Warming up, and a few rules and regs before we get going.

Last time out, I knew where I was going and I knew where to start from. This time, I wasn’t so sure. So a recce was in order. A bit of a mooch. Turned out I didn’t have to go far.

Really not far at all. I can pick up my place’s WiFi signal from here. And that of a nearby cafe, the Buttered Crust. The Crust’s closing at the end of March 2019 so it’s probably no great disservice to them to mention that their WiFi password is “sandwich”. There’s a sign on the inside of their door saying that it’s been lovely and all that, but after eleven years it’s time to move on. They do a good brekkie, the Crust. Get down there while you can.

The cafe’s on Market Street in Llangollen. It’s about the first thing you see if you use the Market Street car park. That’s the town’s main one; it’s where the tourist coaches rock up. Llangollen’s a go-to spot for day-trippers and tourers alike. The UK-in-a-week-by-bus crowd. And the Crust’s what greets them, not least because of a huge friendly welcome sign.

And while I’ll not go into too much car park-related detail here (let’s leave that until next week, eh?), there’s a couple of benches. A mismatched pair. Perfect. For my purposes, anyway. Alpha and Omega. Yin and Yang. Wenlock and Mandeville.

One’s dedicated. Tubular metal construction, lovingly coated in black Hammerite or the non-branded equivalent.

I’ve no idea who Graham was, but here’s to you, Councillor Jervis, forever offering a place to rest for the just-got-heres and the on-my-way-backs of the Market Street car park crew. A little bit of civic duty extending into the afterlife. That’s a lot more than most people do. So, this blog’s for you.

Like last time out, here’s how it goes.

  1. This has to be done on foot.
  2. Take a photo of each bench.
  3. Take a photo of what you can see from the bench.
  4. Make connections.
  5. Only benches accessible to the public from the road count. This is the “no pub trestle tables / bus stops” rule.
  6. Go everywhere.
  7. Stick within the town boundaries.
  8. The resultant map is your own. Don’t worry if it doesn’t accord with someone else’s or with the actual geography.

I would have started this week, but I’ve just bought a digital audio recorder. I’m gonna make some recordings while I potter. Which means I need to learn how to use the gizmo first. Give me a few days on that. I’ll maybe interview a few folk around town on the way around. Get some ideas about what it’s like to live here. Unlike with Louth, my connections here are both recent and shallow; it’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. For me at least. I’m not making any promises for third parties here.

Before we begin

Back in 2015, I had a blog called Benches of Louth, about the street furniture in that Lincolnshire market town, and about me visiting each and every one of them and working to make a personal connection. The blog was part ramble around town, part reminiscence, part personal geography, part local history. It was part a way of saying goodbye to a place that I’d lived in or near for forty-odd years pretty consistently since not long after I was born.

In 2018 I compiled the blog into a book. I called it, unimaginatively enough, Benches of Louth. You can buy it here if you’re so minded. This was part a way of completing the project, and part a way to crystallise it, as the blog provider was going out of business. I don’t think I was to blame for that, but you never know.

Anyway, these days I live in Llangollen, which is in Denbighshire. That’s in north-east Wales.

And I got to thinking about what it might be like to replicate that original project, except in an environment where I don’t have any local connections myself, nor decades’ worth of memories and associations to pull from.

So I’m at it again.

A post from each bench in the town. Let’s not go daft, so I’m working on the assumption that I’ll put up a post a week from next week (week commencing 17th March ’19). Tuesdays, that’s a good day. Connections made, and things noticed. I daresay there’ll be coffees drunk and maybe a few conversations entered into. Something learned about my new home. A bit of local history read up on. And besides, the walk will do me good.