One word Cwmbran…


Walking across “The Chems” from town centre towards Oakfield, along a pathway sodden with orange tinged water, you come to a fork in the path.  This was new to me.  When I was growing up in Cwmbran there was only one pathway around the back of the stadium and it joined on to a branch of Oakfield Road, down past a paltry park and behind the football fields.  Now there is a second pathway that takes you to the entrance to the cemetery.  Staying on the old pathway brings you to the alley that cuts between the houses and out on to the road.  As you enter the alleyway the ground is littered with half a dozen coke cans, beer cans, energy cans, some polystyrene food cartons and other sundry bits of paper and plastic.  About halfway back up “The Chems” – probably at about the halfway mark of the beautifully appointed, newly laid artificial pitch in the stadium – it looks as if someone has gone through the drawers of the house, found as much sweet wrappers, plastic odds and ends, bits of paper, small toys, etc, etc…you know, like all the chaff you get in drawers when you leave them alone for long enough…it looks like they’ve got a hold of all this chaff in one drawer, walked halfway along the path and dumped it on the ground.  During the time of my stay the rain it fell and the mud it formed.  The detritus on the ground was sinking in, was wearing in to the soil.  It was awful to see.

Two examples.  More?  Ok, more.

Having been down to Oakfield Shops – and having negotiated rubbish and overflowing bins (a cat having managed to get a hold of a turkey or chicken carcass and picking it over as I passed down Abbey Green) – I walked back up East Road.  Part way up East Road is a house whose owner has taken some care over the presentation of the house.  The front garden has been knocked away to make provision for a paved front garden area, presumably to be used as a car port.  The side of the garden has a wood-chip like flooring out of which grows some tended rose bushes and other plants.  In the roots of these plants coke cans and other wrappers.  Blown in from wherever they were dropped.  At the junction of The Highway and East Road a spent bottle of rose wine lay in the grass for a couple of days.  It was still there when I left the town last Monday.

Walking to town up St David’s Road, at a point where some garages back on to the pathway, three trolleys sat for a couple of days – they may still be there now – strewn around them polystyrene food containers.  The other fork down to the cemetery: milk cartons, drink cans, food packaging.  The junction at the top of town centre at Maendy Way and  Caradoc Road – fish & chip paper, other paper and other litter all over the place.  The by-pass round, up the other side of the stadium, has so much ground in rubbish in the planted sidings it is pitiful.

I have never seen litter like it.  Rather, I have never seen litter tolerated like this.

Irony of ironies – when putting household rubbish together now, the denizens of Cwmbran must selectively bag and bin, must sort recyclables from non, must put paper and tins in one and plastic in another, must put decomposable rubbish in yet another.  All this for the household rubbish; nothing for the town’s.  I have being trying to think what is at the heart of this.  Why would, how could a town appear so readily to put up with the this awful appearance?  I have a conclusion, it may not be right – it may not bring agreement from any, but a conclusion it is nonetheless.  And it is this: there is no identity in Cwmbran anymore.  No identity means no pride, means the population are happy to tread through filth and rubbish each and every time they walk out their doors, means that they are happy to see it swirled into and ground into their gardens and pathways.  How heartbreaking.

Cwmbran has a funny history – a series of old villages expanded in the post-war era as a place of industry and to absorb population (I think I’ve got that right – hang on…Wikipedia suggests so).  So, perhaps, it is a little odd to suggest a town which has an artificial birth has lost its identity.  Bear with.  The town’s development was for people to live and work in Cwmbran.  Now people live in Cwmbran to work otherwhere.  The population commute – to Cardiff, to Bristol, to Newport (which is now pretty much indistinguishable from Cwmbran – borders really blurred by housing estates); my brother tells of a commuting group who travel daily to Reading.  Industrial buildings and schools have been and are being torn down and turned into houses.  The heart of the town is now longer production it is a hyper-market of retail development and entertainments.  Increasingly, people don’t live in Cwmbran, they just sleep there.  It is a town upon which people can gain the first step on the property ladder.  It is a stepping stone.  It is no longer a place where you are “from”.  This is just my opinion – and one that many can mock if they choose to do so as I no longer live in Cwmbran, nor in Wales…my pathway has taken me further afield.  But, I know where I am from…knew, more accurately.

During my recent stay back in Cwmbran, a relative of mine asked me whether much had changed.  I couldn’t articulate an answer but knew inside that everything had changed.  Now there are just memories of the town in my past – and they’ve become littered.



Two words, New Zealand…

“Central heating” and “double glazing”.

So, I have had to come back to the UK for a family visit.  I’ve been reminded of the importance of central heating and double glazing to a family’s comfort and health.  When I consider the houses I have lived in in New Zealand, the difference is staggering.

The house I grew up in, in Wales, was a council house.  It had a coal, then a gas fire and single glazing.  It was a good house but it was a house that suffered cold and condensation.  Sound familiar?  Since I have been away the house has been refurbished with both central heating and double glazing.  The difference is palpable.  The houses I lived in throughout my adulthood in the UK all had central heating – perhaps not double glazing (mother memory not serving me well)… The effect of heating on a house is staggering.  The effect of reducing condensation and dampness in a house is equally so.

Now – OBVIOUS POINT ALERT – the state housing in New Zealand – the majority of private housing in New Zealand – have neither central heating nor double glazing.  Much has been made of the government’s attempts to solve the “leaky homes” issue in the land of the long white cloud.  They haven’t been overly successful.

Well heated and insulated houses mean better health and well-being for the families therein.  These houses mean less money is spent on power heating a home.  Less cabling running to electric heaters.  Less money spent on power means more money in the disposable income which can be diverted to, for instance, food and clothing (and or entertainment/education).  Better diet also means better health; better atmosphere in the house means better health – means less money being spent on doctors’ visits or at the pharmacy…means more disposable income…

It’s not difficult, is it?  And yet the approach to actually accomplish this is half-hearted, at best.  When you consider the leaning of the government and the people most likely to benefit from this action it’s not difficult to understand why it’s not happening…or certainly not happening anywhere quickly enough.

New Zealand PLC – with CEO Key – isn’t running at enough profit to allow for funding of off-shoot projects like this…the numbers don’t stack up.  If only they’d govern the country instead of running it.

I’m a bit annoyed that the visit home has brought this home to me.  New Zealand should be at the forefront of development and ensuring its population are well looked after, well governed.  It is a young country and has the lessons of history to learn from.  That they have adopted a “she’ll be right” attitude is something that baffles a little.  In the main, this should be a positive.  It should made one feel proud that the New Zealand mantra is one of “we can do this” but it merely serves to further the frustration when you see the conditions the citizens of this country are forced to live in.

You know, I’m reading this back over and cannot believe that I am actually typing this content…I know first world problems and all that but everything in perspective, the impoverishment families in New Zealand are being held in in criminal.