan of the ingredients shows that this equates to 5% blackcurrant juice. Ribena cake, basically. All good. The coffee’s from the service-yourself Costa machine in the Co-Op. I like those machines. Always have. The instructions on the screen, the ritual and the sequence of doubling up on cups for insulation and health and safety, the barcoded receipt you get to scan into the self-service till. It’s like living in the future. Anyway, transactions completed and purchases made without talking to anyone in the little supermarket, I’ve got something to sip on while pondering benches. Too early for a cake bar though.

Above the bench, a window. And on the sill, a scratched sigil. Hannah +. I can’t make out the rest. Maybe you can. It looks like there’s something there, though. Perhaps the area after the plus sign is for us to try the combination you and Hannah for size. Though Hannah comes first; you’d always be second in that relationship.

Hannah was here.

Hannah might be a schoolkid, whiling away time before the bus home. A give-no-fucks person of pensionable age, scribing their name into the stone as a mark of possession, of identity, of reclaiming the streets. Maybe Hannah’s currently a bloke, trying out new names for fit.

All part of the power of a decent bench. Places to think, and places to be thought about. It’s OK to leave your mark. I’d go so far as to say that it’s preferable. Make your statement. Be more Hannah, people. Embrace your inner Hannah, and be free.

So, I’m on my benches bullshit again, it seems. No promises this time, but we’ll see how it goes. Already I’ve got my eye on another newbie. A fresh entrant into the sit-down world that I’ve seen only a few streets away. I’ll take it steady over the darkening months, though try to get back into some kinda groove as far as these little excursions into the nearby are concerned.

To paraphrase Paul Newman’s character Fast Eddie Felson at the end of The Color of Money, if the benches kick my ass I’ll pick myself up and let them kick me again. And if I don’t whip ’em now, I’ll whip ’em next month. And if not then then the month after that. What makes me so sure? Hey – I’m back.

There’s more of this kind of thing here in book form.

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